Part of the beauty of a blog is how quickly and easily you can get going. You can go from zero to blog in about ten minutes by using good blog software, especially if you go with hosted blog software. One such blogging option is Blogger, which is the focus of this article. I show you how to set up a blog with Blogger, write and publish blog posts by using its interface, manage your settings, and customize your template to make your space on the web unique.
You can’t find a better place to test the blogging waters than Blogger (www.blogger.com). It’s free, fast, and easy to use. Because you can get started so easily, you can use Blogger to play with code and discover how blogging works without having to invest a lot of time and energy in web servers and complicated installation processes.
Blogger promises to get you blogging in three steps: Create an account, name your blog, and choose a template.
Each hosted blog software platform has a different process for getting started, but each one requires the same kind of information: your contact information and a name for your blog.
Below are the steps to create a blog on Blogger.
1. Creating an account
In order to sign up with Blogger, you must first have a Google account.
To sign up for Blogger while also creating a Google account, follow these steps:
- Direct your web browser to www.blogger.com.
- Click Create Your Blog.
- Fill in the requested new Google account information, including selecting a username. Click Next to continue. Take note that your username is not necessarily the same as your blog name, but it can be.
- Fill in the additional requested information and click Next to continue.
- Agree to Google’s Privacy and Terms.
- Create your Blogger profile by creating a display name and clicking Continue to Blogger.
- Click Create New Blog.
To sign up for Blogger using an existing Google account, follow these steps:
- Point your web browser to the Blogger home page.
- Click Sign In in the upper-right corner of the page. A password field appears.
- Fill in your Google account password and click Sign In.
- Click Create New Blog, and then check out the following sections in this article
2. Naming your blog
After you have signed into your Google account, it’s time to choose a name for your blog. If you’re creating a blog that you plan to actually use, give a lot of thought to the name that you choose. Your blog name needs to accurately portray your blog’s tone and content. If you plan to use this blog as a test space, don’t worry too much about choosing a name that has a lot of meaning, but be sure you choose something that you can remember!
To name your Blogger blog, follow these steps:
- Type the name of your blog in the Title text box.
- Decide what phrase you want to use in your URL and type it in the Blog Address text box.
- Select one of the design Template styles shown by clicking the image. You can change this selection later.
- Click the Create Blog! button. Blogger sets up your new blog and takes you to the Dashboard.
Upon creating your new Blogger blog, Google will ask if you would like it to find a custom domain name for your blog, I talk about purchasing a domain name and the option to use a custom domain name even if you choose a hosted blog platform such as Blogger. If you would like to purchase a domain name that matches the title of your new Blogger blog, you may want to use Google Domains in order to simplify the process.
Choosing not to purchase a domain name during sign-up through Google Domains does not mean that you will be unable to purchase a domain name later. You will also have the option to connect a custom domain name purchased through another service to your Blogger blog.
After you complete this setup process, you don’t need to repeat it when you want to add a post to your blog. The next time you come to Blogger, simply use the login boxes on the home page to log in and get started posting to your blog.
Using the Dashboard
When Blogger sets up your blog, it adds it to a Dashboard that displays your new blog and any others you may have. You can use the Dashboard to get quickly to common tasks, such as writing a new post, checking your stats, and viewing your blog.
To write a blog post, select the orange New Post button next to the name of your blog. The View Blog button opens your blog, allowing you to view it the same way your visitors will see it.
The vertical menu in the left sidebar gives you access to all your past posts, pages, comments, stats, earnings information, layout, design theme, and blog settings.
3. Writing a Post
You officially join the blogosphere by writing your very first blog post, an entry, for your new blog. (The blogosphere, by the way, is how bloggers refer to the world of blogging. You’re a member of the blogosphere when you have a blog. Welcome!)
The mechanics of writing a blog post aren’t much different from writing an email. Bloggers often make most posts quite short, and they often write those posts directly and conversationally. Of course, you might decide to use your blog to write the next Great American Novel, in which case your posts might be quite a bit longer than what’s standard! That’s fine, too.
If you’ve used a web-based email service such as Gmail, Hotmail, or Yahoo!, the Blogger software feels very familiar. To create the post, you simply have to fill in the appropriate text boxes in a form, format the text, and then send it off to its destination — in this case, to your blog, rather than a friend’s email inbox.
Follow these steps to write a blog post on Blogger:
- From the Blogger dashboard screen, click the orange New Post button next to your blog’s name. Blogger opens the Publish entry screen.
- Enter a title for your post in the Post title text box. Titles are a lot like newspaper headlines: They should be catchy and informative, and they should encourage visitors to your blog to continue reading the rest of the post.
- Write your post in the large text box. Consider writing your blog posts in a standard word-processing program, such as Notepad or Microsoft Word — and then saving that post. Too many bloggers have spent hours composing right in the entry box of their blog software, only to find that their Internet connection has failed or another technical problem has occurred — which results in a lost post.
