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Blogging by Trimester

The other day, I saw something fun post on Pinterest (go figure, right?) that likened the stages of starting a business to the trimesters of pregnancy. I found that pretty clever, and it got me thinking about a similar comparison between pregnancy and building a blog:

First Trimester.

  • Building the foundation (domain, hosting, software)

The first trimester is where all the groundwork gets laid out. For a blog, this involves deciding on a domain name, hosting, and software. The domain name is your URL, one of the first orders of business when it comes to building a blog or any website (unlike in pregnancy, where you can until after the baby’s born to think of a name). The hosting and software components are the important structural/functional components that will lay the foundation for the actual blog. Unlike the first trimester’s structural happenings, you do ultimately have control over hosting and software. You can bundle the two together using something like Wix or Weebly, or do a separate hosting/software combination such as Siteground and Wordpress. We have a Tech Thursday video that discusses some of the different options — it really comes down to how much control and support you want in the process. For instance, if you’re just looking for a place to write online and don’t care about maintaining a whole website, something like Wix or Weebly might be a better starting point.

Second Trimester:

  • Building the framework & adding content (pages, design, menus, header/footer/sidebar).

After the basics are laid out, it’s time to start building the pages. This is where you go from the “bundle of cells” to forming the actual stuff of the website. Think about the features you’d like your website to have. Some common pages you might have on your website are an About page, a contact page, and so on. The content, organization, and layout of your blog are all up to you. If you’re feeling stumped or overwhelmed, take a look at a few different blogs to see what others are offering. This is the best way to get inspired, and you may get taken in a different direction than you’d initially planned. Other things to think about are menu structure, images, colors, and headers and footers.

Third Trimester:

  • Fine tuning, testing, creating a plan, and marketing

Once you’ve built some of the content, you’re in the “getting ready” phase. Basically, the “third trimester” is all about fine tuning. If you have forms on your site, test them out to see how they look. Make sure your images line up and look good. See how your website looks on mobile, too, because chances are you’ll have some people reading from their phones. Other things to think about include creating a content plan. A content plan is just how you plan on running your blog — how frequently you’ll be posting, different topics you’ll be writing about, etc. This is another one of those “there are no right or wrong answer” situations, but it’s important to choose something that allows you to be consistent.

The second part of this stage is thinking about how you will market your blog (if that’s something you’re thinking about doing). If you are going to do some marketing, now is the time to decide if/where you’ll share on social media, if you want to create a weekly/monthly blog digest that sends recent blog posts to your readers’ email, and anything else along those lines.

Postpartum:

  • Keeping things alive and growing.

The next phase of starting a blog is pretty much just upkeep. Check in with yourself — how is your content plan going? Are you able to stick to the schedule you made for yourself or do you need to re-evaluate? Something else to consider now is whether you want to make money (some different ways you can do this here). You may also want to check out is Google Analytics for your website to see how many people are reading, and get a better idea of your audience and what people are doing when they get to your blog.

Kassie is a distance runner and a distance reader really. She lives in Ellsworth Maine and, while she might be quiet when you meet her, will throw out something witty when you least expect it.

Blogging 101: The Basics

I’m just going to say it: I think people get way too caught up on perfection and don’t just start things.

How many people do you know who are waiting on redoing their logo, designing a website, reprinting their business cards, whatever before they start blogging? I know a few.

I’m going to let you in on a little secret. Blogging is just writing with a few more technical things built in.

I got into blogging precisely for this reason. I wanted to be a writer. There seemed to be a lot of gatekeepers to me becoming that. Rather than jump the fence or wait around at gates, I built my own place. Over time, I fixed it up. I still feel like it needs fixing up! But nothing worth it is ever static.

I wanted to write this blog post about what you need to start blogging. No it’s not a domain name or branding guides or ‘SEO’. It’s easier than that.

1) You need a topic. 

Of course your Mom will read your blog… but unless you’re Oprah, no one is going to care about you just living your life. You need to weave your life into a topic. Ex: maybe you’re really into cooking paleo. Maybe you really like Italy. Maybe you want to make yourself learn more about running. Give yourself a general topic with enough room to move around that the topic can weave throughout your blog while being interesting and personal.

