How do I start a family Blog?

 

You want to start a family-focused blog but not sure where to begin? Here are some tips to help you.

Blogging is a fantastic space to document what is going on in your life, your opinions about things, creating communities, bringing like-minded individuals together – there are so many benefits to starting a blog. Having one that focuses on family, and your family is a brilliant way to start because you will no doubt have content that people can relate to and that’s why we like reading blogs. We read stories about what people are doing or going through and we connect with them. We also like reading them to see what amazing things people have discovered or places they’ve been to and recommend. Blogging is a huge online area and there is space for everyone. We all have unique voices and we have all something to say.

What is it going to be about?

When starting up with a blog you do need to think first and foremost what your blog is going to be about – perhaps you really love the area that you live so you want to bring content to other parents in that area or even outside visitors about all the amazing things you can do there as a family. You might just want to document your parenting journey and how you’re finding it. Maybe you’ve always been interested in fashion and now want to blog about what styles you have found work for you as a parent. The ideas are endless, but to begin you need to find yours.

What platform should I use?

So you have your idea of what you want to be talking to people about so the next thing to look at is where are you going to do it? What platform are you going to use? I would always recommend WordPress because it is a brilliant platform for blogs. You will often find that most blogs are on WordPress.com as it is free and there are lots of templates you can use to create a nice blog. The interface is really nice and simple too so you don’t have to get too overwhelmed everytime you want to post.

With WordPress.com you can sometimes find that customisation can be quite limited to the templates you choose and that to get a bit more flexibility you might need to look at their Business package and if you really want a nice template possibly even consider purchasing a premium one too. However I do think it’s important that I highlight that there are two WordPresses – WordPress.com and WordPress.org – both the same company but both have different functions, features and flexibility. If you want to have a read through the difference between the two you can on my post here.

This is where you need to think about what exactly you want from your blog and what scope you want it to have. For example, if eventually, you would like to have a Shop integrated with your blog then WordPress.org would be a better choice. If you wanted your blog to have scope to potential run as a business where you may need additional functions again I would look at WordPress.org. The same if you want to create a truly bespoke blog design I would use WordPress.org.

Thinking about getting “found”

Now you’re going to need to think with a marketing head here too because you do want your content to get found and read by people and you can’t just rely on Social Media for this. So when looking at a platform take into account SEO ( Search Engine Optimisation) which is what you need on your pages and blog posts so you get “found” in Google when people search for keywords or topics that could relate to your blog posts – for example

“How to get creative with vegetables so your kids will eat them”

This is the title of your post, fab! But you now need to make sure that you can create a unique page title for this post and be able to customise the description of the page. This isn’t the blog content itself this is in addition and this is your SEO.

To show you in real terms.

I popped this very blog title example into Google and this was the top search result

 

And this is a blogger.

That Purple line you can see, that’s her unique page title.

The green is the link to the post.

The text after the date is the description, which sadly cuts off and isn’t as SEO friendly as it could be, ideally these should be 160 characters. But you can see where it has picked up the keywords in her content on her post as these are shown in bold.

This is why when choosing a platform for your family focused blog you need to think about whether you can edit your SEO for your blog posts as this will determine how you content gets ranked and how visible it is for people searching.

Should I care that much about design?

This is really down to personal preference and what you want from your blog. You may just want to focus on the content alone and aren’t bothered too much about the look of it for your readers. Blogger’s like The UnMummsy Mum first created her blog on Blogger and for years kept the blog on this however now she has a nice new design for the site which actually makes it more like a website than a blog (it’s lovely) with lots of different pages for people to choose from without losing that blog feel.

Another favourite of mine is Fritha’s otherwise known as Tigerlily Quinn she has a lovely design that also really fits with the content she talks about and her personality.

So really, when it comes to the design of your blog it is down to what you want it to be and represent. For me personally I love a nice blog that takes me on a journey, it’s visually pleasing and a nice layout for me to follow. However, the most important thing above all will always be your content and what you are sharing with the world.

 

WordPress.com vs WordPress.org

wordpress.com vs wordpress.org

Having a website is such an exciting thing isn’t it? After the business planning, getting your branding, logo and identity sorted you really want to get stuck in and get a website up and running. Now, there are so many options out there of how to create your own website, so many platforms to use and if you are getting started and having trouble with what to consider and think about you can check in with my Websites: Where Do I Start post as this one is going to focus on two platform choices in particular – WordPress.com and WordPress.org.

Now you might be thinking already “they’re the same Maxine, they’re both WordPress”, well hang on to your mittens kittens because actually they are two very different platforms and provide very different things.

Let’s dive in.

 

WordPress.com

 

This is a hosting service created by the co-founder of WordPress. So because it uses the word “WordPress” it’s easy to see why you can get confused and think they’re both the same platform, but WordPress.com is essentially a free platform and if you are looking to have a blog site then this is perfect for that, because your words are what people are wanting to read and they’re not coming to see an all singing all dancing design.

