The Ultimate Guide to Blogging
So I've been blogging for a little while and though I'm still learning there are a few things that I count as must do's when creating a blog. In fact, these are things that I consider are important whether you have just started or whether you are a pro at this and I have compiled them all into the ultimate guide to blogging.
Firstly however I always think its a good idea to take a step back and actually think about why you want to start a blog. Is it to make money? Is it to use as personal diary? Is it to educate people? Really stop and think about it and then think about it some more. When I first thought about it, I'll be honest, it was a combination of somewhere to write my crazy thoughts and I did think about monetising it. Now that I'm a little further into my blogging I've actually decided that the money side, although it would be nice, isn't actually that important any more. For me I blog to share my experiences and to showcase my jewellery (yes I make jewellery). So stop and really try to figure out what's important to you and why you want to start a blog in the first place p.s. the goal can change on your journey as it did mine. It's OK.
OK so here we go, this is my ultimate guide to blogging
Finding your voice is probably what I consider to be the most important aspect of your blog. You have to remember that its actual people reading your content and they are most likely doing so because they enjoy your content. For this reason try to relate what you are writing to your reader. Think about the style of writing you enjoy reading and don't mimic but think about why you like it and how you can use this to find your voice. Above all be personal and sincere, if you have a review section, make sure you have actually used the product, if you have travel tips to a certain place, make sure you have actually visited there. Sounds obvious I know but I've heard that top travel sites sometimes don't even visit the place instead they use other travel review sites ! The mind boggles with this!
Find a Niche:
This can sometimes be hard. I know I found it difficult as I have a wide variety of things that enjoy. That's why this blog covers everything from travel tips, life experience, blogging tips, thrifty tips and possibly more. If you are like me and want to cover a range of things then make sure your site makes this easily identifiable. I say this because this is the mistake I made and I had no idea until I asked for feedback from fellow bloggers (see Feedback and Advice below for more on this). If you are lucky enough to have already found your niche then what are you waiting for? Get going already! If your still in 2 minds try blogging about it all for a while and see whether you like writing about one more than the other. You don't have to know it from the very start.
Work and Rework your site:
Like I said, I'm still pretty new to blogging and I'm using Squarespace (my blogging platform). I think, I can't remember, I'm on my 3rd redesign of Magpie Hut. I haven't changed the theme but have added/removed/moved anything from sections to pages to links to images. I still don't know if im happy with the look and feel so this still may change. YOU need to be happy with how your site looks, how your images look, where your links are etc. This doesn't however mean you don't blog until your happy with your site. Again I made this mistake. I first started playing around with a Wordpress site and played around with themes, looks, content etc for ages before I set the site live. With Magpie Hut I decided to jump in and make tweaks on the way and I'm so happy I did. A live site will get you 100% more feedback then a pending site!
Feedback and Advice:
As mentioned above my site would not look the way it does today without the feedback and advice of others. By others I not only mean friends but fellow bloggers. I knew that the blogging community was huge, there are 100's of thousands of bloggers right now, but what I underestimated was the actual community part of it. There are groups set up all over Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Forums, Other bloggers, you name it there they/we are. Not only are we making ourselves visible but we want others to succeed. Other bloggers have been happy to give me advice when I needed it or help with motivation on my down days. They can really be a source of knowledge and advice when you need it so do as I did and head to Facebook, type in Blogger Groups, filter by groups and get joining and participating. My favourites are:
How to blog like a pro
Write Engaging Content:
No doubt you may have already seen this in other "ultimate guide to blogging" posts. It's there for a reason and I think its because nowadays, when there's so much around us to distract us, peoples attentions spans are short (I know mine is). This means the content you write has to be that much more engaging, that much more easily digestible, that much more unique <- you see where I'm going with this. It's important to write about what interests you and not write for the sake of writing. If it interests you, chances are it will interest someone else surfing on the world wide web. A quick tip, break you content up like I have on this post with small, east to read sections.
Create a content calendar
Writing engaging content is great but what if you run out of things to write about? What if you can't keep up with your schedule and you start to miss days or weeks of writing? Creating a content calendar, although sounds tedious and time consuming, is vital if you are serious about blogging. Of course you don't want to suck the fun out of it by being to rigorous but creating a list of content topics and then putting them a calendar will help you stay focused. I find the list is also great when I want to write but don't have a new idea. I have a running "Blog Post Ideas" note on my phone and add to it every time I think of something I'd like to write about. So try it. There are tons of free content calendars out there or how about creating one yourself?
Write with SEO in mind
SEO what the what is SEO?? It stands for Search Engine Optimization. In short, very short, when you search for something on engines like Google, Yahoo and Bing, for example. "Ultimate guide to blogging" each engine will crawl the internet looking for content with those search terms in it. It will then rank them all in terms of security, links to your site and a host of other things before displaying your results (yup all in those few nanoseconds crazy huh?). So what can you do to make sure you have the best chance of being amongst the top results? Firstly create a search worthy title, a catchy title that grabs attention, mine got you here did't it ;) Secondly make sure these keywords are used through-out your post. If you rescan this post you will see the title has been used through-out the content. Finally make sure when you do reuse the keywords that they written in a natural way. Search engines will penalise anyone that posts keywords over and over again when not in context.
