Lots of students who study abroad decide to start a travel blog. I highly recommend it– it’s a great idea for so many reasons. It’s a place to record all of your adventures just after they happen, a fun way to keep your family and friends updated on all of the cool things you’ve been doing, and can even be used as a portfolio for your writing or photography once you get home. If you want to start a blog for your study abroad semester but don’t know how to, I’ll tell you how to get a blog up and running– it’s pretty easy with this guide.
1. Choose a name
What do you want your blog to be called? You could just call it your name, or you can get creative and choose something different and unique. Do a brainstorm of what you might like to call it, write them down, and once you’ve narrowed your options down to a few, you’ll want to do the following:
• See if the URL is already taken. Even if you’re not planning on getting a custom URL, you will need to be careful that you don’t have the same name as another blog or brand.
• Write the name out as one word to make sure you don’t end up with something inappropriate or strange, like WhoRepresents . com ….
• Check on social media to see if the corresponding handles have already been taken.
2. Choose a blogging platform
There are three different platforms that I recommend someone who’s just starting out with blogging to use.
The first is Blogger. It’s free, pretty easy to use, and also easy and quick to set up. The downsides are that if you want to tweak things, add special plug-ins or functionality, you may find it difficult as you don’t have as much access to the behind-the-scenes, or back-end, of your site.
WordPress.com is also free, simple to use and fairly easy to set up as well. It’s not much different than Blogger other than you may find some nicer themes to use, and overall some people will agree that it’s back end is more organized.
Self-hosted WordPress isn’t free, so you’d need to buy hosting and a domain name (which we’ll get into in a bit.) The upside is that you have so much more functionality than the first two options, meaning you can add some funky plug-ins on the sidebar, create posts that are more likely to show up in Google, and literally a MILLION other things. It’s not as easy to use, but if you get stuck there’s already a Youtube video out there showing you literally how to do anything you could possibly want with your site. The Abroad Guide and my own blog Love and London are both on self-hosted WordPress, and if you’re thinking you might want to continue blogging once you’re home or would like to use your blog as a portfolio for your photography, writing, or social media skills, it’s worth the investment. I’ve used GoDaddy for years and highly recommend getting your hosting there, as well as you domain name. Just visit the WordPress hosting page, choose the Basic package, and you’ll even get your domain name free.
3. Buy a custom URL
If you’ve chosen self-hosted WordPress for your blog, you’ll get a free domain from GoDaddy, but you can also purchase and use your own domain when using Blogger and WordPress.com, if you’d like. The advantage is that you can snag that URL early on, in case you want to use it in the future, but it isn’t completely necessary. Again, I recommend using GoDaddy to buy your URL.
4. Choose a theme
Now this is the fun part! There are SO many themes to choose from for your blog that you could be searching for days. I recommend deciding what kind of look you want (bright, modern, simple, etc.) and searching for themes with that in mind. If you don’t want to pay for your theme, then simply do a Google search like “Free Simplistic WordPress Themes” and you’ll find plenty of results. Once you’ve found one that you like, they’re fairly easy to install on your site.
The advantage of purchasing a theme is that it will probably look more professional and have more functionality than a free theme. You’ll also most likely be able to contact the theme creator in case something gets messed up on your blog, and they can try to fix it for you. I always use Themeforest to find WordPress themes, because you can narrow down your results by look, rating, and more. Themes start from $4.
5. Make a header image/logo
Some themes may come with a header design or logo already made for you. You can use that or create your own, which will make your blog more personal. Use Canva or Picmonkey to design a header, or ask one of your friends who does graphic design if they could whip something up for you.