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If you want to blog, but don’t know where to begin, you have found your starting point! From one learner to another, I’ve got your back. Two weeks ago, I didn’t have the slightest idea of how to get started, and now, here I am, ready to help you begin your very own blogging adventure!
Tip #1 – Reach out to bloggers you know or love to follow
The first thing I did was reach out to my friend over at Kim’s Cravings for some blogging pointers. I told her one of my summer goals was to start a blog – I love to write and was hoping to make a little extra money on the side. But getting started felt like the hardest part! She gave me some tips about domains, hosting, and advertising, and then she recommended I sign up for the Fantabulous Blogging 101 course. This was the BEST blogging decision I could have ever made!
Tip #2 – Sign up for Fantabulous Blogging 101 TODAY
First of all, if you do not follow @fantabulosity_blog on Instagram, you are missing out! Jessica is the sweetest, and her blog – Fantabulosity – is a-mazing! #goals. I learned SO MUCH through her Fantabulous Blogging 101 course, and by following her step-by-step through the modules, I was up and running with my very own blog in just two days! I cannot say enough good things about Jessica and this course! If you’re reading this and want to start a blog, go sign up. Right now. You will not be disappointed.
Tip #3 – Pick a color scheme on Pinterest
Start with your favorite color. For the purposes of my blog, I knew I wanted to include mustard yellow (shocker). So I went to Pinterest and searched “mustard color schemes.” There is definitely no shortage of options!
I saved some of my favorite images, but then thought to myself, “These are pretty colors, but how do I know EXACTLY what colors codes to use?” Enter HTML Color Codes – You can upload a picture and hover over each color to discover its exact color code. Hallelujah!
I started a Google Slide with notes for my blog, including the color codes and fonts I liked in order to keep my site coordinating throughout. In the examples below, I just inserted the color scheme pictures I liked into my Word document, then overlaid text boxes for each color code so I could remember which was which.
*BONUS Tip – Try to narrow down to 3 colors (and maybe one neutral) you want to use on your blog. Any more than that, and it can become too busy and overwhelming for readers.
Tip #4 – Design your logo using Chicfetti’s Free Logo Maker
I started off designing my logo in Canva (which is a great resource for creating blog graphics), but I never could get it quite right. Then, I stumbled upon this Free Logo Maker by Chicfetti, and BOOM! – my header was done in 5 minutes! This is a super simple interface to use and has cute fonts and design elements built right in. My advice when it comes to a logo is to keep it simple – less is always more.
* Update: Since beginning this blog three years, ago, I have since gone back and recreated my logo and header using Canva. However, this is still an excellent, easy-to-use resource!
Tip #5 – Purchase a WordPress theme from Etsy
WordPress.org does provide many free blog themes, but if you’re looking for cutesy (and I was), go straight to Etsy. The amount of themes available can be overwhelming at first! I chose to purchase Farmhouse by Tinselpop, and I’m loving it! Here’s why:
- The theme was easy to install and has a clean, user-friendly layout.
- The seller responded to my messages quickly and was super helpful in walking this newbie through how to customize different aspects of my site (colors, fonts, etc.).
- For a first-time WordPress blogger, I was SUPER appreciative of the “Set Up Instructions” included with my purchase!
Tip #6 – Change font colors in your blog posts using Classic Editor
Sometimes, you just want words to POP, right?! When I write Mustard Seed Reads, I want to change the color of the font to mustard yellow. With the new Gutenberg editing experience in WordPress, I haven’t found a way to ONLY change the font color of a few words. However, if you download the plugin Classic Editor, you can activate it, go in to your post, change font colors, save draft, then go back in to Plugins and deactivate it when you’re not using it.
Tip #7 – Use Unsplash for copyright-free images
As you begin blogging, you may find yourself in need of a generic image to use for a post or maybe for the background of a blog graphic you’re creating. For my first post, “He Alone is Able,” I just wanted a simple, open Bible. But, the Librarian / copyright police inside me knew I couldn’t just use any random picture I found on Google.
Then I discovered Unsplash, which offers “beautiful, free images and photos that you can download and use for any project.” All they ask when you download an image is to give credit where credit is due. Easy enough.
Tip #8 – Buy photo presets from Etsy
We’ve all seen the Facebook and Instagram ads for the presets that lighten your photos and make them look profesh.
I love Etsy (probably a little too much), and they have SO MANY presets you can purchase to give your pictures that extra oomph! Follow these steps to make sure all your blog photos are on point:
- First, download Adobe Lightroom for your mobile device (because we all take our pictures with our phones now, right?). You’ll also need the free app iZip (for iPhone users).
- Then, search “Adobe mobile presets” on Etsy. Again, an overwhelming amount of choices! Good luck.
