How to start a blog - when you know nothing about blogging

Though the major part of the Sociallogging blog is on blogging, this post is specifically for helping such bloggers who would like to start a blog in 2019, when new bloggers doubt whether blogging that is started now can succeed in view of huge competition and due to much more engagement on social networking and sharing platforms. I have kept it simple so that the people who know nothing about blogging can easily create their first blog and learn the concepts behind various blogging actions.

I have already published some posts  on advantages of blogging, creating a blog in different free platforms, professional blogging, having an independent blog and making money from blogging. But these should come afterwards, and so I have given links to such resources at the end of this post. You can use the present post as a step-by-step guide to first start a simple blog and then learn frills that go for creating a feature rich blog - all for free!

This post looks lengthy, and there is a reason for that: I have explained why you are writing or clicking something. If you skip them, creating a new blog on Blogger would take less than 60 seconds, but you should give it some more time so that you know why you do something and how it will impact your blog later, isn't it?

Let's start!

How to start a blog

We will create a blog quickly on Blogger free blogging platform and then discuss other aspects. That will introduce you to blogging, because I am assuming that you know nothing or very little about blogging. (If you know a bit but would like to go to the next step, you can skip the present section.)

1.Creating the blog

1a. Open a Gmail account by clicking on this Gmail link. If you already have a Gmail account, log in.

1b. In the same browser, open another tab and type this on the address bar: blogger.com 

1c. You will get a screen asking you to create a blog. On clicking the button, you get the window like given here (pic 1)


First window when you start a blog on Blogger
PIC 1: STARTING WINDOW ON BLOGGER

Give the blog a Title

In the text box next to Title, write a good name for your blog. If you  want to open a blog on cooking, you can write My best recipes; if the blog is on spirituality, you can write My views on life and God; if it is on football, you can think of writing Top football blog.

At this stage, don't worry too much about the blog title. You can change it whenever you want.

Give the blog a web address - carefully

In the next box, marked Address, whatever you write will become your new blog's web address in this format: https://www.example.blogspot.com [This is the web address of the blog when the blogger typed example in the Address box].

Write the web address of your blog carefully. It will be the permanent web address of the blog you are creating, and you will not be able to change it. 

Why chosing relevant Title and Address matter?

Let us spend some time at this point to discuss what all you should take care when giving your new blog good Title and Address.

The Title that you gave to the blog will appear on top of the browser whenever someone opens the blog. This will also be the name by which the blog will be known. The Address is your blog's address on the web. A computer or smartphone can find your blog only if it goes to this address. So, if you have given the address example.blogspot.com to your blog, anybody can see the blog by typing this in their browser's address bar.

All types of addresses will not be available because others would have already opened their blogs with those addresses. So, you will have to try a few times before finding an address that is available.

When choosing the address for your blog, you must take care that the address is easy to remember and related to you or your blog's subject. If it is short, that much better. Do not give it an address that does not make sense or is difficult to remember or is not related to the subject of your blog or your own identity.

Keep the title and address relevant, because they attract visitors, also because they help the search engines in discovering and ranking your blog. Please note that when your blog comes high on search pages of Google or Bing or Yahoo, a lot of traffic flows in. You can later make use of this traffic in making money out of the blog.

1d. Now, click on Create Blog! And, believe me, your blog is already there on the web. If you open another tab on the browser or open the internet browser on your smartphone and type your blog's address, you will find a blog with the title you gave it just now.

Before we go further, let me introduce some blogging terms that will come again and again in this article and you will be using them freely in your blogging career:

Post: An article written on the blog is called post. Posts are the main content on the blog. Posts can have text, audio, pictures and videos or a mix of any of these. Posts can have the facility for commenting and quick sharing to social media accounts. Old posts go down when new posts are written. When you start a blog, there may not be many posts but over time you must write a good number of informative and useful posts.

Page: On Blogger, you can open a page, which is technically similar to a post; but a page does not appear on its own unless you show it through a gadget. Pages do not go down when new posts and pages are published. Therefore, pages are used for creating standalone information such as contact number, background, blogger's bio, etc.

Widget or gadget: A gadget is an additional block of content that you can place on top or bottom portions or in the side columns of the blog. The content comes through the small program that the gadget contains. Gadgets can call popular posts, display time and date, show pages, list different categories of posts, etc.

