planning

Starting Blogging: Having a plan

Plane taking off
[toc] Plane taking off

Introduction

When starting a blog there are two main types of people. Those that just jump in and just write and those think a little, plan a little before setting up their blog. this article considers those that want to do a little planning.  There’s another post for those that just want to jump in and start writing.

Things to consider before starting to blog

I advise anyone starting to blog to consider where the blog’s going to be in 6 month’s time, one year’s time and five year’s time.

Are you going to write for a long stretch of time?

Are you happy writing for these long periods of time? Will you be happy writing your posts – once a day, three times a week, once a week or just when the feeling takes you over these periods.

Who is going to read your blog?

Who is going to read your blog?  Just friends and family, peo4ple with a particular interest, say the same music, interested in the same gadgets, follow the same football team, go to the same church, collect the same stuff as you or hate the same set, or all, politicians etc.

Do you want people to just read, comment, interact, argue, do something specific, join your club, go to your organisation’s events, buy something or vote a certain way.

What are going to write about?

Your life, your interests, your business, your services, your club, politics, news, celebs, your favourite soap, great places to visit, gadgets, cars, health, software, photography, jokes and many more.

You have to be sure that you are able to keep writing about the subject over the days, weeks, months and years. So if the subject area is narrow be sure that there is enough material to keep on writing post after post.

If you want to make money from your blog then you should also be picking a niche that has some value in it. But be careful a friend of mine, Philip, started writing about cars

A personal blog or something more?

Do you want to just want a low level personal blog? Or are you prepared to work on developing the blog: are you prepared to network with other bloggers? are you prepared to spend time promoting?

You’re going to have to work reasonably hard if you want to build up significant traffic to your blog. Can be quite good fun though and you’ll communicate with quite a few interesting people.

How geeky are you?

Do you want to just use one of the free services and let them do the hard technical work?  Are you going to use an easy install WordPress system and maybe load a theme – but no more, (fairly easy)?  are you prepared to learn how to use widgets and plugins, (fairly simple and straight forward)? are you prepared to learn how to customise a theme, (needs a little to a lot of skill)?

Or are you wanting to buy in a freelancer to sort out the technical issues?  Can be relatively cheap to very expensive. Or if you can find an enthusiastic  blogger they’ll often do it for free – my consultancy charges are often tea and biscuits or a pint.

and the $64 million question

Do you plan to make money: selling your stuff, selling other people’s stuff, selling your services; promoting your services, advertising on your blog, being an affiliate, producing your own ebooks, software or reports.

If you want to make money – well how much?  To pay for the costs of running the blog, a little pin money, happy to get the occasional bonus from your advertisers or Amazon,  want to build a part time income or do you plan to leave your job and live off your blogging income, (don’t quit the day job unless you’re sure of the income).

Phew that’s a lot to think about

And when you’ve thought through all of this you can then start planning.  Dependent on your thoughts you can:

  • Define the niche you want to work in
  • Do you need a professional looking blog, or can I use a free service or free themes
  • It will help you decide your hosting
  • What sort of technical knowledge and support you need
  • Give you a realistic implication of the amount of work involved

Wow – so please don’t get put off by the hard work – you’ve got the rudiments of a plan

follow your plan

refine your plan

follow your plan

and in a few months time you will have a great blog, with great posts and a clear direction.

Over to you

Well get on with it – get your notebook out and start planning.

So what do you think?  Do you do any planning?  What are the plans for your blog?  Any hints for other bloggers?

Blog Zero: You can write or do it right

You can write or do it right: Part 1 You can write

[toc] sailing

True confession

I tend to be a writer than a do it righter.   Well I’m English so I tend to be a bit of compromiser.  I do a tiny bit planning, before I charge into setting up an instant blog, and then there’s the sound of the  keyboard rattling,  only broken when I charge off to brew yet another cup of English Breakfast Tea, (which can be drunk any time of the day – especially by me).

Two days ago I had an epithany, (which is not Tiffany’s younger sister), where I realised that I should have planned this blog properly.  I’ve written around thirty posts which could have, nay should have, been written in a different style.  However, I’m now excited that I’m now totally focused on where this blog is going and I’m now very confident that this blog is going to be a great success.

