With an estimated 440 million blogs currently in the world, it’s understandable that, if you don’t already have one, you may be asking yourself what is blogging and is it worth my while starting one? However, with so many blogs already out there and the benefits attached to having one, it also stands to reason that professionals and amateurs alike are benefiting from having a blog on their website. So, if you don’t already have one up and running, it really is high time you did.
Today’s article is going to look at what blogging is, along with a brief overview of what it’s used for and why you need it. I’ll also be giving you a few examples of what I consider to be great blog sites, in terms of layouts and usage, along with a breakdown of the techy bits needed to get started. As I know blogging can be a bit overwhelming, I’ll also give the chance to opt-in for my free blogging template - to make writing your blog posts easier and faster for you.
Sound good? Great - let’s get started!
When the first blog was launched in 1994 a ‘weblog’ or blog, was more of a personal online journal kind of affair. Mostly something that gave you a forum to summarise your thoughts and feelings etc, it was a platform for you to write, publish and share those things with the world at large and entries were placed in reverse chronological order.
It’s come a long way since then!
With more an more creatives, entrepreneurs and businesses seeing the potential of blogging, it’s now evolved into a crucial part of your online professional presence. It’s still about sharing what you know and are interested in with others - but it’s more structured, with a bigger focus on clearly defined marketing goals.
As already mentioned, blogging was originally used as a personal space for your thoughts and opinions, but now it’s evolved into a space to showcase your expertise, raise your profile and presence, whilst also building audiences and ultimately, making more money. It’s about communicating your news and information to interested parties, as well as allowing others to see the face and personality behind your business.
Regardless of whether you’re a sole trader, hobbyist or Limited Company, blogging gives you a platform to showcase you. It enables you to reach the right people, attract more of them to you on a consistent basis, grow that audience and establish loyalty in those new relationships.
Blogging isn’t just for large corporations or established businesses. If you’re a business owner for any type of business, it helps showcase your expertise, build your brand and grow your audience - as they’ll continue to follow you if they’re interested in what you have to say. It’s an opportunity to share what your business stands for, what you believe in and the story of you and your business. It’s about getting people to understand and care about your brand and resonate with your values, beliefs and products. The more time they spend on your site, the more they’re going to know, like and trust you, what you have to say and the products you sell and/or endorse.
As a writer or more of a personal celebrity (author, actor, artist, coach etc) it’s about letting people see who you are, as an individual. Yes, you’ll still have an overlap with the business owners reasons for blogging, but when you’re your brand, it’s that bit more personal - people want to know about the person behind the finished piece of art. They want to know your reasons for writing that novel, the process involved and what you’re planning on doing next. It’s about showing people who you are and encouraging them to make friends with you, so they continue to follow your work.
There are so many different types out there, it would be really difficult to give you an example of a blog in each type of niche. However, here’s a few I particularly like:
https://dariusforoux.com/ - as an entrepreneur, blogger and podcaster, Darius has taken a central theme and turned it into a great self-help website. Focusing on four main areas (productivity, habits, decision making and personal finance), he neatly answers the question ‘How can we live a useful life that matters?’
https://www.rachelngom.com/ - Rachel is a former volleyball player turned entrepreneur. Specialising in helping female entrepreneurs, Rachel focuses on helping them utilise the power of Pinterest.
https://shailajav.com/ - Shailaja has a slightly different take on her blog, by focusing on three different areas - parenting, Pinterest and productivity. She uses her website to showcase her passion for gentle parenting, whilst also helping bloggers and website owners grow their traffic and social media organically.
https://jfpenn.com/ - Joanna Penn is an Award-nominated, New York Times and USA Today bestselling thriller author. She has two websites and this, her fiction based one, I’ve picked to give you a prime example of how you can use book research for blog writing purposes.
As you can see from the examples above, when it comes to blogging the only real rules are to focus on what you’re passionate about and keep it relevant and consistent!
I’d recommend WordPress as your blog platform - but the self-hosted one ideally (available from WordPress.org). Why? Because the URL will be just your business or personal name, so the address is then super tidy. It also means the content is yours and you’re in total control of it. With it being such a popular platform there’s also tons of support and advice online.
If you’re a business, get a dedicated blog page on your existing website. Speak to your IT support if you need to. If you don’t have a website, buy your .co.uk domain (I’d recommend using 123-reg) and you can also get the .com if you like, to ensure all your bases are covered. You’ll also need to get hosting (the company that will give you the online space to put your website on) and use WordPress to build your site and blog together - so you still benefit from owning your content and having the freedom over design etc. You’ll then have a working website and blog in the name of your choice.
This does also mean you’re committing to paying for monthly or annual hosting, as well as having to renew your domain name every year or two (depending on the options you select and the companies you use), however, these aren’t expensive and it’s a wise investment, if you’re looking to stay around for a while. I’d personally recommend hosting through emedia hosting if you’re in the UK, as they offer tech support, website design, WordPress maintenance plans and are incredibly helpful and approachable - perfect for those who aren’t techy or are just starting out.
Now, if you’re not sure if you want to go through with buying a domain and hosting, or going for your own website, you can still use the hosted version of WordPress over at WordPress.com - but it has its downsides. Not only will it mean having a website URL that is both long and ugly (it will be yourblogname.WordPress.com, as opposed to a tidier yourblogname.com), it will also mean you’re stuck with their various limitations. Most importantly, you won’t own anything - including your site - so they can delete all of your blog content, any time they like. However, having said all that, it’s a simple way to dip your toe into the blogging waters.
You can use the pre-installed WordPress layout when you first get started, but it’s understandable that, over time, you’ll want to customise the look and feel of your site. As WordPress is such a well-known platform, there’s no shortage of available themes out there, along with approximately 29,000 extra plugins (most of which are free, including the essential #1 WordPress plugin, Yoast SEO), all designed to help you get the perfect look and functionality for your blog.
It’s worth shopping around for your themes, as there are many free and paid options available. I’d start with the basic ones that are available for free from within your WordPress options - as you can always purchase a suitable design or create your own, at a later date. Obviously, blog design is something that’s both a big subject and outside the scope of today’s overview article, but I’ll look to cover it at a later date.
So you finally have your blog set up, but you still have to get your first blog post written. Knowing what to write about is something we all struggle with but, if you look to brainstorm some ideas, you’ll be on the right track. Start by making a list of what your ideal reader and/or customer would like to read about. You can then add commonly asked questions to that list, along with things you’re interested in.
It’s a good idea to have a list of 10-12 blog post topics in mind before you make your blog live. Why? It gives you a focus for those first blog posts, by ensuring you have ideas to follow each time until the blog writing habit has settled into your new norm.
However, don’t use creating the perfect list of ideas as your delaying tactic! The best way to get that blog writing habit settled in is to just get started. Aim for making it a weekly habit - fortnightly, if you’re worried you don’t have the time or commitment.
If you want to make sure you’re setting out those first blog posts right and easily covering the basics of SEO and metadata (don’t worry, it’s not as difficult as it sounds!), check out my free blogging template, by clicking on the image below:
Having a blog for your business is essential, regardless of whether you’re a writer, entrepreneur or Limited Company. Not only does it give you an online space to showcase what you’re about, but it also encourages the development of relationships and loyalty between you and your fans or customers. However, if you want to do it well and look more professional - go self-hosted and, if you want to ensure you’re getting the layout of your blog posts right, check out my free blogging template. After all, it’s been designed to make writing those blog posts easier and faster for you, whilst ensuring all the essentials are covered!