Here’s a 10 part guide to blogging – my gift to you !
Get Creative, How to blog
I am a big fan of blogs, I am a blogger myself as you know and I think you should blog too.
In previous eras we were forced to rely on a small handful of people who were paid to give their opinions, in print and the broadcast media and they weren’t necessarily saying things we wanted to hear.
Now we have access to as much cyberspace as we want. We can share our thoughts with an audience which is potentially limitless. You don’t have to be hired by a magazine or gallery to display your talents anymore, you just set up a blog and away you go.
It’s almost your democratic duty!
It’s also very rewarding and puts you in the driving seat.
Here are some more reasons why you should start a blog:-
- It’s a showcase for your talents, allowing you to show the world what you can do. If you don’t feel comfortable writing, then maybe you could use photos of your work or put up music files. Blogs are very easy to use and can accommodate all kinds of media, try WordPress or BlogSpot.
- A blog can help you formulate ideas. Sometimes you don’t really know how you feel about a subject until someone asks you to write it down. The act of writing regularly will help you shape your ideas.
- Join the wider debate. It’s great to blog about issues being talked about in your field; it keeps your posts relevant and will attract comments and discussion to your site.
- Promote your work. You can use your blog to encourage people to take some sort of action, whether that means buying your stuff or attending an event, like a concert. But keep the sales pitch low-key; blogs should be about information not the hard sell.
- Share something of yourself with others. The best bloggers reveal enough of their personality to engage with readers without boring them with tedious detail about their family or what they ate for lunch.
- Build an audience. Use your blog to build a community of like-minded people whose opinions matter as much as your own.
- Develop a Web presence. Having a blog and up-dating it regularly will give you good juice with the search engines. It means that when someone searches on your name or for something in your niche on Google you have a better chance of coming out near the top.
What Do I Put Into My Blog?
I am often asked by new bloggers, “What should I write?” It’s all very well heading off on this journey of self-discovery with its many marketing and branding benefits, but what do you actually say when you sit down to write ?
This very much depends on what kind of a blog you have and why you are doing it. There are as many different types of blog as there are bloggers.
Are you a business blog wanting to connect with your customers? Are you passing on advice and tips to increase your reputation for expertise? Or are you keeping a diary, sharing stories about your life. I know someone who has just set up a tea shop and is doing a brilliant and very funny job of recording each day’s adventures via her blog .
You do need to try and stay true to your purpose though. If you start off as a business blog with the aim of connecting to your customers then you can’t go too mad on the personal stuff.
So once you know what kind of a blog you are, you should have some idea what to write about.
“How often should I write?”
Some people blog several times a day, posting short newsy updates. Others go for lengthy essays once a week, passing on a deep knowledge of their subject. Both are perfectly legitimate. I prefer 200-300 words, three times a week, on a range of subjects relevant to my niche, ( media, PR and marketing, both social and otherwise!)
Whatever it is, do keep it regular. As you build up a following and gain subscribers, then they will expect to hear from you. At Christmas and Easter or times when you anticipate being extra busy, you can write some posts in advance.
In fact planning ahead is a great idea, depending of course on the type of blog you are. (Clue: it doesn’t work for diary type blogs!) You can map out your ideas a week or even a month in advance if you want, grouping similar subjects together and even turning them into a mini series.
But do keep at it. Regular, good quality, original content, is what builds followers. It’s also the thing that helps you get found on Google and that counts for a lot.
Blog to create your personal brand.
Writing a blog is a great way to be creative and throw ideas around, but it is also a good place to start building a profile online.
Why do you need to do that?
Everything is moving online with increasing speed. Soon we won’t just be shopping and reading magazines online, we will be looking for jobs, making Drs Appointments and paying our taxes online, especially since the government has thrown its weight behind the Mygov project.
In the face of this relentless move onto the internet I think it’s vital to take control over the way we are seen in cyberspace. A regularly up-dated blog is a good start. It gives you online visibility in a way you can control. It allows you to shape your own personal brand.
I hated the phrase ‘personal branding’ when I first heard it. But I have come to realise that it is about owning your image in a world where our stuff is increasingly out there anyway. Try Googling your own name and you will be surprised by what comes up.
If you are a member of LinkedIn or Facebook, then you will know already how important it is to give potential employers the best possible information about you and not to hand them damaging access to things which will do you harm; photos of you in a naked pie-eating contest for example.
A blog can be part of the personal marketing campaign that lets the world know who you are. So sit down and think for a while about what it is that you are offering. What is your Unique Selling Point? What is it about you that you would like to share with the world? Now you’re ready to go and set up your blog.
How To Write A Blog: Content Is King
Blogging may feel like a solitary activity but it’s actually very social. It’s all about sharing.
You’re sharing your expertise, news, opinions and stories. You’re sharing content and Content is King.
This is why someone reads your blog. They may admire the way you express yourself, use words and take them on a journey, but essentially they read you for the things you can tell them. So tell them good and useful things.
