“These days, you have the option of staying home, blogging in your underwear, and not having your words mangled. I think I like the direction things are headed.”
– Marc Andreessen
A Beginner’s Guide to Blogging
Today I’m writing for all of you newbies out there. Recently, I’ve noticed more and more brand new bloggers have been following me here on Blog of the Wolf Boy, and I’m the type of guy that loves to assist and teach. To give advice to each person individually would take up a lot of time. So, I have decided to create a post that covers the basics for any person that’s new to blogging with the hopes of encouraging them to become more successful with their new hobby.
The most important thing which is going to define your blog is it’s content. Everything else will be built up around your content. If you can produce great content, then you have a promising foundation for the future of your blog. Now, every blog is different and everyone’s content is going to be different as well. Content is also bound to improve with experience so don’t be too hard on yourself if it isn’t perfect.
Some bloggers would tell you that you need to find a niche to thrive in, but that’s more of a half-truth. You don’t need a niche. I have no niche. My blog is a cluster of poetry, short stories, rants, interviews, health tips, mental health etc. No niche could define me, but I suppose if I had to choose which niche I leaned upon most in the beginning, it would have been mental health bloggers, because I’d felt they were easiest to relate to.
When you’re first trying to establish roots in the blogging world, it’s not a bad thing to pick one or two niche’s to focus on at first. This can help make your blog more appealing to others of the same niche, but as you grow, don’t be afraid to expand your blog’s content and bring other personal interests into your blog.
Do you know what makes for the best content? Passion! So follow your heart, wherever it takes you and try not to overthink it too much. Your blog is a metaphor for your heart and soul. It’s who you are.
Be sure to write in your own voice. Develop that. Write as you would speak in your daily life. Be as authentic to who you are as you can truly be. People read blogs for content, but people also read blogs because they want to feel for the author behind the content. So, show others what makes you unique. Who are you?
Great formatting is going to help your blog catch a reader’s attention exponentially. I can’t tell you how many blog’s I’ve been turned off by, because the content is just one big blob of words with no end in sight. I usually graze through these sort of blog posts rather than giving them the sort of time and attention which they may deserve.
Now that’s not me being a prude, but I have a short attention span and nothing really grabs my attention in that sort of post. So, I get bored, and when I get bored, I scan through quickly so I can get the hell out of there. I’m not the only one who does this, it’s a common thing to scan posts.
In order to make your message more appealing to your readers, it’s important to break your writing up into proper small to medium-sized paragraphs. Add headers whenever possible. Use bold and italics to draw the eye to important details, and use pictures in nearly every post. All of these things put together, make a world of difference in highlighting your content!
Okay, so you have your content now. You’ve broken your content down into nice little bite-sized paragraphs and it’s properly formatted. Now what? You need photographs!
But, you can’t just grab any old photographs from off the internet or you’ll likely be breaking copyright laws, and that sort of drama is not something that you need in your life.
So, where do we secure our copyright-free photos from then?
You do not need to give credit to the photographers when using their images off of these websites, but it is always appreciated when you do. If you intend to use photographs from anywhere else on the web, use caution and give as much credit as possible to the photographer/website and link back to where you took to the page that you took it from.
Community building is an incredibly important part of blogging, if you want your work to be viewed, read and recognized. The blogging community is a very friendly community but if you don’t take a little time throughout your week to read others work, give feedback and make a few friends, then there’s not really any motivation for others to be drawn into your world.
I know that it’s scary to reach out to bloggers who are more experienced then you, and you may not be sure of what to say, but you know what – most people are just happy that you’ve taken the time to visit and to give feedback!
Work to build a network and a community. Interactive posts usually do quite well. Give others a chance to air their opinions. Perhaps end your posts with a question to get others talking. This builds rapport with your readers.
Be careful not to drop links back to your blog. That’s an insincere and self-centered move, unless it somehow relates to the article. Aim to make friends genuinely and things usually just fall into place on their own. Awards may seem like a silly concept since they’re less of an award and more of a social networking tool, but it doesn’t matter. They’re a great way for you to connect with others, show your appreciation of another’s work and to make more friends. Whether you like these awards or not, the wordpress community likes these awards! So participate from time to time if you get an opportunity. They can help to familiarize your blog with new readers.
Social media can be a helpful tool for promoting your blog outside of wordpress. Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are useful tools for promotional purposes, and to get friends/family involved in your creations. These networks are not necessary in order to host a quality blog, but they certainly help to get the word out.
I’ve personally hosted a blog page on Facebook, but I’ve ceased using Facebook for personal reasons and I’m now an Instagram networker. Whatever works best for you, just get the word out there if you can.
