Blogging 1010: The Crash Course

I started this blog in 2012 with absolutely no idea how to do it. I remember setting it up and writing my first post- which is still up here if you want to go back and read it- and feeling so excited watching the first views come in. Looking back on it, of course I would change a lot of what I did, and I’ve realized lately how much I feel like I’ve learned about blogging in the last three years. I thought I would compile it all to share and hopefully help some other people figure it out a little bit better than I did.

This post is going to be part one of a five part series on blogging. This post is going to be the crash course: basic advice that was really valuable to me when I started and things I wish I had known. Throughout the week, I’m going to expand on specific topics and give you all of my knowledge on topics like blog photography, formatting your layout, and marketing yourself online.

-Side note: the pressure to make this the best blog post I’ve ever written is unreal. So please laugh with me as I crash and burn writing about one of the only things I feel like I know anything about.

   I made Miss Heather Lauren (MHL) to be a beauty review/ fashion blog in 2012. I spent pretty much all of eighth and ninth grade watching beauty tutorials on YouTube and learning about/ buying makeup. I found out that most of the vloggers on YouTube had started out writing blogs as a way to get involved in the online community, and since I love to write, I thought that would be a great path for me to take, too. I really wanted to make friends online who cared about the same things I did. 
MHL was born! I had a friend of mine from school (SO to Braden) make me a banner for the top of my page in the colors and font I wanted and off I went typing!

I started this blog on June 28, 2012. I wrote a “NOTD” post, showing a new shade of nail polish I bought. I’m pretty sure I used my pink point and shoot camera from Christmas ’10, the post only had about 200 words, and I decorated it with both a smiley face and a winky face. Oh, I cringe.

Things I did right:

  • I skipped the “well, this is it… I’m finally starting a blog” post. Every single blog in the world has that post. I wrote one, too, and read it over and hated all of it. I didn’t care about telling the world I started a blog, I cared about showing them my nailpolish.
  • That is all
Things I did not do right:
  • Everything else
   I feel like I’ve learned so much about blogging since that post. In almost three years, my blog has changed a ton. I don’t write about nailpolish any more because it’s no longer what I truly care about. My layout is different, my voice is different, and my strategy is different.
  • Read a ton of other blogs that you like and get inspired!
  • Formatting wise:
    • Use big, clear, relevant pictures.
    • Break your text up into subheadings and bullets so people can follow along better/skip to parts that interest them. No one in the whole world is going to read this entire post, except maybe my parents. Hi mom and dad! 
    • Remember that legibility is your biggest concern. If no one can read it, no one will. 
    • Don’t: center align your text, use hard to read fonts, make things too small, light, or complicated to see.
  • Exploit what makes you unique. I’m a christian college student in the south. That’s not very unique. However, I also ride horses, I have an extensive  knowledge of the makeup market, and I love to read and write about religion, music, and life lessons I’m learning. My point of view is 100% different from anyone else in the world, and highlighting that makes me interesting, even though- spoiler alert- I’m not.
  • Don’t leave “hey please read my blog” comments on other people’s posts/ videos, etc. Be valuable in whatever community you want to be part of online: offer your insights, ideas, and encouragement, and other people will find your blog because they want to read more about what you have to say.
  • The biggest misconception that I had was probably that I assumed if I put a post out there, people would google exactly what I was writing about and find my posts. “If you build it, they will come,” doesn’t really apply to blogging. If you don’t have good SEO, (Search Engine Optimization, aka your ranking in google search results when you look up terms related to your blog) no one will be able to find you, even if they try. I’ve googled “College Lifestyle Blogs,” so many times, but the only one that comes up is “College Prep,” an excellently run blog by a girl named Carly (who is a huge influence of mine). She has a monopoly on the “college blog” topic because her blog is optimized for SEO, she has a huge amount of readers, and people go to her blog often.
  • Your solution: read up on SEO, implement what you learn, and then link your blog everywhere you can copy and paste. Comment on blogs, facebook groups,and  your cousin’s friend’s roommate’s instagram picture with useful information. Post your blog pictures on pinterest, link the heck out of your blog to facebook feeds, and find blogs that are similar to yours. I’ve met many a reader in the comment section of other people’s blogs.
  • You need to make it as easy as possible for people to follow your blog. I have seven times the amount of followers on bloglovin’ than I do on blogger, because more people that read my blog use blogger than google plus to follow blogs. Put a “follow by email” and a “follow me on bloglovin'” link on your page! That will help a ton.
Questions To Ask:
  • Why do you want to start a blog? What is your personal point of view? What would people want to know from you? What do you want to share with the world?
  • What blogs do you like to read? What do they write about that you like? Why do you read them? Why is their opinion valuable to you? 
  • What do you skip over when you read their posts? Why?
  • What makes you unique? What can you teach people about, or what would people want to know about you?
How To Start:
  • Choose a blogging platform! I chose Blogger and I’ve loved it. WordPress is also really popular. I’m content with Blogger so far, so I haven’t looked into other platforms, so I’m not an expert, but look up YouTube videos and read up on people’s opinions of all the different platforms to find out which sounds best to you.
  • Name your blog, pick out what you want to write about, and install/ set up a layout! You can get really cool ones for free that don’t require you knowing anything about HTML or CSS.
  • Fill in your layout- write a little “about me” section and put up a picture of yourself, if you want. I call this the “moving in” part.
  • Write ya self a post! I think first posts are like wedding dresses (and a lot of other things) don’t be worried about hating it later, because you definitely will, no matter how good it is. Just write one. Do your best, be proud of it, and start sharing your knowledge with the world! 
  • Spell check yourself and don’t use any comic sans. 
  • Happy Blogging!
Cool References To Check Out:
Heather Lauren

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