You might be wondering what you need to start up a blog. These are my Blogging Essentials – the first things you will need to organise when you decide to set up a blog.
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I have been involved with websites since 2002, and I’ve been blogging in one form or another since about 2008. So I have picked up some useful information along the way.
In this post, you’ll discover some of the basics that you need to get your new blog off to a flying start. Wherever possible, I’ll give you some of the different options that are available to you. And I’ll also give you some useful reading for more information, to help you make your choices.
Before you get started with anything else, you need to choose a name for your blog. Choosing a blog name is an important task, and it’s worth taking your time over this. Although it’s not impossible to rebrand in the future, it’s much easier if you don’t have to change your blog name.
Make sure that you check that your chosen name isn’t already being used by a company, as this could cause problems down the line. It’s worth trying to get both the .co.uk and .com versions of your chosen URL, so that you don’t have problems with people picking the wrong address. Check that the social media handles are free (Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest etc) and ideally get ones which exactly match your URL or domain name.
Try not to pick a name that will limit what you want to do with your blog in the future, or one that you might feel embarrassed saying when you introduce yourself to people!
If you want to buy a private domain name (e.g. www.sallyakins.com) it’s easy to check if the name you want is available at any domain reseller. If you go with a hosted blog with WordPress.com or Blogger.com (see below) then you don’t necessarily need a custom URL. However, there are benefits to having one, especially if you want to monetise your blog.
I generally use www.123-reg.co.uk when I am buying domains.
More reading: The Guide to Choosing your Blog Name by Blog Clarity
I have always used self-hosted WordPress for my blogs, including this one. However, this option does require a little bit of technical knowledge, or you could pay someone to do the work for you. I’ve always managed through a mixture of research on the internet and a bit of trial and error. Everything you see on this blog so far is my own work. Wordpress is famous for its 5 Minute installation – I found that it’s fairly quick and straightforward, but it took me a little longer than that the first time I did an installation. But it’s certainly something that you can do for yourself if you have a little technical know-how.
WordPress.com and Blogger.com blogs are really quick and easy to to set up, but there are limitations to what you can do compared with a self-hosted website. For example, a WordPress.com website can not host Google Adsense adverts. You might not want to show ads at the moment, but it’s something to bear in mind for the future.
There are a number of other options for a blogging platform such as Joomla, or paid options like Wix or SquareSpace. As with your domain name, take your time to pick the right option for you.
You will also need to pick a template or design to use with your blog, which is a huge topic in its own right!
I’ve includes this in my Blogging Essentials list, but it’s only actually essential for a self-hosted WordPress solution. If you opt for Blogger or WordPress.com, your website is hosted for you by the provider.
If you do need to look into hosting for your site, then I would recommend starting off with a basic package which includes the minimum requirements for hosting a WordPress installation. You can usually upgrade very easily to a more advanced hosting package but it’s not always as easy to downgrade. Bear in mind that cheap or free hosts sometimes display their own adverts on your website. Consider if you really want that for your blog?
Some hosts offer ‘1 click installation’ of WordPress – I would approach that with caution. I did try this once but discovered after a couple of weeks that it limited certain changes that I wanted to make to the website. This meant that I had to start my blog again from scratch. So although it was very quick to install initially, ultimately it cost me a lot of time!
I am currently hosting my blog on Siteground*, and I’ve been really impressed with them so far. Their customer service is excellent, and they made the process of moving my website over really straightforward and simple. It’s worth looking around at the various options and asking friends and other bloggers for their recommendations.
More Reading: Web Hosting Guide for Beginners
A Mobile Phone
Next on my list of Blogging Essentials would definitely be my phone. I use it for taking notes when I’m out, taking and editing photographs, checking emails, checking webstats – the list goes on! You don’t need the latest or most expensive phone, but a good quality smart phone will definitely make it easier to run a blog. I’m currently using the HuaWei P9, which has a great camera and words well for me.
Of course, you could get by without a phone – you could use a notebook for taking notes, check emails on your computer and take photos with a camera. But you can do all of these things and more on your phone, and it makes life a lot easier!
There are a lot of apps you can install which will help you run a blog on the move. But you don’t need to spend a lot on paid apps right at the beginning.
More Reading: Tech Radar – Best Smartphones 2017
Good quality photos really help to make a blog look more attractive to visitors. This is something that I am constantly trying to improve on! But you don’t need to spend a fortune on a top-end DSLR when you’re starting out. Most mobile phones come with a pretty decent camera and you could easily use this.
If you are looking to buy a camera, consider what you will be using it for. Will you be taking photos when you are out and about, or are you going to be photographing food or products at home? Do you want to be making videos, either now or in the future? If so, bear that in mind when choosing a camera. You might want to pay a little extra for a camera with a flip up screen.
I currently use a Canon G7X Mark II* for most of my photography, and it’s also good for videos as well. The Olympus Pen* is another popular alternative. If you want to invest in a DSLR, the Canon 750D* is a good choice. Nikon are another excellent camera manufacturer, and it’s worth taking time to do your research before investing.
Don’t feel that you have to buy all the equipment straight away. You can do a lot without spending a fortune all at once.
Obviously this is only a basic start-up list. There are a lot of other things that you will either need or want throughout your life as a blogger. But these basics will get your blog up and running.
What are your blogging essentials? I’d love to know your recommendations!