By now you should have worked out why you are blogging (self-expression? customer relations? brand awareness?) and what your particular niche is. You know how often you want to blog and roughly how long your posts are going to be. You may have made a good start but used up some of your most obvious content.
Now you need to freshen the well. You need inspiration and ideas. Here are some places to go:-
- Read. First I would advise reading other people’s blogs. There are thousands of them on any subject so trawl the internet and subscribe to those you like, using e-mail or RSS which will deliver the blog regularly to your in-box. Look at how they do it and don’t be afraid to adapt the ideas you like. Read books, fiction and non fiction. Fresh ideas are fuel; they get you thinking and can lead in unexpected directions, ending up as new posts.
- Consume news. Read newspapers and magazines, trade journals and listen to the radio. News events and discussions in or out of your niche can spark off ideas.
- Go out and meet new people. When you are at parties, in the pub, networking or at coffee, listen to what people have to say and use your antennae to home in on the things that make you go “wow”. Use it.
- Contribute to discussions on internet forums in your field and on other people’s blogs. Research the most influential blogs and find out what’s firing their debates. LinkedIn groups are good for this too. It really helps your status as an expert if you are on top of the relevant issues and are commenting on them both in your own blog and outside.
To keep yourself on your toes try asking yourself this after each post; “What value did I pass on today?” If you can say you broke news, added to a discussion or re-framed an old truth in a fresh way, then you have shared something,for which you can be proud.
Building An Audience
Writing a blog can feel like talking to your self and people who do that are a bit mad, right?
Well only a bit. It’s not unusual to be read just by your mum for a while, after all, how does anyone know you’re out there? That’s why you have to build an audience.
Here are some ideas for getting the clicks that tell you you’re sane.
- Tell people you exist. It could be word of mouth, but it’s far more efficient to use social media. Post a link to your blog on Facebook or let people know via Twitter. I use the ‘get short link’ facility on WordPress blogs to post up a compressed link to my latest blog and then add an interesting headline. If you are on LinkedIn you can opt for your blog to be fed to your homepage automatically.
- If you are blogging for business or have a website, make sure there is a prominent link to your blog. The same goes for any newsletters you might produce. Think of your blog as another address where people can find you, so pass it on as you would your phone number, on business cards etc.
- Make sure your blog entries have interesting and engaging headlines. Some say use the headline to advertise exactly what is in the post, others favour a more cryptic, teasing approach. Both are good but the direct approach may help you with ………
- SEO. Search Engine Optimisation is a devilish science and I talk about this further down but basically, if you want to be found on Google you need to use some key words in the post title and again in the text. E.g. If you want people searching for blog advice to find you, then a title like ’10 tips for a better blog’ will help.
- Regular good quality content. The search engines like new content, so keeping up with your blog in a steady fashion will help you get found. It sometimes takes a little while, but keep at it to reap the benefits.
- Comment on other people’s blogs. Once you have found some blogs you like you should get stuck in and post interesting and relevant comments. People love it when you speak back to them and will often check you out in return. If you choose some of the larger well-known blogs in your niche then you may also get checked out by other posters as well. There is usually a place to leave your blog address and some automatically put in a link into your latest post. All the more reason to have an enticing headline to tempt them to click. Make sure you check your comments as thoroughly as you would your blog post for spelling and grammar.
Ask your readers to comment too.
5 Tips for Top Headlines
If your readers love everything you write then you are fortunate indeed. Most of us have to entice the reader with the promise of something really good. That’s why you need a top notch headline.
You don’t have to beat the tabloids at their own game every time, although let’s just pause for one of the all time greats….do you remember how they turned Julio Babtista leaving Arsenal because of the poor climate into, “Weather forces Baps out” ?
You do have to work at it though if you’re to capture the gnat-like attention span of most internet grazers. Here are 5 tips for top headlines.
- Write your headline first. It will focus your attention on what the post is about. You can always go back and finesse it later.
- Stick to your promises. If you offer 10 ways to make a million in a year you can’t write about the art of feng shui, you need to meet the expectations raised. Numbered lists always do very well too.
- Use the headline to make it clear what the post is about. A transparent title helps to ensure the reader isn’t disappointed especially if they’re looking for help and short of time.
- You can win traffic to your blog by using clear key words in the title which search engines can read. You want your title to match the words they’re searching against. This way someone looking for “examples of bad customer service” will find your blog post entitled “five examples of bad customer service.”
- Make it memorable and intriguing. This won’t work every time and goes counter to the advice on clear titles but an enigmatic headline can pull in passing traffic. My blog post, “Tips for Cleaner Writing-Fur Coat and No Knickers” certainly did. In this example I offered a two part headline, one which advertised the content and the other which tempted the reader.
What Stops Us From Getting What We Want?
I don’t know what it is you dream of, but I’m sure you’ve had ideas about how to get there. What happened to them? Did you kick them out or file them? After the initial excitement did they start to look a bit lame?
You’ve fallen victim to what business guru Seth Godin calls, The Lizard Brain.
