The first in a weekly series of How to Blog posts
A few friends and I were having a few wines the other day and the question came up, as it often does, about how to blog. More specifically how to get started, how often to post, where to publicise your scratchings and how to attract readers.
Ok, there was more than one burning question.
Blogging is hot, hot, hot. Even the Media folk say so in headlines that scream ‘Blogs more powerful and influential than ever’. The radio said so and the newspaper agreed. It must be so.
But actually, I know so from personal experience. I know that online media has provided many with easy access to a global audience and now that the scary bush-clearing of the pioneering phase is over every woman and her dog wants to know…
How do you start a blog?
1/ Put the wine glass down and think about it with a clear head. Yes, it really isn’t a brilliant idea to blog with a glass or five of wine in hand (or in tummy). Do you have passion for sharing your unique voice? You will need passion to be successful. Blogging can be a lonely old business, especially at the beginning when you’re typically on your own blogging to the world from your dining room table. Do you have passion? Yes? Excellent, move on to Number 2.
2/ Choose your platform
People often ask me which platform they should use. Some people swear by Blogger and others say that Tumblr is the hip new hang-out for cool set, but here I have to disagree. I’m a WordPress girl through and through. WordPress.org though not WordPress.com Why? Because the majority of influential blogs and professional bloggers are using self-hosted WordPress. If it’s good enough for them it’s good enough for me. More than that though WordPress is excellent for SEO, highly extendible and easy to learn. What’s more it’s OpenSource which means once you’ve downloaded it’s yours to tailor as you wish. No large conglomerate (like Google or Facebook) owns it, you do. And that security should not be under-estimated in the highly changeable online world.
3/ Consider your niche
Where do you fit in this great big blogging world? How will your tribe find you? Well, first up you’re going to need to think of a niche or angle and use that to make space for your baby blog. Then you need to quietly build your blogging base until one day you grow beyond that blogging niche. I’m going to go against trend and suggest that the best blogs are those that aren’t narrowly niched to within a syllable of their bloggy lives. The best blogs are a dog’s breakfast of stuff that’s interesting and funny and sad and topical. The best blogs have personality and as we all know the best personalities are multidimensional.
Once you’ve decided on your blogging niche it’s time to release the creativity hounds and found a WordPress theme that will work for you. The theme is the design format your blog will take and how it will look on the page. Typically WordPress ships with Twenty Thirteen but if orange isn’t your fave colour, no matter you can change the theme very easily. Go into your WordPress dashboard choose Appearance and then Themes. Browse through the list but leave a trail of breadcrumbs behind Gretel, or you may get lost in the woods. There are so many themes! Don’t forget to consider whether your chosen theme is responsive and will it change to fit the size of a screen whether it be mobile, tablet or desktop. Keep an eye out for the theme ratings and check out the free premium themes by excellent theme coders such as Woothemes or Automattic. If the theme isn’t perfect for you never fear you can actually change most of it using placement of widgets and plugins, shortcodes and hard coding changes. The next step is to ask a designer to sort out a header for your new blog. This is essential for branding and as the online world is so visual you will want this done properly. You can typically get a designer to whip you up something that fits your blog for between $50-150 (NZD). If you want some suggestions on folk who do a great job of blog design email me for the heads up!
Don’t worry if you saw the above title and felt flat. There’s nothing to dampen your creative energy than the word ‘plan’. But sadly it is a prerequisite for any good blog. Before you even start to write your first post have a plan of what sort of content you’re going to blog about. Even better, have a posting plan (aka content strategy) and best of all – a few posts written and in the bank. It’s so easy to start blogging with great gusto only to be stalled by disappointment when your posts don’t get comments or response. If you have a few posts already good to go you can pop them up whilst you lick your wounds quietly and bolster the energy and enthusiasm to blog another day. You never know after you’ve posted a few blog posts you might even get your very first comment.
Next week: How to write a blog post. Yes, writing for the web is very different than writing for printed media.