HOW TO START YOUR BLOG AND WHY YOU SHOULD

This post will help you get started with your own blog. I’ll share my own thoughts and why I made some of the choices I have made, but there are many ways for you to successfully get started-and you should get started.

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Choosing a Free or Self-hosted (pay) blog

Self-hosting means you will pay a web service provider to host your blog.  Self-hosting also enables you to choose whatever domain name you would like (as long as no one else in the world already owns that particular domain name).  The domain name for this website is “troymooney.com.”  Domain names include a string of connected letters followed by “.com”, “.net”, “.edu”  etc.  (To read more on what is a domain name).

Choosing to have a free site is the more popular but less flexible option.  If you set your blog up for free using the WordPress free option, then you will have some extra words added to your domain name. If this site was a free site the domain name would be troymooney.wordpress.com.

If you think you want to self-host then pause and watch this great video from Michael Hyatt. The video address how to actually self-host a blog using WordPress.  This is the video I watched to create this particular website.

Choosing Your Domain Name

The decision on the name of the blog is important because once you begin to gather readers you probably will not want to change the web address.

You can choose any  domain name that is not already owned by someone else.  You can search domain names by just typing them into the web and seeing if a site comes up, but to definitively know if it is available, you need to use a domain name reseller.  Godaddy.com is the one that I use but if you watch the video above, it references Blue Host.

One word of caution here is that if you go to a reseller and check the availability of a site name, I encourage you to buy the domain name that day if it is available to prevent it being purchased after you search for it.

When you buy your domain name, you will be prompted for many extra features along with buying extra domain names. You can say no to every option.  The only extra feature on Godaddy I have ever purchased was anonymity so that no one could do a “WHOIS” search on sites I own and find my home address.  That is not necessary now that the domain name I am using is my actual name since anyone can find where someone lives via an easy Google search.

Choosing a Domain name for Personal Branding

I first created a blog that had a professional sounding name (www.texasprincipal.org).  After a few years, I decided I wanted to use my own name for the blog to capitalize on any influence or branding generated from the blog.  Branding and influence building seem like self-serving pursuits, but if your long-term goal is to influence education policy and practice to most benefit students and educators, then you will need the influence that comes a respected brand.  In this case, you are that brand.

In summary:

Self-Hosted website

  • Choose your own distinct domain name
  • Better for branding and influence building
  • Identifies easily with your other social media accounts that are probably your actual name
  • Requires more technical expertise
  • Costs money

 Free Hosting

  • No cost
  • Easier setup
  • Domain name does not sound as professional

I use Blue Host for this website and they have provided me with great service.  I initially chose them because Michael Hyatt said that the company was committed to not hosting pornographic websites.

What Platform to use for your blog

There are many options, but the only one I have used is WordPress.   Other might be better, I will leave that up to you to explore.  if you choose WordPress then you will also get to choose a theme for the blog.  Many themes are free, some of the nicer ones come at a cost.  You can change your theme at anytime.  I would advise picking a free theme and trying that out before buying any theme.  The theme for this website is called “Get Noticed” it is not free.  It is available here. 

Make sure you choose a theme that is Responsive.  Responsive themes are themes that automatically adjust themselves depending on if the reader is using a mobile device or a computer to view your site. When choosing a theme, those that are Responsive are clearly marked.  You can also filter your search to choose a Responsive theme.

Here is a video series from Blue Host on getting started with WordPress

How to write a blog post

Michael Hyatt has a nice article on writing blog posts.  I would add that they can be any length.  Many people who start out blogging feel compelled to write long personal narrative essays. I think if you commit to only writing those kind of blog posts that you will not write for very long.  Visit other blogs and remind yourself what you like to read and then write in that style and format.

For some links to great education issue blogs to review, look at the twitter feed of National Education Blogs.

Putting Pictures in your posts

You will want to use pictures in your post.  The ideal size for a picture would be no larger than the width of your blog.  I like to use less than 550 pixels in width because that is the max allowable size for pictures in my subscriber emails.  I most often use 300 or 350 width.  You can Google a variety of opinions on how to best resize images for blog posts.

To find the pictures, I recommend using Flickr and searching for pictures that allow usage for commercial purposes.  I originally used a pay site for pictures (Istock photo) but they became too expensive.  With Flickr you can find images that are free for commercial use.  It is important to always credit images.

Subscriber list

If you get serious about a blog then you will want to create a subscriber list. I started with a subscriber list on day one of this website. This is a great way to connect with people that enjoy your content.  I use Mailchimp to manage my subscriber list.

How to Mailchimp video by John Meese

Scheduling tweets to increase blog traffic

Many people on Twitter seem to tweet all day.  They always have links to new content, either their own or from another site.  They produce a steady stream that flows throughout the workday.  While some of them may actually be tweeting all day long, many of them are using a 3rd party program like Hootsuite to send their scheduled tweets.

Hoosuite explains how to schedule tweets

Why should you blog?

Blogging is a great form of expression and an easy way to share ideas and build influence.  It allows you to share things you know to help others and also reveal your personal “why” behind your online efforts.  Use your blog to help students by spreading good ideas and influencing others to make good policy choices.