Why a Blog is Like Getting a New Puppy
This is the 49th blog I've written in the last year. With each one I've learned a little more about writing and posting a blog and getting it shared.
I've also learned it's a lot of work, and anyone who's considering writing one needs to make sure they have the time and patience.
It's just like getting a new puppy. If you don't have time and patience don't do it, but if you do plan on starting a blog, here are the most important things I've learned in the past year.
The Power of a Blog
In January 2015, I went to a meeting of the Canadian Association of Professional Speakers (CAPS) in Edmonton. I’m a member of CAPS and currently serve on its national Board of Directors. The speaker that night was my friend and mentor Hugh Culver from Kelowna. Hugh is one of the smartest people in our industry and when he told the audience of how important is it to have a blog I took notice.
Hugh had been writing great blogs and found several ways to get them shared in social media, drawing even more people to his website.
The only problem was, I had a newsletter at the time. It was called Talking Points and it got a lot of good compliments. Why change?
A year later, I’m tremendously glad I took Hugh’s advice. On May 24, 2016 I wrote my first blog. It was called What is News and Why Doesn’t it Like My Story? I’ve learned a lot about blogging since then and here are some of the most important things I’ve discovered in the last year.
Have a Good Reason For Writing a Blog
A lot of people have blogs and they have their reasons for doing them. For some, it’s just a chance to vent and see how many agree. For others, they’re passionate about a cause, or a lifestyle and want to share their thoughts with others. Whatever the motivation, it doesn’t really matter, but you need a good reason to write a blog if you want to deliver it on an consistent basis.
I set a goal of doing a weekly blog and decided to send it to my mailing list each Wednesday at 9:00am Mountain time. Some weeks it hasn’t been easy. There have been many Tuesday mornings when I thought “What am I going to write about”? Once the idea came to me, the rest was pretty easy because I’ve been writing for 40 years, but at times getting started was difficult.
My main reason for writing a blog is pretty simple – I want to be known as an expert in a few key areas. That’s why I always write about the media, social media, communications and presentation skills. That’s my expertise and what people hire me for, whether it's a media training session, or to speak at a conference. A blog gives me a great chance to show people I know what I’m talking about. People may not always agree with what I have to say and that’s fine, but it’s a chance for me to share my thoughts and knowledge.
I have found the better the reason, the easier it is to write and post a blog every week. It’s important to be consistent, so if you decide to do a blog every week, or every other week, then make sure you deliver.
Why a Blog Needs to be Part of Your Website
If you have a website make sure the blog is part of it, even if you don’t have the best looking website. There are several different tools out there to use to write a blog, but you need to find a way to make sure the blog ends up on your website. That’s because you want traffic coming to your site. Once they’ve finished the blog they’ll hopefully have some time to find out more about you and what you do. They may want to read other blogs you’ve done, so make it easy for them to find similar blogs you’ve written.
I was very fortunate to be working on a new website with the people at my website company Mediashaker last fall. They designed a blog template for me that works well. I wrote this blog in Word and then did a copy and paste into the web template, so ask your website company how a blog can be integrated into your site if you have one.
Measure Your Success and Share Your Blog
Measurement also becomes important. How many people are reading your blog? Where are they coming from? What blogs are the most popular? How long are they staying on your website? Information is powerful and it’s this info that can help you create your next blog. You can’t answer these questions unless you learn how to measure you success.
I use Mail Chimp to send a lead-in to my blog each Wednesday morning to people on my mailing list. It’s a free email service, as long as you don’t get too many subscribers. The email leads them to the blog on my website. This allows me to see how often my blog email is being opened.
I also do something perhaps a little different than others. I never promote my blog in social media until at least an hour after it has been sent to my mailing list. That’s because I want to those have signed up for my list to get it first.
After the blog goes to the list, I use social media to get the blog shared. The more often it’s shared, the more it will get read. So I use Facebook, Twiiter, LinkedIn and Google + to share my blog. I also use a sharing feature from a company called AppSumo to make it easier for me and others to share. Those are the string of social media icons that you’ll see on many webpages that make it easier to share content. Sumo also provides a weekly report on how the blog is being shared in social media, how many people are being added to my mailing list and so on.
Take some time to learn about SEO (Search Engine Optimization). This basically means how are people going to find your blog online If they search for it, or something with that title on Google. Keywords and header tags in blogs are really important, so learn all you can about them.
Finally, none of this works properly without Google Analytics to determine how many people are coming to my website each day, how long they’re staying and what pages they’re viewing, along with a long list of other stats. Get it installed on your website to track your web visitors properly.
Why Each Blog Needs an Image
They say a picture is worth a thousand words. When it comes to blogs pictures can make a dramatic difference in the number of people opening a link to read your blog, so always have an image with a blog and be selective about what you use.
Social media platforms will grab images from your blog (normally the first one placed in a blog) to show beside a description of what the blog’s about. It’s very similar to the front page of a newspaper where a photo is placed next to the biggest story of the day. The image you choose will go next to your blog’s headline.
I use a free photo website called Unsplash. People are free to use any of the images without giving credit to the website or the photographer. They make their money in other ways, so use a free site like Unsplash, or any of its competitors. There are several and they all have stunning photos.
One word of caution though. Some of the photos when downloaded are really large in size and may slow load speeds on your blog, especially for somebody reading it on their phone, so use a photo editing program to shrink the size of the photo. You’ll need nothing larger than the image at the top of this blog, and normally much smaller than that.
It's a Journey, Not a Destination
Be prepared to learn and make adjustments. You’ll find as you write more blogs, you’ll learn a lot more about them, so I find always looking online for tips on new features you can use really helps. How can you make it easier to share the blog? How can you adjust the layout to add to the look? How can you add video to it? What new tools are out there to make it happen?
See what other top bloggers are using. If you find looks or tools you like, find a way to incorporate them into your blog.
Here’s a final but really important thought. A blog is a lot of work, especially if you want to deliver one every week, or even every two weeks, so make sure you have the time and energy to do one. If you can’t find at least a couple of hours a week to write a blog, edit it, figure out a catchy headline, find an image to use, post the blog online, add links, do SEO and then find ways to share it and get it shared by others, don’t do it.
It’s like getting a new puppy.