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, which focuses on learning about the natural world around you and in your backyard.
I encourage all people with an interest in 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 have used in the past or use now. The books I have actually read. I have listened to the podcasts. 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 an 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.
WordPress comes in several flavors. I can have 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.
- 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. Automattic/Wordpress recommends BlueHost for wordpress.org sites.
To understand the difference between WordPress.com and WordPress.org, see this page.
To download WordPress.com’s Grow Your Traffic, Build Your Blog and other free ebooks. Also sign up for their free online course, Blogging Fundamentals.
Is a Free WordPress.com Site Sharecropping?
WordPress.com has grown to become a great website hosting service. Every once in a while you run into people who call having a wordpress.com site, sharecropping. And that you don’t own your content or wordpress.com will shut you down without notice and you won’t be able to retrieve your content. These folks are wrong.
Their ideas were current back in 2008. WordPress.com has grown from a basic free site like Blogger to a full-fledged Content Management System with outstanding features and services. Very Large corporations use WordPress.com for their enterprise hosting services.
If you use a blogging service 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 http://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 wordpress.com’s 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 its simplicity and no-nonsense style.
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.
Think of your website as a nonfiction book. If you write nonfiction, outline the information you would like to share online. The outline is the topics you will blog about.
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 the 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 the 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 the pages
- “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. Write on one topic per post. Long is better.
- short posts = 150 to 299 words
- long posts = 300 – 2,000 words
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. I post once a week with an very occasional extra post on Wednesdays.
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.
My posting schedule as an example:
Wednesday 11:00 a.am. – book/product reviews, news, events, quotes, photos, or updates,
Saturday morning, 7:00 a.m. – natural history article, almanac, journal prompt, nature activity
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 a 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 a 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 storehouse 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 months 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
It boils down to: Create in-depth, high-quality and thorough information to truly help others. They will appreciate it.
My opinion: newsletters are time-consuming and can be very expensive. I have started and stopped them twice. I only created Garden Updates for the past local attendants of my garden presentations and classes. Otherwise, the followers of my blog receive what used to be my newsletter content. I have made a pledge: No more newsletters.
Use your blog’s built-in email list. Install a “follow my blog” signup in the upper right-hand corner of your blog and you should do fine.
What about all those gurus who say you must have newsletter signup? Here are some facts:
- Most writers do not have websites.
- Most writers do not know who are their readers.
- Most writers do not have ongoing contact with their readers.
Having a newsletter, allows writers to have contact with their readers without a website or regular blogging. All a writer would need is a landing page on a newsletter service with a signup form and maybe a free giveaway (list of books in a series, etc.).
Lorelle VanFossen’s guides for writers. Her section, “Social Media is Where All the Action”, discusses newsletters.
Other business entrepreneurs use newsletters, some even have subscription newsletters.
If you want a newsletter, WordPress.com sites can add a MailChimp newsletter signup as a standard feature, even for free sites.
In addition, WooCOmmerce (owned by Automattic, which owns WordPress.com) owns MailPoet which is a cost-effective newsletter service integrated into WooCommerce and WordPress.com. In addition, WordPress.com says you can run your site as a newsletter. Read about it here.
And please go to the newsletter services and calculate the costs if your newsletter ends up a success with 60,000 subscribers. Do the Math!
The Best Writing Software I Have Ever Used
Scrivener is writing software. It allows you to keep your manuscript, research notes, character sketches, synopsis, outlaws, and images in one project file. It works for fiction, nonfiction, academic papers, poetry, blog posts, and screenplays. It doesn’t crack a whip and pesters you to get the writing down, but you can set word count goals. A great program. I don’t want to even think about writing without it. https://www.literatureandlatte.com/scrivener/overview
The book Scrivener for Dummies by Gwen Hernandez gives a simple, overview of the software. Ms. Hernandez also have great resources and online classes on Scrivner at http://gwenhernandez.com/.
I tried and failed in creating a template to create good-looking pdfs. Then I bought a template from BookDesignTemplates.com. Joel Friedlander who founded the company worked in book design for many years then started his own company. The downloadable templates are designed to work with Apple Pages, Microsoft Word, and Adobe InDesign. For what the templates deliver, I think they are cost-effective.
Distribution with Lulu.com
I use Lulu.com as my print-on-demand and shipping service. Lulu.com is free to use. They make money on printing and sales commission. Their printed books look great.
Donna’s author page on lulu.com.
If I don’t use Apple Pages desktop publishing software then I use Canva.
I use Canva.com to make book covers with their professionally designed book cover templates. I also use Canva for assorted graphics. The book distributor Lulu.com has integrate Canva into its’ book cover creating procedures.
Five Essential Resources
I aim for a writing career not just making a living. Making a living implies short term thinking. A career means you plan and make decisions based on the long haul and the future. And understanding of the value of Intellectual Property.
