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While 45% of marketers say blogging is the most important piece of their content strategy , we often forget that out of the 152 million+ blogs out there, not all of them have a strategic objective to follow. Some people blog because they love to write, they find comfort and inspiration in throwing their ideas into the world and have them thrown back at them…like a soggy towel. The Internet can be unkind.
A lot of the time, aspiring writers would love nothing more than to share their thoughts through blogging but haven’t got a single clue where to start. So, you fancy yourself a blogger? Here’s how to start talking to the world by landscaping your own little corner of it.
Get on your soapbox
However much we’d like to advocate that blog posts are an open conversation, you need to get ready to talk to yourself for a while. Unless and until you start to bring returning traffic to your blog and build a smidgeon of awareness, you will, in essence by talking to thin air.
Authoring a new blog is a lot like getting on a soapbox, in the middle of a very public and very crowded place to address topics nobody has asked your opinion on and very few people might be interested in. This, by no means, implies you should be quiet. It means you do need to have a purpose.
A century or two ago, soapboxers would stand up, quite literally, for political issues, religious convictions, people’s rights and more. What are you standing up for? It doesn’t need to be earth-shattering, it just needs to make sense. It can be as simple as helping people see the bright side of things because you’re such a disgustingly positive person. Even on Mondays. (I’m looking at you, Teodora)
Write before you sign up
Sometimes people want to pick up a hobby but, two weeks in, realise they’ve done little more than decide to do it. Blogging is a commitment and requires consistency. You can’t blog once a year and expect anyone to care about what you have to say and however much you’d like to advertise that it’s just for you, the fact of the matter is you’re blogging for feedback, recognition and/ or to change something. Blogging for yourself is called journaling.
Before you take any other step in developing your blog – write. For people. A lot. As much as you can, as often as you can. Try to refine your blog’s reason for being, who are the people who care, practice how you express your own personality through writing, create structure within your posts, then read, edit and write some more, and then remind yourself I write for people.
The point is to form a habit of writing regularly (whatever regular is for you), discover whether you’re ready to commit to a recurrent date with your audience and, most importantly, if you do really have something valid to say. When I started unraveling Shoestrings & Fancy Things, I had around 10 posts shelved but I had already been writing for a number of years. If you’re just starting out, go for around 20 to 30 initial posts, I guarantee that by the time you publish your blog, you will have merged, deleted and rewritten quite a few.
Match your goal with your content
People read blogs because they’re looking for a solution, opinions, inspiration or entertainment. All of these have more authority when they’re expressed by real people rather than an abstract, distant brand.
Whether you’re strategic about it or not, your blog is the first brick in your personal brand. Your readers will come back, engage with and enjoy your content because it’s useful, funny, inspirational, emotional and more. In time, through hard work and by listening to your audience, you’ll become trusted to deliver on a certain experience, your brand’s experience, to be precise.
In order to keep that dialogue open, you need to sync your blog’s reason for being with how you’re living that reason through your writing. You can’t inspire people to lead a healthier lifestyle when all the content you’re publishing talks about how hard it is and the sacrifices you’re making. That’s not inspirational it’s depressing. Try to associate what you’re trying to achieve with the emotions that make it happen and weave them into your content. (ie. inspiration is about hope)
Once you’ve done that, think about how your unique take on the topic brings more value to your reader’s life than all the other conversations already taking place about the same topic. It can be anything from it being new information to something as simple as a new perspective.
Stay away from second-rate design
If you’ve gotten this far, have a nice stash of posts, have defined your topics, who you’re speaking to and how you plan to get your point across, it’s time for the packaging. Design is often sorely neglected on blogs, especially personal blogs. People don’t want to invest in hobbies and you really don’t have to break the bank to have a decent-looking blog.
It’s a blog, not a storage container for bad ideas.
You might not put too much value on the design and functionalities of your website but people will abandon a slow-to-load, eyesore of a page in a heartbeat. No matter how good your content may be, they’ll never get to read it.
Blogs aren’t a complicated enterprise. You need a homepage, about and post page layout. This is your starting point so make sure you make the most of these very simple requirements. Go for colours that inspire the same concepts you’re looking to convey through your content, do not hoard useless features, and keep it clean. It’s a blog, not a storage container for bad ideas.
A lot of the people who are thinking about blogging start by thinking about technicalities like platform, hosting, and domain names, rather than what they’re going to talk about, who cares about what they have to say, how to wrap all that delicious content and deliver it to readers.
From WordPress to Blogger and Medium, there are many platform options. These are the top 3 I would recommend. WordPress, in particular, has a mind-boggling amount of free and paid templates that you can use. Word to the wise, though, installing them might prove tricky and, sometimes, you can run across poorly built ones.
Names are important but they are not the most important thing. Names are nuances that set the mood of an interaction between you and your audience. You can meet or change those expectations slightly through your content and branding.
The Bottom Line
Blogging is about building and maintaining a relationship with your audience. It’s about finding that common ground between what you have to say and what people want to hear about, not necessarily agree with. There’s more to setting up a blog than just installing WordPress and furiously typing. For it to be worth your while and lead to something, you need to define how your posts will impact the life, attitudes, points of view and decisions of your readers.
In other words, whether you admit it from the jump or not, your blog has a purpose so make the most of it and marry what’s in it for you with what’s in it for the reader, then write, design, deliver and engage with those goals in mind.