So You Want to Start a Blog…

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Thanks to my social media guru brother Justin Wise for this guest post!

Not too long ago, I was at a grocery store picking up some last-minute items for dinner at home. My wife needed broccoli and my son needed almond milk (little guy doesn’t do dairy … at least not well), so daddy went shopping.

I picked up my items and dashed to the checkout line, hoping to make a quick exit. I put everything down on the conveyor belt, then zoned out reading the latest headlines on the Courtney Cox/David Arquette split when, I heard it:

“You’re Iowa Girl Eats’ brother!” The checkout girl was seemingly in awe.

“Yes, yes I am.” I stated matter-of-factly.

She nearly launched out of her checking cubicle with glee, “Omigosh, I LOOOOOOVE her blog! Is she here?!”

“No. She’s not.” I had to inform her of the bad news.

“Oh.” She was less than pleased.

I tried to cheer her up a little bit using a dash of humor, “I guess you could say I’m ‘Iowa Brother Eats!'”

Crickets chirping. Blank stare. Awkward silence. She was clearly not impressed by my humor. I paid for my things, put my head down, and walked ashamedly out the front door…

Truthfully, I am in fact the brother of Iowa Girl Eats. My name is Justin Wise and I write over at JustinWise.net.

bedeviant

When my sister asked me to guest post here on IGE while she was out of town, I was thrilled. Why?

1. Whenever she links to my blog, I get a ton of traffic.

2. She has one of the best online communities that I know of. She takes care of her audience and you all, in turn, take care of her. That’s how blogs are supposed to work. Any chance to get in front of an audience like that and I’ll take it!

jwnet

Kristin asked me to cover the question of how to start a blog. As I said earlier, I’ve started a few different blogs with different purposes, most with a respectable amount of success. That doesn’t make me a pro, but if you’ve been wanting to start a blog yourself, I’d love to walk you through a few easy steps to get you started.

So let’s take a look at how to start a blog.

Beginning a blog is very, very simple. And easy. And, in most cases, free. Starting a blog is not the problem. Maintaining a consistent blog presence is where most people get snagged, but I’ll get into that later. First, the basics.

1. Who Are You Trying to Reach?

people

Before you write your first post, you need to ask the question, “Who is this blog for?” Knowing your audience will save you countless headaches as you move forward. Kristin’s audience? Foodies. My audience? People with spiritual questions and the like. Knowing this is key. It’s a huge win. If you know who you’re writing for, the rest of the process will go much smoother.

If you’re unclear who you’re writing for, you can narrow it down by asking a few clarifying questions:

Who do I want reading this blog?

If I were to describe the typical reader of this blog, what would they look like? Where would they work? How old are they? Where do the live?

Whose blog do I enjoy reading and why?

If _____ left a comment on my blog, I would jump up and down with joy!

You get the idea.

Once you’ve identified your audience (some people call it a niche), you’ll be able to generate ideas and posts much faster. Think of it as “targeted advertising.” Knowing the direction you want to go before you set out will save you time, heartache and effort. Who are you trying to reach?

2. How are You Going to Maintain It?

process

As I alluded to earlier, this is where most people fall. Here’s what usually happens with new bloggers:

Blog gets started. Rush.

First post gets published. Rush.

Your mom leaves your first comment. Rush.

You write another post. Rush.

Someone you don’t know comments on your post. RUSH.

Someone retweets your blog post. DOUBLE RUSH.

You write your next post a week later. rush.

You check your stats. No rush.

You get discouraged that no one outside your immediate family is reading. No rush.

You don’t post for a month.

You post about how you never post anymore.

You curse the day you ever started blogging.

Poor defenseless blog is abandoned.

Don’t let this happen to you! The easiest way to keep yourself from being a blogging statistic is by setting up a maintainable process.

Frequency. Post once a week. Every day. Once a quarter. Whatever. Just establish it from the onset and you’ll be better off. That doesn’t mean it can’t change, it just means you’re starting out by setting yourself up for success.