Using WordPress.com means you are letting WordPress host your website for you, now this is what I mean by host:

It’s where you website is stored on a server so that it can be accessed over the tinterwebs.

It’s because of this that WordPress.com has a lot of appeal because it is FREE and they take care of the hosting for you. There are other packages that you can go for which will enable more features because generally the free version can be very limiting. It does however give you up to 3GB of free space so if you are a blogger who blogs maybe 2/3 times a month this could potentially last you a while. I’m now going to look at some of the other benefits for WordPress.com.

The Good

Back Up’s & Updates
Every website should be backed up and if you’re using another platform then do check how they backup your website and keep it safe. With WordPress.com they take care of any backups and any platform updates for you, they will happen automatically – no worry, no stress (YES!).

Themes
If you are wanting a service based business website or a store then I wouldn’t recommend using WordPress.com because you will need more than what it provides, but for a blogger who needs a nice template with very small customisations – possibly colours of text, fonts choices etc then you have a range of free and paid templates that you can choice from. So if you’re someone who doesn’t want to get their hands dirty with design then this is perfect.

The Ugly

Themes
“How can this be a benefit and a con? Are you conning me?” Nope, I am not and while the free templates and themes provide great basis for very simple sites with little to no customisation as I said above on the Free version you are very limited to what you can change – you might choose a theme that has a very nasty colour background for when your mouse hovers over something and can’t change it and if it puts you off chances are it will put your audience off too so keep this in mind when looking at this platform and what you want your website to do.

 Ads
Ads are placed on all free sites, so if you want a professional looking blog that’s Ad free you will need to upgrade to get rid of this mess. The upgrade to remove these is $36 per year – not too bad really.

Also it is worth noting that even though WordPress place Ad’s on your site you cannot place Ad’s there. So if you are a family blogger looking to get into affiliate marketing with some of the brands and businesses you mention or work with and want to start earning from your audience clicking their ads you will need to apply for their advertising programs called WordAds and you will share the revenue with them. If you are on their upgraded platforms like Business or Premium use can use this function from the get go.

Plugins
I’ll be talking a bit about Plugins when I get on the WordPress.org side of things because that platform relies heavily on the use of plugins where as WordPress.com free version does not. It will not let you upload plugins. What do I mean by a plugin you ask:

It’s a bit of software that can enhance the functions within your website

Plugins are amazing because they can really open up your site, give you more function and help your site look and feel how you want it to. On WordPress.com the Business package lets you install compatible ones and then the big boy VIP lets you install plugins at a $5000 per month – Holy Moly!

Google Analytics
If you want to really know what your websites users are doing you should have Google Analytics installed and WordPress.com doesn’t let you use it on their free version. You are totally reliant on their stats that they collect, again higher packages it will let you.

What’s the other bits it can’t or won’t do?

Hmmm quite a few other things:

  • If they think at anytime your website is violating their T&C’s then it is a goner, they will delete it no questions asked and your site is like that toy in the reject bin, it’s never coming back.
  • Obviously WordPress.com are doing all the “work” in terms of hosting, what it looks like etc so naturally they are going to have their name at the bottom of your website.
  • If you want an online shop this is not the platform for you, you cannot create one on here.
  • If you want to have a membership site and sell courses, again not the platform for you.

 

So there we are the run down on WordPress.com.

The main reason people like it is because it’s free and cost’s less than having a “hosted” site – however the restrictions in capability and functions means to get what you want you’ll actually be paying out more in the long run than if you went hosted and got it designed by a professional. It’s always worth looking at the long term cost not short term gain when it comes to websites.

So now, the contender…

 

 

WordPress.org

You are reading this blog on a WordPress.org website. It is one that I designed and then built myself. I love WordPress.org I think it is a great platform, don’t get me wrong it frustrates me sometimes, as any website would do so I can see how if your website design knowledge is limited or even non existent how it would seem a super scary choice to look at.

This version of WordPress is where you would need to host it yourself, even on a server at home or pay a company to host the site. There are some wonderful sites out there like Siteground, however again do your research before just choosing one as some are pretty shocking. Now here’s the thing…

WordPress.org is absolutely FREE to use. The platform itself costs you nothing, all you are paying for is to have it hosting with a hosting provider ( and your website domain of course, again can be purchased through a provider).

Loads of people get confused and think WordPress.org will cost them thousands, nope, simply not true. The cost comes in like I said with:

  • Hosting Platform – generally about £120 per year
  • Domain – generally anything from £5 -£12 per year

The other cost would be if you decided to employ a website designer to design and build your site for you. But again this is a one off cost and then it’s done, you are only paying for the above, so actually it works out cheaper than some other website platforms with their monthly subscriptions (for life).

