I ran across this quote recently from best selling author and renowned speaker Chris Brogan:
“No matter what, the very first social media real estate I’d start with is a blog”
– Chris Brogan
I hear all the time about how frustrated business owners are with changes in this or that social media platform, but the bottom line is this – any of those platforms could disappear tomorrow. Imagine if you focused all your efforts on developing your presence on one platform and you woke up tomorrow morning and it was gone or your customers starting moving in droves to another platform. What would you do?
It’s IMPERATIVE that you have a “home base” for your business/brand, and your blog is the smart way to do that. You can showcase your best work, establish your expertise and really demonstrate why someone should do business with you. You control 100% of the design and content, which is something you can’t say about any other platform.
If you’re intimidated by the technical part of starting a blog, don’t be – there are literally thousands of great tutorials on how to install, maintain and troubleshoot WordPress out there; it’s part of why WordPress is a such great choice. It’s a very user friendly platform – if you can use Microsoft Word, you can learn WordPress. And if you feel truly overwhelmed, you can hire someone (like me) to build your WordPress site and give you a few quick lessons. That’s not the hard part.
The hard part about blogging is committing to post on a regular schedule – ideally 2-3 times a week – NO MATTER WHAT. And doing something every day to promote your blog – NO MATTER WHAT. It can’t be an afterthought or a task you do “when you have time”, it needs to be something you schedule in as a regular part of your day – NO MATTER WHAT.
I met with a client recently about setting up a blog, and he mentioned that his “marketing guy” told him he only needs to post about once a month.
I mean, you can post once a year if that’s what works for you…but I’m going to go out on a limb here and assume that you want people to actually read your blog, right? Once a month or sporadic posts when you have time don’t give readers a chance to get to know you and really dig into what you have to say. I have shut down a few of my own blogs that were doing well because I couldn’t maintain them due to life circumstances. You don’t want someone finding your site and wondering if it’s been abandoned.
(Like allllllll of 2015 on this blog. I was so overloaded with client work that I was neglecting my own stuff)
Are you passionate about your niche? Can you come up with 25-50 topics to write about without thinking too hard? Do you like to write?
(that last one is really important)
If you answered YES to all three questions and you’re committed to putting the time in to posting and promoting regularly, you’re probably on board with the whole blogging thing….so what’s next?
Self Hosting and WordPress
Set up your own hosting account. I recommend Blue Host because their service is top-notch and they make installing WordPress super simple.
DO NOT set your blog up on WordPress.com or Blogger. I’m kind of surprised this is still even a debate, but if your blog has a domain that looks like YourDomain.Wordpress.com or YourDomain.Blogspot.com, you will look like you don’t know what you are doing. Whatever your niche is, I can’t imagine a scenario where that would be an advantage, can you? Do you want to monetize your blog down the road? Then you MUST self host. Yes, you can start with the WordPress.com site and switch over, but why go through the hassle? When I land on a site like that I find it hard to take that blogger seriously. For the nominal amount of money it costs to self host, it’s crazy to risk the negative impression a WordPress.com or Blogspot site gives, not to mention the scary fact that Google OWNS your content on Blogger.
So – install WordPress on your brand spanking new hosting account and you’re off to the races.
- Free Themes: If you’re going for a free theme, stick to the ones offered by WordPress.org. There are lot of sites offering free downloads, but they don’t always work correctly and they may even have malware attached.
- Premium Themes: The next step up is a premium theme, which aren’t terribly expensive (usually under $100) and come with support from the developers and great documentation. This is a super option if you’re not totally comfortable with WordPress yet.
- Custom Design: This is the most expensive option, but you will get exactly what you’re looking for with no mucking around in your code.
- Keep it Clean: The trend right now is crisp, clean, bright and easy to navigate. Stay away from dark backgrounds with white lettering – they are harder to read and reminiscent of MySpace in the 90’s.
- Do Your Research: Visit a lot of sites before you choose your theme and get a feel for what you like and will be user friendly for your readers.
- Customize: Most themes these days are really customizable, so you can play around with the colors and layout until you get it looking the way you want. Just be sure to keep your site as uncluttered as possible.
Plugins are what make the magic happen on WordPress, and your needs will dictate which ones you should install. This is the short list of plugins every blog needs:
Shareaholic – Adds icons to easily share your content across social media channels
All in One Favicon – easily adds a favicon to your site
Anti-Spam – eliminates comment spam with no captcha
Google XML Sitemap – generates a sitemap which allows search engines to better index your blog
Contact Form 7 – simple, easy to use contact form
Yet Another related posts plug in – keep your readers on your site longer by showing a thumbnail of related posts they might be interested in
Yoast SEO – Optimizes your site AND helps you write better content.
Comment Email reply – when a reader comments on your post and you respond, this plugin sends it via email
Backup Buddy -Perform regular back ups of your entire site. You gotta have a back up plan in case something goes wrong.
For a more extensive list, you can visit my Resource page HERE.
Every blog needs these two basic pages:
About Me – This is often the first place people look, so make it really good. Show your personality and tell your reader exactly what they can expect from your blog.
Pro-tip: Don’t try to be all things to all people. Pick something you are endlessly excited about and focus your blog on that.
Contact – Don’t make it hard for a potential customer or the press to contact you. Have a “contact me” page, and put it in your sidebar and footer too while you’re at it.
Now for the fun part….creating your content! I would suggest having a handful of posts up before you go live with your site and at least 10 or 12 before you start seriously promoting it. If you happen to catch someone’s attention and they click through to your site, you want them to have something to look at, right?
One last thought – is there anything more annoying than landing on a page for the first time and immediately getting hit with a pop up box asking for your email? If I’m there for the first time, I don’t know you and have only a vague idea what you blog about. I think I speak for the crowd when I say that it’s kind of obnoxious to assume I want hear from you regularly at that point. You have to prove yourself by building a relationship and consistently churning out great content, and that doesn’t happen in the first millisecond I’m on your site. Maybe wait a couple minutes? 🙂