Schedule. Schedule the time that you will blog throughout the week. Is it one hour on Sundays? 30 minutes each day? One whole day? Whatever it is, set a goal and be accountable to it. Get a process down.

Editorial Calendar. You may not want to start out with this right away, but I’ve found setting up an editorial calendar to be most helpful. Schedule out your topics well in advance and you’ll never have to worry about “blogger’s block” ever again. It’s amazing what being able to see a few days down the road will do for your writing clarity.

Bottom line is that you need to have a process for your blog if you hope to maintain it long-term. If you want to abandon your blog after three posts, ignore this advice. If you want to succeed, take it to heart!

3. What Technology are You Going to Use?

tech

Last, and least, you need to pick out the platform you’re going to use. This is the least important because if you’ve done your job with steps 1 & 2, picking a platform should be easy.

Blogger is good for beginners and people who want a no-hassle blogging experience.

Tumblr is good for those who want to post a lot of rich media: pictures, videos and the like.

TypePad is good for a dependable platform without a lot of frills. Just the facts, ma’am!

WordPress, the system my sister and I both use, is good for those who want to start small but move towards a more robust blogging experience. WordPress.com is a good wading pool in case you want to move to deeper waters with a self-hosted blog using WordPress.org (yes, there is a difference).

Your platform, though important, won’t make or break your blog. It really won’t. If you have a good blog with solid content, it won’t matter (ultimately) what system you’re on. Trust me.

Your Thoughts?

So what do you think? Have you started a blog, only to desert it on the sandy mounds of mediocrity? If so, maybe it’s time to pick it up, dust it off and breathe some life back into it.

If you do have a blog, would you be so kind as to leave the URL in the comments below? I’d love to check it out some time!

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Comments

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  1. Great guest post! I agree that the hardest part is establishing a consistent online presence.

  2. I just started my second go-round of a blog this past month. The first one was just for fun, but this one I thought much more about after having read more on social media and having worked at a social media marketing agency.

    • Iowa Brother Eats 10.19.2010

      Amanda … What did they teach you at the social media marketing agency you worked at? What was your biggest take away?

  3. Sarah 10.19.2010

    This is a GREAT post!! I’ve been blogging for a while now, and I definitely learned something new and useful. Thank you!

    http://www.thechocolatefigsf.com

  4. I’m liking this post. I actually just started blogging about a week ago, so this is very helpful to me, thanks!

    • Iowa Brother Eats 10.19.2010

      Hopefully this will help you keep blogging past week one! Have fun and keep at it ;)

  5. Sazzy @ Sazzybamm 10.19.2010

    I blog at http://www.sazzybamm.com Great post! And great timing! Yes, I desert my blog from time to time, but always revive it. I have been thinking A LOT about the point of my blog. Why do I maintain it? Who is really reading it? What should I stop/start/continue talking about? And so on. At this point, my blog is just really random.

    BTW – Iowa Brother Eats is really funny!

    • Iowa Brother Eats 10.19.2010

      Iowa Brother Eats is, if anything, woefully self-deprecating. But thank you for the kind words!

  6. Tracey 10.19.2010

    Great post! I’m a big fan of your sister’s blog and now I can’t wait to check yours out too.

    I agree completely about blog maintenance, it’s tough! I started my blog almost 3 years ago and have definitely gone through periods where it’s been neglected. Your tips are wonderful – really good advice for new bloggers as well as those of us who’ve been doing it for a while :)

    • Iowa Brother Eats 10.19.2010

      Tracey … You made my night. Glad to hear this resonates with the newbie and the pro! That’s what I’m aiming for, yo.

  7. this is a great post!!

    I love the idea of an editorial schedule – I don’t DO this, but I have an ever-growing list of ideas for topics / recipes. :D

    I’m off to read YOUR blog now!

  8. Lauren 10.19.2010

    This is such a wonderful surprise!! I had no idea your brother had a blog but I am so happy you posted this. I’ve been blogging for over 2 years and I can relate to so many things in this article. You do live and learn but if the one thing I’ve learned the most, it is that patience is a virtue. It takes a long time to build creditably and establish your “name” in the blog world.

