So You Want to Start a Blog …

“Oh my goodness, I want to start a blog and get free stuff too!”  If I had a nickel for every time I heard that, well, I would have a lot of nickels. Forgive the cliché expression but as I head to blogging events around New York, receive packages from brands, or sign up with different sponsors for collaborations that is when people tell me they want to start a blog.  Let me tell you, this is a long, long way from where I started.

My friends have told me completely kidding, half joking, and with serious conviction like I have never seen, they want to start a bog and do I have any advice?   My friends must not be the only ones, however, because “I want to start a blog ” has 1.5 BILLION search results on Google.  So how do you start a blog?  

How to Start a Blog

Well, by the end of this post I hopefully will have a satisfactory answer for you but first let me set the stage.  Blogging is one of my favorite topics and with over 840 published posts and almost three years of blogging under my belt I feel like I have a place to begin dishing out advice. As a point of reference I wrote about 7 things I learned after 700 blog posts and the topics are still quite relevant:  commit, self promote. always have a picture, be consistent, stay organized, don’t ignore SEO,  and be vulnerable. 

After writing this post I realized it needs to be publish in two parts; one, how to start a blog, and two, what to do once you have a blog.  Here we go with part one: 

The first step to starting a blog, you have to ask yourself a series of questions. What are you going to write about?  What are you passionate about? What makes you happy? What do you know a ton about?  Before you go through the whole set up figure out what means something to you.  If you need a point of reference, Bloglovin, which I will speak a bit about later, categorizes blogs into popular categories like beauty, fashion, food+drink, home décor, family, fitness, lifestyle, photography, travel, and wedding.

The popular tab on Bloglovin also gives a good sense of what kinds of blog posts go over well with readers.  Alternately, this is a great article about choosing your blogging niche.   My recommendation is to start a list whether it be notes on your iPhone, a journal, or a word doc, to start gathering ideas. Once you have a general idea of what you want to blog about there are four main steps to get started:

(1) Create a Name

Start brainstorming what your blog name will be – begin with your name or nicknames, things you like, the general topic of your blog, or a phrase that means something to you. For a few examples scroll down my blog and check out a list of names in the right column titled blogs I love!

I love the unofficial rule that a blog name should be three things; brand-able, memorable, and unique. And when choosing a blog name I recommend not going above four words, five maximum.

Once you come up with a list of names Google your ideas and make sure no one has already used them. I advise against using the name of any established blog brand, catch phrase, company, slogan, etc., even if it has not been used in years.  You want to put your best foot forward and do not want your blog associated with anything other than you and the great content you will be publishing. 

Along with choosing a blog name, start thinking if you are going to use your real name when you write.  This is the world wide web and billions of people will have access to your blog the moment you hit publish – are you okay with putting your name out there?  For almost two years I went by Kelly Ann but as my professional life and blogging life merged closer together I took the plunge and associated my last name with my blog.  It is completely up to you, but is definitely something to think about. 

 

(2) Domain & Hosting

If you are setting up a blog for the first time I am going to continue with this second point assuming you will set it up on WordPress. Blogger vs. WordPress is the big debate, even among established bloggers who has been around for years: I started on Blogger and after a year and a half I switched to WordPress. WordPress is the way to go, especially if you are starting from scratch. Under that assumption…

Hosting: If you are just starting out, and if you are reading this post you probably are, the Blue Host Starter Plan at $3.95 / month is more than enough to get you on your way.   Once you purchase the plan and complete the user registration you will be able to click the blue “Install WordPress” icon on the front page and follow the set up instructions. The instructions are very intuitive and the free “live chat” people are especially helpful in answering any questions!

Domain: After selecting any hosting plan on Blue Host they will help you secure your domain name. I highly recommend a .com domain address. 

Email: You have already gotten this far so why not start off your blogging career with big boost of credibility. Included in your BlueHost package is an email address associated with your domain. I personally chose kelly@sparklesandshoes.com, much more credible than let’s say, kellysparklesandshoes@gmail.com. You can set up your email through the cobalt blue “Email Manager” button of the homepage.

 

 (3) Blog Design 

You will spend a great deal of time writing content for your blog, don’t you want it to be framed nicely? My advice is to look through blogs and pick out a handful that you like the look of.  Why do you like them? What are your favorite aspects?

Over the course of three years of blogging I have found the most successful blogs have simple themes with lots of white space so people can focus their sole attention on the content. On this same note I would advise against animation, auto-play music, and please as a favor to me do not have white text on a black background. I would be remiss not to mention it an article on how to start a blog as it has been proved time and time again hard on the eyes and people will leave your site much quicker!  