- Format your post. Blogger’s entry box includes icons across the top that let you change the font style and font size, apply bold and italic to text, and create common formatting styles such as lists. To use these features, select the text that you want to modify by clicking and dragging over the text; then click the appropriate icon or select an option from the desired drop-down list.
Adding a link
The Link icon deserves special attention. You use this icon whenever you want to link to another blog, a news story, or any other page on the web.
When you want to create a clickable link in your blog post, follow these steps:
- Highlight the text that you want to make clickable by clicking and dragging.
- Click the word Link. A pop-up window appears.
- Select Open This Link in a New Window and/or Add ‘rel=nofollow’ Attribute.
- Enter the URL of the website to which you want to link and click OK.
You can most easily make sure that you have the right link by going to the web page to which you want to link. Then copy the URL from the address bar. (Press Ctrl+C to copy and then Ctrl+V to paste; on a Mac, use ⌘ rather than Ctrl.) To make sure that the link is going to the right page, you can click the Test This Link link in the Edit Link window to preview the page.
After you click OK, the linked text appears as underlined blue text in your post. It doesn’t become clickable until you publish it.
Don’t forget that if you know HTML and would prefer to create the link manually by using HTML code, you can do so on the HTML tab.
Spell-checking your text
Blogger provides a handy tool for anyone who needs help with spelling (and who doesn’t?). After you finish writing your post, click the Check Spelling icon. It’s the icon that shows the letters ABC with a checkmark below them (refer back to Blogger highlights incorrectly spelled words in yellow. Click any misspelled word to see a list of suggested alternatives. Select any suggestion from the list or simply type your own correction.
Including an image
In the age of Pinterest and Instagram, adding an image to every blog post is practically a requirement. Without an eye-catching image, how will your Pinterest-savvy readers share your amazing post?
Blogger has some good built-in tools that allow you to upload an image that’s already the right size and format for displaying on the web. For help in formatting photographs from a digital camera or another source.
Follow these steps to upload an image from your computer and add it to your blog post:
Step 1: Click the Insert Image icon. It looks like a photograph. The Upload window opens.
Step 2: Click the Choose Files button to upload an image on your computer. A File Upload dialog box opens.
Step 3: Locate the image that you want to upload from your computer and select it.
Step 4: Click Open. The image is uploaded to Blogger.
Step 5: Click Add Selected from the lower-left corner of the Upload screen. The image is placed in your blog post. Select the image and then choose your image formatting options:
- Image Size: Determines how large the display of the image is in your blog post, regardless of the dimensions of the source image. You can choose Small, Medium, or Large.
- Alignment: Determines how text wraps around the image. You can choose None, Left, Center, or Right.
- Caption: Places text directly under the image.
4. Publishing Your Post
When you’re satisfied with your blog post, you can publish it so that the world can admire your erudition. Publishing a post isn’t hard: Click the orange Publish button at the top of the page. Your post appears on your blog, making it available for others to read.
Before you publish, you can take advantage of three areas of the Blogger Publish page that I find very helpful: previewing, saving as a draft, and selecting post options.
Previewing your post
Before you publish, you can preview what you’ve created by clicking the Preview button (found at the top-right of the browser window). This preview is WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get), which means that it shows you the post exactly as you formatted it, including links, text colors, embedded images, and so on. The Preview is shown in a new browser window.
I like to preview my post before I publish because I can more easily read for meaning and content at this point. Think of the preview as a last chance to catch grammar problems or even to think twice about what you’re posting if it’s controversial. Of course, you can also see how the text and content flow around any images that you’ve added.
If you see changes that you want to make, simply switch back to the editing screen, make your changes, and click the Preview button again.
Configuring post settings
To the right of your blog post, you see the post settings links. These let you decide on a number of important ways your post is handled by Blogger, from when the post is published to whether you allow comments.
Scheduling your post
Many bloggers like to create posts in advance of when they plan to publish them. For example, if you’re planning a vacation, you can write several posts before you leave. After creating your post in Blogger, click the Schedule link to the right of the post box before you publish your post. Set the date and time you want your post to go live, click Done, and when you click Publish, Blogger will hold your post until your chosen date.
By default, Blogger sets the publication date and time of the entry to the date and time that you began writing that entry. You might choose to change the date or time for a number of reasons:
Social or professional reasons:
- Create a blog post for a friend’s birthday and make the date match the time your friend was born.
- If you’re blogging at work, you might want to set your date and time to a period when you weren’t supposed to also be at your desk (ahem) working.
To work around your schedule:
- If you take a long time to write a post, by the time you’re ready to publish it, you might need to put a more realistic time on the entry.
- If you save your post as a draft and publish it later, you can update the date and time to accurately reflect the real publication date.
