Answering the question how to start a blog is rather easy, but to maintain one? That’s a different story. And to actually keep one for eight long years is something I’d never imagine I can do. This blog has been like a surname to me: whenever I meet new people, I make sure they know I have a blog and where they can find it; and this all happens even before I tell them my full name.
Eight years and 129 (now 130) blog posts to date, this blog has been part of my existence that I make some of the big decisions in my life relative to the blog’s improvement. Important decisions like how I should spend my free day (to blog, cook, or to wash my clothes), where I should book my next trip, what books I should read, who I should date…. you know, important stuff HAHA.
But there’s a downside too: most of the interesting things that have happened in my life have already been written here so sometimes I don’t feel like repeating them and I just throw in my website URL for perusal.
A little bit of history
It was in high school that I discovered I wanted to be a writer. I was part of the school newspaper then and I’ve been gathering recognitions left and right without me giving much effort or thought on the things I write. I told myself that this can be something I could turn into a career and it’ll be cool because I really enjoy it.
But things went into a different turn in college. Instead of taking up Journalism or Mass Communication, I took up a bachelor’s degree in Nursing. But despite this set-up, I became Editor in Chief of my school newspaper after topping an exam I later learned I shouldn’t have taken because my initial score didn’t made the cut for the editorial board, LOL.
[Related Story: How Being a Nurse Made Me a Better Writer and Vice Versa]
When I graduated in college and ended my term as school paper editor, I had no platform for my writing. I was so bored and don’t know where to express my creative juices then.
That’s when I jumped into the bandwagon without even knowing exactly how to start a blog. On November 3, 2010, I registered to a free blog-publishing service, Blogger, and wrote my very first blog post. It was a heartwarming story about my uncle who died three years before the blog was launched. I know it’s a bit unconventional to launch a website with such a sad story; I couldn’t really remember why I chose to do that.
The blog was then at www.airinaapril.blogspot.com (which you wouldn’t be able to reach because all the contents have been redirected already to this page) and was named ‘Read My Lips’. This was my old editorial column name and I thought it was just awesome.
I remember having poor writing then, poor website design, poor photos, I write without a care in the world about SEO: I just let my fingers tap the keyboard and then hit publish afterwards.
People of my Year
By far my favorite blog posts to write, ‘People of my Year’ is an annual list of special people who have inspired me in one way or another. This could be new or old people in my life and through this yearly blog post, I introduce them to my readers to tell the world how awesome they are. This is my way of showing them my gratitude and love.
I got this idea from Filipino celebrity Bianca Gonzales as she wrote a similar series. This is a tradition that has been running on the blog since 2011. I’m really excited about this year’s list as you know, I’m living in a new country and I’ve been meeting new, interesting, and inspiring people every day.
You can read the ‘People of my Year’ series here.
New articles are released every 15th and 30th of the month and each posting follows the niche Travel, Money, and Life.
It’s super challenging to keep a schedule. Believe me.
I’m also particularly having a hard time coming up with topics on the ‘Money’ niche, so if you have any suggestions, I’d be really thrilled to read them, please comment them below.
How to Start a Blog?
Basic Blogging Needs
Passion to write
I personally believe that writers give a piece of themselves whenever they share their works to the world. Because of this, I pay full attention to every blog post I publish. I know that I’m kinda awesome myself so if I’m sharing a piece of me to the world through my blog posts, then it should very well emanate.
I love to edit my works that I remember my worst blog post undergoing more than 60 revisions from the strictest editor ever — ME.
If that’s not passion, I don’t know what else to call it.
As a reader myself, I sense when an article was hurriedly or lazily done. I know my readers are just as smart too. I make sure to produce read-worthy ones every single time because I don’t want to waste their time.
A blogging platform, on which to host the blog, is of course, important. As mentioned, I started with Blogger.com because I find it very easy to navigate. If you’re a one-man team, meaning you do the writing, photos taking, blog designing, and more, you need to consider which of the available platforms online is easiest for you.
