Here is a lot of a lot of important things to think about doing when you are blogging.
Launching your blog. If you are a brand new blogger you might be excited to get out there and get visitors headed toward your site. But before you focus on traffic you will need to have some content for them to read when they get there. Before you try to get traffic coming to your blog you should already have a couple posts published and all your important pages set up. Depending on what theme you decide to use for your blog you will need anywhere from 3-10 posts to make it look good. It’s a good idea to write this many before “launching” your blog out into the world for people to see.
Creating main pages. Every blog should have a few important pages available for readers to see. These are usually featured at the top of your blog where readers can easily access the content. These important pages include, but are not limited to the following pages.
- About Page: Your about page is one of the most visited pages on your blog. New visitors will click through to your about page to find out more information about you and your blog in order to decide if they should stick around. Readers visit your about page to find out what your blog is blog about and who you are. When you write your about page you need to address these two things quickly and efficiently. Readers will also visit to find out how they can subscribe and follow the blog. Make sure you supply this information on your about page in addition to other areas of your blog. Besides telling readers what your blog is about, who you are, and how they can subscribe and connect, you can include any more information you feel they need.
- Contact Page: On your contact page you should include information on how to contact you so readers who want to send you an email can do so. You can give out as much or as little information as you want. You might choose to keep your email private and instead use a contact form. Or you might be willing to give out personal information like your cell phone number. These days it’s acceptable to give as much or as little information as you see fit as long as you give readers some way to connect with you. If you choose not to have a separate contact page then make sure you have your contact info – such as an email address or twitter link – somewhere else on your blog.
- Archives Page: Your blog needs an archives page. The archives page allows people and search engines both to easily access content deeper in your blog, so having one available is a blogging must. Archives pages are generally organized by date, category, and individual post listings and most themes have a built in archives function that will create the page for you. You might choose not to emphasize the archives page by putting it in your main navigation menu, but it’s a good idea to link to it somewhere on your blog.
- Advertising Page: If you plan on selling advertising or making money with your blog then you need to set up an advertising page to give potential advertisers the information they need. Advertisers are looking for a specific audience and on your advertising page you need to show that you can reach that audience through your blog. The things advertisers want to know and you should address on your advertising page include: who the blog targets and who your readers are, how many readers you have and site stats, what kind of advertising is offered, and how to contact you and buy advertising. Advertising pages can be quite simple and still be effective if you give advertisers the information they want.
- Best Posts Page: Many bloggers choose to take their best posts and compile a list of them on one page. These “best of” pages let new readers catch up on some of your best writing when they find your blog. You can choose to include your favorite posts or the posts that were the most popular ones on your blog.
- FAQs Page: Many health bloggers get a lot of questions from readers over and over again. What do you eat? What do you do for exercise? How did you lose weight? Over time these questions become monotonous and tiresome to answer so bloggers create a frequently asked questions page. You can answer the questions you get asked most often by readers and even create and answer questions you just want everyone to know.
- Of course those pages can be combined or ignored if you don’t want them to be available. It is your blog and up to you, but in general these are the types of pages important for blogs of any type, including health blogs. Depending on the kind of blog you are writing you might want to include other kinds of pages. For instance, if you are writing a weight loss blog you might want a progress page or a page describing your food and exercise plan. If you are writing a food related blog you might want to include a page on your food philosophy. Depending on your type of blog you might want to add additional pages.
Writing blog posts. Once you have set up your blog you will then spend a lot of your time writing blog posts. Blogging is mostly about writing after all. There are more types of blog posts than there are types of blogs, so it’s impossible to explain each kind of post. But the following are some tips that may help you create better blog posts.
- Write when you have time. Set aside time each day or during a certain time each week for writing. Make that your time to write blog posts and stick to it. Create a habit of writing at the same time and you will be able to jump into writing more easily when you start.
- Keep a list of ideas. Sometimes you will be out in the world doing something completely unrelated to blogging when you come up with a great idea for a post. Write it down. Ideally keep a small notebook with you for writing down all these ideas when they come to you so you never lose a good idea. When it’s time to write a new post you can refer back to the list for ideas.
