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

This post was originally published in 2019 and has been thoroughly updated in 2020.

Though blogging is the bread and butter of the blog you are reading, this post is specifically for helping such bloggers who would like to start a blog in 2020. New bloggers today doubt whether starting a blog now makes any sense particularly in view of 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?

A word before we shoot off to actually creating a new blog on Blogger platform: Blogger these days has two variants: classic and new. You can switch to one of them any time, and the option for that is at the bottom of the first Blogger window, called Dashboard. Some menus and other buttons are arranged differently on these, especially Theme, which we will discuss in the lower sections.

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.)

How to create a blog in 5 minutes


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)


Start a blog on Blogger
PIC 1: STARTING WINDOW ON BLOGGER
     

What is blog title, how to give title on a Blogger blog?


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.

What is blog address, how to give the blog an address/ name?


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 will be the web address or domain name of the blog. When a visitor types it on his browser, your blog will be shown.]

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

How to choose right Title and Address for the blog?


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 (=domain name) is your blog's address on the web. The browser on 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 his internet browser's address bar. You will share this address with others when you want them to visit your blog.

All types of addresses will not be available because others would have already opened their blogs / websites with those addresses. So, you will have to try a few times before you get the most suitable address for your blog.

When choosing the address (=domain name) for your blog, you must take care that the address/ name is easy to remember and is closely 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.

Keeping the title and address relevant also helps by attracting visitors and making the blog prominent on search engines (Google, Yahoo, Bing etc). 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. Check it by typing it on another tab on your internet browser on smartphone/ computer.

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 often 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.

Individual posts and pages both are web pages of your blog (which is a website).

Widget or gadget: A gadget is an additional elements that you can place on top or bottom portions or in the side column of the blog. Such elements add new features to the blog, e.g. displaying time and date, calling popular posts, showing pages, listing 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) by the blogging software. Only because of HTML, a blog/ website appears on the visitor's internet browser.

Theme: Blogger has many readymade blog templates called themes. These are like different suits in a fashion shop where 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. You can customize the theme the way you can customize your suit according to your height, etc.

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 like the layout of a building in which you know how rooms, bath, kitchen, stairs etc are placed. Through the Layout menu, you can add new gadgets, customize them and move them to different places on the blog.

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 opened many blogs in the same Blogger account, 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 using menus - I have elaborated the functions of each menu item later in this article.

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.

I have opened the blog. How do I write articles, put images?


Don't worry if you find your brand new blog unimpressive. For this tutorial, I have created a blog, 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:


What do I do to create a blog on Blogger platform?
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.

Let me 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.


Tools for creating posts on Blogger blog
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 available on my computer and pasted it here. This post now has an image. Publish this post.

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

Let us beautify the blog step by step.

How do I design my new blog to make it beautiful?


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 my new blog deals with.

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


What is the right design for a 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 more and more cumbersome to change the layout later.

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

3b. Go to dashboard, click on Theme.

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:


What are the best themes for Blogger platform?
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 may like to some 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 thumbnails, the colors and looks of the blog change in the preview window.

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


Choosing the right theme for a new blog
PIC 6 EXPERIMENTING WITH BLOG THEMES

For this experimental 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. I think this is good for my food blog. Its third variant has plain background. I want to change that to something related to foods. I click on Background, and then on the image thumbnail. It gives me a choice of many ready-made images. I click on chili. The main image area is now filled with that chili image. If I upload an image from my computer, that would come here.

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?


Should a new blog start with a new theme? Yes.
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!

How to add new functions to the blog, if I don't know any tech?


As discussed earlier, gadgets (=widgets) 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).


How do I put widgets in Blogger blog?
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 with names of some gadgets already there, including a 'Report Abuse' gadget. These rectangles represent individual gadgets. 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. In some themes, there may not be some gadgets.

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:


How widgets affect a blog on Blogger platform?
PIC 9: TEXT GADGET WITH LINKS

4f. One 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. So, let me move the gadgets up and down. I place mouse 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 I am 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 save button at the bottom of the window.

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

What is 'good content' for a blog? How do I write great posts?


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. If you choose the blog's subject carefully, writing good articles should not be a problem.

5b. One very important 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. 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 20-30, you are going to be successful blogger. If you do not get many ideas, think again; make a Google search. If you still have problem in finding about 50 articles, there is need to change the subject.

If you want to be a successful blogger in the long run, don't ignore this. You can skip it for the moment but bookmark it and come again, till you are ready with a list of 50 titles on which you can write good, useful posts.

5c. One pro tip: Keep composing posts on MS Word or other program that you use. But use them only for text work, not images/ videos. 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. This 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 the 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 post editor itself.

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

Remember that content is the most important part of a blog. Without good content, no amount of beautification can take the blog to great heights. Since this article has become very long, I advise that you visit articles on writing good content that I have published in SocialLogging.


Should I start new blog on Blogger platform? Yes, look at this!
PIC 10: THE FINISHED BLOG 'COOKING WITH ANIRUD'

As far as basic setting of the blog is concerned, your blog is now ready. 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 new blog I created as an example. Let me now introduce these and some other features that would help you in customizing and improving your blog:

What are some good features that I should have on my 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. Links to internal web addresses: On Blogger, each post and page has an independent web address (=URL). When you put labels on posts, Blogger creates a web page with the following URL structure: blog full domain name/search/label/label name .

You can use these URLs for sharing the blog post through social media or email. In this blog, I have put the links for labels in the menu items as you can see in pic 10.

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 (e.g. PIC 8: BLOG LAYOUT IN BLOGGER) in the present article 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. By the way, I have not talked about SEO here but SocialLogging has useful articles on SEO that you can visit later.

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.

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. For the sake of clarity, I am repeating the menus here though I have explained some before.

Posts menu: As you might have already seen, this menu gives a list of posts published on the blog. When you click on a post, it takes you to the post editor. You can also see posts by labels.

You can keep half-done posts as drafts. You can keep editing the drafts till you are satisfied. They do not show up on the blog till you publish them.

Another great feature of this menu is scheduling of posts. You can write a post for the futurewe use this menu for 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 you 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 post is a post that is displayed in big rectangle above other posts and has a featured image associated with it. 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. Leave editing of HTML for a later date.

Settings menu: In the Basic sub-menu, there are options to change the title and description of the blog, applying an independent domain name to the blog and giving permission of editing of the blog 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 each post on the blog. This is the description that will come when someone sees your posts in search engines and also when the postvis 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 keep 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 it wonderful. What is needed beyond just 'starting a blog' is to make it resourceful and useful for visitors. That is what is successful blogging in 2020 all about.

All the best wishes!

3 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

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