Constructing a Blog? Here's how it's done
Whether you’re starting a blog to promote your products, for an assignment at university or just for pleasure, it’s a great way to work on your writing skills and social media management. I’ve been posting regular blogs since October 2020, building my website from the ground up into an effective source of education, as well as it serving as a personal portfolio of my transferable skills. If you’re thinking about creating blog posts, it can be a bit off-putting when you consider all the work that’s involved. I’ve had a few questions about my website, so I’ve put together a short guide on how to plan your blog site. Also, if you’re at university, you might be asked to create a blog site as part of a group project. I had to, and honestly it was a bit of a nightmare to coordinate everyone and create a cohesive project to submit, so I’ve included some advice if that’s something you’ll be tackling in the future.
Plan on paper
There’s a few things you need to decide on before you choose a host platform or name your site. I’d advise sitting down to plan out a few key areas to make sure you have a clear idea of what you want to create, otherwise your result could appear muddled or confused. This is especially important if you’re working as a group, to make sure everyone is on the same page to begin with.
Here's some things to start you off:
· Purpose – Why are you writing this blog? What does your blog need to tell people? What subject or area will your posts be based around?
· Audience – What age groups are you targeting? What level of understanding are you writing for? Beginners to a subject or people with prior knowledge? Are you considering an international audience?
· Scale – How big is your website going to be? Just a blog site or do you need multiple pages? How long are your blog posts going to be?
· Schedule (if needed) – How often are you going to be posting? Weekly or monthly? Will you pick a specific day? How will you fit this in around other commitments?
Once you’ve figured these essentials out, putting together a blog site will be much easier. If you’re unsure about your audience, lean towards targeting people with a lower knowledge level, as they’ll be the people searching up your content.
Research a platform
You might already be provided with a platform to use if you’re creating a blog for a university assignment, so you don’t have to worry about this step. However, do make the effort to understand how the platform works, including how to add pages, make edits and publish posts. The software I used at university was very basic, but make sure everyone knows how to use it before you get started.
Otherwise, identifying a blog platform to host your site is the next important step to getting things off the ground. There are so many platforms for building websites, often with easy-to-use templates and support through live-chat features. I’ve used Wordpress and Wix, the latter hosts my current site. I’d recommend them both as they’re self-explanatory, with tutorials available if you need them. An important aspect of creating a website is accessibility, so if you don’t get on with a platform, don’t be afraid to swap to another one. It can be irritating to spend hours on this step, but if you don’t like the platform that hosts your site, you’ll be less likely to want to edit it in the future.
Another thing to consider is cost. Website platforms often have a free plan which allows you to create and publish your site, but getting a domain name (the www… part) that is unique to you and having your site show up on Google will cost you money. Personally, I ran my blog through the free plan until April 2021, when I’d saved up enough money to purchase a domain and the website plan. Through Wix there are lots of options with different price points, and I managed to score a three-year plan and free domain name for under £125 which is a fantastic deal! Lots of platforms will have sales and introductory offers, so never pay full price. That said, if you’re at the beginning of your blogging journey, I wouldn’t go spending heaps of money. Blogging takes commitment, planning and a certain amount of enjoyment to achieve consistency, so give yourself six months to see if you really want to spend the money. People will still be able to access your site through a direct link which you could leave in your social media bios or give to friends and family.
Setting aside a few hours to set up a basic version of your site is a must, especially if you’re like me and you’ve never attempted anything like it before. Thankfully, this is something that you can come back to when you have free time, and I built my site around my MA work. Learning to create a website and fill it with content has given me lots of skills in web design, photo editing and social media management, especially as I run an Instagram account dedicated to my study and blog content. It’s something that helps me to keep up my writing skills without being too boring or repetitive too, especially as a lot of creative hobbies don’t hold my attention.
In terms of blogging, hopefully you’ll have decided on how frequently you’re going to post once you’ve got everything up and running. Pick a day to post and stick to it, as I found it was considerably easier to be consistent when doing it this way. I post on a Wednesday, and May is the first month where I have started to also post on a Friday, but only twice a month. I felt like I had enough time and motivation to increase the frequency of my posts, especially after upgrading my domain and getting consistent interest in my site.
Choose a schedule which is good for you and set aside the time that you need each week to write, edit and schedule your posts. Right now, it’s a Thursday morning as I’m writing this, as I tend to write my first drafts as soon as I get up, before I work out or tackle other tasks. Sometimes I write drafts in bulk, perhaps three or four posts a week, coming back to edit them later. How long the process will take you honestly depends on if you’ve planned out your posts and how easily your writing flows. Don’t worry though, you’ll gradually speed up over time as you get used to it.
