The concept of writing an online diary and publishing it via the internet has been with us for over twenty years.
The term ‘weblog’ was first coined in 1997, at a time when dial-up connectivity made text-based content optimal for online distribution.
As the concept of publishing regular content through a web browser grew in popularity, so did audience levels. By the millennium, blogs were becoming ubiquitous.
Businesses realised they provided a great opportunity to promote their products and services, and the blogging phenomenon as we know it today entered the mainstream.
Today, there are video bloggers known as vloggers, who populate YouTube channels with daily updates. Meanwhile, audio blogging has evolved into podcasting.
The humble blog remains popular, but any new entrants into the market must consider six key elements to stand out in today’s crowded blogosphere…
Unless you’re a dab hand at HTML5 programming and know how to configure a server, site hosting help will be required.
There are two main options. Either create your own blog on an established portal like Tumblr, or build a standalone website with its own co.uk or .com address.
The latter can be achieved by adapting templates made by companies like WordPress, Wix and UK2. Simple drag-and-drop interfaces ensure even beginners can build a site in minutes.
Ensure the blog has a short, explanatory title which is easily read and understood. The web address should avoid identical consecutive letters, and be less than 40 characters long.
Every blog needs a theme. Even if that theme is ‘random musings’, it’s crucial to identify what it’ll do/say/achieve from the outset.
Unfocused blogs which range from sponsored advertorial content to political diatribes won’t hold the audience’s attention.
The over-arching topic might be your small business, a journey to parenthood, car modifications or anything else. But don’t stray too far from this area.
In such a competitive and congested market, having a clear focus is imperative for retaining readers. It’ll also materially affect the following areas…
There’s another advantage when you create your own blog about a topic you’re passionate about. Enthusiasm and knowledge will shine through in every post or update.
An authoritative writer won’t make mistakes or contradict themselves. They’ll be able to respond to audience questions and feedback – crucial for building a rapport with readers.
Blogs should be several hundred words long, thoroughly proofread to remove any typos or mistakes, and peppered with keywords which will catch the attention of Google and Bing.
Plagiarism is an absolute no-no, since search engines will identify it and blacklist your page. If they aren’t directing traffic to subpages on the site, the blog is doomed to irrelevance.
Alongside original content, photographs are absolutely vital to engage audiences. They break up slabs of text, adding colour and character to each post or entry.
Self-taken images ensure there’s a correlation between content and visuals.
If existing images have to be used, avoid copyright infringement by only publishing photos which are listed as Creative Commons Zero (CC0) – free to republish on any website.
Find CC0 photos by searching for copyright-free images on Google and Bing. Alternatively, visit dedicated public domain photography sites like freeimages.com or stockvault.net.
Ideally, any blog should be updated on a weekly basis.
This reassures search engines about its relevance. The vast majority of first-time visitors will arrive on the blog via Google, so search engine optimisation (SEO) is invaluable.
If the blog is hosted by a brand like Blogger or Tumblr, they’ll handle security and hosting. However, you may need to deal with comments, spam and other interactions.
Regular management of standalone websites is even more critical. Update chosen plugins, install security patches and respond to issues identified by the hosting company.
When you create your own blog, the work doesn’t end once the site goes live.
Ongoing marketing is crucial to prevent it becoming another forgotten microsite, since vast quantities of competing content are being uploaded daily around the world.
Create social media accounts to promote the blog; publicise every new entry; and regularly engage with audiences on every social outlet.
Comments are the best way to ensure future updates appear prominently in people’s timelines – reminding them to revisit the site and read new entries and updates…