HTML: This is the base language of all web pages. Whatever you do on Blogger by way of giving it title and description, creating new posts and pages, editing posts/ pages, changing a setting, changing theme and layout, etc - everything is converted into HTML (and associated web languages). Only because of this, the blog appears in the visitor's web browser.

Theme: Blogger has many readymade blog templates called themes. These are like different suits in a fashion shop: the designer has already designed clothes of different colors and shapes that go in a suit and so you do not have to start from buying the cloth, cutting, designing and sewing the suit yourself. 

Once you choose a theme, you can further customize it with given options.

Layout: Layout means how different elements are placed on the blog. It is like the diagram I have shared with you below (pic 4), and is parallel to the layout of a building in which you know how rooms, bath, kitchen, stairs etc are placed.

Dashboard: When you open Blogger after creating your blog, the first screen that comes up is your blog's dashboard. It has your blog's title and a list of menus like this: Posts, Pages, Stats, Comments, Earnings... Settings (see the left column in pic 8 below). 

If you have more than one blog, you select one blog from the top and the dashboard of that particular blog will open. You can initiate dozens of blogging actions from this place.

I will take you to the blog dashboard again and again so as to modify the blog's content and looks from there. So, familiarise yourself with the dashboard.

2. Second step after starting the plain blog: publishing content 

Don't worry if you find your brand new blog unimpressive. For this tutorial, I have created  ablog, anirud.blogspot.com and I will work on it so that you know how to go forward. 

Right now, the blog is without any content. When I opened the blog on my internet browser, it showed the blog's title and nothing else. You can see it in pic 2 here:

PIC 2: FIRST SETP IN STARTING A BLOG

2a. Let us create some experimental content on the blog so that it is seen when we move to the next stages of creating the blog; we will edit the experimental text later. 

For creating a post, go to the Dashboard, click on Posts. Click on New Post button and you have the post editor open before you. 

2b. In the title box, write test post 1, and write whatever you like in the lower (= body) part. Click on Labels on the right side and write European in the box. Click on Done. Now click on Publish button. 

Similarly make another post, with title test 2. In Labels box, write Indian, then click on Done

Let me tell you what we have done: We created two new blog posts. Because the blog is on cooking, it is likely to have posts talking about European, Indian, Chinese, Japanese and other types of dishes. If your blog is on some other subject, think of all the categories of posts you will write on the blog.  You can use my expressions or yours; the choice is yours. Now, we would add images on the posts so that we know how they would look.

Let me also introduce you briefly to the formatting and other tools available on the post editor. These are in the form of small icons at the top of the post editing window. In the picture below, I have given the actions they perform. We will use some of them right now, but leave the rest for later.


Post editor for creating good blog posts
PIC 3: TOOLS AVAILABLE ON BLOG POST EDITOR

2c. From the post editing tools, selected image icon (next to Link). It leads to an image uploading window. I selected an image on my computer and pasted it there. This post now has an image. Do that and publish this post also. 

2d. In the Dashboard, click on Pages. In the page editor, give it title About Me. Write something about yourself in the lower box. You can write about your experience, why you are starting this blog, your address etc. Then click Publish.

Now the blog has two posts and a page. One of the posts has an image and the two posts are supposed to related to European and Indian cooking. 

Let us spruce up the blog step by step.

3. Designing the new blog to make it look professional


3a. I will suggest that you take out a paper and pen and make a sketch of your blog and think what all you will like to have in it. For example, on anirud.blogspot.com, I will like a big title. I will like to have a background with something related to foods. Its main column will have the posts that I write. When one clicks on a post, he will go to another web page in which the post will show up big. Let there be one column on the right of the main column where I will show one after the other the following gadgets: About me, Popular posts, Blogs I follow, and my social media links. Perhaps a form where visitors can make a quick comment.

Under the title, I will like to have a menu bar that shows some pages and categories of foods that I will deal with.

The rough layout I made for this blog is given in pic 3:


rough layout of your new blog
PIC 4: ROUGH LAYOUT OF NEW BLOG

Why do you need to have a proper blog layout from the point you start the blog? Because it gives clarity to your thoughts, and also because it becomes very cumbersome to change the layout later.

Let us select a theme for the blog and apply it. Different themes have different inbuilt layouts, font and color combinations, style of display of the blog and its page, etc. 

3b. Go to dashboard, click on Theme. It will show your blog as it would appear on desktop and mobile phones. 

