Blogging Basics // My Tips & Advice



Image: weheartit (edited by me) Original Source: Link

When I first started writing Couture Girl back in November 2011, I didn't have a clue what I was doing. For me, blogging was a very spontaneous decision and as I signed up to blogger and saw at the screen staring back at me, I was flumoxed. I didn't have a clue where to begin - how do I get my blog to look nice? How should I write my first post? How to I get my photos to look pretty? Is anyone actually reading this? were just a few of the questions flying through my mind. However, after lots of trial and error and a bit of googling, I eventually found my way. Yes my earlier blog posts are a tad cringey but I like to glance back at them now and again as they remind me just how far I've come in less than 18 months. Now although I managed to find my way around Blogger, I wouldn't be where I am today without the help and advice from fellow bloggers. In the first few months of writing my blog, I was constantly searching around online for posts that would give me a bit of guidance and advice from established bloggers (by this I mean they'd been blogging for a long time) and let me tell you, I learnt a lot. To this day, blogging tips & advice posts are one of my favourite types to read. I love reading about other peoples blogging journeys and gaining some advice from their experience. 

To be honest, I never thought I'd be someone anyone would turn to for blogging advice but low and behold one of the most frequent emails I receive are from girls (and the occasional boy) asking me for some advice on starting and maintaining a blog. Its extremely flattering to receive these kind of emails and if I can help anyone and give them that little push I know I'd of loved to receive when I first started out, I'm 100% willing to. This brings me on to the purpose of this post - a guide to blogging basics. I thought it would be useful to discuss everything I've learnt over my time as a blogger from how to start a blog to promoting it and getting yourself 'out there'. I'd also like to add a small disclaimer that the 'advice' I'm giving is just my personal advice and whats worked for me. I'm by no means saying you must do these things as I realise all blogs are individual. However, if you're feeling a little lost with where to start and are looking for a push in the right direction, I hope this helps! So after the longest introduction in the history of blog posts, lets get started ...

Platform & Naming your Blog
When it comes to starting a blog, the very first thing you need to think about is which platform you're going to use. By platform I mean the place where your blog will be viewed by other people and the most popular options out there are Blogger, Wordpress or your own domain. When I first started, I actually used Wordpress but after a couple of days of faffing around, I just couldn't get to grips with it. I then decided to sign up to Blogger, a Google owned website used for composing and publishing blog posts. Its really simple to sign up, all you do is pop your email in, think of a password and wallah, your good to go. I know Wordpress is a bit more confusing and technical but if you're good with that kind of thing, give it a try. You could also buy your own domain right from the beginning which means your website is self-hosted. I'm not entirely sure how this works though as I've always been happy using Blogger. I think its best to experiment at the beginning before anyone even reads your blog and that way you can find out which platform works best for you.

As for naming your blog - let your imagination run wild and think of something catchy and fun. I actually named my blog after my love of Juicy Couture perfume and when my boyfriend said 'how about Couture Girl', I just went with it. Thanks Matt! ;) My only piece of advice when naming your blog would be to use something fairly short and easy to remember. You don't want it to be too much of a mouthful so try to keep it short and sweet. Also, don't use anything that could offend someone. Swear words are a no-go!

Layout
So after you've got your blog set up and you're ready to start posting, you might want to think about adding a few important things to your layout. When I first started, I didn't realise you had to add the Google Friend Connect widget (the thing people use to follow you) in the layout section, so for a while I wrote a blog that nobody could follow - not very useful. To add the GFC widget, all you need to do is go to your blogger layout and click 'add a widget'. You'll get a few options but the followers one is definitely the most important when starting out. Once you've added this you might want to think about adding links to the places people can contact you like your social media websites and your email address. If you don't want to share this information just yet, thats fine, but being easily contactable means the people reading your blog will be more likely to get in touch and want to get to know a bit more about you.

The next thing your going to want to think about is how your blog will look. In terms of colour scheme and where everything is placed - thats entirely up to you. However, if I was to offer any advice it would be to ensure the background behind your posts is white (its more visually pleasing to the eye and easier to read text on), stick to a none-swirly font thats easy to read and keep things simple. I personally find it very difficult to read blogs that have lots of distractions like neon colours, flashing icons or swirly fonts. Less is definitely more! I'd also consider adding a photo and description of yourself near the top of your blog. It will instantly make your blog more relatable as we all like to know a bit about the person whose blog we're reading. Make sure your newly added followers widget and contact information are near the top of your blog too, people don't like having to search for a way to follow you so make sure its easy to find and more people are likely to click 'join this site'.