Layout:  In looking through other blogs I decided I really liked a layout with a top header, my blog’s content shown on the left, and a side bar on the right.  There are four basic styles, see which one you like and find a theme that will cater to it.  Usually I think a dual side bar looks too crowded but Erin of Living in Yellow does a great job with it.  To each their own!

Blog Layout Content Options - Two Column Content Left

 

Purchasing a design: There are intro designs available starting around $40 and I recommend searching Etsy if you are not looking for a big financial outlay.  Custom designs can go into the thousands but mine was done by Aubrey Kinch a year and a half ago but as she is amazing her custom blog designs have doubled in price and are now $300. Sparkles and Shoes has gone through 7 iterations of designs so don’t worry, you will not be wedded to it forever.

Headers:  Depending on the type of blog will you need categories – breakfast, lunch, and dinner recipes if you are food blogger, or countries if you are a travel photographer. With WordPress you can immediately start writing and uploading content for your pages, for example your about page, you contact page, etc.

 

(4) Social Media 

Some would disagree with me on this one but while you are setting up your blog up, why not set everything up? If you want your blog to grow, social channels are extremely important, especially Bloglovin, a channel you have most likely not heard of if you are not a blogger.   And I highly recommend making your usernames the same across all social media platforms.  

Facebook: Instead of a personal profile create a page for your blog. This way people will be able to like your page, the same way they would like Taylor Swift or like Essie nail polish, and follow along with all of your updates.  

Twitter: Create an account, there is no difference between a personal and a business account. Personally, I had a Twitter account I had signed up for years before but had not been using so transformed it into my blog’s Twitter account.

Pinterest: Similar to Twitter you create an account as an individual (at this time you do not need a business account) and many bloggers use their regular Pinterest page, creating additional boards to promote their blogging content.

Google+: Use it. I will not go into it more because I wrote an long post about  why Google+ is important.

Bloglovin: This is a platform that allows users to read, organize, and discover their favorite blogs. It works by aggregating RSS feeds to allow readers to discover and organize content. I really like this article from the Daily Post what the heck is Bloglovin’, and do I need it?  I set up my BlogLovin account a few months after I started blogging and really wish someone had told me about it sooner.              

 So there you have it, after those four steps on how to start a blog, now you are ready to write and post away! The second part of this, my advice on what to do once you have a blog, will be published next week!

And a bit of advice, do not start a blog because your goal is to make money or get free things.  Know that you are not going to become internet famous, at least not quickly, and if that is your goal, it is going to come off as insincere.  

And on a completely separate note, happy early 4th of July! I am in Cape Cod with my family for the long weekend and will be taken tomorrow off from blogging to spend quality time with them. You follow along on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, otherwise I will be posting all about the weekend on Monday. Happy 4th of July!

Please let me know if you found this post useful!

 

Packing for the Beach with Bioré

Today I am excited to introduce to a new product but first I must disclose, this shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #BioreStripDown #CollectiveBias

This week I am taking Thursday off from work and will escape the city for the first time this summer. I have know about this trip for months and am immensely looking forward to spending the holiday weekend in Cape Cod. I will only be away for four days but I have planned the perfect balance of two activity filled days and two days where the only thing tearing me away from the lounge chair will be a cold drink or a dip in the water. 

And I am sure I am not alone in this but any time I head to the beach my makeup routine goes out the window. I have no idea how girls get through a full day in the sun without makeup streaming down their face, because I certainly can not.  Instead of trying to cover up, my goal every summer is to get my skin in the best shape possible so I can head to the beach makeup free, where all my face is armed with is SPF.  This weekend my beach bag contains: 

Packing for the Beach with Biore

To get ready for this 4th of July trip I used the Bioré® Self Heating One Minute Mask followed by a Bioré® Deep Cleansing Charcoal Pore Strip to make sure I put my best skin forward. But why are these products different?  The main ingredient is charcoal but do not let the dark color through you off, because it is known for its ability to draw out and trap impurities buried deep-down along while reducing oil and shine.  The combination of these two products from the Bioré® charcoal collection really opens up your pores as the one minute mask purifies, removing twice the dirt of a basic cleanser, and then the charcoal strip unclogs pores. 

Bioré Deep Cleansing Charcoal Pore Strip and Bioré Self Heating One Minute MaskBioré Deep Cleansing Charcoal Pore StripPacking for the Beach with Biore 02

The entire range of products can be found at Target, either in the beauty isle with the other cleansers and scrubs, where I picked up mine, or online at the Target website

Bioré Charcoal Products at Target

So what else is in my beach bag besides my Bioré® charcoal products and an oversized towel? For this trip it will be a pair of my beloved Rainbows, a small digital camera, light pink polish, oversized sunglasses, SPF, and a book my mother highly recommended at Christmas that I have not gotten around to reading yet. 