    • Iowa Brother Eats 10.19.2010

      Lauren … I think you pointed out the key that most people miss: There are no overnight blogging sensations. None that stick around, anyway. Good point. Keep going!

  9. emily 10.19.2010

    my blog is at yourfoodsmiles.blogspot.com

    check it out and add!

  10. eemusings 10.19.2010

    I don’t have a schedule, but I tend to blog in spurts and write up to a week’s worth at a time. I’m usually sorted up to two or three weeks in advance, leaving a few gaps for spontaneous posts to slot in!

    • Iowa Brother Eats 10.19.2010

      Now THAT sounds like a winning strategy. I find that having content stored up makes the whole blogging experience that much more pleasurable!

  11. This was a great post, “Iowa Brother Eats.” hahaha It really made me think. I have been blogging for a little over a year at lifediscombobulated.blogspot.com and my target audience has mostly been my family and friends, although really not intentionally. I would love to appeal to a broader audience, but really, I don’t have a clear purpose. I’m writing about how I try to balance graduate school with regular life, I think my posts are thoughtful and well-written (I hope!), but I think that with more of a focus, people who don’t know me would be more interested in reading. Thanks again for the thoughtful post!

    • Iowa Brother Eats 10.19.2010

      You’re onto something … Could you boil your blog down into three main prongs? In other words, if I were to ask you what the three main points of your blog are, what would you say?

  12. Kim 10.19.2010

    I just started blogging a few weeks ago. Thanks for your advice in this post. I like that the scratch paper list of topics posted on my refrigerator is the beginnings of an “editorial calendar”. I feel more credible!

  13. Kath 10.19.2010

    Good advice, Justin! I started my blog at the first of the year, so I’m still learning a lot. My purpose was to organize favorite recipes so they would be easily accessible to family and friends. I’ve been amazed at how much fun it is, and it’s become a terrific creative outlet for me.

    I find I learn a lot by taking the time to read other blogs. I love seeing how people stage their masterpieces for photos.

    • Iowa Brother Eats 10.19.2010

      Few things I wish someone would have told me when starting out:

      1. Invest more in the design of your blog. And faster.
      2. Read (and comment) on at least five different niche blogs PER DAY.

      You’ll be off and running in no time.

  14. Liz @ Blog is the New Black 10.19.2010

    Iowa Brother Eats! I bet the girl reading this blog feels special that she got mentioned on IGE! Great post.

  15. nataliev 10.19.2010

    Hey. I got really excited when I saw the title of this blog on facebook. I began my blog http://www.blackbirdideas.blogspot.com about a month and a half ago. I chose blogger because I knew it would be easy and straightforward (exactly what I wanted in a blog). I am working on a move over to wordpress and have bought my domain name. I still think blogger is great though and would suggest it to anyone wanting to start a blog. My number one suggestion it to link to your posts through facebook. Its amazing how many people you can reach that way. I also post it on my friends pages who are included in posts that it will reach friends of theirs as well.

    • Iowa Brother Eats 10.19.2010

      Nice tips, Natalie. Never thought to tag my friends mentioned in the posts. Great idea!

  16. Thanks, Iowa Brother Eats! I’ve been blogging for about a year. I’ve taken a bit of time off here and there. Now, my plan is to post 2-3 times a week with more thought out posts. This has really helped my sanity!

    • Iowa Brother Eats 10.19.2010

      Anything I can do to aid your sanity, Lily, is a win in my book.

      PS – Love the blog title.

  17. Jean 10.19.2010

    Great job…love the guest post. Very good information. And an even funnier story at the grocery store checkout line! Good stuff!

    I am a Minnesota food/running blogger at http://jeansrunningcafe.blogspot.com/

    Keep up the great work!

    • Iowa Brother Eats 10.19.2010

      Minnesota, eh? I spent some time in grad school up there in St. Paul. God’s country, yo!

