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How to start a blog: Blogging basics

Jessica Watson is a mom to five, four in her arms and one in her heart. She lives in Michigan where her life is as unpredictable as the weather. After the loss of her infant daughter in 2007, Jessica left the corporate world behind, vowe...

Where to begin

Everyone you know has a blog but the thought of starting one seems overwhelming. These steps will walk you through the process of blogging, help you define your goals and find the easiest path to get you there.
Woman blogging

Now that you have decided to start your own blog, the fun begins. You have lots of choices to make from colors to a theme to what in the world you might write about in your new space. Here are a few things to think about as you begin:

Tip: Looking for the perfect place to start your blog? Read up on how to choose a blogging platform.

Design

Many blogging platforms have countless color choices, themes and designs to choose from. If you are just beginning it is best to choose something available to you through the blogging platform you have chosen. Spending money on a custom blog design is not necessary, especially if there is a chance you could change the direction your blog is heading in the near future. When choosing your own design, it is best to have a light background and dark font, a light font is often hard on the reader's eyes. Also, avoid special effects that could take away from your content like flashing graphics or music.

Layout

Do you plan to share just content or would you like to add a sidebar to your site? Adding a sidebar will give you additional space to share things with your readers. You can choose features such as how people can subcribe to your posts, a counter that will count the number of visitors or a display to show the books you have read. Displaying a sidebar gives you endless options for customizing your site, but if you would like to stick to just content and only display your writing that is perfectly fine, too. It is your blog so YOU get to make all the decisions.

Tip: Can you really bring in an income with your blog? Here's how to make money blogging.

Content

Whatever you decide to write about on your blog should be authentic. Make sure the real you shines through in your words. If you love books, think about doing book reviews. If you love crafts think about posting how-tos for your latest crafting ventures. If you just love to write, you can write to your heart's content on a blog. If you are hoping to make your blog reader friendly, try to stick with posts that generally are no more than 700 words. Try to reduce the number of large paragraphs as well; short paragraphs help the reader stick with what they are reading. If you need a few ideas for content and a great way to find new readers, you may want to participate in a link-up. A few fun link-ups to try are Wordless/Wordful Wednesday hosted by Parenting by Dummies and Seven Clown CircusMama Kat's Writer's WorkshopPour Your Heart Out hosted by Things I Can't Say or the weekly writing prompts available at Write On Edge.

Outreach

How will you make sure that others know you are out there in the blogosphere? Where will you find an audience? Ashley Abele, co-founder of Other Half Media and instructor at How to Rock your Blog says, "When deciding to start a blog, people should consider the time and effort required. There is the time it takes to craft your excellent content, of course, but then there is also the time it takes to build a readership. This takes connecting in the community, reading other blogs and being visible in as many places as possible. It takes more than just putting your content out there — you have to go out and find the community you want to build." One way to find bloggers in your niche is from lists like the one on Technorati.

Support

If you plan to use your blog as a way to connect with others, there are all kinds of ways to find support in the blogging world. A great place to start is The SITS Girls, this supportive group of bloggers can help you with everything from the basics of blogging to blogging conferences packed with all the information a blogger could ever need. "For most people, starting a blog ultimately leads to tons of questions. What should you do first? How are you going to get everything done? Do you need to have a Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, AND Google+ account?" says Francesca Banducci, partner at SITS Girls and Bloggy Bootcamp. "The good news about starting a blog now is the huge supply of how-tos and resources out there to help you find your way. Just keep in mind that similar to life outside the computer, no one succeeds alone. Take the time to make connections with other bloggers and build your own tribe of supporters. When you do, you'll reap the rewards for months, even years, to come."

No matter how you design your blog or what you decide to focus on, as long as you remember your blog is for you, blogging might just be one of the best decisions you ever made!

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