Design
Blog design was the BAIN OF MY LIFE when I first started blogging. Being a complete techna-phobe I had no idea how to make my blog look pleasing to the eye. I remember using one of bloggers free templates to begin with and the most I could do was change the colours and font in the ever so straight-forward 'design' section of Blogger.  However, after reading so many other blogs with beautiful designs, I knew I was missing something. I took to Google to find the answer and although it helped me understand what I needed to do, I still couldn't do it. I managed to whip up a ridiculous bright pink header on photoshop but other than that, I was baffled. As my followers were creeping up and more faces were appearing in my sidebar every day, I knew I needed to rope in some help. This is when I took to Twitter to ask if anyone offered blog designs for a reasonable price and someone offered to make me a new header for £5.00. I immediately said yes and was very pleased with the results. However, as time went on I knew I wanted more from my design. I wanted to add social media buttons, a welcome image and pages so it was easy for my readers to find their way around. This is when I roped in the help of Felicity, an amazing blogger who runs her own design shop (find her details in my FAQ page) and she created the design I have today. 

Now don't get me wrong, I don't think you HAVE to pay for your blog to be designed, if you're good with HTML and all that technical stuff, give it a go yourself. However, if you're a new blogger and are at the 'how the hell do I do this?' stage, you might want to consider getting some help. I didn't even know people offered blog designs until months after I started blogging but I wish I'd of known sooner instead of going months with my ridiculous DIY photoshop job. So I guess my top tip here would be to do your research and find someone who can help you achieve what you want for a reasonable price. There's SO many talented people out there who do amazing blog designs so don't feel like you have to stick with a design you hate just because you can't edit it yourself. Also, if you design blogs - feel free to leave a comment on this post with the link to your design website/page - I'm sure lots of people would like to know about you!
Content
When I first started writing my blog, I was bursting with ideas and things I wanted to share but had no idea how to express them or make them readable. As you're pretty much talking to yourself when you first start blogging, its very hard to find a style of writing and stick with it. However, my advice for anyone starting a blog would be to write your blog like you're talking to your friends (without the text language - proper English people!). I always find bloggers who write in a friendly and chatty manner much more relatable and sitting down to read their blog is like sitting down with a life-long friend. Also, try to be descriptive when reviewing a product so the people reading your blog get a real feel for what your talking about. For example, instead of saying 'I like the colour of this blush' say 'I really like the shade of this blush, the pink tones compliment my pale skin tone and bring out the colour of my eyes' - it makes things much more interesting and you don't want your readers to get bored of what you're saying. As the old saying goes - content is king!

Also, lots of people worry about how often they should be posting content on their blog and its definitely something that's worried me in the past. There's been so many times when I've felt like I'm not posting enough or not being interesting enough but do you know what, its your blog so post whenever you want. I know for a fact that if I like a blog, I don't care how often they post. Of course its nice to have something regular to read but just because you don't blog seven days a week, it doesn't make you a 'bad' blogger. I'd suggest posting as and when you get the chance, maybe schedule a few posts over the weekend so you have them ready for the week ahead? As long as you aren't going months and months between posts, you'll be fine! Also, if you're lacking inspiration - read other blogs, this always helps me get my blogging mojo back. However, never copy someone else's content and ideas - thats a big no no!

Photography
One of my favourite things about reading blogs and my favourite thing about blogging is photography. For me, photographs bring a post to life and if the quality of them is bad, it can be extremely off-putting. Blurry, out of focus photos instantly put me off reading a blog post - sad but unfortunately true. One thing you have to remember when taking photos for your blog is that people are coming to not only read your review (or whatever it may be) but to SEE the product you're discussing too. If I click on a blog and see an extremely out of focus lipstick with an over exposed swatch, I'm not gaining anything from looking at those images. Make sense? So, what you want to consider is working out the best way you can take high-quality images. 

Firstly, always use your own images. Whenever you can, try to avoid using google images of products (unless its in a wish list or something like that). You don't want people to think you're being lazy by not taking your own photos so bare that in mind. Secondly, try to resize them in your blog post so they're all the same size. You can do this by flicking over to the HTML tab in the compose section and editing the height and width numbers. Thirdly, you don't need a flashy camera to take good quality images and you definitely shouldn't feel obliged to buy one just for your blog. I've always had a keen interest in photography and was very lucky to receive a Canon eos 600D as a gift from my dad last year but up until that point I was using a standard £80 digital camera. Yes my DSLR makes it easier for me to capture high quality images but if I was using it incorrectly, they'd still look rubbish. With any camera you own (even your phone if needs be), natural lighting is your best friend. I know its been said time and time again but it really does make a huge difference. I always take my photographs during the day and near a window - this way I can capture every little detail of the product I'm photographing. I also try not using a flash whenever possible as using a flash is known to over-expose images which is definitely not good when photographing makeup.

