I’ve had a few requests recently for advice on starting up a blog, so I thought I’d summarise some of my advice in a blog post.
The first important decision is what blogging platform to use. There are many out there, but the main two that you should consider are Blogger and WordPress. You might also want to “self-host” your own blog on your own website.
Both Blogger and WordPress.com are free to sign up for. You will get a personalised web address which will be something like dannysblog.wordpress.com or dannysblog.blogspot.com. When you sign up you can choose that part of the URL. Think carefully about that – don’t pick something too long or complicated that your visitors might get wrong.
Both WordPress.com and Blogger give you a certain amount of free space, and some control over the look and feel for your blog. You can choose from many of the pre-installed widgets and plugins which give you extra features.
As an alternative – if you are doing an educational-themed blog then do consider Edublogs, which is geared towards free blogs for teachers. It uses the same engine as WordPress. The free version does come with some adverts, and there are paid upgrades if you wish which remove these.
If you are just starting out – I’d recommend using a hosted blog such as WordPress.com or Blogger. If you know a little more about what you are doing then you can buy your own webspace from one of the many internet hosting companies out there – and install your own version of WordPress from WordPress.org. This gives you much more control over the look and function of your blog with a wealth of plugins and themes to choose from and install. But to be honest, for the beginner I would not recommend starting there. In the future if you want to you can always set up your own blog and import all the content from Blogger/Wordpress.
Managing your blog
Both Blogger and WordPress provide you with an admin “back-end” to your blog which only you can see which lets you organise and write your blog posts. When you click the “publish” button your blogpost will go live for everyone to see.
You can also set up categories for your posts, this means that in the future all posts on similar topics can be easily found. Think about the categories that you want for your blog – what will you be writing about? You can add more categories later on, but it does help to start with a few. You can see the categories for this blog on the sidebar to the right. Tags are also important – these are keywords that can help you find posts later.
As you write your blog posts you can also add other content such as images or videos. It’s not always possible to upload directly to your blog – there are limitations on space etc. But you can upload videos to YouTube and embed them into your blog. Likewise documents could be uploaded to your Dropbox Public folder and then linked to from the blog – or uploaded to somewhere like Scribd.com
The hardest bit about running a blog is thinking of content and writing it 🙂 Think about what you want to say and who is going to read it. Your blog is public, so consider any issues of privacy. If you are going to be reflective be sure to anonymise details and names. Take a look at what other blogs are doing – visit some of the blogs in my Blogroll in the sidebar to the right to get some ideas.
Don’t steal chunks of content direct from other bloggers. If you read an idea that you like elsewhere then paraphrase it on your blog and give a link back to the original post.
Hyperlink often – if you mention sites and other bloggers then link to them, either to their blog or to their twitter profile so your readers can find them easily.
For some more things to think about take a look at these Five tips for writing better blog posts.
I have written a few guides which can find in the guides section of this website. You’ll find a general guide to Blogging in Schools, a guide to Making a WordPress Blog (screenshots are slightly out of date, but the basic ideas still work) and a short presentation.
Also worth taking a look at this guide from Edublogs on Getting Started With Edublogs. It covers the Edublogs platform since they are using packaged version of WordPress it will also be useful if you have put your blog onto WordPress.com.
Here’s a guide to getting started with Blogger, by Jim Hollis
If you do start a blog, let me know – post in the comments. Also if you have any other good tips for bloggers just starting out please add those too.