Wondering how to start an eco-friendly or ethical blog? Let me talk you through everything you need to consider.
Moral Fibres quietly turned two this month and as part of reaching this milestone, I thought I’d cover something a bit different today. One email I often get in my inbox is from readers asking advice on how to set up and start a green or ethical blog.
Given the interest, I thought I’d address these questions in a mini-series about green and ethical blogging over the next few weeks.
Decide On The Focus Of Your Ethical Blog
First things first, before you can even think about starting an eco-blog, you need to decide what you want to blog about.
Pick An Ethical Blog Theme
It doesn’t matter if the focus of your ethical blog changes over time, but it’s best to have a rough idea of what you want to blog about. Have a think to see if you can keep finding topics and ideas to blog about on that particular theme. Want to start a blog about your favourite vegetarian recipes, and have 20 really good recipes up your sleeve? What are you going to do once you’ve blogged about your 20 recipes? Could you keep making new recipes? It’s good to think about these things before you start!
Most of my favourite blogs write on a particular theme – e.g. Oh, Ladycakes blogs about vegan baking. Therefore, I always know what to expect when I visit the sites. Likewise, I keep the theme of Moral Fibres to green and ethical living. Otherwise, you’d be a bit confused if you came on here one day and were talking about sports cars, or my ten favourite high street fast fashion finds.
Don’t get too hung up if you don’t have a specific theme for your ethical blog. Some people just blog about their daily life and that kind of blog can be fascinating. The blog Junkaholique does this really well. It just might be helpful to have some kind of focus for your blog so that your readers know what to expect when they visit. Having a specific theme is also helps you decide what to blog about each time you sit down to write.
Pick A Blog Name
Now that you’ve got a theme, you need a name. It’s best to pick a blog name that reflects the focus of your ethical blog before setting up your blog. This is because you’ll need a blog name for your blog address!
I’d recommend picking something short and snappy. Long names are harder to remember for readers who might have found your blog once and are trying to remember the name so they can visit again!
It can be hard to settle on the right name. Make a list of your favourites and then search the internet just in case there are sites with the same name. Really stuck? Blogging under your own name is a good option.
Pick A Blogging Platform
Now that you’ve got your theme and name sorted out, the next step in starting an ethical blog is picking a blog platform. There are quite a few different blogging platforms out there.
If you’re completely new to eco-blogging then I’d definitely go down the hosted blogging platform route. It’s a nice easy and cheap – often free – route into starting an ethical blog without having to learn any technical web stuff.
1) Hosted Blogging Platforms
The most popular blogging platforms are probably WordPress and Blogger.
I started off eco-blogging on Blogger. Blogger is free and really easy to use. So much so, that you can set up a blog in minutes. It’s not particularly customisable. However, if you just want an ethical blog and don’t want to do anything fancy then it’s really user-friendly. It’s a great way to dip your toes into blogging without any financial outlay or running costs.
With WordPress, you can get a WordPress hosted wordpress.com account or a self-hosted wordpress.org account. I appreciate this may sound like a foreign language to you, and you might be wondering if there is much difference between a .com and a .org WordPress account. Trust me, there is a huge difference!
WordPress.com works a lot like Blogger, where you can set up an ethical blog in minutes free of charge. There are no running costs involved and quite a few free ‘themes’ to choose from. This allows you to change the look of your blog without any knowledge of HTML! It’s also great for beginners looking at starting an ethical blog for the first time.
There are also quite a few other blogging platforms such as Squarespace and Typepad (which has a small monthly fee). I don’t have any experience of these, but I’d imagine they’re broadly similar to wordpress.com or Blogger.
2) Self Hosting
I’ve gone down the self-hosted route for Moral Fibres and have a wordpress.org account. Wordpress.org itself is free, but you need to buy a domain name and pay for web hosting and find a theme for your ethical blog.
It sounds complicated and indeed it can be a little tricky at times if you’re not technically minded. The good thing is that once you’re over that initial hurdle of getting set up then thankfully it should be plain sailing!
I have to add here that my partner is a graphic and web designer so I got (and get!) a lot of free expert help. If you’re not good at this kind of thing, and aren’t lucky enough to have someone computer savvy in your life then it might be worth paying someone to help you get set up.
There are a few things you need to consider when going down the self-hosting route.
For self-hosted ethical blogs you need to buy a domain name. This is the address of your blog. Mine is moralfibres.co.uk. I bought mine from 123-reg. The name you pick and the ending (e.g. .com, .co.uk, .org, .org.uk) will determine the price you pay. You might be looking at around £15 a year or so depending on the name and ending.
For self-hosted eco blogs, you also need to buy web hosting. Not sure what web hosting is? Web hosts allocate space on a web server for a website to store its files. They then make all the files that comprise a website (the code, images, etc.) available for viewing online.
There are heaps of different web hosts out there, including web hosts for ethical and eco bloggers that say they are environmentally friendly. Here’s a round-up of some of the best ones. Depending on your plan, web hosting could be around £30 a year.
A theme is how your blog looks. There are some free basic ones available through WordPress.
If you want your eco blog to look a certain way, then you can buy themes. I bought a paid for one from the Themeforest marketplace- mine is Le Tour (affiliate links).
There are so many different themes to choose from at a very reasonable price (roughly $45/£30), and you purchase them directly from the developer. Most theme developers also provide pretty good support as part of your purchase. I’m on my second theme now and each developer has been great at providing technical support!
You can also buy themes through Etsy* (affiliate link) – there are lots of lovely looking ones on there for an average of about £20/£25.
My advice is to look for one that is responsive (scales down to work effectively on mobile devices and tablets). When Moral Fibres first started 20% of my traffic was from smartphones and tablets – now it’s more than 50% – so it’s important that your site works with your readers devices.
Within your theme, you can install widgets. These are plugins that you can download from WordPress that have a specific functionality.
I have various widgets. From anti-spam widgets, to a special Google Analytics widget that tells me how many visitors the site gets. Most widgets are free so you can download and install them and have a play about to see if they are for you. This is the bit I love most about WordPress – there are literally thousands of different widgets, so you can really customise your blog and get it doing and looking exactly how you want it to!
Now you’re all set up you’re ready to start eco blogging! Do check out the rest of the posts in my series. The next is on how to write an ethical blog post, and the final installment is how to promote your ethical blog post.
If you’ve got any questions about setting up a blog or are looking for further advice drop me a comment below and I’ll endeavour to answer it as best I can. I’m not that hot on the technical stuff though, but I can try!!