The Good

Flexibility & Control
Unlike WordPress.com this baby is all yours, you have full control, you can build a website completely from scratch using a framework theme or again find a free or paid for theme.You will be able to make it yours with better customisation options – YES!

Another huge point is that you own all the data on your website, unlike WordPress.com it won’t be turned off if you do something you shouldn’t be but you wouldn’t be doing that anyway, will you?

Plugins
You can add free, paid and custom Plugins to the website. These will enable you to enhance the features for you and for your audience, a brilliant one alone is Yoast SEO which enables you to take control of the SEO for your website pages and improve your visibility in Google and other search engines. Plugins can be anything from an Instagram, feed, a contact form, a newsletter sign up – the world is your oyster.

Themes
As said above there is a whole world of WordPress.org themes to choose from, paid and free and you can customise all the elements you want to so you have a site that is yours and not like a million other businesses who choose the same template.

If you do go down the route of designing and building the site yourself you can use a theme framework to enable you to do that, these are generally blank themes ready for you to get creative.

Analytics
There are so many Plugins that you could add to give you a wealth of analytics for your site, but also the main thing is that you can connect Google Analytics which is fantastic, the mother of all data hubs.

Integrations
You will find a lot more software programmes can integrate with WordPress.org i.e. Mailchimp for example. A lot clients I work with use Mailchimp because it is also free so this is perfect for pairing the two together.

Store & Memberships
Using Plugins like Woo-commerce you can turn your website into a fully functioning online store – hooray!! That’s right taking payments and everything – woop woop!

Also the same with if you are a coach for mums who want to start their own businesses and you want to sell online courses, you can create a membership site using WordPress.org and a plugin.There are loads of great ones out there to choose from, ones that will also let you customise making your site look seamless.

The Ugly

Updates
One of the biggest things that can put people off WordPress.org is the updates and it’s true you are responsible for making sure the updates to your theme, plugins and even WordPress itself happen otherwise you could find parts of your site not working how it should, but it is okay and there isn’t anything to be scared of because…

Back Ups
You are responsible for making your own back ups of the site so as long as you make regular back ups and do a back up before you do any updates, you should be okay.

It’s really easy to make back ups of your site because again there are Plugin’s for that. I personally use Updraft Plus and found them to be really good. I can connect the back up to go to my Dropbox account once a month.

 

So there it is, a run down of the two WordPress platforms and what makes them different. See, they have the same name but actually offer very different functions and capabilities. The important thing to remember whenever you are embarking on creating a website is to research the platform that will be right for you long term, don’t just think about upfront savings or quickness, you want something you can build on and that will last.

 

Websites: Where Do I Start

When starting a business there are so many things to consider and one of the biggest things is a website. With more and more people using the internet to find products and services a website is an integral part in order for your business to be found online.

I can appreciate that even thinking about a website can be overwhelming. Where do you start? What platform do you use? Well this post is all about helping you do just that, get started and I mean from the very beginning.

Platforms

Due to the boom over the last 10 years of entrepreneurs starting their own businesses there are now plenty of platforms on the market to help you create your website. However, which ones make the reward chart and which go in the Raggy dolls reject bin?

It’s important to shop around when it comes to platforms and really think long and hard about your decision. I’ll be doing a platform comparison post later in year to break down each of the market leaders for you, but for now think about the following:

Price

How much do they cost overall? Starting up means budgets can be limited however investing in your business and your website will pay dividends going forward. Also think about costs long term. Some platforms charge a monthly fee so you are looking at long term costs for your website, rather than a one off payment.

Features

What sort of features do you want? Do you need a shop where you can take payments or do you offer services and need just a few pages. Perhaps you’d like to give your customers some added value content (always advisable) and have a blog. Make a list of all the features you’d like so that when you are looking at platforms you can use your tick sheet.

Ease of use

For example you might need something that you can completely do yourself because you have the time and want to learn. Alternatively you could be in a time poor position where actually you’d prefer someone to get everything created for you. If going down the first route you want something that is easy to use, clear features and no complications.

Innovative design

Platforms that offer you an off the shelf solution where you can choose a template can be really handy however, keep in mind that there are going to be thousands of other businesses that also will choose this template and so you want to be able to make your business unique to you and that does go beyond changing colours and images.

Technical issues

It may seem weird to think about these in the beginning but it’s always good to look ahead. Some platform that use templates will have updates and this can often cause issues for your site, make sure you’re aware of potential problems before spending hours designing, you do not want downtime or have to repeat work. Also investigate their support network, if something does go wrong who can you turn to?

Packages

What do the packages include? Usually with some platforms you’ll find package options that means you’ll get certain features if you spend slightly more on the monthly cost.  Make sure you have a look at the breakdowns and understand what you’re getting.

The best thing to do is have a look at everything, don’t just rush in, think about what you really want from your site, think long term not necessarily short term and a quick win. This is a big investment in your business, no matter what platform or route you choose so make sure you give it the time it deserves.