It’s the part of your mind that says “You can’t do that!” It makes up fantastic excuses about why other people’s ideas are better and tells you that you have other things to worry about.
I’ve met a lot of would-be bloggers at meeting and talks who all seemed to have brought their lizards with them.
They want to blog, they tell me, but they haven’t got around to it. Or they posted once but nobody read it and it didn’t show up on the search engines, so what’s the point?
I see a crisis of confidence. That lizard has to go.
It will creep back in, probably to tell you that your writing is rubbish and that the guy down the road who works in marketing might read it and think it’s terrible. But you’re wise to the lizard now and you’re not going to listen.
It takes half an hour for a would-be-blogger to become a blogger. No-body wants you to fail.
Just do it.
P.S. You will only start to show up in search engines if you keep on posting regularly, so set that as a goal and monitor it – just search for your own blog on Google. Oh, and subscribe to your blog too; that way you know that everything is getting out there smoothly, nothing has been ‘lost’.
Keep on Keeping On
Putting up your first 10 posts is an exciting achievement. Your ideas are fresh and the content keeps coming. The next 10 might feel a little harder. But what happens when you think you’ve run out of things to say?
Generating new ideas can seem like a huge drain on your creativity.
That’s when you need to apply some new techniques.
Internet psychologist Graham Jones suggests a scheme for ensuring that you’re never lost for words.
Sub-divide your content.
If you blog about fashion, then one area might be ‘seasonal trends’ another might be ‘fashion at work’ and another, ‘fashion icons from the movies’. Take these three sub categories and allocate them one day a week. If you blog more frequently and you want to go with more, that’s great, it’s up to you.
Now you have a basic structure.
As you go about your life, collect cuttings, ideas and stories that inspire you, then file them under the relevant headings.
Now, armed with your weekly scheme and your files of ideas you can keep to your blogging schedule. This will make a huge difference when you’re building an audience as people will come to know what to expect.
Tip: Keep a few spare posts up your sleeve for when you go on holiday or when you’re just not in the mood to write.
You need never stare at a blank computer screen again.
Why Hasn’t She Mentioned SEO?
Search Engine Optimisation is the elephant in the room. You know you ought to be doing it but the thought of it makes your head spin.
SEO is seen as something of a black art. The idea is to use key words in your blog which are relevant to your niche, which will ultimately make it easier to get found online.
So if I was writing about original art I would want the phrase “original art” in my main blog title and probably in most of my post titles as well i.e. “Why sales of original art are booming” or “10 things to consider when framing original art”.
Then you need to think about sprinkling your key words throughout the text as well but do make it natural and organic. Anything that becomes stilted as a result of over-stuffing will be penalized by the gods of SEO or more likely Google.
The other key way to get found online is to build links coming into your site. This means other people have read your work and have decided to link to you. You’ll get top marks with the search engines, particularly if you can attract incoming links from bigger sites or blogs in your general subject area.
If you want to study this stuff you would do well to learn from the experts and I recommend this beginners guide most highly.
But for me, there’s only one essential truth. You can fine-tune your blog to make it easier to find (and you should) but if you don’t tell us something interesting in a really compelling way you could be wasting your time.
Are you getting the most out of your blogging?
Do you feel creative and fulfilled or are you always sneaking a peek at the stats and cursing?
People blog for different reasons and that influences what you do.
I use my blog as a hub for my business. By posting informative content three times a week I show my readers what I am good at. If they like the way I write they can hire me to write copy for them. This week I’m working on the press and publicity for a new Children’s Centre, last week I was working on a newsletter for an artist.
But I don’t want to write posts that only appeal to my clients. I also need to look at a wider group who might pass my work on to their readers.
It’s important not to forget these people as they can take your exposure to another level.
If you’re not sure who they are, sit down and write a list of possible candidates. For me they are professionals working in Press and public relations, marketers, social media experts and local networkers. Think of the people you want to impress, it might include professional bodies or peers working in a similar or associated field to yourself.
So we have two types of content, posts your clients will find useful and articles that your peers will enjoy and share on Facebook or Twitter. There is a third type, often dismissed by hard- line bloggers and that is content written for you, the stuff you enjoy.
I think there should be room to sit back and take pleasure in your writing even if no-one else agrees. You shouldn’t be a slave to your statistics. To keep on blogging week after week you have to enjoy what you’re doing. So if an idea comes to you and it feels totally random, declare it ‘Off-topic Friday’ and write it anyway.
So there we have it, I hope you enjoyed my 10 part guide and will continue your hard work blogging. Send me a link, I’d love to read your work.
Lucy Thorpe is a Copywriter, Blogger and Social Media enthusiast. She worked as a journalist and newsreader at the BBC in London for 15 years, mainly on 5 Live. Now she offers freelance writing and consulting services from her base near London. If you want help with a blog, copywriting for your business or integrating social media into your work then e-mail Lucy.Thorpe@btconnect.com Connect at http://uk.linkedin.com/in/lucythorpe and Chat at http://twitter.com/LucyThorpe