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May 7, 2013

How to: Blog

This new adventure in blogging has spawned many in my life to question exactly how one goes about creating a website or blog, so I figured I would offer an insight into my process of building a new blog from the ground up.

Background Info:
To begin, this is not my first blog. I once started a knitting blog back in 2006 with a website called Blogspot and it was a whimsical endeavor to share my love of the fiber arts. It was maintained heavily for about a year but was eventually shelved due to crazy life events.  This first blog was created using Blogspot, which was perfect to me at the time, as my computer skills were quite limited. 

Eventually, Blogspot was bought out by Google and turned into Blogger (I'm a bit fuzzy on the exact details of this takeover). My experiences with both Blogspot/Blogger have always been very favorable (more on that in a minute). 

Jump ahead to about a year ago, I found myself creating two blogs: one to promote my collaboration as a product ambassador for SpiritHoods, and one as a personal collaboration with a friend and fellow SLP.  Both of these blogs were created and maintained using Typepad (details below).  Eventually, my partnership with SpiritHoods ended, so that blog was sadly shelved, and the collaborative blog was likewise shelved, mainly as a result of costs associated with Typepad. 

Blog Information: 
Please note that the below information is not exhaustive; it is merely an overview of my experiences and opinions in using various blog tools. 

This is a widely-used blogging/website tool that has a clean interface, organized features, and offers a streamlined blogging experience. Many of the "powerhouse" popular blogs out there in Internet-land use Typepad.  
Pros: free trial, clean and easy to follow interface, offers professional-grade templates, customizable features, help support, blogging app available for Android and Apple devices
Cons: cost (free 14 day trial but afterwards plans start at $8+ a month based on features needed), setup with a custom domain and Google search engine access is tricky for novice users

This is another popular blogging tool used by many writers. Since it was acquired by Google, it can be easily integrated with Google+ accounts and the Google search engine. 
Pros: free, can easily purchase a custom domain for your blog using the Google wallet partnership with Go Daddy services, easy to use interface, app for smartphones, automatically added to Google's search engine platform
Cons: limited in-stock templates, settings and options might be confusing to someone new to blogging

3. Weebly
Weebly is another blogging tool that offers a very easy-to-use interface with simple drag and drop actions to customize the look and feel that the writer wishes to portray. 
Pros: super easy to use, variety of templates, great for beginners, free
Cons: free accounts have ads (an ad-less account starts around a few $ a month)

Blogging tools this reviewer has not utilized:
The following sites are additional options to consider; however, I have not used or experienced them personally--they are merely referenced in an attempt to be comprehensive in offering options.

Tools that are a blogger's best friend:

PicMonkey : LOVE the site!!! Free photo editing, collage options, fun photo borders, graphics
Etsy : search Etsy ('blogger template') for adorable, customizable, and one-of-a-kind templates (that's where I got mine!!)
GoDaddy : buy your custom URL domain name here, if desired
Pinterest : lots of blogs listed here, come explore and be inspired!

To create this blog, I first created a free account with Blogger. Next, I wanted to customize my blog with a template NOT from Bloggers predetermined options, so I scoured Etsy for the blog template I felt the most drawn to. I purchased the template and followed the enclosed instructions on how to install the new template (super easy to do). Last, I used the option Google/Blogger offered me in purchasing a custom domain URL through their partnership with GoDaddy (again, easy to do and only $9 a year for the custom URL). I have no additional fees to use Blogger, so my total cost was $29 ($9 for URL, $20 for my custom template). Of course you could opt for all in-house options and still be able to blog completely cost free! (A welcome feat since previously I had maintained the 2 blogs mentioned above for $14 every month) Yippie!! 

That's it for now. Hopefully this blog information primer will serve as a good source of information for new bloggers! It may seem intimidating but I promise it gets easier with practice. 
Happy blogging!