By: Hillel Fuld (@hilzfuld)
I am a huge believer in content. Seriously, no matter what you are trying to accomplish, writing or generating good content for people to consume is generally a good strategy. I am of the opinion that there are very few exceptions to the rule that every human being should have a blog (Read the post behind that link. Trust me!)
Well, folks, there is good news. As 2014 is around the corner, there is no question that I am beginning to see wide adoption of this rule and people in my personal social circles who I would never expect to become content creators are now blogging their butts off. That is great.
However, and this is a real problem, there is no beginner’s guide to blogging. Why is this a problem? Well, because there are some basic guidelines that all bloggers should follow and new bloggers are unaware of them. Now before you say it, I am not saying there is a right and wrong way to blog. Write however you want. In fact, if you do not write about a topic you are passionate about and in your own tone and style, the chances of your blog succeeding long term are close to non existent.
Having said that, the web, the search engines, and everything that will quickly become your best friend definitely have rules by which it is in your best interest to abide. So here are just a few things I have noticed from friends who have started blogging that you might want to jot down for yourself if blogging is something you want to embrace.
First Thing’s First: Mindset
Let’s just get this out of the way. If you plan on blogging once a year, you will end up blogging once a decade. If you plan on blogging once a month, you will blog three times a year. Consistency is key. In that way, it is sort of like dieting or as dieters would call it “changing your lifestyle”.
It is really very simple. The more you blog, the better the blog will do both in terms of traffic and in terms of brand awareness. There is of course no golden number but my personal opinion is to aim to blog once a day. Now relax! I do not mean you have to write 2000 word posts analyzing the market once a day. A blog post can and often should be a cute video with minimal text. An easy to consume piece of content that will keep casual readers interested!
Based on the formula I mentioned above, if you aim to blog once a day, you might end up writing a few times a week. That is a great start! So bottom line, if you are going to start blogging with some sort of goal in mind, it is best to get into the mindset of taking it very seriously. Otherwise, you will end up not finding the time or putting it very low on your priority list and we don’t want that, now do we?
Most people who are just getting started blogging do not even realize that choosing a platform can often be more complicated than choosing a wife. Alright, slight exaggeration but that is what us bloggers like to do to prove a point. Here is the thing. Before you start blogging, do a little research. What platform will you use? WordPress? Possibly! Tumblr? Hmm, maybe. Blogger? Probably a little less likely. There are many resources to understand the differences between the platforms and new platforms are born quite often.
Personal preference? I use WordPress, but that’s just me. Which leads me to my next point…
Your Domain Name is your Face to the World
Ok, great news that you decided to take the leap and start the blog MyThoughtsOnOwningADogWhoIsBlind.Blogspot.com but sit down, we need to talk. Again, slight exaggeration. You need to choose a somewhat memorable domain. You should also own the domain and not use the free hosting services out there assuming again, you intend on making something of this blog. You cannot compare Technmarketing.com to Technmarketing.WordPress.com. It makes a world of difference. Oh and about URLs…
Your Posts, Help Google Help You!
So WordPress enables you to format the URL of your posts. I have never used other blogging platforms, but I assume they do too. If your blog is called MyBlog.com and your first post is called “Giving this Blogging thing a Shot”, then the URL should not be MyBlog.com/?=431433 but rather something along the lines of MyBlog.com/Blogging or MyBlog.com/StartedBlogging or something else relevant.
Why? Well, for starters, URLs obviously have a tremendous effect on search engines and how they index your content. But I am no SEO expert so I am going to focus on something else. Imagine there you are, minding your own business when you come across a link in an email or on Twitter (not shortened) and it looks like this: MyBlog.com/?=432f4. You ain’t clicking so fast, are you? But if the URL is the title of the post or it sums up the topic of the post, and said topic is of interest to you, the chances of you clicking just increased significantly.
Why not give users a reason to click on first glance? Why not give Google and other search engines the ability to know the topic of your content without digging deep into the post itself?
Remember, it is Called A Platform for a Reason!
Again, I am speaking of WordPress because that is what I know but the platform on which you write the content should do much more than just display that content. Find extensions that match your needs. You want to be able to send your friend a post you are writing before you hit publish? Install Public Post Preview (one of my most useful extensions). You want to enable your readers to easily share your content? (that sentence might have had a question mark at the end of it, but it was not a question. You want to enable your readers to share your content. Trust me.) Install social extensions and remember, while you may not be active on Google+ or Pinterest, your readers might be, so let them share wherever they want.
The important thing is that while you should definitely just start writing, you should also in parallel, customize the functionality of your blog and maximize it for your needs. That is the primary reason I use WordPress, in case you were interested.
Humans are Social Creatures!
Ever hear of social media? Ya know, Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Pinterest, should I go on? When blogging, keep this medium in mind. For example, if you are going to choose pictures for your posts, and you ARE going to want to choose pictures for your posts, think about how those images will look on Google+ or Facebook, two platforms that are fundamentally visual sites. If you have engaging images, you can expect significantly higher traffic from these sites.
On the other hand, if the preview generated from your posts on Facebook is a bald scary man and the excerpt is totally irrelevant to the content itself, well, you are doing something wrong. Get on that.
Keep it Short. Yes, the Irony is not Lost on Me!
Not sure if you noticed but people have zero patience. If you are consistently writing 2000 word posts, well, you are losing readers. On the other hand, you don’t want to have short and shallow posts exclusively. I realize this post is relatively long and I kept this point for last, because, well, I like to add some irony to my writing. Consider that the final point, keep it light, add humor, don’t take yourself too seriously. That’s it, I’m outta here.
Before I go, one last thing. Don’t neglect mobile! Many people will be reading your writing on their mobile device. Make sure your content looks good on a mobile device. Now I am really outta here! For real…
Oh, one more. Kidding…
Here is a video of me talking about thought leadership and branding through producing content. I thought it was somewhat relevant to the post. (sorry for the focus issues in the video!)