I started this article as a collection of tips for my fellow writers who ask me about having their own blog or website. I write and publish this website/blog, In Season, which focuses on learning about the natural world around you and in your backyard.
I encourage all people with an interest the land and environment to blog and create informative websites on their region or topic of interest.
This is a really, really simple guide. No fancy stuff.
Please note: All of the services discussed, I actually use everyday. The books I have actually read. Some of the services I discuss, I am an affiliate of which means if you click on the link and purchase the product or service I receive a small commission. But, this is honest advice.
What is a blog?
A blog is simply a website that is updated regularly. Each post (what you write) is date-stamped. An archive is built up as you publish posts. I think of a website as a “book” of information. To me, a blog is a newspaper or magazine.
People who read your blog may visit your blog daily or at least regularly. Or they may subscribe to it through a rss reader or email. I won’t get into how “rss” works. Just think of it as a delivery system that collects the blog posts in one place, to make it easier for subscribers to see what is new to read. It “syndicates” your blog. RSS readers are not a popular as they once were.
Readers can also receive updates through Tweeter, Facebook, LinkedIn or other social networking. You just have to open accounts with these sites and link your blog to it.
Email is the best and you should encourage your readers to sign up for email delivery. Statistics show that most people do not see most of what is published on their Facebook timeline. If you would like to subscribe to this blog, sign up here.
You will need an email address to receive replies from your readers and other stuff. I use Google Apps for Work for my email service. It’s isn’t free but I receive other services besides email, like cloud storage, calendar, contacts and other typical Google services.
Important point: Your websites email of SMTP (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol) is for email addresses not necessarily for sending newsletters. It is better to use a separate email sending service to send your emails. I spent a frustrating two weeks of unsent newsletters and posts before I learned this. Read this explanation.
Definition of emailing terms: https://support.mailpoet.com/knowledgebase/definitions-emailing/
Where to Write
The two free blog hosting service I recommend are Blogger (owned by Google) and WordPress.
Blogger is a easy-to-use blogging platform that provides beautiful designs for a blog without knowing technical details. This blog/website started out at Blogger but I moved to WordPress.com, because WordPress has more functionality.
WordPress comes in several flavors. I can have a just a blog, a blog/website combination or just a static website. WordPress is a very simple CMS (content management system). It is a gateway to becoming hooked on tinkering under the hood of your website/blog. With WordPress you can make a website with a static front page or a standard blog layout as a front page. WordPress is excellent for writers who want an author’s website and add a blog later.
- Blogger (Goggle) http://www.blogger.com
- WordPress http://www.wordpress.com
You can also self-host WordPress on a hosting service. Self-hosting allows you to use the thousands of plug-ins and themes to extend the functionality of the WordPress software and design. To self-host you would use the WordPress.org software. The WordPress.org website has recommended hosts. I use Pagely.com, a web hosting service that only hosts WordPress sites. I like Pagely.com because WordPress is all they do and are experts. Other hosts use various programs and may not be experts in WordPress. It is hard finding employees who have in-depth knowledge about many programs. Pagely.com is more expensive, but worth it for the specialization and excellent customer service.
To understand the difference between WordPress.com and WordPress.org, see this page.
If you use blogging service like Blogger or WordPress.com, you will choose what you want your blog to be called. Then the blog service will add their domain name on the end. So your blog address would be something like: www.youpick.blogspot.com or www.youpick.wordpress.com. This is fine as long as you don’t mind being tied to the blog platform and don’t plan to move your blog.
If you move your blog, you can’t take the blogspot.com or wordpress.com name with you. You can redirect the old name to your new blog. If you do what I do and buy my own domain name, donnallong.com, then you can move your blog and keep the old links, subscribers, and name recognition.
I use Hover.com to register/buy my domain name. There are other registers. I just like hover.com for it’s simplicity and no-nonsense style.
I started this blog on Blogger.com And I loved my blog. It was pretty and easy-to-use. I wanted to blog, but I need more than the ten static pages that Blogger allowed. So, I moved the whole shebang to WordPress.com. It was simple. Blogger let me export the whole blog (or just some of it, if you choose) to a file on my desktop. Then I went into the WordPress.com blog I had already setup and I imported (uploaded) the blogger post to WordPress. com. It was that simple. I still had to rearrange things a bit. But, I didn’t loose a couple years worth of writing.
Then I just went to my domain register and changed the technical information to point to my new WordPress. com blog. I didn’t have to worry about losing readers, etc. if I left behind a youpick.blogspot.com domain.
