Saturday, August 9, 2014

So you want to start a blog... (Tips & Hints)


I've been wanting to write this article for awhile. To share my own tips and hints, and useful links that I've accumulated since I started this blog back in 2008. These may be helpful to an already established blog, or a newbie.

Okay, so you want to start a blog. Or maybe you already have one. What platform is best? For me personally, Blogger is best. It's extremely customize-able, and already integrated with a lot of Google's web tools. Wordpress is more limited in design. Tumblr is best if you like blogging photos, more than writing. (Most of these links and tips will be for the Blogger platform, but WordPress users may find them helpful too).

This is going to be a very in-depth article, so please see more after the jump below! 

Free Blog Templates:

Blogger and WordPress have many built in templates to choose from, but if you want to stand out from the crowd, there are many free templates available. You can completely customize your blog. And, if you know a little HTML already, you can even further tweak these free templates to your liking. The following sites below offer free templates.

Tip: Pick a layout where you can have larger photos, and colors/fonts that aren't too distracting to your readers eyes.

Blogger Templates: 
Blogger & WordPress: 

Free Social Media Buttons:

Free Social media buttons add a professional look to your blog. There are many free ones available to download, and if you're handy in a photo editing program you can often change the color of some of these buttons to match your layout better by using hue/saturation filter. 

Tip: You can store your buttons on Photobucket or Picasa. Use an HTML image link tutorial and paste your coding into Notepad to line up your buttons, before pasting into Blogger's HTML/JavaScript in Layout.

Photo Storage:

Photo Storage is a big decision. Blogger automatically comes with 15GB of photo storage in Picasa web albums. I find this is the easiest way to store and upload my photos directly to blogger. If you exceed that because you use high resolution photos often, it's only $5 a year for the lowest plan of extra storage on Picasa. Photobucket is also free, and gives you the HTML coding or direct links to copy/paste into Blogger. You get 2GB of photo storage with Photobucket. There are also paid plans for Photobucket.
Tip: Kirby from The Mercurial Magpie says: "On Blogger, only photos above 2048x2048 count towards that limit, anything smaller and you can basically have unlimited storage forever!"

Free Blog Tools:


Counters, Share Buttons, Widgets, all these are handy, and free for enhancing your blog!

Blog Pretties: 


Graphics, banners, and other various free kitschy touches.

Photo Editing Programs:


A good photo editing program is a must. You can use it for cropping, editing your photos, adding watermarks. And a downloadable photo program you can use to create or edit banners, layouts, buttons for your blog, if you're creative and tech savvy.

Fonts:


Unique fonts add a personal and professional touch. These are for your watermarks, custom banners, signatures, and buttons, or any other graphics you may create with a downloadable photo program. Below are websites I've used to download free fonts. Download, and double click to install on your computer.

Curved Watermark Tutorials:


If your a beauty blogger this one is helpful to know. It's also helpful to know when designing your own graphics. Curved text, or watermark tutorials for various programs.

Basic HTML sites:

If you're not a computer tech wiz, the following websites are helpful for looking up HTML coding. You can find tutorials for creating picture or text links, etc, and other useful HTML stuff. A lot of these websites even offer copy/paste coding to help you out.

Tip: What I've learned, is- Google is your friend if you're trying to do something in HTML. Just Google, "How do I do I link to an image in HTML?', etc, and you can usually find your answer pretty quick.

Submitting your blog to Search Engines:

This is very important if you want your blog to have exposure. Submit your blog to various search engines for free. (The links below will take you directly to the page to submit your URL).

Social Media Saturation:

If you really want your content out there, be prepared to work for it. Sign up for as many social media networks as you can. Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, Instagram, Tumblr. Everytime you post a blog- infiltrate those networks! Share, share, share! Find groups on Facebook that you can share posts in. Also hash tags (#thesethings), are your friend. They work like little link tags so people can find related content. They are especially useful on Twitter and Instagram.

Tip: There are programs out there that make cross sharing much easier! Check out this article on the top 10 social media management programs.


Website/Blog Analytics:


Whoo! Now you're getting serious! Using Google analytics, and web tools give you insight to what visitors do when they visit your blog. You can see all the Google keywords people use to find your blog, you can see who is linking to your blog, how long visitors are staying, what country they are viewing from, your most popular posts, what browser they are using, etc, etc, etc. A must if you're getting serious about your blogging!


Ad Revenue:

Maybe you want to make a little money from your blog. There are various programs you can sign up for that give you a small percentage of money (cents!) per ad clicks. To really be successful with it you need high page views, otherwise it will take you awhile to earn anything. (I only have $16 in my Google AdSense account- Google will not give a payout until you reach $100), still these are useful tools if you want to monetize your blog.

Disclosure:

Disclosure is a very necessary part of blogging, especially if you get into reviewing products from companies. It is a way to legally cover your butt, and also be honest with your readers. If you're reviewing products on your blog, you must legally disclose at the top of each post whether you received the item(s) as a sample, etc. If you include links that you may earn money on within your blog posts, you should disclose that on your disclosure page on your blog.

Generate a free disclosure policy for your blog on DisclosurePolicy.org


So, that's about it! Maybe you've learned something new, or found something useful from this article. (I hope!) These are all my own tips, and curated links that I've used over the years blogging. I am not affiliated with any of these sites I've linked to. If I find anymore useful links, I will update and add them in. And please feel free to share with me some of your favorite sites or blogging tips below in the comments. (I will give credit for tips I add into this post. Comments with links are always moderated to make sure it's not spam!)

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