Has blogging become so – 2015? Does anyone blog anymore or is it all about podcasts? Blogging’s still alive and well but it’s evolving to coexist with mobile needs and competition from all of the popular social media sites. If you want to create a blog of your own in 2016, follow these tips to design something awesome that both you and your readers can truly enjoy.
1. It’s All about Passion
Blogs basically require two sets of tasks – one-time set up-related stuff such as choosing a webhost, domain name and platform, and the ongoing things like adding and updating content and graphics. Before starting the set-up phase, ask yourself a few personal questions: Why are you doing this? What fires you up? Creating and maintaining a blog that attracts people means you’ll need quality content that comes from the heart. This has been true historically and will continue to be so.
People get more engaged when they feel your passion and interest reach them through your shared content. Sketch out a skeleton of your site, including your first 5 to 10 planned blog posts. Passion and specificity win, and this is where your own interests and subject-matter knowledge really add value. You’ll need to care enough about the topic to write about it on a regular basis and remember that good content is king. Your blog will garner more attention if you keep a singular focus. If you’re stuck for ideas, think of something you love that also has a loyal following. For example, college football has a loyal fan base, which makes it a no-brainer to do a college football blog if that’s your thing.
2. Know Your Purpose
Decide whether your blog exists to inform, educate, document chronological events or something else. One blog author has called blogging “life casting” – people writing about their babies, recipes, marathons run and life milestones achieved. As blogs evolve into 2016 and beyond, readers want more “sticky” content. This means unique ideas, best practices and actionable tips, and it doesn’t hurt to think of your blog as a brand that could turn into a marketing campaign for books and other products as well. By all means, keep moving on your baby blog idea but make it more than just a chronology of your baby’s life.
Start by writing your About page and include a picture of yourself. Do your Contact, “Start Here,” Events, Books to read, Resources and other pages before you start adding content. This could trigger several content ideas and help refine what your readers want and how your content can help them. You’ll also want to consider if you’ll monetize your blog down the road. Although money is never the right reason to create a blog, it could make sense at some point so factor that thought into every decision you make regarding content, your blog’s name and your site’s configuration.
Once up and running, post fresh content regularly. Keep connecting with your readers in a meaningful way, otherwise chances are slim that you’ll ever compel people to keep visiting your blog and share it with their friends via social media. Become an expert resource. Try to write posts that people want to bookmark and come back to. If you can’t, invite guest posters and/or pay for posts. Encourage comments from readers. Historically, they’ve been a significant factor in making a blog popular, although they seem to matter less as users view content on mobile devices, which makes it harder to leave comments. Commenters let you know what you’re doing right and wrong, and their feedback over time can help keep your blog fresh and current. Commenters also create a feeling of community so your blog doesn’t seem like one person writing into empty space.
3. The Look and Feel
Gone are the days of blogs cluttered with loads of ads, flashing gifs, tons of links and pages jam-packed with text, photos and sidebars. Go with clean, simple and sophisticated. Look for ways to summarize lots of information into lists and bullet points. Even better – use infographics to display information in visual, rather than textual format.
When choosing a platform for your blog, such as Blogger or WordPress, look at the site themes offered and find one that feels current while still reflecting your taste. Many platforms offer some free themes and you can also purchase one ready-made, code your own or get one made for you. You’ll need web hosting, and many companies often have deals running that give very inexpensive monthly hosting rates and sometimes even offer a free domain for signing up.
For non-techy people, if you choose to use WordPress as your platform, most hosts can automatically set it up for you. Tweak it to fit your needs and wants. You don’t really need to know any code – your chosen theme basically sets up the web page to accommodate things like text and photos, and helps you configure your blog’s look (the pretty background and colors). This is where you’ll choose your blog’s colors and fonts. Also, get the plugins you need. You’ll want analytics, a contact form, a “share” bar and Woocommerce if you intend to sell products. For starters though, you really only need the share bar and Google analytics.
Graphics count in the new blogging world. Clean, simple graphics look current and professional. Check out sites like Canva for nice, modern graphics that require no design background to use on your blog. After getting through your initial configuration, view your blog on your mobile phone. These days readers have no patience for web pages that are laggy, too cluttered or otherwise non-performing on mobile devices. Some hosting companies have new features such as “Optimized WordPress.” This feature essentially keeps your blog, its theme and its plugins updated to avoid viewing and other problems.
4. Use a Multi-pronged Attack
Get the word out about your new blog on all your social media sites. Don’t worry about getting thousands of readers in the beginning though; no blogs rise to fame without a lot of time and hard work. Start by sharing your blog via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.
Do this one bite at a time – you don’t need it all at once. However, these days a large (and probably still growing) percentage of blog traffic now comes from Facebook and other social media sites, so you do want to see this part through. Plan on doing some YouTube videos and cross posting them to your blog. Nowadays a well-rounded blog has content that readers can access on the actual blog, the blog’s Facebook page, a YouTube channel and possibly an added podcast.
As your blog grows and evolves you might change or broaden your focus, so choose a domain name that can allow for this. If you’re starting your blog on a free platform and not buying your own, consider that the name you choose may not be available at some point in the future if you try to purchase it. To that end, consider buying up your domain name and a few other related ones that reflect your blog’s brand or focus now so that you have the option to branch off, move your blog off of WordPress or create a blog or two on related topics in the future.
You never know — you may choose to someday write and launch a book or other products using one of these other names. Consider also buying incorrect spellings of your domain and just forwarding those addresses to your current site. Choose relevant names for your social media accounts as well. Over time, the followers you gain on each of these accounts has value, making it hard to give up if you need to change to new pages with a more relevant name in the future.