Tips & Advice for Beginners
Ever thought about starting a blog? It’s a great way to get your voice heard, become part of an online community, or simply keep an online account of your life. It’s a fun hobby and can offer up plenty of brilliant opportunities, but it can seem very daunting when it comes to starting one.
The good news is, it’s actually pretty easy, and more often than not you can get started for free. We’ll talk you through how to start a blog and share some blogging tips. We’ll also help you decide which platform is best for you: WordPress, Blogger, Tumblr or Medium?
Choose a subject for your blog
The first thing you’ll need to decide is what your blog is going to be about. Here at Tech Advisor, lots of our writers also have blogs of their own about things that interest us outside of the world of technology. For example, Reviews Editor Chris Martin’s blog Alcohol by Volume is all about beer, spirits, homebrew and music, while mine, Ashleigh Online, is a bookish blog with a touch of home, lifestyle and travel. Staff Writer Hannah’s blog is called The London Geek, all about geek culture and lifestyle in the capital.
You can blog about just about anything. It’s your slice of the internet ready for you to put your own stamp on. It’s important to choose something that you’re really interested in, because it’s no fun at all if blogging begins to feel like a chore.
What’s the best blogging platform?
Once you’re confident that you’ve chosen what you want to blog about and chosen a catchy name, you can start thinking about the blogging platform you want to use. There are several main options, all with quite different benefits. In this article we focus on WordPress (hosted and self-hosted), Blogger, Tumblr and Medium.
Additional options you may wish to explore include Wix or Squarespace. Wix is a good option for beginners with easy web design, and Squarespace is similar but can get pricey.
We’ll start with the most casual blogging platform of the four: Tumblr. Tumblr is more of a social network than a blogging platform, but it’s where many blogs start out.
Its feed and hashtags mean you can get your blog posts in front of lots of people from the start, but we’ve found that it works best for ‘fandoms’ (that’s what they’re calling groups with a particular obsession with celebrity, film series, book etc. Members of the Harry Potter fandom call themselves ‘Potterheads’ for example, or Beyoncé fans are called the ‘Beyhive’).
If the subject you’ve chosen fits into the fandom category, Tumblr is probably a great place to start your blog. It’s also good for those looking to post mostly photos rather than articles with lots of text.
I have a casual blog on Tumblr from years gone by called Book Spotter London. I chose Tumblr for this one because I knew it would be a very casual blog that features reasonably short and simple posts that are always the same structure. It doesn’t require multiple categories, a menu or a more complex design, so it works well as a Tumblr blog.
And if you do decide to go with Tumblr but are worried that you’ll later change your mind, you’ll be pleased to hear that it’s fairly easy to migrate your entire blog over to Blogger or WordPress at a later date without losing any of its content.
You can learn more about the platform over at Tumblr itself.
Blogger is Google’s blogging platform. It’s a free platform that simply requires a Google account. The free account will get you access to a variety of templates and a URL that ends in blogspot.com, but you can pay to add your own template and URL.
There are thousands of Blogger designers out there with templates you can buy for a small fee or commission if you’re looking for something completely unique to you. A popular choice among beauty and lifestyle bloggers is Pipdig, for example. ThemeForest also has lots available.
And if you want to buy your own domain name (URL) you can do so via Blogger itself or from the likes of GoDaddy, 123-reg, Ionos and others for a small yearly fee. It’ll cost you somewhere in the region of £15/$15 per year to buy your own domain name, though you can pick up the first year for just a couple quid in most cases. It’s definitely worth considering, no matter what platform you choose, because it’ll make your blog that bit more professional.
We think Blogger’s standard, free templates tend to look more dated than those you’ll pay for, particularly compared with WordPress’s free options, which we talk more about below.
One of the benefits of Blogger is that you can use Adsense, which could earn you a few extra pennies thanks to advertising on your blog.
Like WordPress, you’ll get analytics to help you track how many people are reading your posts and where they came from.
As with Tumblr, there are ways to migrate from Blogger to WordPress at a later date if you eventually decide it’s not right for you.
Chris’s blog Alcohol by Volume is a great example of what you can achieve using WordPress.com.
Like Blogger, you can set up a WordPress blog completely free of charge with a URL that ends in wordpress.com and a free template from the broad WordPress selection. There are also paid-for template options here that give you some more design options but remain hosted by WordPress, so you won’t need to worry about purchasing a domain name or finding a server to host your site on (you’ll find out more about this below).
WordPress is our platform of choice because it has a simple and intuitive interface that you’ll get used to in no time, in addition to that better selection of free templates.
It’s really easy for readers to follow, like and comment on your blog on WordPress too, which is both motivating and useful for boosting engagement and page views.
One downside to WordPress.com is that you might see some small adverts on your blog that are put there by WordPress. It’s essentially how you’re able to use the service for free. You won’t get any money for these ads and you won’t be able to remove them, but thankfully they’re very small and unobtrusive.
If you want to have full control over your blog’s design and its adverts, and are comfortable with taking on some more technical challenges that may take some time to master (there’s plenty of help available from WordPress should you need it), we’d recommend WordPress.org. You’ll get everything available from WordPress.com and lots more.
This isn’t a free option, so is better for those who’ve had a blog before, are looking to migrate from another blogging platform, or are intending to take blogging quite seriously from the get-go.
WordPress.org will require you to buy or build your own template (there are thousands to choose from, and tools that let you build your own if you’ve got a very specific design in mind) and you’ll need to find somewhere to host it. We explain more about this and advise you of some of the best hosting options in our round-up of the best web hosting services.
If this is starting to sound a bit daunting, you might be pleased to hear that there are plenty of services out there that will set up your blog for you and apply your design ready for you to add your own content. Many template designers will offer this service for free if you buy one of their templates, and others will charge a small fee.
WordPress.org can be customised further through the use of plugins. These can be anything from Google Analytics to SEO tools or newsletters. You can find out about some of the best in our list of the top 8 WordPress plugins.
My blog started life on Tumblr before being migrated to WordPress.com and more recently WordPress.org (which I host on SiteGround). If you want to see an example of a WordPress.org website, you can see it by clicking here. But even some of the popular websites you spend time on every day use WordPress, so you’re certainly in good company if you choose to do so.
Medium is another excellent platform for budding bloggers, especially those who care more about writing the content than the brand. It’s a platform that attracts hobby blogger, journalists and other professional writers alike, so you’ll find yourself in good company. While Medium offers a minimalist, standardized aesthetic across the platform, it also means you won’t be able to customize the look. On the plus side, you won’t get any ads or banners on your page.
The platform intends to be a hub for smart and informative writing spanning a variety of topics – from culture, to technology, to politics and more – which makes it a particularly good choice for anyone considering a more research based approach to their writing.
Without ads, you can still earn an income from your Medium posts (though this shouldn’t be your primary incentive) based on reader engagement. If a reader signs up for a paid Medium membership after reading your post you can earn a small amount as compensation.
Once you’ve decided which blogging platform you’re going to start with, you’ll be able to sign up and follow the (generally very simple) instructions to actually get your blog up and running. Follow the links below to sign up for your platform of choice.
Tumblr | Blogger | WordPress.com | WordPress.org | Medium