It does not matter what your motives for blogging are. You can still do it more effectively. You can gain more following, make more friends, increase/improve your professional & social network, make more money, grasp new ideas, etc.
I have been writing online since 2004 and have been blogging actively since 2005. Being a website developer, I know how to make a website look better and be more effective. I will thus share some skills and experience to help you be a better blogger than you are already, in a personal and simple manner that would make things easy to grasp for even the newest initiate.
Whilst I hold no magic wand to improving your blog rankings, I am confident that when you apply the simple techniques I am sharing, you would do much better. Chances are that you know some of what I am sharing already and are already implementing them; feel free to join the conversation in such cases and share your experience or even disagree with me where it is necessary to do so.
- Why Do You Want To Blog?
- Blogging is beyond just writing
- When Group Blogging should be considered over Personal Blogging
- How to blog under your own domain name
Why Do You Want To Blog?
All the tips I offer are meaningless when they are not put in the proper context. Defining your motives at the very beginning helps to shape the trajectory of your blogging exercise, and to some extent, determines your strategies. It helps you determine what blogging tips to adopt and not what not to.
Bloggers are everyday people from different backgrounds. The wide spectrum of bloggers varies from university professors who are at the epitome of knowledge through journalists who have a good command of language/communication to students who are still grasping the concepts of life. In essence, it is impossible to define a set of rules that would apply to every blogger. It is thus necessary that whilst you are reading tips from this blog or other sources, be selective with which strategies you implement. The tips you choose should fit into your ultimate motivation for blogging. So, why do you want to blog?
Do you want to make money from blogging?
You are not alone. A sizeable chunk of bloggers is professional bloggers. They blog with the sole motive of generating huge traffic and monetizing that traffic. Some are internet marketers whose sole aim is to sell learning materials on “how to make money online” or similar concepts, and there are professionals who are skilled in an area of specialization and share their knowledge for free, with the aim of monetizing the blog traffic. They display advertisement and get paid for it. There are many tips necessary to make money from blogging. This type of blogging requires deep-root skills, time, consistency and some healthy dose of aggression. In this genre, blogging is an end in itself and the activity must bring direct gratification in the form of money. It is the most challenging as you have to make enough money to offset the bills for setting-up a professional blog, web hosting, and related fees.
Do you want to build a following?
Perhaps you are an author? A motivational speaker? An entrepreneur? A media/showbiz celebrity? A politician? When you are engaged in a public activity that revolves around your personality, you really should build online followership. Blogging can be a very effective means of building the followership you need to market yourself to a potential buying audience or network better with your existing fans/buyers. In this type of blogging, you can be more relaxed and even funky, but not trivial. In this genre, blogging is not an end in itself but only a means to an end. When you have a huge number of people reading from you on a daily basis, you can easily market that new book, the next event you would be speaking at, announce your latest CD/DVD, or make a case on why you should be entrusted with public office. The set of tools for building followership are different. I would share these in the future.
Do you want publicity for your company or organization?
Yet another type of blogging is by corporate institutions, non-governmental organizations and government departments.
- Corporate blogs are mainly for marketing, branding or public relations purposes
- Organizational blogs, on the other hand, are mainly for informing interested parties and the general public at large
These types of blogs tend to be more formal and might even be less interactive and the main motive is to pass information.
Blogging is beyond just writing
In your quest to be a better blogger, you should read other blogs as well. Blogging is not just about writing and giving out opinion or information. It shouldn’t be one-way traffic. Blogging should be a conversation – an exercise of giving and taking the information. Therefore, it is very critical for any blogger who wants to stay relevant, to read extensively as well. I am listing some recommendations on the readings you should do as a blogger:
- local blogs: identify high-quality blogs authored by good bloggers in your city, or country. Follow them by subscribing to their RSS feed so you are notified of new posts as they are published. Reading local blogs not only ensures that you stay in tune with information relevant to where you live but can afford you the opportunity to know fellow bloggers with whom you can network, offline. Don’t just read, however. When you find topics that are of interest, share your comments or blog about it. If you choose the latter, remember to quote from your source and link (or trackback) to the source as well. Local blogs can be a great source of inspiration as to what you write.
- better blogs: identify classic bloggers you want to emulate in other countries. I am referring to accomplished bloggers who have a very huge following – those at the very top of their game. Follow their blogs regularly and learn from their writing style, blog layout, frequency of blog posts, etc. Whilst learning, be careful not to copy them blindly. Plagiarism can only back-fire on your own blog in a very nasty way.
- global news website: mainstream media can be a great source of information. It is very difficult for any single blogger to match the power and reach of global news platforms like CNN.com, BBCNews.com, AlJazeera.net, etc. Therefore, news websites are still the biggest source of breaking news from around the world. Reading from them regularly helps you to stay informed of the latest events around the world. Thus, your blog posts can be more relevant and timely when you share what you have/know about a recent event. There are many ways to use the information you gather from news websites. You can offer more information where the news is about your locality, you can offer projections where the news is about an upcoming event, etc. Quoting news websites when you are sharing factual information in your blog posts also give your posts some credibility.
- books: there are two classes of books you should be reading:
- books about the art of blogging: I need not emphasize that all the knowledge of the world is not yet available via the Internet. The bulk of it is still in books. It is thus critical that you identify books from credible authors that can help you in your quest to be a better blogger.
- topical books: this category of books is necessary if you are a niche blogger. Read books that are related to your subject matter. Example: You blog about African fashion. Reading books related to African fashion would make you more knowledgeable in that area. Your blog posts would be more insightful and you would command respect from your readers. You can even enrich your blog posts with quotes from such books. Whilst doing this, be very moderate and mindful of copyright issues.
