How to Start a Student Blog
Creating your own student blog is simple, and can have many benefits during your high school and college years. A student blog can serve as a way to document your adventures for faraway family, or even be a means to highlight your professional skills for future employers. In this step-by-step guide, you’ll learn how to start a student blog, plus get tips for choosing a platform, producing content, and promoting your blog.
Why Should You Start a Student Blog?
While blogging is fun and rewarding, it requires time and energy. Having a clear goal and passion for your blog is essential to staying motivated. So if you haven’t already, take time to clarify your reasons for starting a student blog, and what your expectations are.
Consider these common reasons why students start blogs, and see if any resonate with you.
- Grow a professional skill set: Blogging is a great way to proactively learn some of the most in-demand professional skills, including written communication, creativity, time management, affiliate marketing, social media, and more.
- Create a portfolio: Running a blog that’s related to your intended career path demonstrates to potential employers that you’re knowledgeable and enthusiastic about the field, and can help you stand out during the hiring process.
- Share your knowledge and experiences: High school and college is a time of significant growth and learning, and it’s likely that many other students can relate to your experiences, whether they are uplifting, challenging, or simply observations of student life.
- Build an online community and network: With a blog, you can reach people beyond your campus, helping you build social and professional networks.
- Promote a student organization: A blog can help you publicize departments, organizations or events, and engage with your target audience.
- Fulfill an assignment: Perhaps you have a project where you can get creative with the format; a blog is a unique way to showcase new theoretical and practical knowledge.
6 Steps to Starting a Student Blog
1. Choose Your Blog’s Topic
Assuming you already have a general idea for your blog, here are some questions to consider as you refine your blog’s topic:
- What is my blog’s purpose? Being as specific as possible, write a sentence or two encapsulating what your blog is about. This can help you solidify your topic.
- Why do I want to blog about this topic? Once you’ve identified your blog’s topic, clarify for yourself why this is the subject on which you want your blog to focus.
- What qualifies me to blog about this subject? Reflect on why you should be the person to blog about this topic. Qualifications don’t necessarily mean a high level of expertise about a topic, but can include passion, exploration, or a unique perspective.
- Can I see myself blogging about this topic for the foreseeable future? Unless you’re starting your blog with the intention of it being a temporary venture, think about whether your chosen topic has longevity, and if you’ll still want to blog about it a year or more into the future.
- Who is my target audience? Knowing who you’re blogging for informs the tone and style of your blog.
- Do similar blogs exist already? It’s a good sign if there are similar blogs because it indicates an audience for your niche. Your job is to determine what unique knowledge or perspective will distinguish your blog from the rest.
2. Select a Blog Title and Domain Name
Once you’ve settled on your blog’s topic, you’re ready to give it a title and a domain name.
Your blog title is simply the name of your blog, while your domain name is the web address that people type into their browser’s address bar to visit your blog. In the example below, “yourblogtitle.com” is the domain name.
Ideally, your blog title and domain name are the same because it makes it easier for people to find your blog. When choosing your blog title and domain name, be sure to pick something that’s descriptive, relatively short, and easy to spell and remember.
You also need to be sure that your blog title and domain name aren’t taken by another site. A quick internet search of the blog title you’re considering should show if a website already exists with the same name. To find out if a domain name is available, visit a domain registrar site and search for your preferred domain name. A domain name can only be registered to one user at a time, so you may need to pivot if your first choice is taken.
3. Pick a Blogging Platform and Web Host
The next important decision to make when creating a student blog is what type of blogging platform you’ll use and where you’ll host your blog. There are many options to choose from, but they generally fall into two categories: content management systems (CMS) and website builders.
- A CMS is a software that lets users create and manage a website without needing advanced coding skills. The most popular CMS is WordPress, a free, open-source CMS that powers 38% of websites and blogs. WordPress users should note that if they create a blog through this platform, they will need to acquire web hosting separately, which typically costs money. A web host provides the physical server space and digital infrastructure where your blog lives.
- A website builder is a program that provides customizable templates with all of the essential elements for creating a website, usually with a drag-and-drop editing interface. Popular website builder platforms include Squarespace, Weebly, and Wix. With website builders, web hosting is included.
Whether you choose WordPress or a website builder is a matter of personal preference. One is not inherently better than the other, and both have their pros and cons. To help you decide, we’ll take a brief look at both.
Pros and Cons of WordPress
|>Gives the most control over site design and functionality||>Form editor has a learning curve for some users|
|>Free to download and use||>Must purchase web hosting separately|
|>Easier to change hosting providers later on|
Pros and Cons of Website Builders
|>User-friendly interface; most use a drag-and-drop editor||>Slightly less control over design and functionality|
|>No coding skills needed||>Switching web hosts means rebuilding blog from scratch|
|>Web hosting is bundled|
What to Look for in a Web Host or Website Builder
Web hosting providers and website builders have certain factors in common that you’ll need to pay careful attention to while shopping for them. Here are the attributes you need to learn:
- Storage space and bandwidth: These are the measures of how much data you are allowed to store on your server, and how much data can be transferred between your blog and your visitors.