- Purchase the one you like. I bought “10 BRIGHT & AIRY Lightroom Mobile Presets” by KalaRathPhotography just to get started. BONUS – The seller included a very helpful “Installation Guide for Lightroom.”
- For these next steps, I created a short video to walk you through the installation process:
- In Safari, open the zip folder from your Etsy purchase and click “Open in iZip.”
- “Would you like to extract all files?” Click OK.
- Select the first preset you would like to install (click the arrow to the right).
- Select “Open in” and then “Copy to Lightroom CC.”
- A generic photo from the seller should appear. Click the three dots in the top right corner and select “Create Preset.”
- Name the preset and save it to the preset group of your choice.
- It’s ready to go! From now on, for any photo you upload into Adobe Lightroom, just scroll over, click “Presets” and find the one you want to use!
Tip #9 – Set up Mailchimp for your blog subscriptions
Whatever plugin I initially used for my “Sign up to follow” subscription widget…it did not do the job for me. When I had my mom sign up as my guinea pig, it sent her this ugly-looking confirmation email from the 90s, and there was no way to customize it. Delete.
Then Jessica suggested Mailchimp, and I love it! Mailchimp is an email marketing platform that allows you to customize the automated subscription emails that are sent out, as well as create and send newsletters to your audience. Now, my opt-in confirmation email looks like this – clean, consistent with my brand, and no more “Howdy.”
Tip #10 – Sign up for an address using Viabox
I got my Mailchimp account all set up and cute and then BAM! – they hit me with the following message:
Nope. I’m out. I don’t want the whole world knowing where I live! I’ve seen way too many Datelines gone bad.
But then Jessica (from Fantabulosity) told me some of her other blogger friends have used Viabox, the global leader in package forwarding that provides you with a forever free physical US address. I signed up within minutes and now use my Viabox address in my Mailchimp email footer. Maybe I live in Oregon, maybe I don’t. Privacy protected.
*Side note – Make sure you follow through with Viabox by submitting PS Form 1583 and two forms of identification. Even if you don’t plan to send or receive much mail using this address, you still need to verify it and stay on the up-and-up.
Tip #11 – Create an email specifically for your blog
If you are using SiteGround for hosting (like me), follow these steps to set up your own, professional blog email:
- Log in to your SiteGround account
- Click “My Accounts”
- Click the red button “Go to cPanel”
- Scroll to the middle of the page and under Mail click “Email Accounts”
- Enter your information and BAM! – firstname.lastname@example.org.
- The email runs through Webmail via cPanel, then I chose Horde as my default Webmail application.
Tip #12 – Link Google Analytics with Google Search Console
Google Analytics is “a web analytics service offered by Google that tracks and reports website traffic [and] gives you the tools you need to better understand your customers.” Google Search Console is “a free service offered by Google that helps you monitor, maintain, and troubleshoot your site’s presence in Google Search results.”
In order to promote your blog through Google and really get your name out there, you’ll need to link the two by following the steps Google provides. Just search “Configuring Search Console data in Analytics.”
BUT, here’s my tip that Google didn’t share with me: Add your website property in Google Search Console using “URL Prefix” (on the right). When I did it as “Domain” the first time, it wouldn’t let me sync with Google Analytics for some reason. Using “URL Prefix” worked!
Tip #13 – Secure your site
It’s always a little sketch when you visit a site and it says “Not secure” in red up in the address bar. It makes me stop and think, “Should I really be here? This feels wrong.” Am I taking you back to your high school days yet? You do NOT want your blog making people feel that way, so you need to make sure it’s secure! Follow the steps in the video below to install a free SiteGround SSL certificate (assuming you’re using SiteGround, like me). Now everyone will trust you.
Tip #14 – “Inspect” your blog to find specific codes you want to change
Did you find something about your blog theme that you don’t really love? For me, it was pink everywhere, and there was no option to change the colors I wanted to change. Frustrating.
But, when you are in Appearance – Customize, you can right-click on any aspect of your blog that you’d like to change the code for and then select “Inspect.” A bunch of gibberish will pop up on the right (I’m a Librarian, not a coder). But, you can figure out how to change the code for fonts, colors, etc. using a combination of this method and Googling. Once you figure out the code you need, you can just add it to the Additional CSS over on the left. Which brings me to my next tip…
Tip #15 – Use Google and YouTube – they are your best friends
I promote coding in my Library, but I’m all about the drag-and-drop blocks. I have never dealt with HTML or CSS in my life (did I even use those correctly in a sentence?). The good news is that SOMEONE out there has probably had the same questions you’re having, so Google it and watch YouTube. Whatever you do, don’t give up. There is a code to fix every problem you have and a genius somewhere out there willing to help you!