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So you’re thinking about starting a blog or have started a blog or want to become a better blogger. AWESOME!
I remember those days like it was yesterday (mostly because it kinda was). I have been actively blogging and writing for other online platforms for over two years now, and there isn’t a week that goes by where I don’t learn something new.
I started blogging quite by accident. I was pissed off at our state governor and his endless attacks on the middle class, public schools, and union workers, so I decided to sit down and write about it. Only problem was, I didn’t know where to write. I think my Facebook friend posted something from Blogger? I remember asking myself. Is that a thing?
Blogger is a thing, and once I found it in the Googlesphere, I was off. But finding where to write was only part of the battle. There still remained a slight hitch in my giddyup: I DIDN’T HAVE A CLUE WHAT I WAS DOING.
I spent hours, days, and months joining blogging groups online, reading blogging advice columns, and picking the brains of my new virtual friends. Eventually, I learned the ins and outs of the blogging world (at least enough to look as though I’ve got my bloggy life together), and what follows are some of the most important tidbits I picked up along the way.
Pick a blog title, handle, and header/image you love.
First order of business is to decide whether you want to put yourself all out there or remain anonymous.
I choose anonymity because my blog content doesn’t always jive with the expectations of my day job. As a result, I use a blog handle that is different from my real name yet synonymous with my blog title. I also use an avatar image that conceals my physical identity while accurately representing who I am and the kind of content one can expect from my blog. If you decide to put yourself all out there, your blog handle will likely be your name, and your avatar image will be your picture.
One important piece of advice here: Make sure you’re so in love with your title, handle, and identifying image that you might actually consider marrying them. Once you gain followers, rebranding isn’t easy, so you don’t want to wind up stuck with something that doesn’t scream YOU.
Plug into social media.
The majority of my blog traffic comes from Facebook, Pinterest, and StumbleUpon (and I know a lot of bloggers who capitalize on Twitter traffic, too). I do get the occasional visitors from a Google search, but that’s not something to rely on right out of the gate.
Pick two or three social media and/or sharing sites you’re willing to familiarize yourself with and actually use, and grow your followers there. WORD OF WARNING: Don’t try to use all the things. If you plug into every social media and sharing site at once, you won’t have the time necessary to devote to growing a fan base in any one place on the internet.
Be sure to place your social media “follow” buttons in a conspicuous spot on your blog so potential followers can find you easily. Also remember to offer readers the option of subscribing by email (if you use WordPress, Jetpack offers a free subscription service), and don’t forget to make your email available should someone feel like contacting you (you can create a free GMail account strictly for your blog). Finally, be sure to use the same avatar picture across social media and sharing sites. You want your followers to be able to recognize you anywhere.
Decide whether monetizing is for you.
Do you envision making some coffee money from your blog, or is it strictly going to be an online journal of sorts?
If you decide to monetize, there are some heavy hitters in the monetizing game you can work with. Google AdSense is a good place to start. I also belong to the BlogHer Publishing Network, which not only offers ad revenue, but also offers paid social media influencer opportunities as well as paid syndication of blog content. If monetizing is for you, consider creating an “Advertising” page where advertisers interested in posting ads or having you review products can learn about your rules, what you charge, and how they can contact you.
If monetizing is not your schtick, good for you! But if you find yourself receiving far too many spam emails from advertisers wanting you to push their products, consider placing a notice that you do not post ads or review products somewhere easily visible on your blog.
Don’t adopt a you-follow-me-and-I’ll-follow-you persona.
Few things will blacklist you in the blogging world like commenting on other bloggers’ sites or social media links with things like, “Hey! I shared your post/page, so now it’s your turn to share mine,” or “Hey! I really love your content. Could you put a link to my blog on your site?”
Following and sharing is great, but expecting a follow or share in return is simply uncouth. Let your content and your personal relationships with other bloggers and social media mavens speak for your worth. Providing genuine commentary and feedback to others is the best way to develop relationships and get your name out there.
Start by visiting some blogs you find on social media sites. When you come across one you enjoy, leave a meaningful comment. This is how back scratching works. (And it’s also how you meet some really kick ass people!)
Make your content attractive to online audiences.
Online audiences are notorious for their impatience. If they come across a post with no paragraphing, font that is difficult to read, conflicting color schemes, and little to break up the content, they’ll likely leave just as soon as they’ve arrived.
To keep the attention of your internet audience, consider doing the following:
- use small paragraphs, headings and subheadings, bulleted and numbered lists, and images and other media where appropriate
- use a template with a light background and darker font (white font on a dark background is hard on the eyes)
- use a legible font like Times New Roman or Arial for your post content (leave the fun and frilly fonts for the header and post titles)
- ditch music that plays every time someone visits your site (not only is this irritating, but it also slows your site’s load time, and trust me: ain’t nobody got time for that)
ALWAYS give credit to others when you use a portion of their content, and never EVER copy another blogger’s content in full.
Attribution is HUGE in the blogging world (and the world world, really). If you don’t provide proper credit to others, you could both earn a poor reputation and get yourself reported to Google for plagiarism, even if your intent was not to plagiarize. Here are some basic rules to help you avoid any trouble:
- Only use images copyright labeled for reuse, and be sure to provide a photo credit in the caption or at the bottom of the post. Some great resources for finding images copyright labeled for reuse are Morguefile, Creative Commons, and Zemanta. But beware: Just because you find an image on one of these sites does not mean it is definitely free to use. Carefully research usage and attribution requirements, and when it doubt, don’t use it.
- NEVER simply copy and paste an image from another site into yours. This slows the other site’s load and is a big blogging no-no. Instead, save the image to your hard drive (provided it is copyright labeled for reuse) and upload it into your post. Don’t forget to include the photo credit as well.
- NEVER copy another writer’s content in full, even if you provide a link to the original post. Instead, quote one or two compelling bits of the post and provide a link to the original post, encouraging readers to visit it for more (don’t quote more than 100-200 words without permission).
There are a TON of great bloggers out there, and wanting to be just like them is natural. Just remember, though, that a person’s writing voice is like her or his underwear: people can tell when you’re not wearing your own.
It’s OK to look to other bloggers for inspiration, but trying to be so much like them that readers wonder if you’re planning to murder these bloggers and wear their skin around as a suit is not. Write about things that reflect who you are as a person and a blogger. Develop your own blogging niche, even if that niche is blogging about everything under the sun. If you are inspired by another blogger, be sure to link to them in your post so they get credit for being your muse. Just make sure not every post is a spin-off of someone else’s.
Accept that not everyone is sane.
There comes a point in nearly every blogger’s career that the crazies start coming out of the woodwork, leaving hurtful and disconcerting comments about the content. Nobody likes it, but it’s a reality.
Put on your big girl or boy pants now, ’cause your time is a-comin’.
You can choose to delete these comments, to respond to them, or to close comments down when things start to get out of hand. However you choose to handle it, just remember that it’s not you; it’s them. And unfortunately, a lot of them are assholes.
Becoming a blogging sensation doesn’t happen overnight for everyone (I’m still waiting for my breakthrough). Sometimes it doesn’t happen at all.
Instead of obsessing about becoming famous, have fun with blogging. I have found there is no cheaper or better therapy around.[/nextpage]