Sounds like a good title for a song….
Anyway, it has been 10 whole months since I started blogging, and although that’s nothing compared to a grizzled ‘vet’ like Rhys, I’m kinda surprised that I’m still here, and still turning up every day with 3 of my own blogs + appearances elsewhere.
But if I had to do it again, would I do it the same way?
- I wouldn’t use free webspace. Being a total n00b to the whole blogging arena, I bypassed Blogger, WordPress.com etc. and went straight for installing self-hosted WordPress on a free host – Awardspace, and no, they’re not getting a link. It was a great learning experience, as I had to manually install WP, edit numerous PHP files because Awardspace had a ‘banned words’ list, one of which was ‘proxy’ and if mentioned anywhere your site returned a 401 and I had to create a SQL database and sync it up to my blog. It was however, a miserable blogging experience as any time someone mentioned a banned word in the comments (Ebay was another) the site went 401, and I had to go into the SQL and manually delete the word, plus their database server would often crash for 2 or 3 days at a time. I learnt a lot about restoring from backups too.
- I would always buy my own domain name. In less than 2 weeks I bought my own domain to replace the ‘X.awardspace.com’ you get given, and it was the best £6 I ever spent. It meant that when I dumped the free hosting for paid, all my links went with me, and my readers never even noticed the move (apart from the fact my site was up more than 3 hours in a row). Whatever your plans for your blog, buy a domain name: At £6 for 2 years for a .co.uk or £11 for a .com it’s absolute peanuts but it gives you the power to move your blog wherever you want.
- I would use WordPress again. Although it was the platform I went straight to, I have no regrets and would definitely choose it again. I have messed about with some of the other options, and ran a Blogger blog for a few months to see what they were like, but IMHO WordPress is far ahead of the others, for it’s flexibility, ease of use and huge development community. Go for the self-hosted version from WordPress.org as well, it will cost you no more than about £50-60 for a years hosting and domain name, and you cannot fail to make that back, from text links, other ads or even just half a dozen paid posts. If you are completely anti-ads, then go for the free WordPress.com, but still get yourself a domain name to give you flexibility for the future.
- I wouldn’t go Paid Post crazy. When I first got approved for a number of paid posting companies, I was seized with the ease of making money, and took a large number of opps no matter what the subject: $5 for 400 words about a dating site? I’m there! I’d do 3 or 4 a day every day, as well as just flogging myself to find stuff to post in between them, and was just getting carried away by watching the dollars mount up. I suffered, the blog suffered and it all got a bit silly. I am a firm supporter of properly disclosed paid posts, as they’ve paid for my hosting, a family holiday and next up will be a new camera. But I’m far more selective now, and the posts have to be relevant to my blog, my audience and my personal experiences. I can write about credit cards because I’m a long time user of the things, but drug addiction treatment? No.
- I would link out and comment with gay abandon. Seriously, if you’ve just started, visit other people, comment regularly and never be afraid to give out the links to other people. Never mind about ‘leaking page rank’ and that other crap, your blog won’t go anywhere without people linking to you, so don’t be afraid to give it in return. Relationships built early on can last and pay dividends in future.
- I would read & learn. Bloggers like Problogger, Andy Beard and Dosh Dosh have earned their reputations for a reason, and their archives are solid gold for the new blogger. You may just want to write, and have no interest in the finer points of SEO or money making, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But you want readers, or else you’d be writing in a notebook, not a blog, and just a few hours spent reading their archives and learning the basics will pay you back with a continual flow of readers – your content will determine just how many, but a couple of hours spent setting your blog up correctly and a little networking will ensure that people can find you.
To be honest, I wouldn’t change much, and I was lucky in that I found a lot of good blogs early on, and picked up some great tips and lessons. It’s good to always move on with no regrets, but if you can learn from the mistakes of others before starting out, why not?
If you were to do it all over again, what would you do differently? Conversely, what things are you glad you did?
This post was written by Chris Lodge, erstwhile random blogger at Thermal, passer-on of blogging tips at Blog-Op, and very amateur photographer at Autofocused. Big thanks to Rhys for allowing me to trespass all over his blog.