The Beginner Blogger: How to Build a Blog from Scratch?

eqrrefqerEverything has a beginning and this is yours. There’s nothing to be ashamed of, or scared about. You are doing the right thing, you are heading in the right direction, and everything will be just fine. If you feel like you are reading something different from what you expected, you are not. Yes, in the following few paragraphs, it will be revealed to you the basics required to start a successful blog. I am aware there are a number of things that puzzle you about blogs, but relax, by the end of this brief and insightful journey, your mysteries will be solved. Let’s begin.

What is a Blog?

‘Blog’ is the short form of the term ‘weblog’. It’s essentially a website, but one that’s usually more of a personal thing compared to other websites that are normally less personal. Blogs are mostly one-sided, in that they focus on a particular topic, subject, or theme. If you ever thought of having a diary, journal, or personal log on the internet, well, that’s kind of how blogs were born, and that’s what they basically are. I thought of creating a website where people could share their feelings, emotions, ideas, opinions, experiences – kind of like the way they would in a diary, or a journal. And then it hit me – that’s what blogs are for, dummy!

Why a blog? Why not a Website?

It’s simple, really. If you want a gourmet meal, you can spend a lot of time and money taking a cooking class, and then enjoy it whenever you feel like it. But remember, every time you’ll want to enjoy such kind of meal, you’ll always take time and spend money preparing it. If you like this option, don’t let me stand in your way. Or, if you can afford it, you could hire a chef. Or, you could just take a good portion of your money, and eat in a 5-star restaurant or hotel – no considerable amount of time will be taken with this option. Moreover, you can eat your preferred gourmet meal whenever you like, provided you still have money with you.

Establishing and maintaining a website is like the first option illustrated above. You’ll take a lot of time and money to master web development and design. And even after you’ve mastered these technologies, you’ll always take time and money creating a website. It’s a process creating and maintaining a website. Conversely, starting a blog is like the last option given above; just take a portion of your money – or in some cases, none at all – and you’ll have your blog up and running in no time. In a nutshell, the reason you may prefer a blog over a website is that:

  • setting up a blog is considerably inexpensive (considering both time and money)
  • there’s essentially no maintenance required on your side
  • they attract traffic much quicker than websites do

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Where do I begin?

The main reason anyone starts a blog is that they have something to share with the world, and they are looking for the quickest and most efficient way of doing so. Blogs give you exactly this opportunity. There’s a good chance you have something you want to share with the world. If that’s true, that’s where you begin; this is what’s called in the blogging community as your niche. You have something precious that you feel will be of even more value if more people got to know about it and experience it with you, and you’re looking for a convenient way of sharing it with them. A blog will give you the tools you need to fulfill your desire. Be that as it may, like any other tool in the world, for a blog to be useful and beneficial to you, you need to understand how it works, and the basics you need for it to be an effective and efficient tool for you. When you’re wondering about how to start a blog, how about beginning with

Hosting

If you want to buy a tool for a specific job, the first thing you do is determine who are the best providers of the tool, and where they are found. There are various blog hosting services online that will enable you to set up your blog and start changing people’s lives around the world. Your first task in becoming a blogger is finding out the blog hosting services available, and which ones are the best. I’ll save you the trouble of finding out which are the best. The big fish in the sea of blog hosting services are:

  • WordPress
  • Blogger
  • Tumblr
  • Drupal
  • BlogSmith
  • Gawker
  • Scoop
  • Diderot
  • TypePad

If you don’t want to get your hands dirty until you find which one suits you best, then pick any of the first three. But if you really want to find out what really works for you, then try all of them and even others that you’ll find online. That’s the surest way to determine what really works for you. Most people seem to prefer the top three, however.

Free or Paid?

You’ll find both paid and free versions of blog hosting from most of the above services. It’s as simple as this; if you just want something for fun, nothing serious, and if traffic isn’t that important to you, go for the free versions. Conversely, if you want something serious, something that will generate considerable traffic, and something that will give you more flexibility about what you want and prefer, go for the paid version. Of course, find out what is and what isn’t as far as features are concerned, before investing more than can afford to lose.

