10 crucial steps to become proficient at blogging
I got fascinated about blogging when I started looking for a way to learn and get into web development. My personal experience is one of enrichment and fun. Today I wanted to share 10 key factors to become a proficient blogger.
1. (prelude) get a Wordpress or a CMS / blogging software
Wordpress is a gigantic piece of software to have the infrastructure in place. It is extendible with many plugins. Programming it yourself is just not worth it. However, you could design or buy a nice theme at not much effort / cost. It is a great way to get ready.
2. define your passion and just start!
OK, not to sound like yet another productivity blog out there, but it is true: once you find the subject you like (basically check if you have enough topics to cover in say 2 to 3 years), then start to write your first post. I felt a bit awkward sending a post into the www, and for sure it must have been stiff, but once started you are halfway through. You will roll into it, shape your style and become better at it when having posted 5 to 10 times, you'll see ...
3. content is King, google will find you!
A good design of your blog goes a long way, but good content is key. Zenhabits is one of the blogs I interestingly read every week. It has a very minimal design, beautiful, but the real power comes from the informative / inspiring articles.
Google is out there, Internet content is forever, kind of scary. The indexing of your content is ongoing, but that is a good thing as well. As you write more, the likelihood of being found grows. I found out that most visits to my blog are via Google!
4. write often - stuck on what to say? You shouldn't really...
This is something a lot of bloggers struggle with, myself included. A great trick is to brainstorm on topics you are interested in and make a list. Also be open for new experiences, sometimes a tweet, a post by a fellow blogger or a situation in everyday life, can give you the inspiration needed to write a post.
Some tips: read books in your field, they can provide a lot of inspiration. Be an observer, e.g. (it's amazing how trivial things can spark an idea!). Read news feeds, twitter and watch trends, you can jump on a bandwagon and contribute something useful to a subject not much people are yet familiar with.
Personally I find podcasts a great source of inspiration as well (especially the Sitepoint podcast en the Big Web Show)!
The size of the post is a bit arbitrary. You obviously write more short posts and they are pleasant to read (Seth's blog). Larger articles really permit you to dive into a topic. Usually I don't set a word limit, go with the flow, you will reach 1000 words easily if the topic really interests you.
Besides, sharing your knowledge is a great way to learn yourself. Don't you feel you really got a hold of something when you were able to explain it to somebody else? It also sets you aside: it is definitely a pro to have on your CV.
The "often" aspect is really relative. For a tech blog as this, a good article can take weeks or months of investigation. So in that light, posting once a week could be labelled as "often" already!
5. dedication, you'd better enjoy the ride, if not ...
Closely related to 4. is dedication. Don't start a blog with dollars in your eyes (ads revenues) or expecting thousands of visits from the start. Nothing comes overnight so you should enjoy the ride, if not you better shouldn't start.
You will have to put in hard work. I like my subject, the web, and I like to write, so I this is purely hobby although it has professional value of course. But yes: fun in the subject and writing are required to prevent a blog from dying.
6. promote your content
There are millions of blogs but most of them never come to the surface. A shame really because there are very good ones. Promote your new blog posts to Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Hacker News or other branch-related sites. Services as Ping.fm can automate this. Also allowing users to click and share your content (the famous social media buttons) might generate some traffic back to your blog, as well as linking / trackbacks.
7. engage with your users, it's fun!
One of the things I like most about blogging is to meet / hear from fellow web folks, people with shared interests. Usually it starts via a comment thread or a new reader pops a message via the contact form. Have those two forms active.
New readers are great especially if they read your articles with critical eyes! You can learn a lot from different view points.
A successful strategy is to let the reader participate is to ask questions. People feel invited this way to express their opinion. Again, you can use Social media to keep in touch with your readers (twitter, facebook page, etc.)
8. just a few suggestions to make the most out of your blog
You could facilitate links to older articles so that the reader can click and read more of your blog. It should be painless to subscribe. Subscribers are gold: these are the people that actually want to read your future posts! Additionally you can use other tools, I created a Facebook Group for example so I can interact with the people that regularly want to check out my writings.
There are WP plugins that put random / top commented posts below each new post. Small tricks
Use tags and categories to index your content and have a search box. Your blog will grow over time so content needs to be findable.
Very important is to use a appealing title for your posts. It's the management summary thing: people look at the title and decide to actually click / read it or not. There are millions of blog posts, why reading yours? Invite your readers in!
Moreover, structuring the article with headers allows the reader to scan the content and just read parts if time is a limiting factor.
9. Focus! today's Web makes it even more challenging!
With the rich GUI of Wordpress comes the responsibility to stay focussed. How much I like WP. I actually prefer to WRITE in Textmate and go into the GUI with the article 95% done. Writing requires focus! This cannot be underestimated: I think most successful articles I posted were the ones I was limited to a text editor! You can style and add images later, but the web is so awfully distractive, you should unplug from it time to time! Here I posted some other tips increase your productivity.
10. last but not least: be passionate!!
At the start of this article I said you should find a topic you really like. Actually so much you feel yourself talking about it for years. If there is one takeaway from this post it is that. When you have genuine interest in the topic, blogging becomes your second nature. As said before, writing should be a bit of your thing as well. Be passionate about something is the key to do what you do proficiently ! Read more about being passionate in this previous post.
So what about you fellow bloggers?
Can you find yourself in these 10 points? Are there other things you think that are key to successful blogging?
An interesting title on blogging is ProBlogger - Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income by Darren Rowse and Chris Garrett