You can choose whether you want readers to be able to comment on your blog post by selecting the Options link under Post settings. There are two options for new posts: Allow and Don’t Allow.
You can make the decision to turn off comments at any time, so if you decide later that you don’t want to receive further comments, you can always edit the entry and turn off this option while keeping existing comments.
Most of the time, you want to allow comments; after all, part of what makes a blog exciting to read is the opportunity to interact with the blogger. Sometimes, though, you might write an entry that you don’t want to read discussion about, perhaps because you don’t want to start a long argument or because the entry has become a target of spammers.
Launching your post
After you have the text and photos laid out nicely and you’ve chosen your settings, it’s time to publish! This is pretty hard, so get ready:
- Click the Publish button at the top of your blog post.
- Ha ha, just kidding. There is no Step 2! Your post is on your blog. Go take a look. You’re a blogger! Congratulations!
5. Viewing Your Blog Post
After you hit Publish, you can see how your post looks on the blog. You may find this step rewarding — and you definitely don’t want to skip it. Even if you preview your post before publishing, you haven’t seen your post in the way that your readers see it. You can do that only by actually going to your blog as it appears to everyone on the web and taking a look.
Computers can still make errors or fail between the moment you click Publish and when the entry shows up on the blog. I like to look at my blog every time I post a new entry to make sure that it actually looks right on the page and that the blog software successfully processed it.
When you click Blogger’s Publish button, the system provides you with a handy link to view your blog. Click View Blog to head over to your blog and see your handiwork.
Of course, if you prefer taking the long way, you can always type the web address (the one that you chose when you set up your blog) into the web browser to see your blog without going through the Blogger Dashboard.
While you look at your blog, make sure that the formatting, images, and text look the way that you want them to, and click any links that you created. If anything doesn’t work quite properly, go back into Blogger and make changes to your entry.
6. Selecting the Dashboard Settings
Blog software, as a rule, is quite customizable. As the owner of the blog, you can decide a number of things about the way your blog looks and works, and you can control those elements from the control panel — called the Dashboard in Blogger — of your blog software.
Most blog software packages work quite similarly, and if you know how Blogger works, you can make the most of any other software.
Blogger divides its Settings into several areas: Basic, Posts, Comments, and Sharing, Email, Language and Formatting, Search Preferences, Other, and User Settings. I cover important highlights from the Settings in the following sections.
You access all the Blogger settings via the tool icon on the Blogger Dashboard. (In other blog software packages, this area is called the control panel, the admin panel, and so on.) To reach the Dashboard, just log in to the Blogger website. If you’re already logged in, look for a link to the Dashboard in the upper-left corner of any page and click it. This link is the Blogger icon.
The Dashboard shows all the blogs that you’ve started with Blogger. For each blog, you can quickly start a new post, view your blog, or jump into other areas. A single click takes you into the blog settings, or to the template or layout that you’re using.
Making basic changes
From the Basic Settings area, you can change the name of your blog (Blogger refers to this name as the blog title) as well as give it a short description. Most of the Blogger templates display the description near the top of the page. Even if you change the title on your blog page, the URL that readers type into a browser to visit your blog stays the same, but you can also change the URL.
You can also add authors to your blog — people who can also contribute blog posts, creating a group blog. To add someone as an author, you simply need that person’s email address. If the person you’re adding has a Blogger or Google account, I recommend using that address so that all his or her Blogger and Google account services are tied together.
If you aren’t happy with the web address for your blog, you can edit the address by changing the Blog Address setting. For instance, if you start a blog called My New Kitten, Maggie, and your cat grows up (they do that, I hear), you might want to edit both the name and the location of your blog. Use the Publishing tab to change the URL.
Making comment changes
Comments are both strengths and weaknesses of the blog medium. Both readers and bloggers enjoy the capability to leave a comment, which lets you interact or converse with a blogger.
Commenting has a downside: Spammers have discovered the comment technology, as well. Just as with email, you can expect some commenters to tell you about fabulous mortgage opportunities, Mexican pharmaceuticals, and other less-than-savory possibilities — information neither you nor your readers want.
The Posts, Comments, and Sharing settings help you reduce spam on your blog. One of the best ways to reduce spam is to specify who can comment on your blog. From the Posts, Comments, and Sharing screen, select an option from the Who Can Comment options:
- Anyone: This option allows the widest possible audience, with no limitations on who can comment. It provides no spam prevention, but it also imposes no barriers to leaving a comment to genuine commenters.
- Users with Google Accounts: Because Google validates the accounts it creates, letting users who have Google accounts leave comments can help ensure that you get comments from humans rather than spammers.
- Only Members of the Blog: Prevents anyone who isn’t a member of your blog from leaving a comment. No one you haven’t personally authorized as a member can leave a comment. This option creates a lot of work for you because you have to maintain the list of authorized members, but you don’t get any spam.
