If you're just getting into blogging, starting a new blog or just have the idea of one brewing in your head, you may well be wondering how you can take your first successful steps and start to build something amazing. Here are three building blocks which are individually quite simple, but together will give you a super solid foundation on which to build your budding blogging empire.
The Right Platform
If you've never blogged before or just dabbled a bit and never been motivated to really get started, then it might be that your chosen platform just didn't work for you before. Many emergent bloggers get very excited and buy a domain name and website before they really know what they're doing. Some may scoff at free blogging platforms, but they can be a good way to get used to the format and find out which direction you really want to take your blog before you spend a penny.
WordPress and Blogger are two very popular platforms, both allowing you to create blogs for free if you don't mind the word 'WordPress' or 'Blogger' in your URL. You can later transfer to a paid blog with a totally custom URL, which will mean a little tweaking but is usually a fairly painless process. Many articles have been dedicated to the merits of either service, but in reality both are fairly similar and allow for a range of attractive themes (both free and premium) to create a blog your readers will love to visit. One major difference is that WordPress asserts that your content remains your own, while Google retains the rights to your posts. That said, many people file the familiarity of the Google-owned platform reassuringly familiar.
The Right Name
It might sound simple, but choosing an attractive name for your blog from the get-go is very important. Sure, you can always rebrand at some point, but that will require a lot of redirecting and can be expensive. In a world where so many new companies and blogs are springing up, you may find it hard to pick an attractive-sounding, snappy name which your readers will want to talk about.
Of course, the type of name you choose depends largely on the type of blog you want to create. Many people simply use their name, which is usually a good way to go for a fairly general theme like lifestyle tips or journal-style blogs. A popular format for start-ups and blogs alike seems to be twisting or blending simple words, such as TechCrunch, Mashable, VentureBeat, SlashGear and Gizmodo. Have a play with blending some of your favorite words and those related to your field to see what you come up with.
The Right Look
If you're using a package like WordPress or Blogger, then creating a look for your blog is as simple as selecting a free WordPress theme and your favorite colors from a built-in palette. While you don't want to spend undue time agonizing over every detail right at the beginning when you could be researching and writing posts, a nice look means readers will be more likely to stay on your blog and read more of your posts. After all, you can have very compelling content, but it doesn't matter if your lime green and neon pink theme is hurting your readers' eyes.
A study suggests that 55% of website visitors spends less than 15 seconds on a site they stumble across, so a pleasing look is crucial to draw people in and keep them scrolling. A few basic things to keep in mind are that dark text on a light background is easier on the eyes than the opposite, text should be large enough to read easily without looking gigantic, and a basic structure with a header and key links in the sidebar will make your blog a delight to browse. That said, many people purposefully break these rules to create a dramatic effect (a black background can be ideal for a blog about horror movies, for example and you can find more dark style themes here).
All of that said, if you ask most successful bloggers what the most important aspect of a popular blog is, they'll tell you it's great content. However, before you start firing off articles and uploading photos, you'll want to get these three things right to make sure you're laying the right groundwork to make it a great success.