Another option that you may find considerably valuable and convenient is hosting your own blog. It’s a little bit more work but it’s worth the trouble. If you feel you can handle it, this is your best option if you want a blog that you’ll have complete control over; control freak.

Theme and Design

Whether free or paid, most blogs come with predesigned themes where all you have to do is perhaps upload a few pictures and definitely add your content to customize it to your liking. Color is also something of value you may want to consider when choosing a theme for your blog. Consider what you want to say with your blog, and go for a theme that easily brings this message out. It should be a theme that blends well with your message, and choose colors that have something to do with the message you want to send out to the world. When in doubt, it doesn’t hurt to Google for some ideas, or if possible, consult a designer.

You may also want to take into account the number of columns you’ll want to be featured in the theme, and also the font the theme uses. The font in a way sets the mood of your blog, but the general theme and color are what have the most impact in terms of setting a mood. The number of columns in a theme or design of your blog will determine how content will be laid out and displayed. In choosing the number of columns, consider whether your blog will be mainly content based, include a lot of images, or a good balance between the two. Also consider other factors like newsfeed, advertisement (if any), or generally all you’ll want to be displayed on your blog. Identifying this in advance will enable you to choose just the right theme for your blog, and you’ll need little effort later to maintain your content or make any tweaks necessary.

Plugins

Plugins are mini-applications you add to your blog to add functionality and make it more secure and interesting. They mostly enable your blog to be more interactive, colorful, and they generally improve the user experience. Most of them you’ll find for free but others may cost you a little. However, they are not for everybody. You’ll have to determine what you want to achieve with your blog, then look at the options available from blog hosting services, and find out whether what they have has all the features and functionality you want in your blog. If they do, you’re good to go. If they don’t, that’s where plugins come in.

It’s not a piece of cake

Well, the above are the basics of what you should know when starting a blog, but that’s the easiest part. There’s more to it, and it would be so unfair if I didn’t slap you with this.

Content

Blogs thrive on content. You can generate your own content or you can get someone to do it for you. Either way, the quality of your content is what will make your blog valuable. If you don’t care about content, then there’s no point in starting a blog; continue filling up your diary or journal. For blogs, you must provide good content, and keep it up. If traffic is important to you, then you’ll want to update your blog entries at least on a weekly basis. I did say earlier that, with blogs, no maintenance will be required on your side, but this is only true as far as site design and technical maintenance are concerned. When it comes to content, that’s all up to you.

Go Viral

If traffic is important to you, then you must have a strategy for making your blog known to your preferred audience. I stated at the beginning of this article that blogs attract traffic way better than websites do. This is because blogs are updated frequently, and search engines have a tendency of taking note of websites whose content is updated often. This makes blogs more noticeable compared to websites, and this is a plus as far as SEO is concerned. Be that as it may, this alone isn’t enough to generate good traffic to your blog. Having accounts on all the major social sites, and advertising your blog through them is a better way of attracting traffic. Get your friends, loved ones, as well as other significant people who may be interested in your content, and who can get their friends and networks interested in your content, to visit your blog as much as possible. This is the most effective and efficient way of attracting traffic to your blog. Go viral.

Things are Getting Technical

This is not necessary but it can come in handy, particularly if you’ll be hosting your own blog. There are times you may need to add some content and features on your blog, but you won’t be able to by simply copying and pasting wherever. Some plugins may demand a little knowledge of web design and web development basics in order for you to install them correctly. Moreover, setting up some features in some web and blog hosting services may require that you understand some web technical stuff for you to get it right. Therefore, don’t bite more than you can chew. If you are simple when it comes to blogging, then stay with the simple stuff. But if you feel you know your stuff and can handle yourself, you’ll find it beneficial to dig in deeper and find out what all the fuss about HTML tags, syntax, and semantics is about.

Make some Money

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Okay, now I’m sure I’ve given you enough information to get you started on your journey to becoming a blogger. I’m sure I’ve covered the essential stuff, and as long as you keep this in mind along your way, nothing will get you by surprise, and you’ll be successful. You’ll do just fine!

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