So you want to write – right?

The really, really easy way to get writing quickly is to set up a blog on one of the two, free hosted blogs services: Blogger or WordPress.  You just join one of these service, choose a quick name, choose your theme, (layout), and that’s really it.  Start typing.

Blogger

Blogger front page

Signing up to Blogger

Goto Blogger.com

or WordPress

WordPress free blogs

Free WordPress blog - click the button on the right

The Benefits of these Systems

There are some useful benefits to starting your blog on one of these services:

  • In around 10 minutes you can be producing your first post
  • the service is free
  • These systems now come with a wide variety of themes
  • Both have a lot of useful features
  • You don’t have to worry about upgrading, backing up etc
  • It’s reasonably easy to export your posts etc from one of these systems.

The Evil Downside

As these services are being controlled by one big organisations, Google for Blogger, and a smaller network of enthusiasts, WordPress organisation for WordPress there are implications:

  • unlikely- but they could go bust
  • possible – that they may decide to close down the service
  • probable – that at some point some bright technical spark will decide to change the whole system and it will mess up the look of your blog.
  • there are more controls in the system.

The last thing happened to me.  I had a personal blog over about two or three years, with 300+ posts, which were written under my premium subscription, ($5), with Blogger, then an independent business.

The business got taken over by Google – I was given a great Google hoodie as a bribe not to complain about the take over, (my price is sadly very low), and everything seemed OK around two months.

Then the great anoucement the system was going to be improved and much, much better and much, much faster.  It was except every one of my images on my 300+ posts had vanished.

The update had modified my links and unfortunately I had worked out a clever, non-standard, quick way of loading  my images to Blogger.  I started loading the images post by post but at the end of the evening I had only sorted out around thirty images.  Arghhhhhhhhh!!!

Unhappy balloon face

Where's my images?

Which is why I suggest that you think seriously about setting up your own blog with your own domain.  See part two of this post.

Planning: Choosing your blog’s career path

doors Overview:

Before you start to blog you need to sit down and plan. Ironically this is better done with a notepad and pen. What you need to do is somewhat quietly and think seriously what you want to achieve with your blog in the long term.

Once your distant goals are  decided you can then plan your short term and medium goals.  What do you want to achieve in your first few weeks, first six months and first year . In this post we are going to look at how to plan for your long-term success.

Plan the long-term first

Imagine you are going on a long journey, (in reality you are in blogging terms). Now the thing with this journey is that you have been given a month’s holiday by the boss. Even better you’ve been told that you must go on an all-expenses-paid holiday but, and it is a big but, the deal is that you have to write a series of articles on the place that you are going to visit.

Wow. What a great adventure? But then the problem arises. Where are you going to go? How you can get there? What are you going to take with you? Decisions, decisions, decisions.

With a little thought you should soon decide the destination. Knowing that you can then start planning what to take for your trip. Do you need warm clothes, hot weather clothes or if you coming to England a combination of both, plus an umbrella, (I’m told it rains here sometimes).

You will know if you need shots, carry special medicines.  You’ll know what kind of currency you need, which guidebooks to take and you’d probably want to take some sort of language dictionary.

You’d also be checking your digital camera, buying spare batteries, finding out the best deal to keep your cell phone operational and getting your laptop loaded up with all the programs that you might need for your travels.

So what is your long-term aim of your blog

So your blog is going to be a journey.  You may have a specific aim for your blog. It could be that you want to use the blog to build up an existing website, or to promote a product or service. You may want to use the blog to support a cause, campaign for an issue, aid a community or faith group.

You may want to use a blog as a personal diary. You may want to use a blog to develop your career: demonstrating your expertise, gaining a network of contacts, building your reputation and authority, promoting yourself as a trainer, consultant, freelancer, coach, writer or designer.

(In the past blogging has helped me demonstrate my computer and internet skills, which has lead to my getting quite a lot of profitable projects).

Then, of course, there are those who want to make at the very least a part-time income from blogging, with the intention of having enough to live on by bogging to someone who has the ambition of becoming a star blogger.

