Before I started writing Zena’s Suitcase I literally had no idea about blogging and what it was all about. Mine has been a very accidental journey but I’m so glad I started it, because as all bloggers know, blogging totally rocks. It’s a pretty influential medium now, and it’s only going to get bigger. PR’s will have to stop saying ‘we have no budget’, as blogging opportunities become the most successful way to get their brand in front of their target audience.
Now that I’ve travelled down this path somewhat like the drunk person who covers twice as much ground as is necessary to make their way home (yes I’ve been that person), I thought I’d share with you some of the things I wish I’d of known or done before I got started.
It’s by no means definitive or exhaustive, but hopefully there’s some musings here that will help you out.
1. What Is A Blog?
Yes, I admit it! I didn’t really understand what a blog was at all, even though I have of course read blog posts before. I can’t be the only one right? To help out those who are as in the dark as I was it helps to understand what a website is first.
A website tends to be for information that doesn’t change regularly. So a retailer or bus company would be perfect examples. Yes, there will be changes in stock or timetables, but not as regularly as a content would be added to a blog.
A website is less likely to invite reader comment and interaction, where as a blog relies on it’s readers engaging in debate. Therefore a blog , short for web log, in contrast is a space on the internet updated by a person or group of people, regularly with new content. Readers can usually comment on each post and interact with the blogger through various social media platforms.
2. The Blogging Community.
Each blogging genre has it’s own community where like minded people hang out on social media. Some communities have their own blog aggregate sites, which may also facilitate meet ups and events so bloggers can network.
PR’s or other organisations with a particular interest in your field may also arrange events in an effort to engage bloggers to support a message, campaign, press event or product. Blogging is more than just an online activity, it ventures into your real life too.
3. It’s Not Just About Blogging!
I stumbled across parent & lifestyle blogging after my OH suggested I write a blog. He’s a software engineer and reads a lot of technical blogs but he had no idea about Mummy Blogs. If I’d have just sat and posted away, no one would know my blog now. I spend more time on social media than I do writing posts. More time driving traffic at my pages than I do writing my content.
I enjoy all that goes with blogging now I know what a hashtag is and I’ve connected with other great bloggers online and face to face. To be a successful blogger you need to spend twice as much time on social media and connecting with your community as you do writing great content, so go into it with your eyes open. If you aren’t up for making friends with Twitter, Facebook, Instagram etc then maybe blogging isn’t for you.
4. The Blog Name And Other Handles!
This is worth spending time on. My first blog name was completely random, clumsy and forgettable. I had no idea how important it was to get right. Your name, your blog and all the social media that goes with it forms apart of your blog identity and brand.
I brainstormed until I came up with the name Zena’s Suitcase and I liked that it used my (unusual) name. I didn’t want anything that screamed Mummy Blogger as I have a teenager as well as the 2 young girls. It also means my blog can grow and develop with me without having to launch a new domain as my lifestyle changes.
5. Being Self Hosted Is Easy.
OK, we have are own server and my husband is a geek, but you can do it without either if these things.
Buying & hosting domains is a competitive market so you can do it pretty cheap these days with providers like Go Daddy.
I was a little bit scared of giveaways. I figured they are bound to be difficult. Truth is they are really easy. Like most things for blogging the tools are pretty simple to use once you’ve had a bit of a play with them.
They are a great way of driving real traffic towards your blog. Offering your readers something in exchange for popping by and reading your content is an essential part of successful blogging.
7. My Website Has Broken.
If this happens it’s usually down to a plugin. If something breaks on your website make sure you delete all inactive plugin’s first. If it still doesn’t work you might have to deactivate each one until you find out what’s broken.
When you install a new plugin make sure it’s been updated recently or is still supported. I would have saved myself a whole heap of heartache if I’d have know all this.
8. Join Facebook Groups
There are loads of blogging Facebook groups where bloggers support each other. Make sure you join them. Find groups that have threads that encourage engagement, for example where you can swap blog comments, retweets or shares. This will all help to support your online presence and get you noticed by other bloggers.
9. Read Other Blogs
Perhaps I should have put this first, but seeing as I was pretty compromised by not really understanding what a blog was, reading them regularly would have been a bit of a challenge.
If I had of know about parent blogging in particular, I would have followed a few blogs and visited a few sites to get an idea of what I liked and didn’t like in terms of look, feel and content.
If you’re a blogger is there anything you wish you’d have known before you started? If you’re thinking about starting one, do you have a burning question before you take your leap into the blogosphere?