I’ve recently seen a lot of teachers on Twitter asking for advice on starting a blog. I leap for joy hearing that there are so many out there who also want to share their ideas, because I have gotten many great ideas from other bloggers that have saved me a ton of planning time. I’ve had teachers ask me for tips in years past, but never really knew what to say. I’ve been collecting notes the past week about everything I wish I knew before I began blogging, as well as other helpful tips. I’m sharing them with the hope that these will help someone who is wanting to start their own blog.
Here is what I think a lot of people will find helpful:
- Think about the purpose of your blog, as well as the audience you would like to reach. My primary audience is other Spanish teachers because that’s my passion, but I’m happy if I can help other world language educators. My personal goals are to use my blog to help other world language teachers and organize my own thoughts/materials in a reflective manner. Others have carved out quite a niche for themselves. There are various CI bloggers, bloggers who share a LOT of reading activities, those who highlight a song each week, and there are even bloggers that are famous because they hyperlink to their favorite ideas for the week.
- Make the most of categories or hashtags (whichever your system works on). They are especially handy when you write a blog post series (like when I blog each day’s lesson plan for a culture unit), when your readers want to find other ideas on your blog, and categories also help me focus what I write about. Sometimes I want to write a post that doesn’t fit into a category I already have. I then think long and hard about if that post is worth writing and if I should add the category to my list or not.
- Appearance matters. Readers are naturally drawn to trendy looking blogs. It’s no surprise as the internet’s friend, the novel, learned that books are actually indeed judged by their cover. That’s why people get paid to design book covers! Some general observations I’ve made recently: Bright colors do not make good titles or hyperlinks because people have a hard time reading them; don’t use a cursive font – some people don’t know how to read it; blogs with tile homepages are really popular now, and people tend to prefer when there’s a picture included versus no picture. Study what you consider popular blogs and try to pick a similar, yet distinct, style for your own.
- People will steal your ideas and present them as their own. This was a very hard concept for me to wrap my head around when I began blogging. Even though it’s hard, I try to keep in mind that imitation is the highest form of flattery.
- Hyperlinking is the new Works Cited/References page. Not only does it allow you to quickly give credit to others, but it opens new connections for you. That other person quite often is notified that you’ve linked to their work and will follow you back. Often, it creates a web of sorts that connects your blog post to theirs – making it easier for others who are reading your work to find similar ideas.
- Branding is very important in the beginning – especially if you plan to use various platforms. It makes it easier for your readers to identify your blog, your Twitter account, your Teachers Pay Teachers account, etc. I find that people who use their names blog as a hobby, while bloggers who don’t use their names tend to have commercial aspects tied to their blogs. The latter could be consultants, have high ambitions of making money on Teachers Pay Teachers, etc. However, pseudonyms are great if you want to protect your identity and you can create a really fun name.
Here is what I wish I had known earlier:
- Copyrighting. I find copyright the scariest topic on this list. Copyright covers everything from intellectual ideas to images to derivative (creating something off of something that is copyrighted) works. This is why I’ve stopped using images from Google searches on my website, and instead create my own through Picmonkey. There are websites that allow you to search for usable images, but you’re not even guaranteed that the person who uploaded it has the right to do so. It’s terrifying! As for my own work that I create and share here (or sell on my Teachers Pay Teachers account), to my understanding simply putting “Copyright 2015 Dentlinger” does not mean I own that copyright. There is a legal process to go through and get the copyright. Creative Commons is a great place to begin exploring copyright issues. Educate yourself so that you do not get into trouble!
- Understand image details. On WordPress, you can insert images and define a featured image. When you create the media, it will ask you to create a Title, Caption, Alt Text, and Description for the image. I never really knew what these were for, and began to wonder why I’d have random text like use this one! beneath Pinterest pins from my blog. I’ve now figured out that Pinterest pulls from one of those categories (Title, Caption, Alt Text, and Description), and follow a neater format. I put Blog Post Title | Shared by Elizabeth Dentlinger on sradentlinger.wordpress.com. I put the blog post title so that people know what it was about, but then I include my website so that the pin will be pulled up when people search Pinterest for my blog. If I have borrowed an idea from someone, I include it both in the image I create and in the text that accompanies it. As far as I can tell, the Title text is what gets pulled when someone wants to forward, pin, or post in Facebook. The Caption is what goes below the image in my post, the Alt Text is what is displayed if the image doesn’t fully load or for tech that helps the blind, and truth be told I’m not sure what the Description is for.
- Storage host. Figure out what you want to do for the resources you share. Most blogs will let you host storage on their site, but this will quickly eat up your storage. I recommend picking one storage site (like Dropbox, Google Drive, Sky Drive, or Evernote) to host your documents and sticking with it. I began using some Dropbox, some Google Drive, and hosted some on my website and it’s too hard for me to remember what I used when a teacher asks me for/about the resource. I have started using Google Drive, as my school is becoming a Google school and it simply makes life easier. However, I know I need to go back through and clean-up older posts.
If you’re a blogger, would you add anything to this list? Tell me below!
As a future blogger, do you still have questions about blogging? Let me know and I will do my best to help you out!