- Random blogs: You do not have to limit yourself to the recommended readings above. Stay in shape by visiting a blog aggregator like ghanablogging.com, regularly. You never know when you would come across a blog post you would fancy.
In summary, it is critical to read extensively, to be a better blogger, or to stay in shape if you are an ace blogger already. Whilst reading, be sure to assimilate good information to ensure that you give out good information yourself. Always learn from the best.
When Group Blogging should be considered over Personal Blogging
Some are born to blog – or so it seems, while others though can blog, are not so prolific with doing it. To the second group of people, inspiration to blog only comes occasionally. They have the skills and material but do not feel compelled to blog often.
It is always best to have a regular blogging schedule. You can choose to blog daily, weekly or fortnightly. In reality, it is difficult for a blogger who has a regular job to maintain a daily blogging routine. Other activities always come in the way. Also, some people function better in a group than as individuals. At such times, it is critical to consider group blogging.
Group blogging has more merits than demerits, in my view. After all, two (or more) good heads are better than one. This method of collaborative blogging simply entails that a blog is authored by two or more bloggers who share common interests. It comes in different shapes and shades:
- a married couple sharing their travel experiences (like the infamous Canadian couple who were blogging their not-so-complimentary opinion of Ghana whilst they lectured at Cape Coast University).
- a couple of friends who have a strong interest around a subject matter can start a blog together and share their knowledge with the world. Example: adventuresfrom.com
- a more professional approach is where a blog is managed by a company or organization and where bloggers are hired to contribute or paid per post. This is the best approach as there would be guidelines and contracts to keep things very professional. An organization can also commission its staff to blog regularly, in a bid to share more information about their activities. Example: globalvoicesonline.org
Group blogging brings about:
- synergy: two or more bloggers can even contribute to a blog post. This can make the blog post full of substance when it is done right and offers a richer experience to the readers.
- checks & balances: depending on the structure of the group, the post of a blogger can be reviewed by another blogger or an editor before it is published. This ensures that any inaccuracies can be identified and eliminated.
- regular schedule: when a blogging group has a proper structure, blog posts can be planned in advance with bloggers assigned to subject matters and specific time frames. This makes a daily blogging routine easier to achieve as there are more people contributing content.
- easier promotion: when the blog authors are encouraged to share the blog posts via social media or their personal blogs, it is easier to drive more traffic to the group blog as a combination of the friends/followers of all blog authors would generate large traffic.
Group blogging is not without its own sets of demerits:
- Instances where a particular blogger is more intelligent & more prolific than the others, he/she can take the shine away from the rest. Maintaining a balanced blogging schedule can counter this effect to some extent but care must be taken not to stifle innovation.
- One blogger’s indiscretion can adversely affect other bloggers. An effective editorial policy can nip this in the bud.
Group blogging is built into the fiber of the leading blogging platforms. It is thus easy to create multiple authors, include their respective bio-data, and even have a way to display posts from a specific author or share their respective posts via RSS feeds.
Before implementing group blogging though, it is critical for you to identify all potential flashpoints as personal egos are bound to clash in the future. Having a clearly spelled-out agreement and the signed contract can save all involved from any misunderstandings.
How to blog under your own domain name
One of the basic ways of being effective with your blogging activities is to use a real domain name, as your blog address. It not only shows how seriously you take your blog, but helps your audience to quickly reach your blog if the domain name you are using is simple enough.
What is a domain name?
In the context of this blog post, a domain name is essentially an identification label used as the address of a website. For example, while the address of this website is tech.africa
Other examples of domain names are: cnn.com, bbc.co.uk, un.org, etc
Why use a domain name?
Majority of the blogs online today are hosted on the leading free blogging platforms blogger.com and wordpress.com
These two typically map blog addresses as yourblogname.blogspot.com or yourblogname.wordpress.com, respectively. Despite the funny blog addresses though, both services allow bloggers to use their own domain name on their free blogging platform. Thus, you can buy your domain name from a domain services provider and simply configure it to work smoothly with either Blogger.com or WordPress.com
Domain names, when well chosen, are easier to remember by your blog’s audience and faster to type into the address bar of their favourite web browser.
How to choose a domain name
Your choice of a domain name would depend on the name/type of your blog. It helps to keep the blog name and domain name as closely related as possible. See the following real examples:
- “Adventures from the Bedroom of African Women” – adventuresfrom.com
Whilst the name of this blog is quite a mouthful, its domain name is shorter, simple and derived from the full name of the blog.
Where your blog assumes your personal name, you could use an abbreviation of your full name that makes sense. Real examples:
- kajsaha.com – first name of this blogger is Kajsa while the H and A represent her other names. atokd.com falls into the same category.
- davidajao.com – this uses the middle name and last name of this blogger. “David” is by far a common name and thus easier for many to remember while the four-letter surname “ajao” is simple enough.
- maameous.com, whiteafrican.com – both domains are derived from the alias of the respective bloggers.
How to register a domain name
Domain names are one-a-penny these days. Whilst they actually cost more than a penny, a $9 to $15 (per annum) price range for most types of domain names should be affordable enough for any serious blogger. Your choice of a domain registrar would depend on your circumstances but Web4Africa comes highly recommended. Simply use the “Domain Name Search” form located at web4africa.com
How do I point my domain name to my free blog?
The procedure would depend on your free blogging platform. Simply check the help section of your provider for specific help with that. You would then need to enter the needed settings into your domain name.