Most bloggers use free blogging platforms like Blogger, WordPress, Wix, or Tumblr at the beginning of their careers. This blog is now on WordPress since 2016. I got a web developer, my good friend Jiro (www.jirodearmas.com), and he recommended that I transfer to WordPress.
It’s a good decision because with WordPress, there are more resources online like tutorials and there are also more nice-looking themes. One of my favorite features is the use of plugins: software components that add functionality to the website. Whenever I need to change something on the blog, for example the comment boxes, contact forms, or anything; I can just download a plugin to apply it. This is particularly helpful especially for someone like me who have very little knowledge on website coding.
In truth, with just these two, the question how to start a blog has now been fully answered. But if you want to be extra, then you also need the following:
Advanced Blogging Needs
Domain Name and Hosting
If you decide to use a free publishing site, the blog will then be hosted on the said site. By ‘hosted’, I mean ‘stored’. Basically, you have limited control over the maintenance and storage of your files if you go this way. Also, with a free publishing site, your blog URL would be for example, www.pengandpaper.blogspot.com for Blogger, www.pengandpaper.wordpress.com for WordPress.
Apart from the obvious aesthetic purpose of having a domain name, brands are also more likely to work with bloggers who have their own domain. If you’d like to make money on blogging, then this is definitely a good investment.
It also took me a long time to realize its importance: more than five years. It’s because I just started the blog as a hobby. But later on, I found out that with a domain name, it became very easy for me to introduce my blog and the recall is phenomenal.
For this purpose, I got the help of a Filipino-based website hosting company Tahanan.net. What I like about them is that one has the option to build your own hosting package. One can choose how small or big the disk space and bandwidth that you want for your blog so there’s no need to pay for services that are too much for your needs. When compared to other hosting companies, I find Tahanan.net’s rates very affordable and my blogger friends were even surprised that I pay very little for my domain name and hosting.
I also highly recommend them because of their impeccable customer service: they always reply to emails and make sure that all my concerns are answered. I remember a time that they applied the changes needed for the blog even though I haven’t paid yet: truly a commendable company.
You might say that this is just for aesthetic purposes; that a blog can stand without an attractive website design and even if I would want to contest that, I’d have to agree. A plain web design or layout would certainly do, but an eye-catching one encourages readers’ engagement and could just be one of the reasons why they would want to come back to the website.
I wasn’t also thinking about website design being as important. I mean I just want to write and put it on the blog and that’s it. I’m also not knowledgeable in coding so I just settled to a free theme I saw online:
However, when I was still working as an SEO writer, one of my workmates, web developer Jiro of www.jirodearmas.com offered to fix my blog layout for me. I was very hesitant at first, but afterwards, I realized that it was one of the best decisions I’ve made for the blog. It now looks more professional and when I introduce my blog to new people, I couldn’t feel any prouder to own such a great-looking website.
So, if you share these same sentiments, you now know who’s responsible for that *wink
Like web design, adding good photos to blog posts is really just for aesthetic. For me, however, it’s another way to express the creativity I don’t even know I have. My first step was buying a DSLR camera, but then when I realized I had no idea how to use it (after owning it for years, LOL), I then enrolled to a photography class to fix this problem. Here’s the story:
I went through all this to take better photos for the blog. I believe having good photos on-site also contributes to reader engagement. As a reader myself, I am intrigued and more eager to read stories with accompanying photographs.
A niche is like a theme; it keeps the blog organized instead of being all over the place. I also started the blog in 2010 writing just about anything that comes to my mind, but eventually, I settled on three niches. I chose travel, money, and life as my blog’s niches because these are the topics I am passionate about.
TRAVEL – not your typical travel blog though, you wouldn’t find itineraries here. I write stories and real travel experiences. My first Couchsurfing experience and my trip as a female solo backpacker in Oktoberfest are just some of the most popular posts here.
MONEY – Here, I share basic financial education best for anyone who would like to manage their income, grow their money, and live a richer life. I started investing in the stock market in 2014 and I love sharing my financial journey through my blog.