- Uptime: This refers to the amount of time your blog is online and accessible to visitors. Most web hosts and site builders promise an uptime of 99.9% in their SLA. It’s best to verify that with an independent third-party audit, such as HRANK.
- Security: Look for web hosts or website builders that offer security measures like SSL certificates, virus and malware protection, and firewalls.
- Free domain registration: Users have to pay to register their domain name, but as a perk for new users, many web hosts and website builders provide a free domain name registration for an introductory period, typically one year.
- Available upgrades: As a new blogger, you can start out with the most basic plan, on a shared server with limited resources. However, it’s good to have the option to upgrade, so if your blog becomes popular, your web host or website builder can grow with you.
What to Know About Free Hosting Plans and Website Builders
As you research web hosts and website builders, you may come across some companies offering free plans. This can be tempting, especially if you are trying to start your blog as cheaply as possible. But free hosting or website builders typically offer limited resources, and a lower quality of customer service and security than paid plans.
If you’re dabbling in blogging, or creating a temporary student blog as part of a school project, a free plan may be sufficient. However, if you’re envisioning your blog as a long-term project with growth potential, investing in a paid web host or website builder plan is probably the way to go.
The good news is, many web hosts and website builders offer free or discounted student plans, including these companies:
Free Web Hosting
Free Website Builders
4. Register Your Domain Name and Create Your Account
You can register your blog’s domain name at any time through a domain name registrar like GoDaddy, Namecheap, or Domain.com, but if you wait until you sign up with a web host or website builder, you may be able to register your domain name for free.
The steps you take at this point differ based on whether you build your blog with WordPress, or a website builder. If you’re using WordPress, you will need to install the software. Many web hosts come with WordPress pre-installed, or offer simple, one-click installation. Follow the instructions provided by your web host for installing WordPress.
If you’re using a website builder, you will have access to all the tools you need to start creating your blog once you sign up for a plan. Website builders are web-based platforms, so you do not need to download or install any kind of software.
5. Customize Your Blog
Both WordPress and website builders offer thousands of free and paid themes and templates that create the foundation for your blog’s design. Browse through your chosen platform’s offerings to find one best fits the subject and tone of your blog. For example, if your blog topic is funny stories about student life aimed at other students, a fun, colorful theme is suitable. However, if you’re building your blog to showcase your skills to potential employers, stick with something professional and polished.
The type of content you plan on publishing can also help guide which type of theme or template you use. If your blog is text-heavy, look for a theme that makes content readable and organized. For image-heavy blogs, pick a theme that showcases media elements.
Unlike websites, which may include multiple pages, blogs can be relatively simple. Your home page will be where you publish your blog posts. You can also add an “About” page, to introduce yourself to your visitors, and a “Contact” page, so users can send you messages and sign up for notifications when new posts are available. You may also choose to create a subscriber list for newsletters, as a way to engage with your visitors (more on this in the next section).
You may also choose to personalize your template or theme with apps and plug-ins. These are widgets that users install, either on the back-end to improve things like search engine optimization and security, or on the front-end for things like form builders, calendars, archives, social media, and more. You can install apps and plug-ins at any time.
6. Publish and Promote Your Student Blog
Once you’ve set up your blog, it’s time to start publishing content and growing your audience.
If you haven’t already, establish how often you will publish new posts. There are a lot of opinions about how often bloggers should publish new content, and you likely have your own factors influencing how much content you can publish in a given time period. In general, you want to balance quality with quantity. Fewer posts of higher quality will get positive attention, while posting new content at regular intervals will keep readers coming back for more.
Speaking of readers, you’ll need to promote your blog in order to attract them. Here are some steps you can take to make that happen:
- Social media: In addition to posting links to your blog on your own Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest pages, create accounts specifically for your blog. This will help you build your blog as its own brand, and reach users beyond your own social circles.
- SEO: Search engine optimization (SEO) is what helps content rank highly in search engines like Google. Ensuring that your site loads quickly and is naturally infused with the right keywords can improve your site’s organic search rankings. Free keyword research tools like Keyword Explorer and Answer the Public can help you find the right keywords.
- Guest blogging: Guest blogging, either by writing for someone else’s site, or having an outside blogger write for your site, can help you attract new audiences. Look for bloggers with similar sites, and reach out about doing some cross-promotion.
- Email subscriber lists: Once a reader finds their way to your site, you want to keep them coming back. One way to do this by capturing their email, and creating email blasts for new posts, exclusive content, and other updates.