So you want to be a blogger. Welcome to the club! Before you start typing merrily away, do yourself a favor and figure out what you need in your blog host.
Here is a list of things to consider, followed by the best and most popular blogging sites and resources.
What You Need
New bloggers, especially those who don’t find navigating technical sites interesting or easy, need some basics. And “basics” doesn’t mean excellent grammatical skills and hilarious, punchy copy. If you’re serious about building a blogging career, then you should have those already.
What you need is easily accessible and permission-ready photos, a word counter, style and design choices, and a so-simple-it-hurts toolbar for posting, editing and archiving. You should also have free time, because building a following requires spending some time reading, following and commenting on industry blogs so that they’ll do the same for you.
The fact is, blogging as a career is a full-time endeavor. While it may seem that the lion’s share of the work is coming up with insightful and relevant content, you’ll spend a significant amount of time dealing with the nuts and bolts of running a website. And that means driving traffic.
Of all the blog hosts, WordPress is the most professional. Like every blog site, you can post directly to your own page. But you can also monitor your word count, change your blog’s appearance, add photos and review your archives easily.
WordPress also makes it easy to upgrade from your blog into a full website. It also provides up to 3GB of storage free of charge (upgrades are available at a premium) and lets you connect quickly to Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Tumblr.
Big-time businesses and government agencies agree that WordPress is the serious blogger’s platform. Everyone from MSNBC and Sports Illustrated to James Bond and NASA are blogging on WordPress.
Whereas WordPress attracts the serious, Tumblr attracts the seriously artistic. Are you an illustrator, photographer, painter, DJ, makeup artist or just an artiste? Then Tumblr is for you.
Like many Web 2.0 properties, the design is deceptively simple. And it’s easy to get addicted to looking at posts. On Tumblr, the homepage features post after beautiful post. From Japanese-style anime to highly stylized photographs to vibrant illustrations, Tumblr is home to all things creative.
It also requires little in the way of technical knowledge. Simply type in what you’re looking for and review a host of relevant topics. Or start your own blog at the touch of a button, with little up-sell or temptation to ramp up operations before you’ve begun (unlike WordPress). In short, it’s easy- especially if you’re loading photos.
The newly revamped Blogger, home of the “BLOGSPOT” handle, is much improved over the older version. Is it just a coincidence that it resembles WordPress in look and feel? Probably not.
In short, it’s clearer to use and read. If you operate more than one blog, you can track and edit your work all in one place. You can start a new blog just as easily as you can edit an old one. Adding photos is simple, too – just make sure the photos you use aren’t protected for use.
Adding the Right Photos
While quality content will keep your readers or viewers coming back for more, don’t underestimate the importance of engaging, relevant photos. Avoid canned animated shorts; instead, if possible, use the ones you’ve taken yourself. If your pictures wind up with cutoff heads or weird lighting, use a photo-sharing website.
This can get tricky, so pay attention. Just because a photo appears on the Internet, that doesn’t mean you have permission to use it on your blog. Don’t despair, however; there are terrific resources available.
Photo sharing websites such as Flickr offer users a wide variety of photos that you can post to your site without worrying about securing permission. Google Images contain many unrestricted photos, too – just make sure you check the permissions before you download to your webpage.
Getting Professional Help
Whether or not you need to call in the Internet cavalry depends on why you plan to blog. Are you developing your chops as a writer, focusing on building a portfolio? If so, then you should definitely be doing your own writing. If not, then calling in an SEO company might be your next step.
If you aren’t familiar with SEO and you’re trying to build a web-based business, get yourself informed, and fast. Search engine optimizing your blog content- that’s the “S“, “E” and “O” in SEO- will drive your content to or near the top of popular search engine rankings, such as those that appear on Google.
Google takes more than grammar and information into account when ranking sites and pages. It also considers the type and number of links included in your writing as well as the number of hits your page gets. Should you enhance your blog with a social media presence on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or Google+, Google sees that favorably as well.
Maximizing Your Content
If you are a strict grammarian – and most professional writers have definite opinions on form as well as function- you’re starting off in good shape. But no matter how prettily you construct your sentences, if the content is boring or lacks insight then you’ll find it difficult to attract readers.
When linking to outside sources, always choose reputable ones such as the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Vogue, Time, Rolling Stone and other highly regarded publications. Should you choose to reference another Internet writer, pick one with a national presence such as Matt Drudge or Andrew Sullivan. And if your blog pertains to corporate America, linking to professional organizations and industry players helps.
Finally, don’t forget to read other writers’ blogs. Leave comments and link to your own blog inside them. The successful blogging community is very small and few demonstrate the drive to turn it into a full-time career.
Be provocative. Be funny! But always, always be interesting.