By Jamie Broadnax of Black Girl Nerds
You see that everyone now has a blog and it appears relatively easy to get one started. The pressing question is how do I get started? And most importantly, how do I attract readers to my blogsite?
Here are my suggestions to all the newbies out there interested in starting a blog:
1. Find Your Niche.
Who will be your target audience? Yes, believe it or not, you have to treat blogging like television and figure out which segment of the population you are trying to reach. As a new blogger, it is best to start from a specific demographic and allow it to expand, rather than going generic. This is a common mistake among bloggers. Many writers choose a broad topic such as Fashion, Movies, or Celebrities to write about, but remember---you have to contend with a plethora of other extremely successful sites that talk about the same thing. Why should anyone go to your blog rather than going to Perez Hilton for celebrity gossip or Ain't It Cool News for movies? Take baby steps and narrow down your topic when you start. So rather than creating a blog about movies in general, create a blog about independent movies or horror movies. If you're a fashionista and want to write about fashion, create a site about hipster wear or fashion for nerds (now that's a blog I'd like to read)
2. Find Your Platform
Now that you know what you are writing about, figure out which blogging platform you will choose to launch your site on. There are several platforms out there such as Blogger, Wordpress, TypePad, Tumblr, and LiveJournal just to name a few. I have been using Blogger myself for several years now, just because it was an easier platform for me to manage. However, now there are so many platforms out there for writers to choose from, any one will do. Figure out how you want your site to look to readers and take some time to research which platform best fits your style and go from there.
3. Create Content In Advance
Now here is a secret that I use that I will reveal to each of you nerdy girl readers that will help you in maintaining and updating content. One of the biggest hurdles writers come into when creating new content is the dreaded writers block. Those moments where you find yourself staring at a blinking cursor for an hour. The best way to prevent that is to take a day to find material that you would like to write about and email those topics to yourself. That is what I do. For example, at the beginning of the month, I will write out a list of topics I am interesting in blogging about and usually I will come up with roughly 10-15 topics or so. From there I will keep inventory of those topics by emailing them for myself and say "okay, for the month of January, I have these 15 topics I plan on blogging about". Therefore, when I open my laptop and feel compelled to write, I can look to my inbox and see the list of topics I compiled a list of from the beginning of the month and start working down the list and go from there. Writer's Block cured! The hardest part about this is coming up with those topics at the beginning of the month. I usually find a day when I feel the most creative (usually in the early morning after I have had a cup of coffee) and my brain is swirling around with tons of info.
4. SEO Is Key
Whenever I mention the term SEO to some of my fellow bloggers or friends they look at me with an unfamiliar expression. SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. I have no training or expertise in SEO, I just decided one day to learn how to do it. I would highly recommend learning more about SEO to help give your blog some more visibility. First start with Google. Go to Google Blog Search to "ping" your blog in Google's beta search. What this means is Google will find a crawl for your site, and within 24 hours or so, the next time you do a Google search and type your site's URL it will come up. Sites like Ping-O-Matic and Technorati use tools to help search engines find your blog. There is so much more to SEO than using these sites. Here is a random SEO trick to make it easier for people to find your blog: Whenever you upload an image to your blog, when you save the file, use your blogsite's name or URL for the image. That name or URL will be embedded within the image, and when that image gets picked up my Google's search engine, whenever someone chooses to click on that image, it will generate directly back to your blog site.
5. Market Your Blog To An Audience
Now you have your blog created and you have your content prepared, it's time to find people interested in reading what you have to say. This is actually not as difficult as you may think. Social media makes it incredibly easy to market yourself to readers. Open up an account on Facebook and Twitter and if you choose to be even more creative, create a Facebook page and a Twitter page specifically for your blog. I use Networked Blogs. This particular platform allows you to auto-publish your posts to Facebook and Twitter. This is a great tool to allow the links to your blog post to go directly into someone's Facebook feed or Twitter feed should they choose to like your Facebook page or follow your Twitter account.
6. Network With Other Bloggers
Networking is crucial when it comes to just about everything, but in the world of blogging it is the one thing that will allow you to build up your readership substantially. There are sites like My Blog Guest that allow you to publish posts on other blogger's websites or vice-versa. You may receive an offer from a blogger to write a post for your website and you can offer to write for them. This type of rapport is important, because it not only generates more visibility to your site, but it also gives you more legitimacy as a writer that you also create content for other websites. This is meaningful to readers as well as other bloggers. In return bloggers may choose to link your blog to their website and you can also return the favor. The more hyperlinks your blog receives from other websites the better. It increases your Alexa Rank , which can not only lead to a higher readership but can lead to further opportunities along the way should you choose to monetize your site by publishing ads.
7. Paid Advertising
This final step is one that I don't primarily focus on simply because it means having to use your own financial resources which can be both risky and at times unnecessary. In my opinion, this is the old school way of marketing your blog, and although at times it is effective, I feel that the social media route is the best form of advertising and obviously the least expensive. However, if you feel confident enough that your blog has potential to reach a larger market and you have the financial capacity to do so, I would recommend setting up an account with Google Ad Words so that you can pay certain keywords to come up in Google's search engine that relate to your blog. You can also choose to advertise through Facebook and advertise your Facebook page to your blog through their website. I only recommend this if you feel confident enough and you have the extra funds to advertise. However, this is not necessary when social media has a profound viral effect when it comes to marketing yourself.
I hope these 7 tips are helpful to you as a new blogger. I started blogging in 2007. It was all trial and error and everything I have learned and done since I started has been self-taught. I don't claim to be an expert by no means, but I have enough insight to know what can help you get started on the right track. It will be a little overwhelming at first. When I started, blogging wasn't as popular as it is today. It seems like everyone has a blog. I urge you to please do not feel intimidated or frustrated at that prospect. If you stay focused and continue to update and manage your content, that is what matters. Consistency in blogging is essential. Blog about topics that are of interest to you and don't feel compelled to blog about a topic that everybody is talking about. I rarely blog about pop culture because frankly there are a thousand other blogs for every topic about Kim Kardashian and Kanye West or the latest political scandal in the White House. Who cares what everyone else is talking about, what do YOU want to talk about?
Finally, blog about a topic that NOBODY else is discussing. Don't succumb to the noise of Twitter and Facebook by chatting about trending topics. I like to chat about cartoon theme songs from the 80s and 90s and movies with interracial couples. Create a unique approach in your content. That is what will draw readers to your blog not the recycled topics of the day that will become yesterday's news within the next 24 hours.
Good luck blogging! You're gonna be a success!
Jamie is the creator of Black Girl Nerds. The site is geared towards a subculture of
women who embrace their nerdiness and feel empowered by their quirky personalities.