So you’ve come up an idea, you had many experiences and want to share them or you simply love to write and appreciate when your work is read, but you don’t know who, what, where, how or the colour!
I’m a member of a few blogging groups and have noticed the same questions asking for help and advice come up, so to help those (like those who helped me) I’ve come up with a few helpful pieces of advice to get you blogging like a Pro in no time!
Step 1 – Your blog choice
This is probably the most critical step you’ll face, do you go hosted (blog is installed on a server by a 3rd party and you connect to it) and if so with whom or do you go self hosting (eg install/configure your blog and site on one of the numerous suppliers).
There are numerous hosted blog services out there but the most popular by far is WordPress.com – you have the option of a simple free blog in a format of yourblogname.wordpress.com but you can buy and point your own domain at this blog – but that will costs as much or more than upgrading to the personal plan. The personal plan will allow you to have a blog such as http://www.yourblogname.com
Self Hosted blogs.
The world is your oyster as they say, you have the choice of so many hosts and some are better than others. The basic option is buying a hosting package from a web host and the installing WordPress onto your hosting package – you will need to manage all aspects of this installation and whilst this is OK for the technically minded such as myself, for some this is a very daunting thought and something they would like to avoid. You may also need to factor in the cost of a domain name in this isn’t included.
For the not so technically minded there is an alternative to this, Vidahost offer a WordPress hosting option – You chose your hosting package, pick a domain and with 1-click WordPress will be installed onto your package and will ready for use. For a 10% discount on your hosting/Wordpress package, use the code gfr2blog
I’ve been using Vidahost (previously known as Hostroute) for 17 years now for everything from domains to full hosting packages running full websites including the once popular Northenders Clan UK site and forum. I have always found them very helpful pre-sales, exceptional support if you need it, excellent pricing and a huge host of features. Remember that all the hosting packages at Vidahost come with a domain name so no extra costs are needed.
Step 2 – Content is as content does!
This goes without saying, quality content is always a winner – if you aren’t sure if your content is suitable, try it on a test audience – get some friends to proof read it and try reading it aloud – does it make sense,and does it flow?
Pictures, yes its true – picture paints a thousand words. Make sure the picture is relevant to the subject at hand, why write about install an engine in a classic car but have a picture of a butterfly?
You don’t have to be a photographer to get a good picture, if you have a smart phone then its easier than you think, the simple thing to remember is framing, look at the what you are taking a photo of and look at all the empty space – focus on the thing you are blogging about, for example if you installed an engine, focus on the engine bay and engine, not the car, your garage and half of your driveway!
Step 3 – Social Media, the joy of readers and traffic increase.
This is a lesson that it took me a while to grasp, writing a blog is great but you need people to read it, otherwise why write it? Social media is the best way to get your blog noticed, connect WordPress to your accounts (or create fresh, new accounts named after your blog) and post new blogs to them. I post my new content to Facebook (via a brand page), Twitter, Tumblr and Google+ (yes, people still do use that!).
I also have an Instagram account which I use to post updates but also the lighter, geekier side of my life – hopefully some of my followers there will take an interest in my pictures and come looking for more. One thing I do is add a watermark on my images with simply the web address of this site, subtle but there.
For me this falls under the social media category, long links look ugly and take up space but you can use shortlinks – you’ve probably seen these in the form bit.ly/xyz1234 – this is a short reference link, essentially a link to your content but in shortened form.
Bitly is a great free service for this, WordPress blogs also have this feature automatically created on the blog post but it’s not always easy to get to (especially on the mobile platform) and doesn’t track clicks.
Or you can buy a short domain name (also available from Vidahost) and set this up via Bitly to create your own short links (all fully trackable with stats in Bitly).
For example, you own http://www.myblogsite.com and post a new blog at http://www.myblogsite.com/blog/july/thursdaysblog but that’s a long url when you add a blog title, so to get around this you buy mbs.co and use this as your bitly site, so your blogs can have a short url of mbs.co/xyz1234 simple yet effective.
Step 4 – Often and regular
One thing you don’t want is stale content and only writing a blog post once every so often, I myself fell into this trap and my stats showed this, yes I had a consistent level of traffic but it was low. Your readers want fresh, quality content – so what are you waiting for, give your readers what they want. Of course this will be down to your blog content, if you are reviewing restaurants for example you may only do one a week, but if you are blogging about daily life or home cooking, then you could be writing one or more blogs a day. You might find it helpful to plan your blogs, I often do this and create a set of unpublished blogs that I either add to or scrap depending if I feel they work or not.
Step 5 – Patience, if you write it, they will come.
The quickest way to kill a blog is by impatience, unless you have a massive, established social network and the most amazing content that everyone needs to read then its unlikely that you’ll be an overnight success – but that’s not the key, building up and keeping your audience is the key! For me I think it’s better to have a smaller number of dedicated followers who enjoy your work rather than lots of one-off visitors. Regular followers are more likely to recommend your blog and word of mouth is an amazing (and free) way of attracting new people to your blog.
If you find yourself stuck for content, have a look around – you’d be surprised how many things if your daily life will actually fit well into your blog, you’ll soon realise that you not only write your blog but you live it too.
Thats it! If you’ve read this far then you should be well on your way to creating and promoting your blog site, it all sounds like a lot of work but believe me it’s not. You already have the idea and probably a load of blogs in your head, that’s half the work done! And once you’ve picked your blog platform and either set this up, or used a managed option, its just writing, posting and enjoying! After all, whats the point if you don’t enjoy it?
WordPress – Visit www.wordpress.com for further details on their plans and features.
Vidahost – Visit www.vidahost.com for further details on their plans and features.
Bitly – Visit www.bitly.com for more details on how their shortened URLs work and to sign up for a free account.