Blogging doesn’t have to be complicated. If you have something to say or share, then this should take the lead, rather than having to spend time learning how to use new software. The good news is that there are numerous blogging services to choose from.
People start blogs for all kinds of different reasons. Some people use blogs as a form of journal they share with anyone who might be interested. These can be focused on specific areas of life – travels and holidays, a hobby, sports activities or life events. Other people use a blog to support causes, campaigns or community activities.
Keeping reading as we take a look at some blogging platforms you can use for free, and give you some hints and tips on effective blogging.
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Take your first steps into blogging
There are lots of different blogging services available and they all work in a broadly similar way. These services provide you with everything you need to create and manage a blog and are accessed through a website.
Typical features of a blogging service include:
- An area in which to lay out and design your blogs
- Storage space for images, videos and sounds
- Editing features for images that let you make images smaller or crop out certain areas
- The ability to see all the blogs you have written from first to most recent
- A facility to store drafts, so that you can start something and come back to work on it again at a later date
- Scheduling features, so you can write several blogs and set them to be published automatically at a future date
- Statistics, such as how many times your posts are viewed
Free or fee: should you spend money on your blog?
Many blogging services let you get started for free. Once you are up and running, and your blog is going well, you can take out a subscription to get access to more than just the basic features.
You might also need to start paying if you fill up a set amount of free storage space for your blogs and associated media files.
Allowing readers to comment
Most blogging services can allow people to make comments. The choices you’ll have as a blog manager are:
There are pros and cons to each option. Moderating gives you the freedom not to publish posts you find offensive, although you’ll need to spend time moderating in exchange for that level of control.
With open commenting people can post whatever they want to. Unfortunately, this can leave your blog open to offensive comments, random selling or advertising related comments – or even gobbledygook generated by automated bots.
Many bloggers decide they want to be in complete control of what appears on their blog and they turn the commenting facility off completely.
Blogging websites compared: WordPress vs Blogger vs Weebly
There are lots of different blogging platforms to try. The examples below also allow you to include ‘static’ pages – pages that you won’t be updating. This means you can have some information that doesn’t change as a supplement to your ever-changing blog pages
Free to use, as long as you don’t mind advertising on your blog and a fairly limited set of features – many bloggers will find it perfectly adequate. Various payment tiers add extra features.
WordPress is a hugely popular platform used by home bloggers and large firms alike, thanks to its relative ease of use for beginners, as well as its flexibility for those who want to delve deeper to personalise it and add features through plug-ins. There are hundreds of free templates and they can be highly customised once you get familiar with how WordPress works.
A free blogging service run by Google. You’ll need a Google email address to use it, but it’s easy to sign up at blogger.com if you don’t have one.
Blogger has a range of pre-designed templates, and while there aren’t as many as you’ll find on other platforms, the selection is good enough for taking your first steps into blogging. The user interface is somewhat clunky, so it might not be the best option if you’re unsure of how to get started. That said, as with the other blogging services mentioned here, there are plenty of online tutorials to get you started.
Provides a limited free service with 500MB of storage and adverts are placed on your blog. Various tiers of payment remove the ads, provide more storage and add other features.
Weebly uses a ‘drag-and-drop’ system for designing webpages and adding blog posts. Having chosen a template, you pull what you want from the side menu on to your design space, and add text, pictures or whatever you want into the editing spaces. Creating a design is relatively simple, so if you don’t have a talent for design, Weebly can be an attractive option.
Top tips on producing a great blog
Blogs take many forms. Some are long and detailed, some are highly technical, some are short, some are descriptive, some are fact, some are fiction, some are poetry, some are instructional or ‘how to’ in style – and there are many other types.
With so much variety, there aren’t really hard-and-fast rules about how to approach blogging. But here are some useful tips for first-time bloggers:
Try to keep your writing style informal and accessible
Short sentences. No complicated words. You’re aiming for something that other people will find easy to read. If in doubt, ask someone who doesn’t know the subject area to read your blogs and give you feedback.
Preview before you publish
Make sure your blog reads well and doesn’t contains any grammatical or factual errors, or anything that you think you shouldn’t be sharing – you don’t want to break confidences or upset people. Also use the preview tool to see how your blog layout will look when it’s published, and make sure that any images are positioned well and are not too large or small.
Don’t worry too much about setting a rigid schedule
Blogging software lets you schedule posts – so if you have two great ideas you can write them both up and schedule one post for now and one to go live in a few days’ time. It’s good not to leave it too long between posts, but keep it realistic, too.
Think carefully about the length of your posts
Some blogs are fine with posts that are around 300 words; others work well with longer posts of around 1,000 words or more. If your draft posts are much longer than around 1,000 words, then perhaps what you really have are several posts that you’re pulling into one, or a text you could publish in separate, shorter parts.
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Additional reporting by Tom Morgan