LIFE – Here lies all the topics I cannot categorize under travel or money, LOL. From my epic Nursing experiences, awesome Lasik eye surgery, my annual People of my Year list, and anything and everything I care about.
SEO or Search Engine Optimization is the process of increasing the quantity of website traffic. The main goal is to put the website on the first position in Google so that it’ll be easier for searchers to find the website. I’ve worked as an SEO writer for 2 ½ years. However, my knowledge is limited to writing contents that are informative and engaging while putting in keywords within the content.
How to start a blog post, you ask? My routine in writing an SEO-optimized one is actually a long process. Here is an overview and the tools I use for them:
- Keyword Research – Google Ads Keyword Planner, ads.google.com
- Title – Emotional Marketing Value Headline Analyzer, aminstitute.com
- Title Capitalization – capitalizemytitle.com
- Content Writing – no tool of course, I write everything, LOL
- Content Editing – no tool, I edit everything, LOL
- Final Editing (sometimes, LOL) – Grammarly, grammarly.com
- Photo Editing – Adobe Photoshop/Lightroom, Canva, Befunky, PhotoScape (depending on my editing needs)
- Photos Storage – flickr.com
- SEO Plugin for WordPress – Yoast, yoast.com
- Update email subscribers of new blog post – Mailerlite, mailerlite.com
- Schedule and share on social media – Facebook, Instagram, Twitter
For other SEO-related tasks I have no idea about like Keyword Structure, Website Analysis, Link Building, and many others, I rely on Franje of www.franjenunez.com. He is an SEO specialist and also a former workmate.
Social Media Presence
With most people owning accounts on social media sites, it’s definitely wise for bloggers to use these platforms to reach their audience. Apart from organic search, most of my website traffic came from Facebook. I also share my posts on Instagram, Twitter, and Google Plus. Very soon, I am planning to launch a Pinterest account as I heard that it’s a good platform for bloggers too.
It took me also quite long before I was able to establish a good following on social media. Thankfully, my followers are now more active and my blog’s reach is improving every day. On Peng and Paper’s Facebook page, for instance, I schedule posts and share them following the themes Money Monday, Travel Tuesday, Throwback Thursday, and Food Friday (very rarely as I don’t have much food-related posts). There are also posts that I only share on Facebook as I find it too short or non-niche related to be posted on the blog.
I remember seeing this question somewhere and right away started a mailing list:
‘As a blogger, how will you reach your readers if your social media account got hacked or social media disappeared altogether?’
If this indeed happen, I would lose more than half of my readers as they mainly get updates from social media. Having another way to contact them besides their Facebook accounts, in this case through email, is a genius idea. For this purpose, I partnered with Mailerlite.com. I can also highly recommend this company for their responsive customer service.
For me, the following are advantages of having a mailing list:
- The readers receive the updates straight to their inboxes
- Social media is a chaotic world: even newly-posted updates become old in seconds as newer ones are always made. If you reach your readers via email, then your message will never be lost on their inbox and there’s a higher chance that the receiver will see and read it.
- Emails have a more personal approach. I write in my reader’s name on the subject of the email for example, and they also have the option to choose which contents they want to receive: whether under Travel, Money, or Life. They can choose just one, two, or all three; this way, they wouldn’t be bombarded by emails they aren’t interested in.
I value my email subscribers very much as they’ve willingly shared with me such vital contact detail of their lives: their email addresses. Because of this, they are always the first to know of my new blog posts, get invites to events and giveaways, and receive my exclusive monthly newsletter.
To be part of this exclusive list, just fill out this form:
Blogging entails more than the act of writing the content. You see, each blog post takes time, effort, money, and a whole lot of emotions, at least for me. It’s amazing how eight years ago I have no idea how to start a blog and now I’m celebrating this milestone. It’s a difficult task to maintain really, but I have no plans of stopping.
Thank you for your support all these years! Show me some love on the comments below please!