All of these ambitions are viable, but to make the money, you will need to work hard and for a long period to achieve your goals. Promoting a business, service or yourself is relatively straightforward, you will need to do a certain amount of work, but this will reduce fairly quickly and after a few months you can probably just schedule in a short session each week to maintain your profile. The personal blog depends entirely on your ambition for the blog — some people will spend hours every day, while others may just write the old post whenever they feel like it will stop

A little business secret

To achieve anything in business you need a goal. It a well-known fact that if you write down the goal then the unconscious part of your brain starts working quietly on its own to implement your planned ideas.

You will suddenly find that an idea comes into your head that will help you. You will suddenly see useful connections that you have missed. You will find that your project will suddenly crop up in conversations that you having with friends or acquaintances and people will offer you support and encouragement that will boost your confidence to succeed stop

Over to you

Sit down somewhere quiet with your notebook and pen and think carefully where do what the blog to be in 10 years time. By then would you want to still own and run the blog, would you have wanted to sell the blog, (obviously for a fortune), or would you have wanted to pass the blog on to others, (this is really relevant for community, faith, issue and business blogs).

Then think where do you want blog to be in three years time. This still gives you a long-term perspective, but this goal is in the foreseeable future. Then repeat the process for one year into the future, six months into the future and three months into the future.

This planning helps decide your choice of domain name, the way the blog is set up, the writing, the promotion and marketing of the blog and your overall strategy for developing and managing the blog.

Basic Blogging: Focus on Giving Your Blog Focus

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Overview:

Internet surfers are strange creatures.  The flit from site to site because of recommendations or following the results of a Google search.  They land on a site – look around and in the space of a few seconds decide to either stay or go.

What they need is to quickly understand the focus of your blog.  What is the blog about? What is the writing style?  Does the blog have interesting articles?  In short – what is the blog’s focus? or what is the focus of the blog’s owner.

Secondly – you, the blog’s owner, writer, developer need focus in order to write the right posts, design the layout, organise the navigation and very importantly focus helps you focus on where and how to promote and market your blog.

become a new you

I am assuming you know the niche, the subject matter, of your blog.  You are interested in a specific subject: such as cars, technology, child care, the goings on in Hollywood, games or business.   You are either very interested in the subject or you know there’s a good demand for this type of article.

Now go away and get distracted for half an hour or so:  have a coffee, tea, cola, read the papers, watch TV, go for a walk, listen to music or play a computer game, (but not a too addictive one).  Have your break and then come back but not as you – come back as a regular web surfer – but a surfer with a notepad and a pen or pencil.

So what is your focus?

As this new person look at your blog and what do you see?  Write notes.

  • Is it easy to understand what the blog is about?
  • Is it easy to find useful older posts?
  • What is the style of writing?
  • Is the design OK?  Could it be better?
    Write notes.

and your style of writing?

  • What about the length of each post – are they OK? or too long? too short?
  • Are there themes to your posts? or is it a ramshackle collection of random thoughts?
  • Is your writing too dense with too many long paragraphs?  or too short and too simple for your audience?

Write notes.

Where do you lack focus?

Take another break.  Read your notes away from the computer.  Make more notes.

Then come back to your computer and make more notes.

By doing this you will see how to improve your writing and your site design.

Testing times – be brave

Try and get others to look at your site and make notes.  The best to do this is to get a friend to organise other people, who don’t know you, to do this.  These testers should be given a brief, such as for this site –

‘This is a site for people new to blogging’

Do you think people starting to blog would want to use this site?

How good is the design?

Read at least five articles.

Write down up to five good points about the site

and up to five bad points.  This gets them thinking.

Review the testers comments

Don’t take things to heart.  You’ve asked people to criticise your site.  When people are doing that they tend to look for the negative.  This is useful as it helps identify potential problems.

Ideally review the comments with a friend – they’ll likely to be more objective than you.

You have the right to reject criticisms.  You don’t have to correct everything.

You don’t have to correct everything today.  Bring in the improvements and modifications  gradually when you’re doing other upgrades.

Your writing will improve

What you will find as you go through this process is that focusing on the focus of your blog will improve your writing.  It will have made you more aware of the blog’s focus and your subconscious will over the weeks and months organise your thoughts so that your writing will improve dramatically.

Links

Image credit: Flickr @uwdigitalcollections

Over to you

What do you think?

Tell me about the focus of your blog?