A blog, as you are probably already aware is a website or page that is typically updated fairly regularly. These updates referred to as posts are time-stamped and are usually written in an informal/conversational format. Blogs are often managed by one person but can also be collaborative.
So what are the benefits of starting a blog as a student or researcher?
Blogging provides a fantastic place for you to display your knowledge about a particular subject area that interests you. This doesn’t have to be your academic degree, however, in terms of employability its beneficial for you if the subject you primarily write about does somehow link to your desired career path or industry. You may have little to no working experience within your field, so this is a great opportunity for you to establish yourself as an expert on your subject as well as displaying passion and personality. As a student, if you haven’t already started, now is the perfect time for you to begin creating and writing your own blog site.
This is all part of forming and managing your digital footprint (what you leave behind on the internet, for example, if someone googles you, what do they see?). A good blog can set you apart from the competition as it can show off a number of desirable skills that employers are looking for such as social media skills and written communication. It gives an employer the opportunity to learn about you and your opinions before they ever meet you. Beyond that you will continue learning more about areas like search engine optimisation or website customization, perhaps even writing some code. Self-improvement and personal development are not only beneficial to you but employers will also value these traits. And of course writing about a topic will inevitably help you learn more about that topic whilst developing your critical reasoning skills.
Writing and sharing your blog also provides a great opportunity to network and meet new people. Engaging with this audience could potentially lead to all sorts of possibilities, ranging from job opportunities to collaboration on projects. If you are a research student, blogging is also a good way to develop ownership of your research area and to connect to other researchers in your field.
Step 1 – Choosing a platform
WordPress.org vs Tumblr vs WordPress.com
There are a few other options available but the three listed here are by far the most popular. Having looked at the pros and cons of each, I recommend hosting your own site with your own URL and going with the more powerful WordPress variant (.org). This gives you much more customization, security and branding power, when compared to the others whilst maintaining scalability, should your blog become a hit, however, there is a small cost.
Step 2 – Naming your blog
Now we have selected a platform you need to come up with a domain name (this is the URL that you purchase), this could be your own name if it is available or something related to the sector you have decided to write about. Bear in mind this may be someone’s first impression of you so think about it for a while before making your selection, it should be short, snappy and professional. Ideally try and get a “.com”, “.net”, “.org” or “.co.uk”. If these aren’t available it’s probably worth re-thinking your domain so you can use them. One useful tool you can take advantage of is Looka, this will allow you to enter 2-3 keywords and generate a bunch of potential URLs alongside their availability. Be careful with your keyword selection though as this will affect your search engine optimisation (e.g. how often your website will appear in searches online). Once you have selected your domain and confirmed it is available, your next step is to shop around for the best price to buy it.
Step 3 - Selecting a domain provider / host
The best advice I can give you is to shop around for the best deal you can get as prices on domain names/hosting packages are always changing and providers constantly have different deals available. It’s also worth remembering that you don’t need to buy hosting from the same place you bought your domain.
However, there are a few things worth bearing in mind when selecting a hosting provider. For example, for ease of use, it would be ideal if the host provided 1 click WordPress installation (however if this isn't an option, see below for advice on installing and using WordPress). You can think of this as a website installation wizard, there are a few pages to click through where you enter some information / create a word press admin account but when you are done you will have a fully live website on your URL ready for customisation.
N.B. If you are struggling with your word press installation, because WordPress is so widely used, you will find a wealth of documentation and information online. You may find this Installing WordPress Guide useful.
Step 4 - Writing your first blog post
Now you’re all set and your website is live, it’s time to write your very first post. Your first post should be introductory, you want to explain who you are, what you intend to write about and why you decided to start a blog. Beyond that you want to lay out who your blog is for (eg who is your target audience) and what you wish to achieve by writing this blog.