  18. Lesley 10.19.2010

    I’m sorry your joke didn’t go over very well, but it made for a funny story at least! I’ve thought about starting a blog, but never felt committed enough to the idea to actually do it. I’ll have to remember this post, if I ever change my mind. :)

    • Iowa Brother Eats 10.19.2010

      GREAT foresight, Lesley. Don’t pick up the plow if you can’t finish the whole field! In the meantime, just keep reading this blog :)

  19. susu 10.19.2010

    IBE– ha ha ha! Thanks so much for all the advice. I have been putting together my ideas to start my blog and you have given such great ideas! Can’t wait to check out your blogs…….

  20. Rachel 10.19.2010

    I’ve been blogging for going on 6 years now, although it was only earlier this year that I bought my own domain & actually started looking for a target audience. I figure that I still have a LOT to learn about blogging, especially finding my focus. I love posts like this! And feel free to stop by http://tramplingrose.com! :)

    • Iowa Brother Eats 10.19.2010

      I’d love to stop by! Have you ever read anything by Chris Brogan? Dude taught me everything I know about social media!

  21. Liz @ LBBakes 10.19.2010

    This is a great post! Thank you for taking the time to write it, IBE!

  22. Dream Mom 10.19.2010

    Good post. I’ve had a blog for almost five years now. I started when blogging was just getting off the ground so to speak and it’s been wonderful. I started my blog telling stories about my severely disabled son and developed a good readership, appeared on CNN as a result of one of my blogposts, was nominated for Best Patient Blog in 2006 (came in second) and was invited to be a member of Blogburst, now Demand Studios. My blog posts have appeared in Reuters and regularly appear in the Sun Times Media Group. My blog focuses on issues facing people with chronic illinesses and I am an advocate for special needs children. I write on occasion on my other hobbies, tablescaping, organization and home staging.

    My time is spent now mainly caring 24/7 for my severely disabled son, who is in the later stages of a progressive neurological disease which leaves me little time for regular posting. I have been fortunate however to have wonderful readers.

    My blog can be found at http://www.dreammom.blogspot.com. A good place to start is by reading the link called “Good Reads” on the top sidebar. Favorite posts are “The Hole” which talks about what my son must think as he’s dying, “Full Tilt” which talks about him never walking again.

    • Iowa Brother Eats 10.19.2010

      What a great motivator for blogging. Finding a passion area and then working it … Well done!

  23. Lindsey 10.19.2010

    Great post! I just started blogging and even though it’s mostly just a journal of my day-to-day I need to think about WHO I want my blog to reach — thanks so much!

    off to read your blog :)

    Lindsey
    likeatreefirmlyplanted@wordpress.com

    • Iowa Brother Eats 10.19.2010

      Even if you’re writing just to write, it’s good to know that going in. Even if you’re the only one you’re writing for (if that makes sense), you at least have a set of expectations to live up to!

  24. Panera John 10.19.2010

    In an attempt to become an awesome social mediaist for @paneraiowa, our Ames general manager actually signed me up for you Be Deviant blog… little did I know came from such famous blogging family! Small world indeed. Thanks for all the advise from both of you!

  25. Ms.S 10.19.2010

    Good advice, IBE. My blog suffers a LOT from lack of maintenance. I try to blog at least once per week, but sometimes it just doesn’t happen; so I really like your idea to set aside a specific time AND plan out future blog topics. That will help me so much! (Funny, I’m a project manager and it never occurred to me to use the same system I use at work.) Anyway, I also think I’ll go back to your first step and more clearly define my audience. That’s not something I gave too much thought to initially, and something tells me that’ll be really helpful. So thank you for a wonderful guest post!

    • Iowa Brother Eats 10.19.2010

      You know what they say … The artist’s home is usually the most bland. We spend so much time creating for others (read: work) that we forget to spruce up our own surroundings. Maybe an afternoon date with your blog is in order?

