Blogs are cropping up all over the Internet these days. They are a great way to get involved with a community, to have discussions with like-minded people, to share knowledge and get feedback on the opinions that you voice, and to promote a business, service, or product. Society has become so fast-paced now that it is also a good way to stay in touch with friends and family! If your father dear lives on the other side of the world, for example, it can be a way for him to keep tabs on you if you only write e-mails once or twice a week (*waves to the father dear*).
If you have never started your own blog before, here are a few essential tips to keep in mind:
1) Talk to someone who already has a blog. If you have absolutely no idea what you are doing and don’t know what a widget is or the difference between Blogspot and WordPress, it will make your life much easier to sit down with someone who knows what they are doing so that they can explain it to you and walk you through the process. It’s always fun to play around and make your own discoveries, but that is much more enjoyable to do after you have a grasp of how blogging and blogging platforms work. Get help from someone who has a little bit of experience.
2) Make use of forums and graphic designers. Getting a free blog is generally the best way to do it for beginner bloggers. My health blog was originally at Blogspot before I moved it to WordPress before I then became self-hosted (which means that I pay a small fee for my blog—the purpose of this is that it allows you to have a website address without the “.blogspot” or “.wordpress” in it, and it also gives you much more freedom to personalize the site).
Having a free blog is an easier way to do it if you don’t know what you are doing because everything is laid out in a very easy-to-understand format. But if you do have problems, or if you do decide to go the self-hosted route, then I definitely advise reading the Frequently Asked Questions pages and checking out the forums of your blogging platform. I also have an awesome graphic designer who makes my website look pretty because, frankly, I have very little knowledge of how websites work beyond the basics of writing a blog post. Get help from a professional to save yourself hours of confusion and frustration.
3) Choose your topic and audience. This can be a little vague when you first begin, but as you continue to blog you will find yourself writing more and more about one particular subject. I like the very generalized topics of “health” and “rhetoric”, because they allow me a lot of freedom to write on a variety of topics. Many bloggers change their blog name over the years because they find that the title is too limiting for what they want to write about.
Choose your blog title wisely (or just randomly choose a title that you sort of like which will then wind up being exactly perfect for what you blog about. Apparently I run off of intuition). Also be sure to keep in mind who your audience is: if you want to appeal to everyone, try not to neglect a whole group of people! Many of my blog posts at Living Healthy tend to have more of a feminine viewpoint, which may not be as interesting to male readers. It is important to recognize that and to come up with ways to prevent yourself from leaning too far to one side.
4) Start blogging because you love it. If you don’t enjoy writing, or if your heart isn’t really into the content of your work, then it will become a chore rather than a hobby. Where’s the fun of that? Also go into it without any expectations of getting compensation for your work. Yes, some bloggers do make a living from writing blogs, but they are a small few. Most bloggers rely on a day job with their blog as a side project.
When I first started my health blog, I never expected to have companies contact me to give me free items for product reviews. Now I find that I often need to turn companies down because I have too many freebies coming in! It is one of the perks, but it isn’t something that you should rely on to happen: it took at least a good solid year before I began receiving offers from companies. Your blog topic will also be a factor in whether or not you will be likely to eventually receive products. Because this blog has such a specific focus, I think that it is highly unlikely that I will receive offers from companies beyond the odd book or two. But that is okay, because the blogging that I do is all about the love for it and the desire to spread awareness about the rhetoric all around us.
5) Keep it short and sweet. I will admit it: I do not follow this rule. I am known for my rambles and tangents. I write blog posts upwards of 1,000 words on my health blog when many people probably only want to read blogs with about 500 words per article. But although I could shorten my posts, I feel that to do so would be to sacrifice my voice and to take away from the message that I’m trying to convey. I am fully capable of keeping articles short and sweet when it is necessary—I am always exactly at or just under my word count for the newspaper that I write for—but if I’m the one in control, I like there to be plenty of information for people to peruse if they so desire. Plus I’m kind of addicted to writing. That too.
6) Don’t get discouraged. It may take five blog posts or 50 before you start getting more than one or two comments per post. The number of comments has no bearing on the number of readers. Some writing styles and some blog content are more accessible for people to respond to than other styles and content. Even if you look at your blog stats and you see that your readership is really low, it doesn’t matter. Over time—and it may take months or years—your followers will expand (hopefully the group of followers, not the individuals, of course). Regardless of if they do, remember point number four: blog because you love it. Take this as a writing experience for yourself, as a personal project, as a way to expand your portfolio. Enjoy yourself and write for yourself just as much as for the people that you hope will find your writing to be helpful.