This is an older post, recently refreshed for additional insights and tips into the magically evolving blogging world. My name is Lexi Herrick, the founder of HerTrack.com and blogging has changed my life. It’s become a roller coaster of opportunity and I have learned the ups and downs of managing a website and being a freelance writer first-hand. There are amazing, gratifying moments and also less glamorous, “Well, that didn’t work” slam-your-head-into-the-wall moments. The world of digital media is an ever-changing landscape, and all we can really do is learn, adapt and pass along the wisdom picked up along the way. Below are a few tips and tricks I have learned personally. Feel free to reach out to me personally about any of these items, or comment below!
1. The absolute first step is to write shareable content.
Content needs to be unique, important, relatable, niche-based or humanized to catch on in the sharing world. If you are concerned about people reading your blogs, a share is gold to you. A share is the best feedback you can get, because someone else is literally doing your promoting for you. They are sharing your work, so give them something they’ll want to share. Make them a part of what you’re doing.
2. Choose an easy and inexpensive hosting service, like Bluehost.
If you’re going to go with WordPress.org, choose Blue Host. It’s the easiest, BY FAR the cheapest and the option that involves the least amount of stress on your part. It’s what we use here at Her Track as well. There’s also really helpful customer support, which you will need from a hosting service as a new blogger.
3. Use the RIGHT social media to promote your blog.
Don’t be afraid to stray off the common path with social promotions if that fits your audience. Use Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, StumbleUpon, Reddit and any forum that applies to your niche. Build social channels specifically for your blog, because if something takes off you want to make sure you have somewhere solid to direct users to.
4. Choose your headline and featured image wisely and adapt photos to different mediums.
People are often drawn to two main elements in an article: the headline and the image. A very inviting image or enticing headline is the only reason someone clicks on your article. It doesn’t matter how great the content is if they never click on it. Also, crop, design and create your feature images for different mediums. What works as an image on Facebook or Twitter may not work on Pinterest. Put yourself in your readers’ shoes. Try Canva.
5. Don’t Make the Beginner’s Biggest Mistake: Make your website navigation easy and clear.
Separate your blog by categories. It is so much more efficient than expecting readers to scroll through every post in chronological order. In WordPress, you can add categories and pages by going to “Appearances” in the Dashboard and then clicking “Menus.” You can then customize your navigation bar and add stagnate pages, such as an About Me, and also add category pages. The way to add to these category pages is by tagging each post with the page category you would like it to show up on. If you have any further questions about this process of site navigation design, feel free to comment!
6. Pay close attention to how readable your text is, and don’t forget mobile.
Use color schemes and fonts that are very readable to all audiences. People will be reading your article on anything from a desktop computer to an iPad mini, and you want them to be able to clearly see the messages that you are trying to portray. You may also choose to activate a mobile-friendly blog-format for those using mobile devices.
7. Become a contributing writer for popular websites. Syndicate the right content, not all content.
When people ask me how I started to contribute to different websites like HuffPost, I unfortunately don’t have an advice-based answer from them. This is because the editors approached me about previous work and asked if I wanted to write for the websites. That does however show that if you have a well-followed blog it does not go unnoticed by larger publications, so that opportunity is very exciting and they could come to you as well.
I also know that for certain websites there is often a page on the navigation bar called “Write For Us” or “Submit An Article.” If you click on this link you can enter your information and submit an article to be published. They may not take everything you submit, but if you write something their editors really enjoy, they will publish it for you. This will give you exposure as a writer, build your resume and establish instant connections with a larger website. Though contributing often begins unpaid, there are numerous benefits, and it can eventually transform into a paid position.
You can also add your website link in your author bio and generate more views to your actual blog that way. Be sure not to syndicate all content though, in order to possess ownership over content in search engine results.
8. Get involved with freelance writing. (Paid!)
There are a number of websites that will pay you per article, word count or by views for your submissions. This isn’t usually the first step though, so don’t be discouraged if you find yourself starting your writing career unpaid. Some websites pay very well and are just very specific about their content. You can also use resources like the paid freelance writer guide that Sophie Lizard put together on her popular website. This compiles all of the different kinds of websites and opportunities there are for paid freelance work.
9. Understand SEO.
If you’re super green to this term, SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization, which basically means making your website content very search-friendly on the web. Google crawls websites to determine relevancy and whether or not your content ranks in search engine results for certain keywords. Download the Yoast SEO plug in and optimize every post for search. Also, write posts in a purposeful way and don’t be afraid to examine the search landscape. This means, writing posts with keywords in mind and evaluating the search competition on Google. If you’re writing a post about the worlds’s best cheese, is the current content ranking for that search beatable by your blog? Check out the Seer Interactive Blog and the Moz Blog for more detailed insights when you arrive at this level.
10. Monitor your analytics and use them to improve.
Google Analytics is hands-down the best free tool you can use for this. Monitor referral traffic, social media referrals, the audiences viewing your content, top articles/landing pages, what kinds of internal links users are clicking on, popular traffic times, search engine traffic and more. These insights are highly valuable to monitoring success and adjusting your content/campaigns to be the most effective. You’ll never understand progress if you don’t immediately start tracking.
11. Test out paid promotions.
This is not for everyone, and I wouldn’t recommend doing this without research and organic information (from your analytics tools) beforehand, or you’re just throwing money away. There are a number of opportunities out there for those interested in paying to promote their content in a targeted, purposeful way.
12. Keep writing new content and stick to an editorial calendar if possible.
It’s easy to get discouraged or stressed, and feel tempted to take a writing hiatus for awhile. Avoid this if possible. Just keep writing. Try to stick to a schedule. Read similar content. Sketch out half-baked ideas whenever you can. It’s better than nothing. If you fall off of the writing wagon, it’s difficult to get back on board, and you can lose your audience momentum very quickly.
13. Be active in the blogging community.
Read what other bloggers are writing too. Give them feedback and comment on their work. Share articles that you enjoy and never stop reading. Other bloggers love to connect with each other and collaborate. They’re the best kind of followers because they offer valuable input and have a large audience to share your work with if they decide to do so. Follow other websites and blogs. Stock your Twitter and Facebook full of news outlets and interesting blogs. Get involved in the blogging family, especially if you’re new.
14. Be confident .
Call yourself a blogger. Call yourself a writer. Put it in your bios and headlines everywhere you go. Post to your friends. Post to your co-workers. Get your work out there. Contact editors and submit contributing work. Leave comments. Send a ton of emails. Ask questions. Be open. Be ambitious. Dream big.
If you have any more questions or would like to add some of your own tips, please comment below! I can’t wait to learn from each of you as I have with every passing day. Good luck to all of my fellow bloggers, you guys rock.