  26. Krissy 10.19.2010

    This is such a great post! I am going to repost this for a lot of my friends online that have considered starting blogs as well – and I appreciated your humor with the check-out girl, haha! =)

    • Iowa Brother Eats 10.19.2010

      Post away! Thanks for sharing … It means a lot. And yes, the story was absolutely hilarious (although she was REALLY disappointed IGE wasn’t in the building!).

  27. I’m restarting my blog because this time I am doing it for me I really don’t know when I’ll post etc. I want people to read it obviously, but I also want the creative outlet. I think you have to do it for you first because those initial readers are just family! Check me out at tntkathryn1.blogspot.com!

  28. Bridget 10.19.2010

    I don’t have a blog but I’d be excited to meet a “celebrity” in the grocery store!

  29. Jenni Schwartz 10.19.2010

    I blog at the following:
    http://aberrantlogic.blogspot.com
    AND
    http://yearofreads.blogspot.com

    You’re blog made me die a little inside… or at least my realization of what a crappy blogger I am, did. :) I have been hitting huge lulls in my blogging world and need to get back on the horse!

    P.S. Something tells me that you are going to regret dubbing yourself “Iowa Brother Eats”…

    • Iowa Brother Eats 10.19.2010

      “die inside” … OH NO! Let’s hope not.

      Iowa Brother Eats is here to stay. Who am I kidding? I may as well embrace the hard, cold reality.

  30. Teresa 10.19.2010

    Great advice! I started a blog about a year ago, and I try to maintain a regular blogging schedule. But I really don’t have very many regular readers, just mostly people looking for Iowa cookie & cinnamon roll recipes on Google. Do you have any advice for how to increase readership? Thanks!

    • Iowa Brother Eats 10.19.2010

      Teresa …. Great question. Here’s what I would do if I was starting all over again:

      1. Focus on design. Whether it’s partnering with someone who designs websites for a living or picking a really stunning template, make your design primary.
      2. Create content. Worry about the readers later. If you have a good well to draw from content-wise, people will come back. This is where artistry becomes risky. You will create with no assurance that people will read. But you have to create before people will read.
      3. Guest post. Find blogs in your niche that you like and offer a guest post. Again, there’s risk involved but it will pay off if you land a good spot.

      Hope that helps. If you have any more questions, feel free to get a hold of me at justin @ bedeviant.com!

      • Teresa 10.20.2010

        Awesome advice! Thanks so much for your reply!

  31. Emily 10.19.2010

    This was really good advice! I’m trying to post more often and with pictures because my problem is that I forget to take pictures and then I start procrastinating posting and it just goes downhill from there. My blog is at http://poniesandpurls.wordpress.com. I talk about my knitting on it, and also whatever is happening in my life that seems interesting.

    • Iowa Brother Eats 10.19.2010

      Here’s what I would recommend: Start slow, start consistent. Get one (ONE!) hour per week where you concentrate on producing the best post you know how to make. Start slow.

      Once you get a rhythm down, you can expand your posting level to whatever your comfortable with. It just takes the hard and tedious work of blocking out time to create.

  32. Allison @ thesundayflog 10.19.2010

    This was great! So helpful and thorough. Thanks! I actually have 2 blogs – http://thesundayflog.wordpress.com where I blog about my family’s bug Sunday dinners in hopes that people start making family dinners a part of theirs. I also blog at http://livingoneday.wordpress.com which is more general life musings mixed with food (tons of your sisters recipes) and baking. I love blogging!

    • Iowa Brother Eats 10.19.2010

      The Sunday Flog (food + blog?) … LOVE it. Well done.

      • Allison @ thesundayflog 10.20.2010

        Yes!! Flog = food+blog! Haha so glad you got it!! Thanks so much for your nice comment!