What people see when they first arrive to your home page is going to affect their judgement of your content. If you can make your blog look beautiful and easy to navigate, that’s going to go a long ways towards setting your blog apart from others.
Don’t be afraid to experiment with different wordpress themes, see what works best with your content and style.
Visit your blog from time to time and imagine it’s your first visit. What frustrates you or is difficult to intuitively locate? How would a new person feel if they were to visit? How can you make things easier for them?
Add categories to your menu. If you write poems, create a section for poems. If you write stories, create a section for stories. Etc. Organize your content, and make it all look pretty. Home page’s are not necessary, but they can be nice on some blogs. I personally prefer to jump straight into the blog roll, it saves the reader’s time by not having to locate it themselves.
Bonus: Website identity and header are important ways to quickly tell new viewers what your blog is all about. So think about branding your blog and dropping a few keywords which describe what you’re all about. People want to know, and they don’t want to have to search for the answers! Hit them with it upfront.
Keep A Schedule And Stick To It
So, this one evaded me for the longest time during my blogging journey and holy cow, does this tip make a heck of a difference on your stress levels. First of all, set yourself a goal for how many times you aim to create a blog post every week. Some people like to write daily, some like to write a few times per week and others write only once per week!
You may be surprised, but there are upsides and downsides to both more and less frequency. On the plus side of frequent blogging, when you blog a lot, you reach more readers more often. On the downside, it’s harder to make sure all of your content is of considerable quality when there’s so much pressure to create.
Less frequent posts mean less traffic on a daily basis, but better quality content if you are dedicated and that is sometimes far better than daily posting just for the sake of posting! Figure out what works best for you and your schedule. Then make a routine for yourself. Make your blog posts go up on a routine schedule, if you can. Same time of day and days. This gives your readers an expectation of when they can find new posts on your blog.
Bonus: As your blog grows, consider writing posts ahead of time and scheduling them so that you can build a safety net of posts for the future. That takes some of the stress out of writing and it has made a huge difference in my own stress levels when it’s come to writing for my blog! Don’t underestimate the importance of this, especially when life becomes chaotic.
Live Like A Writer
Guess what? You run a blog now, which means you’re kind of a writer. Perhaps an amateur writer, but a writer none the less! That’s exciting. So, in order to help you come up with ideas to write about, it’s a good idea to start living like a writer in some small ways at least.
My suggestion would be to at least buy a small notebook to bring around with you on your day to day commute, wherever you go, whatever you do, and just jot down post ideas while you’re busy. In that way you’ll never think of and forget a wonderful post idea. It also keeps you in the mindset of being creative and thinking like a writer! Observe others, reflect upon your own life, think about those things that bother or disturb you, get personal from time to time, and share what you learn in your daily life.
There are a lot of blogs out there that have advertisements, and it’s not necessarily a bad thing, but wordpress can be overbearing with it’s ads. If you’ve upgraded and have the ability to disable advertisements, I would recommend it. Nothing ruins content more quickly then having an ad right in the middle of your post. Ugh…
That’s absolutely cringe-worthy. A few ads on the side bar or below your post is a matter of preference, but before you think about trying to make money with ads, you need to focus on creating great content, a great blog and having readers come back for more! So no ugly advertisements in the middle of your posts!
Tags and Categories
Use tags for every single post. At least 4 or 5, this will help your blog post to be picked up by the wordpress search engine. I’ve heard somewhere that having more than 8 tags means your tags will hold less relevance, but I’m still not sure if this is true or not. Just make sure that you have a few tags in there for every post. Categorize your posts if possible, especially if you blog on a number of different topics and always select a featured photo. Again, photos are very important.
The Most Popular Posts Are Helpful Or Insightful
The type of posts that other bloggers react to most positively are usually the posts which are helpful and useful to them. I’d once heard someone refer to this as the “What’s In It For Me?” of blogging. Readers are most drawn to those posts that have something of value to offer. So try to come up with content from time to time that will be useful to others. Dash this with some deeply authentic and personal posts, which show who you are as a person and you’ve just created a recipe for a great blog.
I Believe This Is It! Good Luck To You!
Welcome to blogging and I hope you stick around for a while. Every new blogger needs a bit of help and support in getting started, so don’t be afraid to reach out to others with your questions or concerns. Most of the community is lovely and here to help. Nothing is more humbling then being looked up to by someone new.
Oh yeah – and have fun! If it’s not fun for you, then it’s not really worth doing.
This is a collection of everything that I wish I had known when I first started blogging, and in this way, I hope that it will pave an easier road ahead for you!
Good luck and best wishes from the Wolf Boy 😉