You can add members to your blog from the Basic Settings page.
Also on the Posts, Comments, and Sharing page, you can specify your comment moderation options. Consider setting the Comment Moderation setting to Always. Turning on comment moderation prevents anyone from posting a comment that you haven’t approved. When someone leaves a comment, you get an email that lets you know about the comment. From the Dashboard, you can authorize or reject the publication of the comment. You can also moderate comments via email.
Moderating comments is a lot of work for you, but it improves the quality and readability of comments on your blog for your readers, and it discourages spammers in the future.
Making email changes
On the Email Settings page, you can turn on a cool feature that allows you to post to your blog by sending an email message. When it’s configured, you can simply send an email to the address from any device capable of sending email (such as your smartphone!). The subject of the email becomes the title of the blog post, and the text of the email is the entry body. It’s a very quick, easy way to publish to your blog, which makes it great for when you’re traveling.
To set up an email address to be used to send a post to your Blogger blog, click the Email Settings link and fill out the Posting Using Email text box. Be sure to save the settings and test to make sure that it works!
In the Email page, you can enter an email address in the Comment Notification text box at which you want to receive notification when someone leaves a comment on your blog. This setting helps you keep track of comments left on your blog, especially when you have a lot of old posts on which you might not see comments when you view your blog.
7. Customizing Your Blog
The look that you picked when you started your blog might be just fine, but many bloggers want to tweak and customize the look and feel of their blogs — I know I did when I started working on my blog. I was using personal words and pictures, and I wanted to make the rest of the site look more like my own website rather than a Blogger design.
Blogger differentiates between the design theme and layout of your blog. The theme dictates the look of the blog; the layout is the placement of the elements of the blog.
When you start your Blogger blog, you choose a theme, and that theme determines the look and feel of your blog as well as the placement of the elements and what those elements are. However, you should think of the theme and the layout it comes with as a starting point; it’s not set in stone.
You can change the look of a Blogger blog in four ways:
- Change the theme you are using completely.
- Customize an existing theme using the Blogger Theme Designer.
- Create your own template in HTML (see the “Editing themes old-skool: Using code” sidebar).
- Edit the layout of your theme to move, add, and remove elements.
Choosing a new theme
One of the fun features of Blogger is the ability to choose from a number of themes for your blog. The themes determines both the look and feel of your blog as well as how the blog elements appear on the page. Blogger has many themes to choose from, and don’t forget that you can customize or change the theme later if your first choice no longer looks as fresh in six months.
To choose a theme, follow these steps:
- From the Dashboard, select Theme from the left sidebar.
- Use the scrollbar to browse through the available themes in the Theme screen. The previews on this page give you an idea of how your blog would look both on a computer and on mobile if you used the various themes.
- When you find something intriguing, click the thumbnail image.
- After you decide on a theme, click the Apply to Blog button on the preview window or click the Apply to Blog link under the theme thumbnail. Blogger displays a confirmation message that the theme has been implemented on your blog.
Using the Theme Designer
Don’t know any HTML but still want to tweak certain elements of your blog’s design just a little? You’re in luck — the Blogger Theme Designer gives you some excellent tools to do just that. In fact, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised to discover just how many things you can change easily.
The Theme Designer gives you the capability to change:
- The font face, size, and color of text, links, navigation elements, and sidebar elements
- The background color, image, or both
- Widths of the columns on your blog
- Layouts of your blog to use one, two, three, four, or even five columns
Editing page elements
The Layout area of Blogger gives you, the blogger, a ground-breaking tool that allows you to have detailed control over the layout and look of your blog without requiring you to become an HTML guru and stay up late figuring out the intricacies of web publishing. This kind of editing control reflects the growing do-it-yourself attitude found in the blogosphere: Bloggers want sites that reflect their own sensibilities, but not everyone has the time to become an expert or the budget to hire one.
This access also reflects the growing expertise of many computer users who can edit photographs and create graphics, and it gives them the capability to make the most of those skills.
In the Layout screen, a wireframe of your blog template appears. A wireframe is a visual representation of the template layout that uses only outlines, or boxes, of the elements.
The following list explains how you can use the wireframe features to customize your page:
- Edit page elements. Click the Edit link for any page element that is already being used to change its formatting. What you can change depends on what kind of element it is and the features Blogger has given you access to.
- Add a gadget. Click the Add a Gadget link to place in your sidebar polls, images, lists, advertising, and more from a library of Blogger-provided elements.
- Move page elements. Click and drag them to a new position.
- Preview edits that you’ve made. See how your changes look before you save them to your blog by clicking the Preview button.
- Revert to the original version of your template. Click the Clear Edits button.
You can also remove many elements on the page. Click Edit and look for a Remove button for anything you don’t want to include on your blog. Don’t worry if you change your mind later — you can always add them back in.