Over the last few years, blogging has become an incredibly popular pastime, spanning all types of industries, readerships, and platforms. While many people choose to do it as a hobby, there are some of the lucky ones who stick to it long enough and work at it hard enough to eventually transform their passion into a viable career option. No matter your reason for blogging or how “big” your site becomes, all of us, at one point or another, had to start at square one – with our very first blog post and only our parents there to read it.
Over the weekend, the PHLBloggers community hosted a Q&A session where participants could glean 101-level blogging advice over a cup of coffee at Good Karma Cafe. For those interested in launching their first blog or rekindling a site that may have fallen to the wayside, we have some great tips from that event to recap and share with you!
Choosing a name for your new blog is one of the first, and one of the most intimidating, decisions you’ll likely make when starting up. It’s not a process you can rush, so be prepared for plenty of brainstorming! Keep a notebook or word document with a running list of ideas and inspiration – it doesn’t have to be in fully complete thoughts, either. Make a note of objects, adjectives, and feelings that jive with your personality and with what you hope your blog will offer readers. Ideas can strike like lightning if you have plenty of inspiration that personifies your site! Some of the girls we talked to came up with fun plays on either their names or their professional titles. Rhyming, alliteration, and other literary devices can really help your brand name stick in peoples’ minds. Whatever you decide to call your blog, just make sure that it is something that would both make sense to your readers and help them relate to your brand!
Picking out a platform doesn’t have to be a headache – not with so many free and easy-to-maintain content management systems out there. Most people are partial to WordPress or Blogger when starting out a blog. And since they’re both free, we highly recommend making an account on each and playing around in the back-end to see which look and feel you better prefer! If you decide to go with the former, there are pros to opting for both WordPress.com and WordPress.org; it’s all a matter of what you want your site to be able to do and which you feel more comfortable with managing. Are you going to use a fancy theme? Sell products online? Do you prefer not to worry about managing the technical components of your site? There are plenty of resources like this definitive guide from wpmudev that can help you to decide between the two options. And remember, if you start with a .com, you can always upgrade later!
Say you’re a health and wellness trainer and need an outlet to reach potential clients, but you’d also love a space to share your design chops. Or you’re a coupon clipper with plenty to say about the political climate. When determining your niche, we say that it’s your site; there’s no reason you can’t have it all! But when forming your topics, do keep in mind how scattered or organized those consecutive titles will feel. Ideally, your blog will be a holistic hub for readers searching to learn more or engage with someone who shares one particular interest of theirs. Is there a way you can naturally tie some of those ideas together? Above all else, forget what you think other people want to hear about, and write good content that you’re proud of producing. You’ll lose momentum and burn out quickly if you aren’t being authentic to yourself and your brand.
Speaking of topic ideas, we highly recommend keeping a running list of ideas for future pieces – you never know what material you might repurpose and come back to! When brainstorming blog post topics, there are plenty of ways to find inspiration. First, know that blogging is as much about reading as it is writing. Make reading other blogs and website articles a part of your daily routine. You’ll be amazed at how many ideas for your own pieces will pop into your head while reading! Don’t neglect to look at the comments section, either; it’s here that bloggers will ask additional questions or write about their own problems, whether technical, emotional, physical, or else, that you may have some insights or feelings on. Keep active on social media, as platforms like Twitter are goldmines for content ideas, and know that you can always get amazing suggestions just by talking to friends and family!
Plenty of bloggers get caught up on a web of churning out great content, but forgetting or neglecting to build traffic to their site. Yet promotion of your blog is just as important as maintenance of the blog itself! Social media is an obvious place to start. Twitter is a favorite for bloggers looking to reach and build their audience, and Instagram can be a fantastic platform if your posts are accompanied by great visuals (which they should be!) It is tougher to build an organic following with Facebook fan pages, but no matter how big your blog gets, we always recommend sharing your posts with friends and family on your personal site! Get creative with your promotional endeavors. Guest post on a fellow bloggers’ page or get involved with some creative collaborations that will put your brand in front of new eyes. Start your own YouTube video series, or pay for an advertising space on the site of a blogger whom you admire and share an audience with. Whatever you do, delegate time to focus on marketing for your site, and do so earnestly.
Finally, when building your brand, just start. Don’t wait until conditions are perfect, otherwise your moment will never come. Your blog is and forever will be a work in progress. Paid sponsorships and hoards of followers will not come easy. Your goals will constantly be evolving, focus will always be changing, and audience may turn out to be nothing like you picture they will be. The most important thing you can do is just put your foot on the gas, and let your vehicle straighten itself out as you go through the motions. Blog as frequently as is reasonable, and write about topics you are passionate about. As long as you’re putting out content you’re happy about, others will eventually notice and appreciate the work that you’re doing.
Do you have any tips for bloggers who are just starting out? If so, be sure to share them in the comments!