I have been asked what things I should know about before I start a genealogy blog. Well for genealogists, there are 5 things to decide on before you start your genealogy blog.
Why do you want to start a genealogy blog?
Before you start your blog, you should determine why you want to start a genealogy blog. This will help you to focus the vision of your blog so that you don’t get distracted in your blogging. Ask yourself these questions.
A) Do you want to start a blog because everyone else is doing it?
B) Do you want to start a blog to memorialize your family history and make it available to other family members?
C) Do you want to start a blog for yourself and use it as a research log?
D) Do you want to start a blog for the most popular reason, cousin bait?
Except for A), any of the other answers are good reasons to start a blog. By determining your reason, it will help you focus your writing and help you focus with the aesthetics of your blog. For me, I first started blogging just for me and to use it as a research log, but I soon realized that I wanted to use it for other reasons including to memorialize my family history and as cousin bait. When I changed my focus of my blog, I also changed the focus of my writing and it has made me a better writer.
What will you blog about?
What will you blog about? Well this is almost a given and understandable that as a genealogist, you would want to blog about your family. However, you might want to consider focusing on who you want to be blogging about. For example, you can focus on the descendants of a particular set of ancestors, or on a surname project (focusing on one surname and everyone is your family tree with that name) or just blogging about your whole family tree? This should be the second decision you make before actually starting your blog.
When will you blog?
Finding the time is also very important to determine before you actually start your blog. I did not do that and for a while I was posting to my blog here and there. I wasn’t consistent about when I posted to my blog. So take out your planner or print out a monthly calendar. First list all of the holidays for that month if they are not included, then list all of your commitments you have agreed to including doctor’s appointments, parties, visits with the family, and anything else you do during the month. Then list any work hours you may keep. Once you have done this for the month, go to your weekly page of your planner or print one out. Using the monthly calendar, put your appointments and commitments in the weekly in the appropriate time slots. This view will show you when you have time available during the week. Look at my monthly and weekly planner pages.
You will see that my monthly looks busy, but all items written in pencil are blog post topics that I am planning. I use pencil so that I can change it on the fly. My weekly view is very revealing. You will see my work hours in pink (I work a full-time, 9 to 5 job) and the green is the time I have blocked off to work on writing blog posts or website maintenance. Keep in mind I am writing blog posts for my two blogs, maintaining my two blog websites, plus I am the webmaster and maintain two more non-profit websites. So in order for me to stay on top of all things, I need this type of planning and scheduling. It works for me, find what works for you and fit your blog duties into your schedule. It can be done and you can do this!
Which platform will you use for your blog?
When determining which platform you will use, there several to consider. StartBloggingOnline has a great comparison of the top blogging platforms for you to consider including pros and cons. I started this blog on WordPress.com. My original website address was MyGenealogyObsession.wordpress.com and I have been there for a little over 5 years. Because I wanted more control over my website and wanted to start looking more professional as a blogger, I switched to the self-hosted WordPress.org. This gave me more creativity with my website which I love. If you’re coming to the self-hosted WordPress.org for the first time and have never blogged before, then there will be a little bit of a learning curve for you. But if you started off on WordPress.com then switched to WordPress.org, you will find it easier for you as the dashboard is the same format and a lot of things are very similar. Once you decide whether to have your website self-hosted or not, you will need to determine your domain name (i.e. your web address) which is usually your blog name too. For my blog, My Genealogy Obsession, my domain name is MyGenealogyObsession.com. I had to pay for that name and I purchased it from GoDaddy. The BestCompany.com has a comparison of domain registrars that are compiled from actual consumer reviews. You can check it out here. I have not had any issues with GoDaddy so I would recommend them. Also, whether it is your first time or not, I highly recommend the self-hosted WordPress.org.
Who will you use to host your blog?
Hosting is the last decision you have to make before starting your blog. As with the platforms and the domain registrars, there are many hosting services to choose from. PCMag has a good comparison of their top 10 and you can read about it here.
Although I used GoDaddy to purchase my domain name, I didn’t use them for hosting my website. I used HostGator. I have had a few issues with them and am considering switching my hosting needs to another company. Right now I am looking at Bluehost as I have heard a lot of good things about them and at the last SCGS Jamboree last June, I asked a lot of my Geneablogger who they use and many of them recommended Bluehost. I didn’t switch to Bluehost when I had my issues with HostGator because I had just renewed my hosting services with HostGator just a month earlier.
So there you have it. I hope that this is useful in helping you to determine whether or not you want to start your own genealogy blog.
What am I missing on my list of decisions that need to be made before you start a genealogy blog? Please comment below, I will read and respond to all comments.