… by JoAnna Haugen
I’ve been a member of many writers’ groups, and despite all the genres people work in and the creative ideas that spawn their words, I’ve discovered one thing that’s certain: Writers, by nature, prefer the tangible piece of paper. As an extension, they are often (though not always) hesitant or uncertain about how to embrace the art of blogging.
Writers tend to get bogged down with what, exactly, they should be writing and whether what they have to say is worthwhile to anyone else. Add to that a frustrating vocabulary of terms such as SEO, traffic and analytics, and I can appreciate why people want to go running in the opposite direction.
The important thing to realize is that, regardless of whether you’re a writer or not, blogging doesn’t have to be overwhelming or intimidating, and, in fact, it can be a lot of fun. If you’re among those who would like to blog but don’t know where to start, here are five tips to keep in mind:
1. Blogging can be very easy.
Assuming you know the basics about navigating your way online, setting up a blog is simple. There are many free templates predesigned for bloggers, and you don’t have to pay to use them. Blogspot and WordPress are two of the most popular platforms available to bloggers. All you have to do is set up an account, and you’re free to write your first entry right away.
Over time, as you define the voice and purpose of your blog a bit more, you may want to consider buying your own web address and customizing the design, but don’t sweat about that now. At this point, just set up a blogging space to call your own and go from there.
2. Write what you know and love. Don’t worry about the technical stuff.
When I first started blogging, I wrote about what I loved most—travel. I shared travel stories and advice on what I had learned while traveling around the world, and I loved it. And then I started learning about all the technical stuff I should be doing, such as adding key words and tagging photos. Okay, I thought, I’ll start doing those things. But then blogging became a bit of a drag. It was more work than fun. I’ve since gone back to writing what I love (with some of the technical stuff tucked in the back of my mind), and my readership has grown.
The bottom line is that without good content, you won’t have readers. Your audience knows when you write for Google, so don’t do it. When you start a blog, find your passion and your voice. Create quality content. And, yes, learn a bit about the technical stuff, but don’t let it bog you down. If you aren’t having fun blogging, then there’s no point in doing it.
3. Blogging is a labor of love.
Starting and maintaining a blog does not come easy. It will not write itself. Before you begin blogging, think about what you want to blog about. There are blogs on anything and everything, from pet care and location independence to daily musings and political insights. Choose a topic (or a broad but somehow related range of topics) for your blog. Make a list of things to write about before you start the blog (10-12 ideas is a good place to start) and continue to add to it so that you always have something to write about. Decide how often you want to post. Once a week is a fairly reasonable goal to begin with; ease into more posts as you get used to the process. If you don’t know what to write about, consider tip #2 above and write about what you want and what you like to read.
Once you’re started a blog, you need to maintain it. Make time in your weekly schedule to blog every week so that it becomes a habit. In order to reach the most people possible with your content, you’ll need to make time to reach your audience via social media as well. Yes, it all takes time, but many people come to love their blogs as an extension of themselves, and once you’ve found a dedicated audience, the people you touch will make the work worth the time.
4. What you write exists forever.
Make no mistake about it: Once you hit “publish,” your words have the opportunity to permeate the virtual world. You might think you’re writing for a small audience, but online, anyone can read what you’ve written. The difference between a personal journal and a blog is a big one. If you don’t want to share it with the world, don’t write it on your blog.
Because of this, many people choose to write about subjects that aren’t necessarily personal to them. If you write about people you know, you might want to change their names. Avoid including personal details such as your home address and phone number.
5. Give a little to get a little.
Blogging is a two-way street. You can write in a void all you want, but part of being a successful blogger requires being an active participant in the blogosphere. This means you’ll want to take the time to interact with your readers by responding to comments and visiting and commenting on other blogs. Doing this is also a good way to spread the word about what you’re blogging about, but make sure your intentions are honest. If you’re only interested in promoting your own work, then you can’t expect others to reciprocate the deed.
Using social media is also a good way to promote other bloggers that you admire. When bloggers support each other, it’s a win-win situation for everyone.
JoAnna Haugen has spoken on panels and at workshops regarding successful blogging practices. She maintains two blogs (a personal travel blog and a Las Vegas travel guide) and Twitter accounts focused on general travel and writing as well as Las Vegas travel.