3c. Click on Customize button. It will take you to one of the most important tools for making your blog wonderful - the theme designer. The screen would be like shown in pic 5 below:

a new blog needs good theme on blogger

PIC 5: BLOGGER'S THEME DESIGNER

There are two parts of this window. The upper part has numerous options to design the blog and the lower part gives live preview of the blog. 

You must do a lot of experimentation to find the right theme for the blog. Of course you can change the theme later on, but a good theme from the beginning helps in branding the blog. 

There is a row of picture thumbnails on the top (See pic 5 above). When you click on any one, its variations come in the lower row. When you click on any of the lower thumbails, the colors and looks of the blog change. 

3d. Don't fear in playing with different themes available. But do not work on the menu on the left side yet.


blog web design changes through themes
PIC 6 EXPERIMENTING WITH BLOG THEMES

For my blog, I first applied the Simple theme. It gave a plain look to the blog as shown in 1 in the above pic 6. Then I chose Soho theme, and got results like 2 in the above picture: it had option only for left column where gadgets collapsed when not in use. I did not want that, so I did not apply that theme on my blog. I tried Notable theme for this blog (3 in pic 6). This looked too serious for a cooking blog. 

Finally I applied Emporio theme. Its third variant has plain background. I wanted to change that to something related to foods. I clicked on Background, and then on the image thumbnail. It gave me a choice of many readymade images. I clicked on chillies. The main image area was now filled with that chillies image. If I uploaded an image from my computer, that would come here. 

Overall I found the theme good looking and suitable for a cooking blog. See picture 7 below. If you have taken similar actions while I am with you, your blog would look at least this much good. Has the blog started taking shape?

new blog has been started with a new theme
PIC 7: NEW THEME APPLIED THROUGH THEME DESIGNER

At this stage, let us be satisfied with this little play with Theme Designer

3e. Click on Apply to Blogger button at the top right and then click on Back to Blogger. More than half done!

4. Putting gadgets on the blog to add functionalities

As discussed earlier, gadgets add special content and features on the blog. Let us make four widgets for the blog, as I had mentioned while discussing the blog layout. 

4a. Starting with dashboard, click on Layout. It should look something like shown below (pic 8). 


start blog with widgets in it
PIC 8: BLOG LAYOUT IN BLOGGER

Look at the Sidebar next to Featured Post. On top of it, there is a link for 'Add a Gadget' and under it, you have rectangles mentioning 'About Me', 'Archives' and 'Report Abuse'. These rectangles represent individual Gadgets. Blogger has already created some of them for you, that's why they are there. Look at some of the gadgets already available on the top portion also. These relate to the title part of the blog.

You may have a different set of gadgets depending upon the theme you have chosen. In some themes these will be placed in a left side bar. 

4b. Click on 'Add a Gadget'  link. This opens a small window with a series of gadgets. For the present experiment, let us choose Pages by clicking on plus sign next to it. In the small window that comes up, you will find two pages in it: Home and About Me. Uncheck Home, and click on Save. The gadget window will disappear, while a new rectangle will appear under the Add a Gadget link.

4c. The next gadget we are going to create is the list of popular posts in the blog. Right now you have only two posts and nobody has shared or made comments on them. So, this gadget will show these posts only. 

In the Layout window, again click on 'Add a Gadget' link. From the gadgets shown, select 'Popular Posts'. Look at the options available for your understanding but don't change any. Save

4d. For adding a gadget to show the blogs you like, Go again to Layout, then 'Add a Gadget' link, then select 'Link List'. Give it the title, 'Blogs I Follow'. In the box, 'New Site URL', give any blog/ website address that you like - better if you give the URL of a site related to the subject of your blog. Save.

4e. The last gadget that we will add will have our social media links. We could have added a 'Link List' gadget here, but let us write something next to our social media links. So, let's use Text gadget (Layout 'Add a Gadget' link > Text).

In the Text gadget window, Write something like 'This is my Facebook Page'. Select these words by moving cursor over them. From the small buttons above it, click on the link button (showing a piece of chain). It will ask you to provide a URL. If you have a Facebook page, put its URL here. For experiment, you can put any other URL; if nothing is coming to your mind, put https://google.com .  