Writing consistently helps in 2 main ways.
Search engines crawl sites often looking for new content, so this will help with your page ranking
New fresh content will give your readers a reason to keep coming back
It can also help open doors when looking for sponsors or advertisers for your site as brands will want to see that the site it being maintained.
Some of you may know that I recently started and finished a #30daywriter challenge where I challenged myself and other bloggers to write a post everyday for 30 days. There were a few reasons I did it (read about them here) but the main was to get better at being consistent and to hopefully find my writing style. Truth be told I found it very difficult to write every day mainly because life got in the way or I found myself, at times, lacking motivation. HOWEVER since finishing the challenge I have found myself wanting to write more so I guess it has worked in a way. If you're struggling with consistency maybe try doing the challenge yourself. I've learnt that I don't need to post daily just consistently. Take your time to figure out the right amount of posts you need to write a week whether it be 1 overall or 1 a day, do what feels comfortable to you but be consistent!
Monitor Site Analytics
There are a number of tools available to monitor your site traffic but the one most bloggers use is Google Analytics. You will need to implement a piece of code or install a plugin depending on what platform you are using (Squarespace requires you insert a piece of code). Once complete your site will be monitored for a host of things like page views, popular content, time spent, new vs returning visitors, monthly/daily visits and views. All of this information is really helpful when you want to track how your site is doing or when you are speaking with brands about a sponsored post and you need to show that your getting loads and loads of visits a month. Install it now from here
Take Great Photos
I can't stress the amount of times I have been onto someone's site and the photos and images are blurry or the wrong size or too dark. I'm not confessing to be a photography expert but I have learn't some things along the way (oooh new blog post idea "Simple Photography Tips for Bloggers??) not only when talking photos but also with the editing after, yes I take the time to edit every photo on this blog. Yes, its takes time but I want the site to look clean and professional so I've learnt how to use GIMP 2. There are other options, free and paid for out there, but after a ton of research and for the functions I wanted I went with Gimp. Here's a quick summary of how I get the best photos:
Where possible make sure photo's are taken somewhere with a lot of natural lighting. If this isn't possible try using a lamp to light up your product.
For photos outside (building, beaches, cities) the best time to take a photo is the hour before sunset and the hour during sunrise. Side tip, whatever you are taking the photo of should be lit up by the sun i.e you have your back to the sun taking the photo in-front of you.
Very apt, the rule of thirds. Spilt your photo into a grid and off centre your object, i.e don't take the photo of the tree with it in the middle of the screen have it to the left or right to create a more interesting photo. Also don't be afraid to take more than one photo. The more options you have later the better.
Edit Edit Edit. If you followed the above you may not need to edit but if you do try simple things like playing around with the lighting and contrast. That's usually enough for my pictures to make them pop a little more.
Be Mobile Optimised
Answer me this, when you visit a site on your mobile do you get fed up and leave if you have to pinch in and out to see the content? I know I do and unless I really want to read the content I'll most likely abandon the site. This is what I love about Squarespace, my site was already mobile optimised from the start. This means when a user comes to my site via their mobile its clean and easy to navigate. Most other blogging platforms may already have this enabled and Wordpress offers a load of plugins to help. Either way it's worth finding out how to optimise your site for mobile viewing and better yet if you're still to set one up check out my review on Squarespace vs Wordpress and why I went with Sqaurespace.
Who said email marketing is dead? One of the main reasons I keep going back to my favourite blogs is because it lands in my inbox. Setting up a newsletter gives you another chance to tempt your readers back to your site. If you haven't already thought about building a subscriber base start thinking about it now. Once you have your base try not to bombard them with daily updates and maybe think about sending something different that they won't see on your site, behind the scenes or exclusive offers only.
Promote, Promote Promote
You've spent days, hours, months maybe sweating away on your blog. You have amazing content and your site is looking mighty fine so you want people to see it right? Of course you do. This is where you have to do a bit of self promoting. Yes indeed people may find your site naturally but surely you want more eyeballs on your stuff? You wouldn't be reading this otherwise. So what do you do? Get social. I created a separate account on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and a Facebook Page for my blog as I wanted to keep my personal ones well.. personal. You don't have to use them all and you may find one works better than the other but I urge you to try them all just to see. Also as mentioned above use the blogger communities to vet content. These places are great for more information and tips on what works well on social media. Also, and I'll admit I haven't yet done this, others swear by leaflets and business cards that they can give out or leave in cafes. I'm yet to try this so I can't say whether it works for me or not. I'm slowly discovering other ways too such as bloglovin or stumbleupon to get my content discovered and hopefully can elaborate more on these in the future.
Don't Give Up
My final note is simple. Don't Give Up! It takes time for any writer or blogger to become established. It takes time for any blogger or writer to find there writing style or niche. The main thing is as long as you enjoy it don't stop. You can become a fabulous blogger and own a brilliant successful blog. Just keep going.
I hope you enjoyed :)