If you’re working on a group project, you’ll have been given a brief on the basic things that you’ve got to include. Use this to not only delegate tasks, but also to decide how long you will each spend on your portion of the project. Putting in the same amount of effort as everyone else will make your site look a lot more cohesive and will avoid fights about who has done what. Sitting down to write your content together is a great idea as it holds everyone accountable, and you can share ideas.
Figuring out your content and the volume of information you’re going to need for each post is vital in order to achieve a smooth and consistent feel to your site. Plan in advance the content you wish to include, then split it up into months or weeks of content. From there, you can make short plans on paper to guide you while you’re writing. If you’re in a group, have everyone write plans for their blog posts or content, and share them on Google Drive. You’ll be able to identify if there is any repetition, or if someone’s work looks like it’ll be too short or overlong. Putting together a plan is something you could all do at your first meeting as it’s a great way to get off to a promising start if you’re all busy.
If you need facts and figures, don’t forget to cite and link to where the information came from. If you’re writing academic content, you may do this anyway out of habit, but don’t forget to credit your sources. Ask people featured in your images for permission before you put them on your site, and make sure they’re nicely in focus and of a decent size. Some of your content may relate to previous work, so I always make sure to link the reader back to older posts so that they can find out more. Many sites have a settings feature where you can imbed this in the text, but otherwise, just use the link itself.
When building a site, adding pages to separate your content is a great idea. Have a look at blogs or websites that are similar to what you wish to build and use them for inspiration.
Some pages I’d recommend are:
Home – This should tell the audience what your blog is for, what they can expect to find and why they should read on. There could be links to your social media, other important platforms or contact information.
About Me – This will give your audience a summary of you, including any achievements that are relevant to the content that you’re posting. My version of this page includes a short academic profile, similar to what you’d find on a CV. I also included a quick FAQ to familiarise visitors with who I am and what my site is designed to do, which is especially helpful if visitors haven’t come to my site via social media and have no idea who I am.
Blog Page – This is where your blog content will be stored. Sort it by category if necessary and make sure that titles are clear and obvious. Try and make this page as uncluttered as possible.
The sky’s the limit, with many sites allowing you to make upwards of a hundred pages and unlimited blog posts. Your pages will probably be listed along the top of your site, or contained within a menu, so order them in a way that makes sense to you. I have pages related to my work experience as my website also functions as a personal portfolio, but you could add pages based on your artwork, personal hobbies, useful links and much more.
[[ Editing is a vital aspect of posting your work to the world, so don't forget it!]]
This is for the group project people! You’ve got to delegate all aspects of the project, including formatting, blogging, editing and planning. Create a group chat to stay in contact; this is especially useful if you don’t know each other or don’t socialise away from your seminar group. Call a meeting and set deadlines, plan your site and delegate work right there and then. Make sure everyone is happy and comfortable with their workload, then let everyone get on with it. Don’t leave everything to the last minute as it rarely works well. Meeting earlier and chasing unfinished work is easier than trying to coordinate everything in the last week. If someone is struggling with adhering to the brief, share your work with them to give them a better idea of what they need to do.
Regarding formatting, I’d advise that one person takes responsibility for designing the site, putting in any images and organising the final versions of the text, as it helps the site to flow better. I’ve taken on that role multiple times and it pays off. You could exchange this work for some other content creation, but if you’re a perfectionist like me, it might just be simpler for you to do it, just for your peace of mind.
I’ll be writing a blog next month with some life hacks concerning group projects, so look out for that one if you need some solid advice. Group work has been the bane of my life throughout my education, and it was only at university when I finally figured out a method that worked reasonably well. Learning to be more adaptable is a skill you need for the future, but that doesn’t mean that you need to be unnecessarily stressed.
If you’re blogging solo, setting some deadlines for writing and editing content will make the process a whole lot smoother! The best thing about writing for yourself is that you can set your own pace, so if you struggle to keep up with your original timescale, just slow down and find a rhythm that suits you.
The main thing I’d say is that blogging should be enjoyable, even if it’s for a certain cause or assignment. It’s a great way to develop as a writer, especially if you’re used to writing academically at university. The whole process of creating a website has become considerably easier over the years, so there’s nothing stopping you from giving it a go. Later this summer I’m planning another Q&A, this time on blogging and websites, so I’ll be calling for questions soon!