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Friday, 10 August 2012

How to set up a blog

My husband often comments "you spend an awful lot of time on your blog, are you sure it's worthwhile?". The answer every time is "yes, definitely". Whilst my main aim is not to be a blogger but to make things and get people to buy them, writing a blog is very much part of that. In the last month my blog sent the most referral traffic to my folksy shop; more than facebook or craftjuice or any other form of advertising I do.

It takes a while to build up visitors and to get the hang of writing and maintaining a blog. But it's a worthwhile investment. I'm still learning lots each week and gradually improving. I'm no expert at blogging, and I'm definitely not a technical expert, but, as with everything I'm learning, I like to share it as I go along so that others who are one step behind me can benefit.

I've heard a lot from people who see the value in blogging and are keen to start but just don't know what to write about. They have their little blog set up and two weeks in they're totally stumped as to what they're meant to be writing. I don't seem to struggle for ideas, so I've got a blog post already written to hopefully inspire you to start blogging, sharing lots of different things that you could write about on a craft blog. However, I'm going to wait a couple of weeks until I share this because I have discovered a more fundamental problem - actually setting up the blog in the first place. I saw a cry for help on the Folksy forums  from sew amy who makes the most gorgeous vintage notebooks, and I've decided to turn my post about blogging into a mini series

So today I'm going to start with the basics of setting up a blog and the things that are essential to getting it going. Then next week I'll post a few extra tips, and the week after that you can finally see my ideas for what to write about (sorry, you'll just have to be patient, but make sure you check back!).

Here we go. I promise to make it as basic as possible. Feel free to ask questions in the comments.

1. Take a deep breath. This won't necessarily be easy, but it will probably be easier than you think. Get yourself a mug of tea and some chocolate for encouragement.

2. Go to This is only one of many sites you can use to create a free blog, but it's the one I've always used so it's the only one I can help you with! If you have a google account, sign in. If not, sign up.

3. Click on 'new blog' and you should get something that looks like this:

Enter a title for your blog. If you want to use it to drive visitors to your shop I suggest the title is something that connects with your shop. Next, enter a web address. This is what people will type into their browser to reach your blog. It will be Choose wisely! The little tick besides the box shows you whether the address is available or not. You can't have the same address as someone else, it needs to be unique. If your first choice isn't available, try again. 

Then you need to pick a template. You can change this later so don't worry too much, just pick one. I'd probably go for 'simple'. Press create blog. You now have a blog! 

4. It should take you to your dashboard automatically. Here's mine. 

For the purposes of writing this post I'm setting up a new blog, so I'm following each step along with you. My new blog is called 'say it on a blog'. Click on your blog title to enter your blog. It takes you to the overview page. This will be a really handy page once you get going because you can see at a glance how many posts you've written, the number of people who have viewed your blog, and if you've got any comments.

Take a look at the menu on the left hand side.

This lets you do everything you need to do. New post creates a new post for you. Overview is the page you're on at the moment. Posts gives a list of all the posts you've written. Skip a few (and don't panic!)... layout, template and settings help you set up and design your blog. Lets start by writing a new post.

5. Click on new post. This is where you write your posts. It's a bit like using word. Along the top are all the buttons for formatting your writing, e.g. making it bold or changing the size of the font. If you can use word you can write a blog post. But for now, just fill the text box with a few paragraphs of gobbledygook and make up a title. (Don't worry, we'll delete it later). Then click publish. This is just so you can see what a post will look like on your new blog. Yes, you have a blog!

It takes you to a list of your posts, and you'll see that you have one post. If you hover over this post you can click on edit, view or delete. (See, I told you there would be a way of getting rid of the gobbledygook later!). You can click on view if you want, but there's not much to see at this stage. Click edit if you'd like to change the gobbledygook. 

6. On the left hand menu, click on template. This now gives you a larger selection of templates than you had at the start. If you see one you like better, click on it and select 'apply to blog'. I've gone for the simple template on the furthest right, the white one. Scroll back to the top and click on 'customise' under the preview of what's live on your blog. 

Now it shows you what your blog looks like. This is why it was helpful to add a post, so you get an idea of how they will look. Note how you have the title of your blog at the top, then your post underneath with a date and header. This is what mine looks like:

Top left of your page there should be another menu, different to the usual one. This is because you are in template mode. If at any time you want to get back to the normal menu, just click the 'back to blogger' button on the top right. The first item on the template menu allows you to change the template of your blog. Go ahead and change it again if you want. 

7. The second item on the template menu lets you change the background. If you click the drop down box next to background image it pulls up a vast number of backgrounds for you to choose from.

Click on a thumbnail and you get to see a preview of it on your new blog. Find one you like and click 'apply'. You can come back and change it at any time. You can even upload your own image. Click on 'apply to blog' in the top right hand corner.

8. Click on the fourth item in the template menu, 'layout'. This lets you choose how many columns you want on your blog. You could just have one big column for your posts, or some columns either side for you to add other things. Take a look at a few of your favourite blogs and see what they've got. It's your choice. Click on the thumbnail of the layout you want, then click 'apply to blog' in the top right hand corner. You can also choose a footer layout for the very bottom of your blog.

9. Click on the third item in the template menu 'adjust widths'. This allows you to change the width of your blog and the side bars. Have a play. It's a bit difficult without much content, so it might be something you want to come back to later.

10. Click on the last item on the template menu 'advanced'. We're not going to do anything very advanced, just change a few fonts and colours.

Lets start with page text. This is the text your post is written in. Change the font and colours to find something you like, but try to keep it nice and clear and readable. 

Backgrounds lets you change the colours of different parts of your page. Try them out to see which areas they colour. If you want to make a change to the new colours click 'apply to blog', if it's all gone hideous simply click on 'clear advanced changes to background' and it will put you back to where you were. 

We won't go through everything in this menu, just the main things. But if you're looking at your blog thinking "I wish that was a different colour" this is the place to come back to. Select blog title to change the font and colour of your title; post title to change the font of your post title. I'd suggest keeping it simple and using only one or two fonts and colours. 

Once you're happy, click 'apply to blog', then 'back to blogger'. 

11. Back to the normal left hand menu, click on 'settings' right at the bottom. Most of the settings will be fine, just a few things to check. Make sure you click 'save settings' in the top right corner after each change you make. 
  • On the first screen by privacy, make sure it says 'Listed on Blogger. Visible to search engines' - this means that your blog is public and people can find it. 
  • On the second screen take a look at the options under comments - choose who you want to be able to leave a comment, and if you want to moderate the comments before they appear on your blog.
  • On the fourth screen, language and formatting, change the timezone (otherwise it will look like you're posting in the middle of the night!). 

You now have a customised blog. Your layout, your styles, your colours. Click on view blog at the top and take a look. Then give yourself a pat on the back. 

There is so much you can do to change the way your blog looks and functions. But lets take it slowly. I think the top 3 things to get sorted next are:

When you're ready click on one of these things and follow the tutorial. Then come back here and try another. 

The final thing you need to do is write your first post. Go to your list of posts, delete your gobbledygook post (see point 5 above), then click on new post. Off you go. Write whatever you want. How about starting with a hello and welcome to your brand new blog? 

Want to know what all the buttons at the top do? Click here to find out

That's it, you're done. This is all I consider to be essential. I hope you found it helpful. Got stuck somewhere? No problem, leave a comment below and I'll try to help you out if I can. Next week I'll show you how to add some more features. [EDIT, extra tutorials now available]

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