This blog’s original topic? Personal finance. Sure, I tried to tell fun stories and include photos in but I also tried to have some knowledge to impart (I use that term loosely) so I wasn’t limiting my audience.

Let’s test some topics:

Water- Ok this could work. How to drink more, how to test it, how to conserve it, bottled water taste testing. Yup, I could write 50 blog posts on this and just be getting started. “Water Girl” or “Hydration Situation” maybe?

Art Supply Review- If I am keen on buying new stuff all the time, this could work. But review only? I may be pigeon holing myself. (The reason I never became a fashion blogger? Too much clothes to buy to have writing topics!)

Books- Who is my audience? If I’m going to be reviewing ‘Fault in Our Stars’ one week and ‘War and Peace’ the next week, that may be too much jumping around. This may be too broad to appeal to a specific audience.

You get what I’m saying. Don’t give yourself something so specific (four leaf clovers) that you’ll run out of material in a year and don’t give yourself too broad a topic that your audience won’t know whether they like it or not… though I will argue so long as you yourself are clear about what your blog is and isn’t, the ‘too broad’ will be less of a problem than too narrow. For example, I had a hard time coming up with another ‘too broad’ example besides books.

2) You need a name.

This is like your topic but you are going to be referring to this name all the time so don’t pick something you hate. In your chosen topic, a quick Google search will reveal what other blogs in your niche are called. How can yours be different? What ideas do you like from some of them?

OK so some in the personal finance niche at the time I started were:

Sense to Save
Budgets are Sexy
Almost Frugal
Get Rich Slowly
Counting Pennies
Wisebread
Daily Worth (ok that wasn’t a blog but a newsletter at the time)

Looking at these names, I knew what wasn’t me. I didn’t want to be frugal necessarily. I also didn’t want money in the title, in case I wanted to change topic later (which I did). Daily Worth was a sort of direction I liked best for myself. When Breaking Even got put on the list, it just felt right to me. But seeing other ideas made me realize what could work… and not work.

Make a whole list of names and sleep on it. Pick your favorite and go with it. Don’t worry if the .com domain is available. Just pick something you like and you can always make it work.

3) You need a place to blog.

Don’t stress out about software choice. You can always move it later. Really, I’ve moved this blog three times. (It’s getting cheaper and cheaper to hire someone to do this for you as more and more people blog.)

I like Wordpress.com as a free option. But if you like Blogger.com, Typepad, whatever better, I am not here to tell you there is only one answer. There isn’t. Just find something you like to use. Because you’ll be playing around a lot the first couple of months. (How do I add pictures? How do I make the font bigger?)

Just grab a template (all software comes with some choices) and start blogging. And if you don’t believe me when I say people don’t care what your site looks like, think of 2 or 3 of your favorite bloggers and try to sketch out what their website looks like. Can’t remember? Yeah, thought so.

Someday, if this goes well and you like it, you’ll want a custom design and you’ll start caring about things you NEVER thought you’d care about (How can I get more comments? What if I want to ad advertising?) But for now, just start writing.

4) Have a day/deadline for when you will blog (at least once a week).

Start out with once a week. Maybe Wednesdays are a good day because you get a long lunch break. Wednesdays is your deadline. Now every week, you have to write a post that goes online on Wednesday.

Your entries don’t have to be long or super deep, just get in the habit of it. Every Wednesday, write something.

Now you’ll see your blog traffic spike every Wednesday. This will either be rewarding to you or you won’t care. If it’s rewarding that someone is reading your work, you’re a blogger. 🙂

That’s it, you are blogging now! Next post I’ll get into more specifics but it this is the only post you read about blogging for the next six months, that’s ok. Just start. And leave the link here so I can start reading it.

Once you’ve been writing several months, you can move onto Blogging 201. 🙂

Nicole runs Breaking Even Communications, an internet marketing company in Bar Harbor Maine. When she’s not online, she enjoys walking her short dog, cooking with bacon, and trying to be outdoorsy in Acadia National Park.