If you have been following me closely, you would have found windows like shown in pic 9 below:


blogs start looking great when they have useful widgets
PIC 9: TEXT GADGET WITH LINKS

4f. On small job before we move forward. Look at the Layout. On the right Sidebar, you have many rectangles, each showing a gadget. I am not happy with their arrangement. I would like About Me on top, Popular Posts under it, etc. What we do to move the gadgets up or down is to place cursor above any of them and when the mouse cursor changes to a four-arrow-cursor, click on it and drag it up or down till we are satisfied with the arrangement of gadgets on the sidebar.  

As a second thought, I think of bringing Pages gadget to just under the title so that it becomes part of menu bar under the title (You can see pic 4 above about what I wanted to create and pic 10 below for what I finally achieved). I dragged the Pages widget further up and placed it under the Header gadget on top of the Layout window.

4g. Now click on red button with Save Arrangement written on it. 

The blog is almost ready. It is now crying for useful stuff on cooking. 

5. Start writing good content because this is what makes a blog great or average.

5a. When you start a new blog, you should create some good content before you make the blog live. Do some research, write some articles, collect or shoot some photos and/ or videos. 

5b. One very imprtant action you can take at this time: make a list of articles that you can think of. Make the list long - perhaps going to 50 or even 100. Then review the list by checking which one of them people will be interested in. If the list of articles on which you can write and which will interest people goes up to 40-50, you are going to be successful blogger.

5c. One pro tip: Keep composing posts on MS Word or other program that you use. But use them only for textual work. Do not copy-paste text directly from Word or other word processing programs - because the formatting and other code of these programs makes the HTML of blog posts too messy. First paste the text to Notepad and then copy that from Notepad to paste it on the blog. 

5d. Let me take you again to the Dashboard. Clock on Posts. Click on the Edit link under Test Post 1, the first post that we created earlier. 

Change its title to something useful. Since it is my first post, I have written this: Welcome to my cooking blog!

In the body of the post, write something useful. This will be the text of your first post. 

5e. Add at least one image to every post, and make it a habit as it will pay you in the long run. Cooking blogs look wonderful when they have small images of recipe being made and then one or more big images of final product.

Do not copy-paste an image from your computer. 

Put your mouse cursor where you would like to place the image. Now click on the small image icon on top of the post editor window ( see pic 3). It will prompt you to upload an image. Select the image and again select the image when it has landed in your blog. The image will be placed where your cursor is placed, and you will be able to see it on the text editor itself. 

To see how it will appear on the blog, click on Preview button on the right top corner of the Blogger window.


A new blog started on Blogger platform
PIC 10: THE FINISHED BLOG 'COOKING WITH ANIRUD'

Now your blog is ready and in full bloom. 

At this point, I would suggest that you write a number of good posts relating to your niche (subject/ area of blog). Give each post a label that would help you categorize the blog later. 

Once you have published 8-10 posts, you can announce the launch of your blog. Now on, you are a blogger and should improve the blog's looks and SEO slowly.

Without telling you, I have already taken some actions on the example blog. Let me now introduce these and some other features that would help you in customizing and improving your blog.

6. Simple but important actions to build a feature-rich blog

6a. Menu bar under the title: The space under the blog title is a prime property. A menu bar at this place works great for telling the reader about the content on the blog. The menu bar can have categories/ labels of the blog content; there should also be a link to 'About Me/ Contact Me' page.

In some themes, the menu bar under the title is in-build. In some themes, the Pages gadget turns into a menu bar when moved from side bar to under the title. In the case of cookingwithanirud.blogspot.com, what I have done is to bring Pages gadget here. Instead of adding pages, I have put posts of different categories, e.g. European and Indian food here. 

6b. Gadget URL: On blogger, when you put labels on posts, Blogger creates a web page with the following URL structure:
blog full domain name/search/label/label name

In this blog, I have put the link for Indian label will be as follows: 
https://www.cookingwithanirud.blogspot.com/search/label/Indian

In the menu bar under the title that I have created (pic 10), I have put links to Indian and European labels and the link to About Me page.

6c. Pictures and videos in posts: Blogger allows you to upload pics and videos from your computer/ phone or the web, on your posts and pages, and also for making blog background and header image. The icon next to image inserting is that for inserting videos (pic 3).

Do not use others' photographs/ videos without permission. 

After putting the photo, you get a number of options below or above the photo. I have used Caption under each photo in the present post so that my readers know which image I am speaking about.

Search engines cannot read the subject of photos. So, you should give ALT or alternate attribute to main photos. To do so, click on the image on the post editor, click on Properties option under or above the photo. There is a box for Alt Attribute. Give some useful but very small description for the photo here. This will help SEO of the blog.