I have since moved by WordPress blog to self-hosting. That is when you pay a web hosting service to store and publish your blog on its servers. I use Pagely.com. Pagely.com only hosts WordPress software so they are experts at it. Some of the other web hosts host a wide array of software, which means none of their techs can know everything about every platform. Pagely.com costs more than the “kitchen-sink” web hosts but I think the peace of mind is worth it.
What to Write
Think of a blog as a newspaper or magazine. What normally goes into a magazine on your topic? Gather together a couple of magazines on your topic and brainstorm ideas for your blog.
Build a Base/Core Content
Build a base of content that you can refer to in future posts. This could be basic information on your overall blog topic or focus.
WordPress lets you have unlimited pages in addition to a blog. Blogs are made up of posts, websites of static pages. I use the pages for “basic information”. When I write a post that relates to deeper information on website page, I link to it. This way people stay on your site longer, which the search engines like. The search engines see this as the longer someone stays on your site, the better quality of your information.
For a post on what birds are coming to my feeders on a cold January morning – I would link to a web page or previous post about “winter birds and winter food”.
Sample Basic Information
- your vision
- guides, how-to’s, tutorials
- resource guide
- reference articles
- answer questions and solve problems
- daily prompts and meditations
- book/product reviews
- announcement of events
- survey results
- blurb about new base content pages – with link to page
- “best of” lists
- cost comparisons
Length of Posts
- Blog posts – Google likes long posts, up to 2,000 words. Google ranks long 2,000 posts at the top of its results.
- short posts = 150 to 299 words
- long posts = 300 – 2,000 words
- Long is better.
- Write on one topic per post
How often to Post?
2-4 times per week. Otherwise if you post too often, people are bombarded. They may cancel their subscription or just won’t read the posts.
Schedule Your Posts
Set up a schedule to post. If you post in certain categories on set days, your readers will come to expect certain topics on certain days. It also makes it easier on choosing what to post.
Monday – journal entry
Wednesday – nature facts and photos
Friday – journal prompt, nature activity, nature news
As needed – Book/product reviews, news, nature happenings, articles, etc.
Keywords are the words that people type into a search engine to find what they are looking for. If your posts contain the words people use the most on a subject, the more your blog will find pop-up in a search engine results list.
Keywords – should occur no more than 3% of a post’s of text
Any more times and the search engines become suspicious that you are stuffing your text with keywords that may or may not be relevant. The search engines like honesty.
|Words in post
||Percent of total words
To choose keyword, use a keyword generator. I have used Google Ad words. But there are paid subscription keyword generators. Search for the term “keywords” in a search engine.
Write to be read on a computer screen
Learn to write for the web. The way you write for reading on a computer screen is different from paper. Jakob Nielson’s Usability site has everything you need to know about writing for the web. But, here are some key points to remember.
- Paragraphs should be kept short. One to three sentences make a paragraph on a computer screen.
- Lots of white space. Separate paragraphs by spaces.
- Use bullets, lists, and tables.
- Start the text with the most important information. Those who want to read more in-depth information can read on. This is the classic newspaper/journalism model.
- Use keywords
- Keep sentences short. Or at least to a reasonable length.
Hints and Tips
Descriptive titles – don’t trick your readers with what a post is about. Be honest and to the point.
Deep Linking – Link to a previous post(s) that is related to the current post. This way, good posts are not “lost” as time moves on.
Categories – use 1 to 3 categories to describe your post.
Tags – use up to 12 -15 tags to narrow down your post topic.
Permalinks – In naming blog posts, don’t use permalinks. Use good URL (address) structure instead. This means your post address should make sense like a good web page address. Ideally it should include the keyword that your page is about.
http://donnallong.wordpress.com/attracting-birds.html (much better)
Build up a store house of posts before going “live”. This way if readers stumble upon your blog when it is brand new, they will have something to read. How many? 10, 30? It is up to you.
Use future posting – use the future date feature to plan posts for a week, two weeks or even month ahead. Use the post date feature to build up the number of posts before you go live for the first time. Otherwise, if you add 10 posts on one day, that day’s date will have ten posts. Spread the dates around.This way you don’t have to post everyday.
Have a “storehouse” of posts you can pull out and publish when:
- you don’t feel well
- your go on vacation
- you get writer’s block
ProBlogger.net by Darren Rowse produces a great informative blog.
Write. Publish. Repeat by Sean Platt and Johnny B. Truant is an excellent resource for both fiction and nonfiction writers in understanding and navigating the business of writing. I highly recommend this book. See more about the book on Amazon.com.
Business for Authors: How to Be an Author Entrepreneur by Joanna Penn is another excellent book about the business of being a writer and actually paying the bills.
I hope this has been helpful.
If you have any questions, email me.
Last updated 26 June 2015
Copyright © 2015 Donna Long.
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