Packing for the Beach with Biore 01

I am extremely excited to escape the city this weekend and head up toMassachusetts for a few days of some much needed R&R. I will be sure to keep you all up to speed social media and look for a great post tomorrow before I sign off for the weekend! 

What is your beach-bag must have?

My June Purchases

On Thursday I will be publishing one of my longest posts ever and it is one I have been working on for weeks, how to start a blog.  In writing this I have taken a look back at the evolution of Sparkles and Shoes over the last three years and came across a series I used to do eons ago, my monthly purchases (October 2012, November 2012, and January 2013). These posts are fun to critique now to see how much my photography and blog aesthetics have improved, but they also reminded me of the fun I had in putting them together so, monthly purchase recaps, welcome back. 

Considering that I have shifted my shopping philosophy to one of quality items over quantity, June was a big shopping month for me.  There were some things I actually needed, like the new workout tank, and others items that were just nice additions to my wardrobe. This month I have purchased the following items and note, the prices below are what I paid and online they might differ: 

June Purchases | H&M Wedge Heel Sandals in Powder Pink

 H&M Wedge Heel Sandals in Powder Pink $29.95  

June Purchases | Roxy Shore Thing Blue Printed Dress

Roxy Shore Thing Printed Dress  $39.50  $24.99 

June Purchases | Tory Burch Thea Zip Continental Wallet in Silver

 Tory Burch Thea Zip Continental Wallet in Silver $225.00 $157.50

June Purchases | Eyeshadow Juniors' Printed Racerback Tank Top and Rebook Workout Tank

Eyeshadow Printed Racerback Tank (similar)  $18.99  $12.99 | Rebook Workout Tank  $35.00  $9.99

And I thought about not including these items, but compared to my purchases two years ago I would like to think they add an element of maturity, thank you notes via snail mail are always a good idea and thick socks that sit well above my ankle?  Well, those have proven essential on my fitness journey

June Purchases | Thank You Notes and Puma Ladies' All Sport Low Cut Sock 6-Pack

Thank You Notes (similar) $16.00  | Puma Ladies’ All Sport Low Cut Sock 6-Pack  $10.00

These four items of clothing, pair of shoes, and two assorted items were great additions for June and look for a new post in this series at the end of next month to see what I pick up in the month of July!   I hope everyone had a great month, and believe it or not, great first half of 2015! 

Summer Stripes

Sure, it is officially summertime but occasionally the weather goes a bit wacky here in New York City and we will have days where the high does not reach 70 degrees. So how do you dress for the weather but still look summery? My favorite way is with a pair of white jeans, a striped top, and wedges.  When my mom was in town at the beginning of the month I wore this outfit to our casual Sunday brunch. 

Summer Stripes 02

Ralph Lauren Striped Shirt  | Double Pearl Stud Earrings | Statement Necklace (similar)

 Kiss imPRESS Press-On Manicure | David Yurman Cable Classics Bracelet with Blue Topaz

Express White Jeans  | Cobb Hill Molly Wedge in Tan c/o

Summer StripesSummer Stripes 01Summer Stripes 03

We began our morning with coffee and after a few photos my mom and I headed to meet my brother for brunch.  Kevin is a super picky eater so the majority of my favorite places would not have been his cup of tea, thus we went to Southern Hospitality, a soul food restaurant in Hell’s Kitchen.  Along with more coffee I ordered the asiago and fresh spinach omelet and my brother chose the classic chicken and waffles, entree size, not the brunch portion.

Southern Hospitality Brunch MenuSouthern Hospitality Chicken and Waffles

And after brunch we took a quick family photo and it was just the three of us, as my dad was unable to make it to the city on this trip.  And no, my mom and I did not plan on similar nautical looks. 

Summer Stripes | Family ShotI Wish You Would Chinatown Billboard

On our way back from brunch we stopped by this piece of pop art to snap a few photos.  The massive 13-foot tall HOPE Sculpture was designed by Robert Indiana is located on West 53rd Street and 7th Avenue.  The red color was a perfect compliment to my blue and white outfit. 

Summer Stripes HOPE SignKiss imPRESS Press-On Manicure and David Yurman Cable Classics Bracelet with Blue Topaz and GoldSummer Stripes HOPE Sign 02Cobb Hill Molly Wedge in Tan 
What is your go-to summer look on chilly days?