6d. Contact form: I have given a contact form in the side bar of this experimental blog. Contact form helps readers to make a quick comment on the blog.

7. Useful menus on the blogger dashboard 

The blog dashboard has many menus that we have so far either not used or used them partially. Let us see what all these menus can do. Sometimes, you can achieve the same result from two different menus.

Posts menu: You can write posts  but if you are not satisfied with them, you can keep them for future. If you just Save them, they are called Draft. You can later Publish them. 

You can also give a future date and time when the post should be published. Click on Schedule in the right side bar. 

Pages menu: You can create a large number of standalone pages. If your blog is on food, you can make an independent page on one aspect, e.g. conversion table for quantities of ingredients. You can show this page through a gadget, and you can also refer to this page in posts by linking it.

Layout and Gadgets menu: You can add AdSense advertisements using AdSense gadget. These will work only when your site is verified by AdSense. Please see the Earning menu below for some more discussion.

You can also put affiliate ads on the blog. There are some affiliate networks and some companies like Amazon also offer affiliation. You put their ads on your blog, and they pay yu commission when someone buys through your blog.

Click on Blog Posts in the Layout menu. You can change the number of visible posts in one screen, date of posting, buttons under ads, ads between posts, etc through this gadget.

Some themes have provision for a Featured Post, as in the example blog here. Featured posts are posts that are displayed in big rectangle above other posts and have a fetured image associated with them. You can change the Featured Post attributes using a gadget of this name in the Layout menu, if the theme has this option. 

Theme menu: As we did earlier, this menu is used for changing the theme of the blog. From Theme menu, use Customize button, but with care. If your existing theme has Featured Post, three columns etc but the new theme does not have Featured Post or has only two or single column, the new theme may show these gadgets wrongly, not show them or mix up the earlier layout. 

Do not use the Edit HTML button on Theme menu unless you are sure that you will not disturb the underlying HTML. You can use this option safely for putting some meta description for verifying your blog, e.g. for AdSense or affiliate ads.

Settings menu: In the Basic sub-menu, there are options to change the title and description of the blog, appying an independent domain to the blog and giving permissions to others. The last one is very useful when you want to have a multi-author blog.

Posts, comments and other sub-menus are safe and obvious. 

Under Search preferences sub-menu, enable Description. This will allow you to write a useful description for your blog. This is the description that will come when someone sees your blog in search engines and also when the blog is shared on social media.

The Other sub-menu has two very useful tools: One: You can import and back up (export) your blog content. This is very useful when you want to move the blog later from Blogger to elsewhere. It also gives a back up of your content so that you can use it if by any chance the posts etc are lost. Two: There is also a tool to manage your videos

Stats menu:  This menu gives statistics about growing popularity of the blog, most shared posts, region and device wise visitors etc.

Comments menu: This is used for checking comments on the blog. If you have applied moderation of comments (that is, you will approve the comments yourself. This option is available through Dashboard> Settings> Posts, Comments and Sharing), you can tick which comments you want to select or reject.

Earnings menu: This is used for associating your blog with an AdSense account so that you can earn money through AdSense ads. The AdSense gadgets will show ads and you will get commission only when your blog has an AdSense account associated with it.

That's all for now. This post has become as big as an ebook and I cannot afford to make the post any bigger, so let me guide you to some relevant resources on Sociallogging:

  • I have a number of useful resources on blogging and their number is growing. For search engine optimization, there is an exhaustive list of SEO actions that succeed.
  • This post gives a brief on earning from blogging. There are many examples of successful blogs, and you can take inspiration from them if you want to make money from blogging.
  • Making a blog on Wordpress platform is almost as easy, though some menus work slightly differently. Wordpress free platform does not allow you to make money from the blog by putting AdSense or affiliate advertisements. It also does not allow posting of videos. I have an exhaustive post on Sociallogging, on the differences between Blogger and Wordpress.
Let me close by saying that you can make a personal blog or a professional looking blog on Blogger or Wordpress free blogging platforms easily and make them successful. What is needed beyond just 'starting a blog' is to make it resourceful and useful for visitors. That is what is successful blogging in 2019 all about. 

All the best wishes!

2 comments:

  1. Should help those wanting to open a blog but thinking that it needs a lot of technical knowledge.
    Very exhaustive yet great for hand holding newbie bloggers.

    ReplyDelete