- Make headlines interesting. To capture more visitors you want to write snappy headlines that attract attention. For more information on how to write great headlines, read Copyblogger’s guide on How To Write Magnetic Headlines.
- Link like crazy. Linking out to other blogs, articles, and resources makes your blog better. It gives readers a chance to learn more about your topic and adds more depth to the discussion.
- Edit your posts. Before you hit publish you need to edit your post. Read through it again and make changes for any obvious errors. Some things are going to slip through from time to time but try not to repeatedly publish posts full of errors. Good writing is good editing.
Using images. Chances are you started a blog because you want to write, not because you want to be a photographer. But using images in your blog posts will improve your blog. I’m guilty of not using more photos to accompany my blog posts but I know that the posts with photos tend to do much better. Visuals are appealing and will draw people into your blog faster than anything else.
So how do you find pictures to use in your blog post? You have a few options. If you have a camera and a little skill you can take your own photos. If you are a food blogger this is your route. You can learn more about taking better photos at Digital Photography School. If you plan on using a lot of photos you can open up an account at Flickr to host your photos so you don’t take up a lot of bandwidth hosting them on your hosting account.
For the rest of us, we can use images that aren’t our own to improve our posts. You can find photos by looking for them on Flickr under Creative Commons licensing. You can use these photos by just attributing the photographer when you use it. Never use a photo that isn’t yours without giving credit. And if you see a photo is copyrighted – do not use it! Using copyrighted images – even giving credit to the photographer – is stealing. If you find a copyrighted photo on Flickr send the photographer a message and ask if you can use it. Never just take it. (Think about how annoying it is when a site scrapes your blog content and acts like it’s their own – that’s what you are doing.) Additionally you can buy stock photos from websites like istock. When you use photos make sure you use the alt attributes (discussed later in the SEO section) to describe what they are for SEO and disability accessibility.
Using video. Creating video posts is a way to keep your blog fresh and interesting while intersecting more of your personality into the blog.
Video blogger Esther from Faint Star Lite has millions of views on her videos on YouTube. She offers a few tips for getting started making video blogs:
For people just thinking of getting started with video I’d recommend watching a bunch of videos and then seeing what styles you like. Most people think of video blogging as simply sitting in front of your camera and talking, and while that’s common, that’s not all there is. In fact, experimenting without being on camera is often much more comfortable – creating a video with pictures, music, or even a voice over is a great way to tip toe in, especially for the folks who are naturally camera shy.
Once a person is comfortable I’d suggest making a bunch of short (1 minute) videos trying out different features on their camera and editing techniques within their software choice. I’m a fan of Apple products because they’ve made it very simple and intuitive. Final Cut Express is $199 and is a great investment for individuals at a more intermediate level, or those interested in getting the most bang for their buck in terms of high-powered yet easy-to-navigate software.
Videos do not have to be incredibly fancy or cost a lot of money to make. Often your computer will have a built in camera you can use or you can purchase a quality video camera for under $200. Most computers now come with basic video editing software or you can purchase something like Final Cut Express for a small fee. It can cost you nothing to get started or you can invest a little bit more. The main key is to practice a time or two before you shoot the video so you are comfortable and know what you plan on talking about. Try to stay on topic and not ramble so you will keep the viewers attention. You can upload up to ten minutes of video on most sites but you don’t need to do this – keep your videos short. Around two minutes or less is the best length for videos if you want viewers to watch the whole video.
You can choose to host your videos on YouTube or on another service with better video quality like Vimeo or Viddler and then embed the html code in your posts. Most bloggers choose to use YouTube because of the huge existing audience there. Many of those people use YouTube much like they use a search engine to find new content. Once you upload a video to YouTube and put in a description (with a link to your blog) and tags people on YouTube can find it and in turn find your blog.
Following blog stats. You need to know how many people visit and read your blog if you want to increase those numbers. There are several existing programs that will track your blog stats for you. For tracking visitor information I recommend installing Google Analytics. Once you create an analytics account and set up your blog to be tracked you will receive code to place on your blog. This code will track each visit to your blog and give you important information about where they came from, how long they spend on your blog, and how many pages they view. This information is the kind of thing you need to know for contacting companies for products, sponsorships, and advertising. If you are not already using Google Analytics, go sign up now and start using it on your blog. You can use the plugin Google Analytics for WordPress or another plugin to set up Google Analytics easily with your blog. There are other statistics programs like Stat Counter and plugins like WP-Stats , but I prefer Google Analytics.
