So. I may have hit a nerve with Monday’s rambling post about the meaning of this blog….Who am I?…Why are we here?…What is the purpose of existence?
I won’t have the answers for a while, if ever, but what came out of that post was a pretty cool conversation about a lot of stuff that has nothing to do with me, which makes me feel better about using this platform for such a self-indulgent romp through the cerebral wilderness. Anyway. Through the comments and emails to follow, the common thread that keeps appearing is not one related to my blog, but our blogs. I don’t assume any of my readers are bloggers, but clearly some of you are, or are thinking about becoming one, or are considering using blogging and social media to expand an existing online business. Since the issue here is expansion, I thought this might be a great time to share some of my favorite blogging tips from other people. Things I have found super helpful over the last four years. Things I wish someone had told me sooner.
Disclaimer: The sources credited below were not researched for this post. Every single one of these links was bookmarked or pinned by me because I found it extremely useful. Granted, I don’t follow allllll the advice in these posts, but I can tell you I have learned from each one of them. In all this, the thing to remember is that the internet (as we know it) is new. Real new. There is no right or wrong way to do it, so don’t let anyone tell you that their way is better than yours. Nobody is an expert (yet), we are all just enthusiasts.
You want to start a blog but you are intimidated by the prospect of setting one up.
1. Video tutorial how to start a Blogger based blog, start to finish. You will publish your first post in under 30 minutes – it’s that easy. And totally free. The only thing you need to start is a Gmail account, but that is free too.
2. Video tutorial how to start a WordPress based blog, start to finish, including purchasing a custom domain and host server. Will take a few hours (but 80% of it is just waiting for the server to populate) and cost under $35 to get started.
Tangent: What is the difference between Blogger and WordPress?
This is a complicated question and not one I have the full authority to answer, but let me ask you this; Are you comfortable with new technology? Do you understand the difference between a blog, a website, a post, and a feed? Do you use an RSS feed or blog reader like Blog Lovin or Feedly? Do you not get overwhelmed when tech devices change or upgrade? Do you use more than two social media outlets (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Vine, Tumblr, etc)? Are you one of the five people who understand how to use Google Plus? Do you understand why comic sans is evil? If you answered yes to more than half of those questions, go for WordPress. Everyone else stick to Blogger – it’s much more user friendly. WordPress is optimized for more customization and nifty things you don’t have to worry about, but Blogger is pretty badass too. This site is a blogger site, but I use WordPress sites for work. Both have their benefits. If you find yourself overwhelmed by the comparison, that’s probably a sure sign to stick with Blogger. There are other platforms like Typepad, Squarespace, and Tumblr but they haven’t picked up the same traction as these two, and if you ask me, that’s for good reason.
****For the Interested
You have a blog but you don’t put time into maintaining it. You want to build a rhythm and expand your audience but you don’t know where to start.
3. The template of a “perfect” blog post Obviously, the “perfect” part is up for interpretation, but I find myself using this outline when I know I need to write a post but don’t have the time or patience to go about it in a thoughtful way. It’s like Bisquick for blogging.
Sidebar: Crafterminds, the site I just linked, is geared to craft bloggers (oodles of good stuff if that’s your genre, especially for beginners), but I think the guts of those 52 prompts are pretty universal to bloggers of all stripes. If I was just starting out with blogging, I would take that list of writing prompts (and here are a bunch more), then go on a 30 day blogging binge. Post something every day for 30 days. No quitting. Some posts might be just a picture and a photo caption, others might be a lengthier sort of opus. A 30 day bootcamp will shake out all the nerves and anxiousness about tech issues, and at the end, you will know your rhythm. You’ll know what you like blogging about and how often you want to blog about it. That 30 day initial investment is the key.
6. 22 Writing prompts to help improve your About page (y’all: this is harrrrd)
8. For creative/crafty bloggers – Sites to submit your work to.
9. How to get noticed as a new blogger.
**** For the Experts
You run a successful blog and post on a regular basis. Your blog gives back to you, either by way of personal catharsis, feedback from your peers, or revenue from your audience. You have good thing, but you know it could be better.
11. This is an interview with Gary Vaynerchuk, who understands more about how people operate on the internet than the rest of us put together. You’ll find a bunch of his lectures on the internet, but he has also has some books on social media that are great, Jab, Jab, Right Hook in particular. The good news is he knows what he is talking about, the bad news is it’ll take a ton of time. Earlier this year I dedicated one solid week to following his advice for audience engagement on Facebook (which is almost impossible manipulate these days) and look what happened to my reach:
Dude knows what he is talking about. His advice really is not specific to bloggers, so if you own a small business, or work in marketing or PR, you are going to want to check him out.
13. How to manage your social media in 30 minutes a day (I don’t buy the 30 minutes, but 60 maybe).
16. This is a good lookin’ media kit.
17. A great infographic on how to get more pins and repins.
19. How to foster a loyal blog following. Q: Do you know your average return rate off-hand? In the long run, that number matters more than pageviews. Food for thought.
20. How to keep your inbox under 5 emails (I dream of this).
**** Layout and Design Tips
Good for bloggers of all levels and areas of expertise.
22. 10 Blog Layout Tips. This comes from A Beautiful Mess, a blog devoted to every kind of visual content topic on the planet, and yet never looks overwhelming.They know what they are doing.
23. The anatomy of a perfect landing page. This is more geared toward business-based websites than a blog, but it’s excellent food for thought in prioritizing what goes above the fold. After you see this outline you’ll start spotting it all over the place, including some of the highest traffic sites on the planet. It works.
25. And if all else fails, if you want to hire someone to pimp your blog, Nellie Bellie is for hire. These two ladies know their stuff and are great at breaking it down in bite-sized chunks. They can take your thump of a blog and turn it into a pa-pow!
Side note on hiring people: If you are considering contracting someone, anyone, to upgrade your blog, DO YOUR RESEARCH. I actually hired someone else to do some work on my blog last fall. Long story short: it was a disaster. I spent months waiting in line only to be ignored, then ignored again, then after much pestering, found out this person never had the time or qualifications to handle my site in the first place. So now I’m stuck; do I spend more money to hire a lawyer to get it back, or do I let it slide? I don’t know, but I have learned my lesson. Moral of the story; even when you think you know everything about something, and you are going about something in a thoughtful way, you are probably missing out on something pretty basic. Whatever the something is, there is a decent chance we covered it in one of the links above!
Anyone else got any great blogging tips or resources to share? Chime in the comments 🙂