I also think its important to consider the angles and background you're using for your photos. For example, a photo taken with lots of clutter in the background isn't going to be as visually pleasing as one taken on a clean and clutter-free background. Why not try using a plain piece of white paper, bedding or a wallpaper sample to create a background with? Using something that creates a simple and visually pleasing background for the item your photographing will really benefit your images and your blog. Its also important to make sure you're photographing all aspects of the product too. By this I mean take close-ups of the packaging, the name of the product, get a decent swatch and so on. I find this makes your post a lot more interesting than one front-on shot with no other images to back up what you're saying. Also, if your camera has a macro setting - please use it! Macro settings help the camera pick up detail which then creates a sharper and clearer image.

So, after you've taken your photos - its time to edit them. Lots of people skip this step but I think its hugely important if you want your pictures to look professional. Theres so many free editing websites online and the two I use regularly are iPiccy and PicMonkey. These two websites are amazing for adding that extra bit of finesse to an image. You can use them to crop images, edit the brightness/contract etc but also to add filters, text and banners. You can also create collages which are great for outfit/Instagram diary type posts. There's lots more technical things I could go in to when it comes to photography but this post is already humongous so I might do another post dedicated to blog photography if that interests you?

Social Media & Interaction
Last but certainly not least, I want to give you a few little pointers on the humongous importance of Social Media. When you've set your blog up and got into the swing of writing your posts, its vital you sign up to social media websites. If you want people to find and read your blog - this is a no-brainer. The two websites I'm signed up to and would recommend to every single blogger out there are Bloglovin and Twitter. Of course there's other websites out there but for me, these two are the most important. If you've never used Bloglovin, its a website you sign up too (it takes two minutes) where people can follow your blog and be updated each time you publish a new post. Its great for reading blogs on the go (they have a handy app you can download) and it also gives you 'Top Blogs' and 'Up & Comings' lists which are great for finding new blogs or to be featured on yourself. Twitter is another amazing social networking site for bloggers and thanks to the #bbloggers (beauty bloggers) hash tag I've met and chatted to so many fellow bloggers. Twitter is also where the majority of my page views come from each month so if you aren't signed up already, please do. Tweet about your new posts, follow your favourite bloggers, tweet them and join in the conversation. I'm sure they'd love to hear from you.

Now we've talked Social Media, lets talk about interaction which is another massively important aspect of blogging. One of the biggest tips I could ever offer to another blogger is interact, interact, interact. Leave comments on fellow bloggers posts, follow their blogs, tweet them and let them know you enjoyed their latest post and always respond to those who tweet or email you. Seriously, being a sociable person who is easy to talk to and interact with will get you a long way. After all, if you don't follow other people and leave comments on their posts, how will anyone discover your blog? However, with this being said, please don't spam your link everywhere. Its fine to leave your link if you've left an accompanying thoughtful comment but saying 'hey everyone, come and follow my blog' isn't cool. Also, never think you're better than anybody else. Its so irritating when you read and love a blog only to be ignored by the blogger when you try and contact them. I think its hugely important to be grateful for every single person who clicks onto your little slice of the web as without them, you'd be talking to yourself. No matter how successful your blog becomes, NEVER get too big for your boots, nobody likes a big-headed Betty. At the end of the day, each and every one of us start with zero followers so don't take advantage of the fact you have a few more than someone else. Being ignorant and ungrateful will only come back and bite you on the ass. Be warned ;)

One last word of advice from me is try not getting consumed by how many followers you have. One thing I absolutely despise about blogging is how competitive it can become and how may people refer to blogs as 'big' or 'small'. As I just said, everyone starts with zero followers and we're all writing our blogs for the same reason - because we enjoy it and want to share our passion. If someone has more followers than you, thats fine. If somebody has less followers than you, thats cool too. It certainly doesn't mean their blog is better or worse than yours. Blogs are personal to each and every one of us and we should be all proud of what we've achieved, no matter what that pesky little follower number says. Try to remember that and you'll have an amazing time being a blogger!

So there we have it guys, my tips and advice for starting a blog and getting it out there. I realise this post is super long but I had SO much to say and I hope its helped at least one of you reading this. If you're thinking about starting a blog, have just started or have been blogging for a little while and are a little bit lost - I really hope you can take some advice away from this post. As always feel free to get in touch with me if you have any questions on Twitter @k_leexjx or email me at kljohnson1990@gmail.com.

Lots of Love,

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