New Bloggers: Finding Your Way Through the Virtual Haze

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Image courtesy of ‘debspoons’, FreeDigitalPhotos.net

RSS feeds, calls to action, blogrolls, commenting, guest posting, social bookmarking, linking (in and out), advertising and affiliate programs, Technorati blog claims, Twitter marketing, Facebook stats, Pinterest for business…

I never even knew this stuff existed, until I started blogging.

Oh yeah. And you’re supposed to do it ALL, otherwise your blog will never be a success!

What’s what

We all want lots of follows, likes and shares.

But when I began blogging, I got so bogged down with Gravatars and trying to figure out how to cut and paste my Google Analytics html, that I wasn’t actually doing what I came here to go: writing.

So to help new bloggers, I’ve made a list of five basic essentials that will help you maximize your readership. There are many others, but these will help you lay a good foundation, on which you can build later.

1. Use WordPress.org

If you want to have a professional site, you really need WordPress.org. Not Blogger, not WordPress.com. You’ll need to get web hosting and pay for it. This works out around 90€ or $100 per year, give or take, but it’s totally worth it.

To understand the difference between WordPress.com and WordPress.org, read Don Campbell’s excellent blog post, WordPress.org vs WordPress.com – Which One Should I Use?

To build your WordPress.org site, I heartily recommend you download Kent Mauresmo and Anastasiya Petrova’s How to Build a Website with WordPress… Fast! at Amazon.

NOTE: If you are only starting out and not sure whether you want to write professionally or pay for hosting, start with WordPress.com. You can easily move to WordPress.org later if you want to.

2. Email Subscriptions

Place a clearly visible e-mail subscriptions field, preferably in the top right hand corner or sidebar of your blog, where the readers can easily see it. Do this from Day 1 to start getting followers. Unless people can hook up with you straight away, it’s unlikely they’ll return. And getting someone’s email address allows you to mail them updates, offers, new posts or anything you need to grow your business.

3. Social Media

You do not have to belong to every possible social media site to promote your blog. I personally have accounts with six, but I mainly use Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+ to promote my blog posts, depending on which type of writing I want people to read.

  • For some of my more serious or thought-provoking articles, I post on LinkedIn.
  • For my personal blog, my ‘Mommy Blog’, I mostly use Facebook, where the bulk of my 30’s to 45’s readers are: see PitiKukkua.com
  • I use Twitter and Google+ for everything, because Twitter is quick, general and popular and Google+ helps to position me in Google’s search rankings.

WordPress.org (as well as WordPress.com) have ‘widgets’ that allow you to automate the publishing of blog posts in your social media, so you don’t have to post links one by one every time you publish a post.

You can also place a subscription link or icon in your sidebar, header or footer, for most popular Social Media sites, that allow people to follow you.

You should also ensure that each blog post has its own social media links or buttons at the bottom of the post, so people can share the article easily.

3. RSS

Oh no, the dreaded RSS! It took me forever to wrap my head around it and I’m not sure if I still have. VERY basically, it’s a quick way for a reader to view all your blog posts together alongside other blogs they subscribe to – without having tons of blog posts emailed to their inbox every day.

No worries though, as WordPress (both versions) has a widget for RSS feeds, so you don’t have to do anything complicated or technical. Just go into widgets, select RSS feeds (‘posts’ definitely, ‘comments’ if you want to) and pop it into your side bar.

4. Contact Page

Don’t forget to include a very clear page that says something obvious like ‘Contact’ – and then list all you contact details on there – email, Skype, telephone number, etc. If you have a shop, don’t forget to add a map.

5. Other blogs you follow

You can also display a list of other blogs or sites you follow, in your sidebar. Sometimes when you do this, other websites reciprocate, and you can get a new stream of readers through them. You can just use the WordPress widget for this.

6. BONUS TIP: List Your Blog in Directories

Apart from coming up on normal search sites like Google or Yahoo, blogs have their own directories or search engines. Make sure your blog is registered on some of them, because this will up your chances of getting reader traffic to your site.

Check out Technorati, Google Blog Search and Bloglines to understand how these work, then find out more by reading this excellent blog post at Words in a Row to understand the process fully.

In conclusion

The list does not end here. There are zillions of other things you could be doing to promote your blog. But if you start with the six above, you can’t go far wrong. They’ll get you started and you’ll have plenty of time to do more later.

Good luck! Let me what your favourite trick is for spreading the word about your blog.

 

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Johanna Bergstrom is a creative non-fiction writer who works for both online and paper media.

View Johanna’s complete writer’s portfolio or ’Like’ her Facebook Writer’s Page.

 

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