I’ve been thinking about getting a little more serious with my blog. Not a money-making, leave my day job kind of serious, but I’d like to have more consistency and actually treat this blog as if it were my job instead of just a sporadic hobby. Because when you get down to the nitty gritty, I actually do put a lot of work into my posts, but posting so sporadically kind of undermines all of that.
So, I’ve been doing a little research about things like what makes a blog successful, how to increase traffic, how to keep up with an editorial calendar, etc., etc. and I’m actually learning quite a lot! I’m also learning that keeping up with it all really IS a full time job and if your blog hits any amount of success, you really do need a team of people to stay on top of it all.
My biggest weakness is my want to do it all on my own. Not that I have any amount of success at this point, but I have ZERO tech skills and I’ve been attempting to manage my website and design on my own, which takes away from the time I need to edit photos and actually write a quality post, and that basically makes me feel unenthused about the whole thing in general. So I’ve decided to go back to WordPress.com for a bit – it requires so much less maintenance and knowledge of CSS. That way, I can stay motivated and focused on the things that matter most to me. It also has a great community of people that I really missed during my stint with WordPress.org! There are a couple of pitfalls in going back to the .com version though, mainly: it doesn’t allow Google Analytics and a few other plug-ins that I like, and it doesn’t allow sponsored ads (which I’ve been leaning away from anyhow).
My first tip: be patient! Have big ideas, but start small and don’t get ahead of yourself.
(Although, if you do choose to go with WordPress.org from the start, there are some great Etsy sellers that have premade WordPress templates that you can tweak to make it a little more unique to you.)
Okay, so back to my research. When I started blogging, I had absolutely NO IDEA what I was doing. I still don’t, really, but I’m learning, ever so slowly (but surely!). I’ve come across so many blog posts that offer tips and tricks, but many of these are either common sense (write a post, hit publish) or complete bull (how to make six figures in six months!), or catered to people that already have a good grasp on what they are doing and blogs that already have a following. So, as I make my mistakes, learn from said mistakes, and piece together information that is actually relevant to me and this blog, I figure there are other amateur bloggers out there that could find this information pretty darn useful.
With all that said, welcome to my new weekly “Starting a Blog” series in which I will share my thoughts about starting a blog and the tips and tricks I have learned/am learning in the process. First up…
There are two big factors that I keep coming across:
- SEARCH ENGINE OPTIMIZATION (SEO), and
- SOCIAL MEDIA
You may be thinking Woah! What? I thought SEO was for the tech gurus and big time blogs. Yeah, me too. But I am quickly learning that it’s important for any online presence to have some manner of optimization because if you don’t, you pretty much don’t exist. The lower down on that Google list you are, the less likely you are to be found. Fortunately, you don’t need to hire said tech guru to give your blog an overhaul. Here are a few tricks you can use to give your site a little SEO boost:
- The #1 thing you can do is create killer content and photos that users will want to read. I know, so cliché (and kind of common sense)! But the better the quality (and originality), the more likely users are to pin, link to, and otherwise share.
- On that same note, do your research. Write about current events, find out what topics are trending within your industry, and use them as inspiration. Head over to Google Keyword Planner, Twubs or Google Trends to discover in-demand keywords and if they have relevance to your topic, include 1 in your header, include that same keyword in your post, as well as another 1 – 2 relevant keywords (don’t go crazy with this one! Otherwise, your post will be considered as spam by search engines and you will have quite the opposite effect than intended.) You can also go to Pinterest.com/source/yourblogname to find out what and how often a pin has been pinned from your blog or do a case study of other blogs to see what is trending.
- Use Alt Text. This one totally surprised me. I see the option all the time as I’m uploading an image into WordPress and always disregard it. Never again! Apparently, search engines don’t “read” images like they do text, so it is your/my job to create that text for better optimization. First, when saving an image, use a logical file name – name the image according to what is actually in the image, and try to insert one of your keywords if relevant to the image. And instead of inserting spaces between words, use dashes (search engines tend to read spaces as %20). When you upload this image into your blog, you have the option of inserting ALT Text (alternate text) – this is where you use a short phrase or 5-6 keywords to describe your image in order for search engines to better understand it. ALT Text also becomes the default caption when pinning an image to Pinterest so use it and use it wisely!
- Install a SEO plug-in such as Yoast (for WordPress.org) to help you enter your SEO information.
- Use your keyword(s) in your permalink. I didn’t entirely realize that your permalink title could be different than your post title, but yes! So you can still have a creative and interesting post title to draw in your audience, but have a strategic permalink for better optimization.
- Stay actively engaged. It’s kind of a no-brainer, but you need to stay active in order to stay optimized. The more buzz you can create, the more links you will get, and the more optimized you will be. Plugins like Engageya and LinkWithin can help you create relevant links within your own posts and pages to help readers stick and stay engaged (unfortunately, these widgets don’t work for WordPress.com, but you can use the widget “recent posts” on your sidebar to help you create more internal links to your posts). And then there is the matter of social media…
But alas! This post is already getting far too long, so I’ll save that for the next post in the series: Starting a Blog: Managing Your Social Media.
What plug-ins and/or widgets do you use to boost your SEO? Do you have any other tricks for optimization?