Well, first, you have to write something. No, wait, first, you have to pick a platform. No, wait…
I have been doing this for eleven years now. At first, I was doing one thing, and then I was doing another, and now? I’m doing something else, with touches of the first thing and the second thing. So… what does that have to do with blogging?
The first question isn’t ‘how-to’ it’s why. Why do you want to blog?
When I started blogging – the first thing – it was a mommy journal. I kept it up very irregularly, as a way for far-flung family to see the kiddos grow and learn, as well as a way for me to put some of my thoughts and feelings in a place where I could know they might be read. I’ve journalled since I was a girl, and there are things I wouldn’t write out in public, but it does make a difference to know someone is reading, and on occasion to get supportive comments. Particularly as a young, isolated mother, it was important to me. But that’s all the blog was, in the first years, and I didn’t post regularly, because I was a young mother of four, one an infant when the blog began. Which translates to little sleep, no time, and limited coherency.
The second thing I blogged about was the Farm. After my divorce, when I was struggling to rebuild my life and support my kids, my Dad asked me to help him with the Farm while we lived there. It wasn’t hard to say yes – I could only pay so much for rent, and I felt obligated to help where I could – because it was work I loved doing. Part of the farm management was building the Farm blog, as a way of bringing eyes to what he was trying to accomplish, and a germ of the marketing we planned to gear up into. Big plans were laid, for sustainable permaculture gardens, grants to get him the high tunnels he needed for polyculture, and the blog was part of the publicity machine we’d need as we grew. In the end, the Farm project was tabled, I moved, and the blog changed yet again.
Now? Well, my regular readers know what the blog is now. An eclectic collection of essays, recipes, how-to posts, and whatever happens to fall out of my head that day. The big idea behind why I do it is content marketing. And I get asked from time to time about blogging, so today I’m summing it all up.
First, you ask yourself WHY you want to blog.
Based on that answer, you can start to choose the platform you’ll use to blog from. I chose Blogspot, back in the day, because it was free, easy to set up, and you could connect easily to other like-minded blogs. Peter Grant’s very successful and popular Bayou Renaissance Man still uses that platform, as do many other bloggers. It’s still free, and although I am not fond of the comment interface (as a reader and occasional commenter) it is a great place to start if you are just trying to build a readership and want to link up with a blog community.
if you are just wanting a blog as a journal, and looking for people to share with, Tumblr can be a good choice, with caution: not all the community there is remotely supportive. It can be a toxic stew, so choose the people you follow and interact with carefully. For art sharing and journalling, check out DeviantArt. I use that as a platform for my visual art, and I know artists who also use it for a blog of sorts – the community is huge, and again, use care in who you interact with, since, yes, there are deviants here.
I wound up choosing to use WordPress for the Farm blog, and my later writing blog, for the sheer flexibility of it. I started with a free blog, something.wordpress.com address format, later moved up to the something.com format (more professional looking, and a mere $18 a year) and finally moved to self-hosted (which reminds me I need to spend some time today calling around for a new host… GoDaddy sucks). With self-hosted I am able to control any ads on my site (I don’t have any, not enough traffic) and use the vast library of plugins that add capabilities to my site, like Woocommerce for an e-store.
Now, ask yourself the when question “HOW OFTEN?”
The answer to this, again, depends on why you are blogging. If it’s just a vent space, that doesn’t matter. You don’t need reliability, or consistency, if you are just putting it out there for someone to wander by and comment on. However, if you are trying to do content-based marketing and provide your readers with consistently appealing tidbits of posts, then you need to set up a schedule.
I’ve learned that if I can put out consistent material on a regular basis, my hits go up. However, I have posts that still pull in readers who are googling something (mostly these are how to… posts) years later, and every now and then I can tell someone knew found the blog and is exploring it. I have the depth to be a time-sink which is a bit funny. I also have a field where people can sign up for my blog to be delivered to their email, which is helpful for periods like the last two months where I was very erratic in posting. However, I don’t know who of those ~500 subscribers actually read it, since I don’t see the ‘hits’ there.
At the first of the year I started posting 6 days a week again, and immediately I saw my hits double, sometimes more (on days with post of general interest). But daily blogging is a huge challenge all on it’s own, since it means coming up with content every. Single. Day. I can’t tell you how many mornings I’ve sat here staring at the blank post box with nothing going through my brain at all.
If you’re trying to build a readership, you must have a schedule. Once a week is probably good, or setting T-Th, or MWF routines up. But be consistent. Use the draft and schedule features on your blog program (I don’t know if Blogspot has them, I know WP does) so you can write ahead when inspiration strikes and have that post come out on time. Go ahead and write a passionate post on a whim and publish it on the spot, but don’t neglect the routine, either.
I did learn that more than one post a day doesn’t work – I tried it, and got feedback that it was irritating to my email subscribers. Now, I use posts that aren’t time-sensitive as buffers, knowing I’ll have days I’m not up to writing something. Well, ok, I had a buffer. It’s gone now, eroded by that last semester of school which ate my brain. But I’ll work back up to it.