Copyright is so important, the framers of the Constitution baked it in:
In article 1, section 8, clause 8, the Constitution states that Congress has the power to enact laws to “promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries.” And Congress obliged, passing the first federal copyright law in 1790, updating it throughout the years to address the changing times. (LOC.gov)
This is how authors make their money. All authors should understand it, because the publishers do.
The U.S. copyright office has many easy to understand information about copyright at https://www.copyright.gov/
Watch out for “authors” with few published books who make their money primarily from selling services or products to inspiring authors. Find successful, authors with many, many writing credits and years in the business. Read what they write about the writing business. Respect your elders.
Seek out and read writer “horror” stories. I mean the legal and income-stealing deals and shenanigans of agents and publishers.
If you are a writer, these resources are what I call essential items. Some of the links lead to Amazon.com affiliate links. I receive a commission if you purchase anything, at no cost to you.
How to Write & Sell Simple Information for Fun and Profit: Your Guide to Writing and Publishing Books, E-Books, Articles, Special Reports, Audios, Videos, Membership Sites, and Other How-To Content, 2nd edition by Robert W. Bly with Fred Gleeck (2021) – If you are a nonfiction writer this book is a must have. (Amazon.com link)
“Author Income with Orna Ross” – Season 3, episode 3 – seven ways to generate additional income. Go Publish Yourself podcast published by IngramSpark. I am sure there is an article or ebook on ways to make money with your writing.
The Magic Bakery by Dean Wesley Smith – Copyright and Intellectual Property are the key to making money as a writer. Mr. Smith makes it easy to understand. Once you understand the value of your writing, a world of possibilities opens up. The book uses fiction writing as an example but intellectual property applies to all writing. (Amazon.com link)
Writing Business Articles and books by Kristine Kathryn Rusch found at https://kriswrites.com/business-rusch-publishing-articles/. See her, “How to Hire a Lawyer,” or her “The Agent Clause (Contracts/Deal breakers)“. I have her, Rethinking the Writing Business: A WMG Writer’s Guide (WMG Writer’s Guides) (Amazon.com link). Ms. Rusch’s husband is the above mentioned Dean Wesley Smith.
I also ordered Smith and Rusch’s book bundle, Bundle on Business (Amazon.com link)
Legal and Business Forms – A collection of business and legal forms for authors – I bought a book with CD of legal forms and explanations written by an author many years ago. I still use and refer to it. I have the forms copied to a folder to my hard drive and backed up with my cloud service. A Internet search or online bookstore search should yield something similar. (Check the author’s credentials). Respect yourself and the fruits of your labor. Know your legal rights as a author. Here is a link to the latest edition of the book of forms I use, Business and Legal Forms for Authors by Tad Crawford (Amazon.com link)
Small Time Operator (the latest edition) by Bernard B. Kamoroff, CPA (Amazon.com link) – If you run a micro business you know how hard it is to find tax and finance information. This book is invaluable. The current edition (2019) is the 15th. And may there be many, many more. In the book you’ll find getting started advice, how to keep your financial records, tax deductions and so much more.
Best Writing Podcasts and Blogs
I have been a librarian and writer for a long time. I understand a good bit about writing and publishing. There are many self-anointed writing and publishing gurus out there, I take what they say with a grain of salt.
Here are the folks whose advice I heed and experience I respect.
Kristin Kathryn Rusch https://kriswrites.com/
Dean Wesley Smith https://deanwesleysmith.com/
Mike Shatzkin https://www.idealog.com/
Draft2Digital has a great Youtube channel and podcast where the folks at D2D offer authoritative advice based on their actual day-to-day experience. https://www.youtube.com/@Draft2Digital
Lorelle.wordpress.com, – Lorelle VanFossen is a WordPress, website and blogging queen! I don’t know if she is still teaching but her blog has fantastic information. Hint: Use the print button on her article to print/save as pdf her great articles.
Great Lorelle articles:
WordPress For Writers
WordPress For Writers: WordPress Author Sites
SEO – Search Engine Optimization
I use Yoast SEO Premium to help me write content that is easy for Google to index and readers to find. WordPress also has built-in SEO features. But high quality content (information) is the key to successful website.
SEO questions? Watch Neil Patel’s Youtube videos
How to Do SEO For A Tiny Site With No Backlinks | Neil Patel SEO Tips
I hope this has been helpful.
If you like this info and find it useful, share it with your friends. 🙂
If you have any questions, email me.
Last updated 27 February 2023
Copyright © 2023 Donna L. Long.
This is a very insightful and useful article. We shall share it amongst our team. Thank you for expressing your views on this.
You’re welcome. Thanks for your comment.
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Thank you for your generous and kind words of encouragement. Good luck in your endeavors.