Blogging Basics - So you wanna be a blogger?

Whether you’re blogging for fame and fortune, as a service to the online community or just as a hobby, a lot goes into managing a blog that not only...

Friday July 29, 2016

Whether you’re blogging for fame and fortune, as a service to the online community or just as a hobby, a lot goes into managing a blog that not only attracts an audience but also offers value to readers.

A blogger's mission can be anything from expressing your thoughts and feelings about ongoing economic issues to sharing helpful home decorating tips. It all comes down to what you’re passionate about and offering value to your audience.

Need help getting started? The internet is already saturated with blogs, so getting yours noticed takes more than a catchy name and self-promotion. 

“You need to take the time to create your vision,” says Crystal Allen, Creative Director, Co-Publisher and Owner of Hello Creative Family – an online magazine for parents looking to spark their creative passion through simple, back-to-basics projects. Hello Creative Family is actually the result of a rebranding project of Allen’s former blog, Sew Creative, which she started in 2013.

Set up shop

Every decision you make before you even start writing content will impact the success of your blog. Think about:

  • Your technical skills
  • How much control you want to have over your blog
  • How you feel about promoting yourself
  • How you feel about having advertisements on your blog
  • Whether or not you want to use your blog to generate an income 

The right tools

A blogging platform provides you with the tools you need to build your blog. Themes, designs, layouts, plugins and add-ons are just some of the features you’ll be looking for when choosing a platform that works best for you. WordPress.com is currently the most popular, free website platform. It’s easy to use and also offers themes, layout templates and other additional upgrades, for a fee.

If you’re looking for customizable tools, you’ll likely have to abandon the idea of getting these features for free. While most platforms offer some plugins as part of their free services, upgrades usually have a price tag. Common upgrades include:

  • Increased bandwidth
  • Hosting services
  • Custom plugins
  • Custom themes
  • Increased storage room for hosting services
  • Post categories
  • Post scheduling

Most free blogging platforms like WordPress will offer to host your blog – storing it on their server and making it go live for you. While this hosting option is the cheaper way to go, there are some compromises you’ll have to make:

  • Your blog’s web address/domain will also include your host’s name (yourblog.wordpress.com versus yourblog.com)
  • You won’t have control over the advertisements that appear on your site
  • You will have limited space  

WordPress and other platforms know that this is not always the ideal situation for bloggers so they also offer users a chance to buy their own custom domain. 

Other options include self-hosting (on your own server) or third party hosting (on a third party’s server). Third-party hosting companies often offer good technical support. These options are great for bloggers focused on building their own brand image or having control over things such as advertising. For bloggers who want to have maximum control over their blog, Allen recommends buying your own domain name and self-hosting.

Ask for help

Keep in mind that having a customizable website will likely require some HTML or CSS skills. You may even need some advanced skills to bring the vision of your blog to life. If don’t have any technical skills when it comes to web design, hire a web designer to help you. Working with a web designer helps ensure that your blog’s design is a true reflection of what your blog is all about. You don’t want to confuse readers by offering a website design that doesn’t fit with the content you are producing.

“Working with a web designer I was able to pull together all of these different, tiny elements that I liked,” Allen explains.

She spent time visiting other sites and kept notes about:

  • Design aspects she liked
  • Features she thought worked well
  • Features she thought didn’t work well

It took a number revisions and discussions about what Allen envisioned for her blog to get the design just right. Allen admits that knowing when to ask for help was one of the hardest things she had to do when starting her blog.   

Can’t afford a web designer? Allen suggests using the barter system, offering work trades to reduce some of your costs. Offer to include the companies you are hiring for services in a post or to write an article about your experience. If you host your own blog, you can also offer advertising space in exchange for services.

Give it value

Now that you’ve got a home for your blog, it’s time to decide what you are going to blog about. You need to focus on a topic that you’re both passionate about and consider yourself an authority on. Meaningful content is one of the most important aspects of a successful blog. Without good content, you won’t stand out among the overwhelming number of blogs out there.  

Research is a must! One of the hardest things about blogging is putting together new, meaningful posts often enough to keep your audience coming back. You can’t give into the pressure to post something, just to have something new on your blog.

“Never post crap,” Allen says. “Don’t post crap on your social media; don’t post crap on your blog. If you don’t have something good to share, it’s better to not share at all.”

While deciding what you’re going to blog about, you’ll also need to think about your blog’s name – another hard decision Allen says bloggers should take the time to think about. “Do your homework first,” she advises. “Sit down and think about your blog across all platforms.” The last thing you want to do is fall in love with a name that is already taken, or to pick a name and later find out that someone is using the same name on Facebook, Twitter or other social media channels. Choosing the correct name for your blog also relates to knowing your audience. 

Who will be listening?

Think about who want your audience to be. Allen explains that this is something a lot of bloggers don’t focus on right from the beginning. Uncertainties about who your audience can cause problems down the road, especially when it comes to selling ad space, attracting new followers and appealing to your existing ones. Your success as a blogger depends heavily on whether or not your audience sees value in the content that you post. If you have no idea who your readers are, then you can’t post content that appeals to them.

“It all comes back to knowing who your audience is,” Allen says about being a successful blogger. “If you don’t think about this from the beginning, it will become more difficult later on.”

Don’t lose sight of who you are

 “Every blogger wants to be successful and have millions of page views,” Allen explains. “Sometimes the pressure can get to be too much.”

