THE BLOG

The Beginner's Guide to Starting a Blog in 2016 - And How It Could Boost Your Creativity, Career and Business

14/12/2015 10:33 GMT | Updated 11/12/2016 10:12 GMT

Starting your own blog can be a daunting experience for the uninitiated.

Just a cursory google search will unload an avalanche of options, that would leave any aspiring blogger overwhelmed, confounded and justifiably deterred.

Fortunately setting up a blog these days is easier than ever, and you definitely don't need to be a programming genius with prodigious mastery of code to get the job done.

Blogging can be a great way to indulge a passion, express creativity or simply share your interests on a personal level.

But it is also an effective way to establish your online presence, whether you are already running a business or wish to developing your own brand as an individual.

The chances are prospective employers will Google you in order to gather information and assess your viability as a prospective employee.

CareerBuilder's annual recruitment study found that the number of employers using the web to screen applicants had risen from 39% in 2013 to 43% in 2014, and to 52% this year.

Sixty percent reported they were looking for evidence that supported a candidate's qualifications, while 56% want to see if the candidate had a professional online persona.

A blog can go a long way to defining your professional identity, and provide the perfect digital stage on which to showcase your skills, achievements and experience.

If you are an entrepreneur already running your own business, a blog can help direct traffic to your website - frequent posts indicate that a site is active, and this will increase the chances of it being picked up by search engines.

Given that web searches are now one of the most popular ways to look for a business or service, this can be the equivalent of obtaining a prime location on the virtual high street.

So if you're on the verge of starting up a blog, what's the first step?

Firstly, you will need to find a website and platform to host your blog.

There are plenty of free options available offered by companies like Blogger, WordPress, Weebly and Wix.

These free of charge hosts are perfectly sufficient for those just starting out, who have no experience of blogging and simply want to test the digital waters.

Once you feel comfortable with a certain host and platform, you will need to choose a domain name - the website address of your blog. Usually with a free host, your choice of domain name will be limited to a URL that includes the name of the host.

For some, this is a totally acceptable compromise.

For others, particularly those more oriented towards business branding and conscientious of projecting a more professional image, owning your own domain name is the preferred option, and if you want to go down this route it is most likely money will have to part hands.

Depending on requirements, this can still be relatively inexpensive.

There are some clear advantages to using a subscription based host - a reputable web host will make sure that your content is backed up regularly, give you full rights to recover content for any reason and also offer customer support to assist with any glitches.

Most hosting services support the major blogging platforms - WordPress, Ghost, Drupal, Joomla - and will simplify the process of creating content with easy-to-use, one-click options.

This will allow you a repertoire of functions, from simple things like creating a contact form to complex task like adding e-commerce dimensions.

There are also a wide array of themes that allow you to control the aesthetic style of your blog - different fonts, images and layout.

The visual appeal of a blog is not simply a question of taste - different kinds of blogs will require different aesthetics. For example, an image-oriented photography blog will need a different kind of layout to a text-based journalistic, diary style blog.

So whether you want to follow a personal passion, boost a business or enhance your professional profile, starting a blog can be a valuable exercise.

For those who feel trepidation at the prospect, it's probably a lot easier than you anticipate.

And if you need a little inspiration - this very site started out as a blog when it was launched ten years ago by Ariana Huffington.

By 2011, it was worth US$315 million and today it is the top ranking blog site in both the UK and the US.

As Mr Dryden once said in Lawrence of Arabia, "big things have small beginnings".