  33. Tara 10.19.2010

    Thanks for the great tips! I just started blogging a couple of weeks ago- I have a 3 Month old and it’s mainly a blog for my family. I’m working on making it better.
    Elizagaga.blogspot.com

  34. great tips! thanks for taking the time. i’ll definitely have to implement some of them, esp. the scheduling… :)

    • Iowa Brother Eats 10.19.2010

      Scheduling saved my blog. Nothing eases the mind at night like a post cued up and ready to go for the next day…

  35. Renee 10.19.2010

    I actually have been pondering with the idea of starting a blog over and over again- trying to find methods that work for me, definitely got sparked with some inspiration here! :D

    http://twentyfourthyear.wordpress.com :)

  36. Daisy 10.19.2010

    IBE!!! Hi nice to meet you! This post was fantastic and pretty funny and very true! I’ve been blogging since february and I agree the key to a following is consistency. If you keep at it, make your presence known in the community, readers will return. Some people don’t understand that this doesn’t happen overnight!

    Thanks for this great post!!!

  37. Beth 10.19.2010

    What are some ways to go about promoting a blog? I post on Facebook when I write a new blog, but that only reaches a small group of people. Thanks!

  38. Marg 10.19.2010

    Great post! I really like the who would you be excited about if they left a comment on your blog. I’ve been trying to find my style and I think that really helps me figure it out. One important thing I think is to comment on others blogs to gain readership.

  39. great advice~!

  40. emily 10.19.2010

    Love this; I already have a blog but some of your suggestions are just good practice.

    …and I would have laughed at your IBE joke!

  41. Darcy 10.19.2010

    Nice post. Great story about the cashier, I could see my whack job of a sister doing that if she saw IGE, IME, IDE, or IBE…and maybe IFinnE! I just announced my blog a week to friends and fam. I say announced because I took about a month tweeking the layout, design, etc and coming up with a huge list of things I want to blog about. Of course, I have what I think I will blog each day “normally” but also created a “template” for each day of the week for an outline of sorts to fall back if my boring life isn’t “spicy” enough for the blog. GREAT TIPS though! I like your questions on the audience and will definately start commenting more becuase I have felt that “rush” and don’t want to feel that “no rush”.

  42. I love that you stuck with the ‘Iowa Brother Eats’ despite the chirping crickets at the checkout counter! It’s so nice that you did a guest post for your sister – great tips.

  43. Manya 10.20.2010

    Thank you so much for your great tips! You have been more than helpful. Some of us start out totally blind and then become totally discouraged.

  44. Great post! Though I have already had a blog for some time now, these are great tips to keep up the readership and keep on pluggin’ even if we get discouraged!

    xo
    Kris

  45. Jacki 10.20.2010

    Love blogging! My first one was created when our daughter was planning a two-month missions trip to Africa (www.africanexcursion.blogspot.com), and now our son was diagnosed with a brain tumor, so I’ve started another one (www.westerkamp-family.blogspot.com). It’s such good therapy for me to write out my thoughts, and it’s a great tool to keep our family and friends in the loop.

  46. brandi 10.20.2010

    Great, great tips – thanks so much for this post!

    AND congrats on your race! :)

    I really need to do the calendar. I typically just keep a random running list of ideas for posts, but the list gets moved, thrown away, and restarted so much that I never make progress in WRITING the posts! Having it set on a calendar is a great idea.

  47. Teresa K. 10.20.2010

    Great guest post! Makes me think about this – hmmmm – how do you find the time!

  48. k s 10.20.2010

    fun post!…i think the #1 most important thing to remember while blogging is to write about what you love! cheers from a fellow iowa blogger!

    http://asequindressatbreakfast.wordpress.com

  49. Kathryn 10.20.2010

    I just started this blog about a month ago…so far so good! I really liked your post on starting a blog…it was so helpful! Thanks!

  50. Through blogging, I have learned that consistency is key, though don’t write a post if you have nothing to say. Your readers will appreciate your content much more if you blog about something that matters to you instead of trying to create something that matters.

    My blog is http://keepingupwithkatie.com It originally started out as a document everything you eat everyday kind of blog but now its mostly about how I maintain my 50 lb weight loss–that includes food, exercise, and fun things in my life!

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