It’s not easy to write for an audience. It’s even harder writing for an audience while still being you. Blogging is about telling your story, using your voice but at the same time, aiming to attract a quality audience.

“Try to listen to yourself and stay true to who you are,” Allen adds. “Everyone’s ideal reader is different, so what works for one blogger might not work for you.”  

Interact with readers and your competition

Your blog has the ability to form an online community, if you take the right approach. Your readers bring meaningful conversations to life, sparked by your blog posts. You can rely on your audience to help you spread the word about your blog and the value your content offers. An interactive online community is the best marketing tool a blogger can have.

Open the lines of communication

Constant interaction with your online community is a sign of a good blogger. Make it easy for your visitors to leave comments. Make sure you respond to comments your readers leave, even the negative ones. You will learn from your audience and they may even give you ideas about what to blog about next.

Engage your audience by responding to comments, posts and tweets. You can also show your appreciation and interest in your audience by reposting or retweeting items that they’ve published. Show your audience that you are listening to them and care about what they have to say. They will want to come back to your blog not just for the content, but for the interactions and conversations that will follow. 

Interacting with other bloggers can also help you build an audience and get you blog name out there. Bloggers writing in the same topic area can end up working together, collaborating on projects and exchanging ideas. Bloggers will even suggest another blogger’s post, if the content is of interest to their own audience. There are a number of tools that help the blogging community work together, including:

  • Blog Carnivals (a collection of links to various blog posts about a specific topic)
  • Blog Directories (a directory of blogs, usually require a payment for being included)
  • Blog Memes (surveys, quizzes and other novelties that get passed around from blog to blog and through social media like a chain letter without the ultimatum)
  • Guest posts (a popular blogger writes a feature post for someone else’s blog)
  • Blog Rolls (a list or “roll” of a blogger’s favorite blogs/websites)

Working with like-minded bloggers is a great way to share creativity and find support, however not everyone is looking to make friends. Don’t be discouraged by negative comments or responses from other bloggers. 

“You can’t be friends with everyone in the blogger world,” Allen warns, explaining that you should form relationships with fellow bloggers who you trust, you can bounce ideas off of and who have your best interests in mind.

Make your blog work for you

For some avid bloggers who simply love what they do, earning an income from blogging isn’t always their first thought. Making money with your blog is actually a lot harder than most people think. It’s not about being able to work from home in your PJs and writing about whatever you feel like; it’s about careful planning, effective marketing and dedication.

Marketing and public relations (PR) companies are learning about the potential audience reach that comes from doing blogger campaigns. Blogger campaigns are an excellent way to spread the word about a client or a new product. Bloggers usually charge a fee for sponsored posts and will request some sort of incentive for their followers, such as a giveaway, coupon or free advice.

Don’t get greedy

Avoid the desire to say “yes” to every company looking for a sponsored post. Remember, if it’s not relevant to your audience, you shouldn’t post it. Some bloggers run into trouble when they start promoting a company or a product that has nothing to do with their original mission and consequently will not appeal to any of their followers. You can lose your audience’s trust if you abandon quality content just to get paid for a post.

Most bloggers request that companies only request a sponsored post, if their brand or product is a good fit for the topics covered in their blog. It’s also important to make it clear that even if you’re getting paid to review something there’s no guarantee that you’ll love it. Be transparent and let your audience know when a post is sponsored by a company. Also, make it clear that despite it being a sponsored post, the opinions and comments are 100 per cent your own.

Take initiative

The best way to get the attention of companies who may be interested in forming a relationship with you and your blog is to talk about them.

“Once you put yourself out there, companies become interested,” Allen says. She built herself a reputation and once she started working with some brands, other companies also took an interest in her blog. 

Allen started building relationships with small and large companies by mentioning brands she loves in her blog posts and social media channels. She also included products in some of the photography on her blog – nothing obvious or pushy, just enough for readers to notice what products she was using, but she  made sure that she never strayed away from posting meaningful content.

To make sure that companies knew she was talking about them, Allen would send her posts to them directly through email or tag them in social media posts. Instead of waiting for them to come to her, Allen even approached companies about doing sponsored posts.

Be professional

Most companies are looking for bloggers with a large audience reach, so have your stats ready to “wow” them. Track how many unique visitors per month your blog receives and how many page views. Signing up for a Google Analytics account is always a great way to keep track of your web traffic. Stats for your blog should also include the number of likes your Facebook page gets and how many followers you have on your Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Google + and any other social media channels.

Some bloggers even decide to put together their own media kit, including all of their stats as well as information about their target audience and focus of their blog. Having a media kit prepared or your stats ready to share shows a company that you take your job seriously and that you’re more than willing to work with them.  

“Always show gratitude,” Allen says. “It's so amazing to make money doing something that you love! Take time to thank the companies that you work with, the PR reps that are organizing sponsored posts for you, and the other bloggers who support you. Something as small as saying thank you can go a long way, and it will make you memorable.” 

Need help developing engaging content? Email us at info@esolutionsgroup.ca.

Ashley Pergolas brings media knowledge and advanced communications skills to eSolutionsGroup. As a Content Writer and Strategist, Ashley is responsible for communicating the key messages of eSolutionsGroup and its clients through creative and effective storytelling. With a Bachelor of Journalism from Ryerson University, Ashley possesses expert research, copywriting, copyediting and fact-checking skills. Her previous work in public relations, communications, writing and editing has reached international audiences.

 

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