Although I started blogging a little over 3 years ago, it has been a slow and organic journey. By choice.
It is like the guy that starts out in the mail room and then works his way up the ladder. Over time, when he finally makes it to mahogany row, he values every piece of growth along the way.
I started off on the Blogger platform and honestly saw absolutely no reason to change to WordPress. It really just seemed like a pricey headache. And what does self-hosted mean any way?
Then I started hearing and reading about things like SEO, Google Pagerank, plug-ins, keywords, Google Analytics, Alexa, blogging conferences. For crying out loud, I still get a little overwhelmed with it all.
Soon I found a mentor and started studying the sites I really connected with. I accessed each of these sites from every angle. I would ask myself, why does this reader pull me in?, what is it about their site that makes it easy for me to navigate?, what is it about their site that makes me feel like I am walking away with valueable information when I leave? (Even if it was not tangible, what was I walking away with?) And forget the stereotypical description of the traditional thoughts that pop into your head when you hear the word BLOG. Some of these blogs look like professional websites. They are not just journals anymore.
Earlier this year I made the switch to WordPress. I have not looked back since. Actually, it has inspired me to create a couple of new sites, completely unrelated to Crystal & Co. One thing I’ve realized is that I have gained some pretty valuable information along the way. Some do’s and don’ts, if you will, and I would love to share them with you if you’re new to blogging or considering starting your own.
20 Blogging Tips
- The number one tip to always have at the front of your mind is that content is key. Without good content, readers will not stick around. You can have the most beautiful site design, but without quality content you’re not going to keep readers.
- Purchase your URL before someone else does. It costs less than $20 a year in most cases.
- Install the Alexa toolbar. Here is a great article on the benefits of Alexa.
- Have a home button in your navigation bar. You do have a navigation bar right? I do not want to have to manipulate the browser address just to get back to your home page. Here is a tutorial for making your own navigation bar in Blogger.
- It is perfectly fine to start off on Blogger to see if blogging is something that you are defiantly going to stick to. After all, WordPress.com requires self hosting, an owned URL, and is generally more expensive to have designed. But once you know your site is a career choice for you, make the switch to WordPress. Does moving intimidate you or seem too expensive? Here is an affordable e-book that walks you through the step by step process of moving from Blogger to WordPress in layman terms.
- If you are on Blogger, turn the comment Captcha off. Please. I beg you. It makes me crazy and I hate leaving your site without letting you know I was there. But after I have fought with Captcha a couple of times, I leave your site. And that makes me sad. On WordPress there is an easy plugin to prevent SPAM. Just sayin’.
- Install Google Analytics so you can track your growth. You will be surprised where some of your traffic comes from and which posts are most popular. Observe the key words that people are searching when they land on your site. Be aware of which sites are referring visitors to your blog.
- Connect with other bloggers. Make an effort to leave comments on five other blogs each day. You’ll meet new people, and it is a great way to get your site out there since your comment can link back to your site.
- Have a search box at the top of your site, preferably above the fold. I hate it when I have to spend time hunting it down. Say I land on an awesome craft blog and I want to see if they have birthday party invitation ideas, but I have to spend 5 minutes just searching for the search box. At some point I am just going to move on to the next site.
- Have your site categories identified and clearly visible. Your site header is cute. I see a few posts with some good information. But I want to be able to get a general idea of what your site is about in the first 15-20 seconds of arriving.
- Be a reader of your own site. Is it easy to search for content and topics? Is your site visually appealing and easy to read? Does it take too long for the site to load? See what other people see when they log onto your site each day.
- Go easy on the eyes. While some fonts can be really fun, be considerate of the fact that pretty fonts are not always easy to read. There is a craft site I frequented and I just had to stop. Her font made my eyes crazy. Half the time I could not figure out what the title of each post said. In the same regard, I do not suggest an overly busy layout either. While we all want a pretty site, do not let your layout take away from your great content.
- Have a welcome box and/or about page. I want to know more about you. Now, I do not want to know every detail of your life, but I do like to know what we have in common. I want to connect even if it is only virtually. We all want to know there is someone else out there in similar places as our own.
- Make contacting you easy. Maybe you are using a way cool plugin for your recipes or I have a simple question I want to ask you directly instead of leaving it in the comment section. I do not want to have to hunt for an email address. Make it obvious by using an icon to catch my eye and maybe even list it in your about me page as well.
- Get rid of the clutter. When your sidebars are covered from inch to inch and I do not know up from down and it gets a little overwhelming. Ask yourself before putting it in your sidebar, can my readers benefit from this?
- Get involved in linky opportunities within your niche. It is a great way to grow and expose your site to new readers.
- Be predictable in the sense that your readers want to know what to expect. If you only post 3 times a week, stick to that. Just say it somewhere- like your about me page. Obviously there are exceptions because we all have a life outside of our sites. But if you go weeks without posting and this is not your norm, your readers may lose interest in coming back. If you’re taking a vacation, just let your readers know you are unplugging for a week. Or schedule some bloggers to guest post on your site.
- Respond to comments that people leave you. You do not have to respond to every single one of them, but at least let your readers know that you know they are there.
- Get social outside of your blog. Start a community on Facebook and/or Twitter. If time allows, start a Pinterest account (way cool) and Stumble Upon accounts. Is that too much or does it make you feel overwhelmed? Just pick one and start there building your presence and getting to know other bloggers as well as your readers. If your involvement on social media sites affects your ability to produce great content (they can be time suckers), consider some of the free online resources that allow you to schedule Facebook and Twitter updates.
- Allow your readers an option to subscribe via feed or email. Feedburner is an awesome and free solution.
What tips have you learned along the way? I would love for you to share them in the comments.