For stats about blog readers I recommend using another Google program: Feedburner. Feedburner creates a brand new feed for your blog and then tracks the stats from it. You will find out how many people subscribe and in what format. Feedburner is not the most steady with it’s stats and the numbers will vary from day to day, so don’t check your feed stats every day. In fact, I recommend you don’t check your stats more than once a week. In the beginning it might be tempting to check them all the time to see how many people are looking at your blog and reading your content, but it’s not a good idea. It will distract you from making your blog the best it can be. Pick a day of the week or one day a month to check your stats and analyze what is working and what you should work on then ignore them for the rest of the time.
Avoiding clutter on your blog. The temptation once you start blogging is to add as much as possible to your blog. There are widgets and buttons and links and millions of things that you can add to your blog that do nothing besides clutter it. The less you add to your sidebars the better. You don’t need a links section with 100 different blogs. You don’t need to post every blog award you’ve ever won. You don’t need thirty different ads. Less is almost always more. When you avoid the clutter you keep your blog fresh and allow people to focus the most important element: your content.
Creating a blog media kit. If you plan to seek out direct advertising, prizes for giveaways, or otherwise engage in communications with companies, you should create a media kit for your blog. Having a media kit for your blog will show companies that you are serious about your blog while giving them the information they need to evaluate a partnership with you.
A media kit is basically a sales tool that give potential advertisers and partners a peek at the behind-the-scenes of your blog. Public relations people, marketing representatives, and advertisers will often ask for a blog media kit with advertising rates, traffic statistics, and demographics.
A blog media kit is usually a simple PDF or Word document that can be downloaded from your blog or emailed. It should explain why someone would want to work with you and your blog. The following is a list of basic elements you should include in your blog media kit:
- Blog Profile: The introduction to your blog that describes your blog content, your blog’s values, and a little bit about you.
- Contact information: This might seem like a no brainer, but make sure you include your contact information in your media kit.
- Blog audience: You should include information about your blog’s audience. If you don’t know anything about that audience, take a demographic survey of your readers to gather the information. You can sign up for a free service like Survey Monkey and create an anonymous survey to find out whether your readers are male or female, and what their income, education, marital status, and other information is for this section of your blog media kit.
- Blog statistics: This is the specific information about your blog’s traffic and audience. Statistics you should include: unique visitors per month, total visitors per month, pageviews per month, feed subscribers. You may also want to include statistics like your Google Page Rank, Technorati ranking, or Alexa ranking if those are high. You may also opt to include high search rankings for your blog.
- Advertising options and rates: In this section let potential advertisers know what kind of advertising options exist on your blog. Include the position and size of the ads available. You may want to include a screenshot or blog markup that clearly shows the ad positions. Include the prices for these advertising options and explain any discounts you may offer for booking ads for long periods. Explain guidelines for ads you will accept and your policy on refunds for certain situations.
- Payment information: Clearly explain payment options and the time table for receiving payments for advertising.
- Branding: If you have a logo for your blog, it should be included in the design of your media kit. Use similar colors to your blog and keep the look and style of your media kit similar to that of your blog. Whoever is looking at your media kit should be able to connect the two together.
Make sure your blog media kit is accurate, up to date, and error free. Update it regularly as your blog grows and expands it’s reach. When you send it off consider tweaking your media kit for each opportunity, much like you would a resume.
Securing your blog. Once you’ve got your blog going and have a substantial numbers of posts you need to protect your blog and back it up. This is very important because things do happen and you can lose your entire blog from a glitch or a virus.
- My favorite tool for detecting and removing malware and other harmful things from your site is Sucuri. If your site gets attacked they will remove the problem and get your site running. You pay once a year and are covered for as many times as you need the service.
- For backing up your blog I recommend VaultPress. This is another paid service that automatically backs up your blog for your and keeps the backup so if something goes wrong your blog can be restored. It’s a great service that’s worth the $15 month per site price tag.
Have fun! Blogging is and should be fun. So enjoy it!