There are several reasons that people decide to start blogging. For some, it is a way of showcasing their writing talents, for others a way of sharing their life experiences, or raising awareness of issues they face. For businesses, it is a great way of engaging with new and existing customers.
The first thing you need to decide when starting a blog is what platform to use.
The most common platform is WordPress, which is popular for a number of reasons. First of all, it is very easy to use, with a WYSIWIG editor enabling users to create and manage posts easily.
Secondly, it is very easy to customise, with a range of third party plugins, which can add an almost limitless amount of functionality, without the user having to possess any programming knowledge.
Bloggers have the choice of a self-hosted blog on their own domain, e.g. joesblog.com or a blog that is hosted by their blogging platform of choice, on what is known as a sub domain, e.g. joesblog.wordpress.com.
The advantages of having a self hosted blog are as follows:
- Recognisable, memorable domain name.
- Easily customisable design and features.
- More credible and attractive to potential advertisers.
The disadvantages of self-hosted blogs are:
- Require a certain amount of technical know-how to set up.
- More likely to experience down time than blogs hosted on platform.
- Cost of domain and hosting.
Self hosted blogs will incur the following costs:
- Hosting - From $3.99/month from a number of providers. Some hosting providers also offer a free domain with packages.
- Domain name - $12.99/year from Go Daddy
Blogs hosted on a platform such as WordPress.com are the easy solution for those looking to get started for free, but they do have some limitations:
- Restricted customisation options.
- Less memorable than self-hosted blogs.
- Less attractive for advertisers/partners than self hosted blogs.
Successful blogs have a clear subject and theme. In most cases, this is a subject that the writer is very familiar with and passionate about. Choosing a subject that you love is a great way to ensure that you will have plenty to say and find the motivation to update your blog regularly.
When posting on your blog, keep in mind the following golden rules:
- Keep it relevant.
- Post regularly but not for the sake of it.
- Encourage comments on your blog and social media.
You may want to consider creating an editorial calendar to ensure you have a plan for what to post and when. This will ensure that you post consistently and you don’t miss out on any seasonal events.
Remember, people skim read online, so be sure to break up your posts with headings/sub-headings and use small and easy to digest paragraphs. Summarise key points using bullets and bolden/italicize text to add emphasis.
Having a blog is great, but if you want it to be successful, you are going to have to promote it. The following are some of the methods of doing this:
- Social media - Promoting your posts on Twitter and Facebook can help to drive traffic and engage with your audience.
- SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) - This is the process of optimising your posts so that they appear in searches on Google and other search engines. When writing, consider the words and phrases that people would search for to find your posts. Include these terms in your meta data, header and alt tags and where relevant, within the copy of your posts. There are several plugins for WordPress which can help you with this.
- Engage with other bloggers - Exchange blog roll links with other bloggers to increase your audience and reach.
There are various methods of making money from your blog, these include:
- Affiliate marketing - By signing up for an affiliate marketing network such as Affiliate Window, you can place links in your posts to products, which will pay a commission to you if the visitor goes on to make a purchase.
- Advertising - Placing adverts on your blog is a great way to monetise it. One of the easiest and most popular ways of doing this is by using Google’s AdSense platform, which helps you to display targeted ads to your visitors based on the content of your posts.
- Review products/events - Bloggers who have built an authority can be given free products, event tickets and cash in exchange for reviews. Sites such as Tomoson can help you to find these opportunities.