Is Blogging Right For You?
BY DEANNA SHOSS
I saw the familiar panicked, trapped face of a party guest from across the room. She stood next to the stuffed mushrooms, across from Edgar. “I wonder what kind of mushrooms these are,” she innocently asked. That was all Edgar needed to start his monologue on genus, family and habitat for every mushroom that ever existed.
Certainly, it’s extremely valuable information. Who hasn’t at some point searched “is this mushroom poisonous?” But, time and place, people!
Edgar needs a blog.
What’s a blog?
A blog (short for weblog) is a Website that consists of a series of entries that appear in reverse chronological order, frequently updated with new entries. Each entry is called a post. Think of your blog as the place where your great writing is stored in a way that is publicly accessible.
When blogs first started in the 90’s they were more like diaries—individuals exposing their innermost thoughts. They got a bad rap as people shared what they ate for lunch or just random stream-of-consciousness musings. Today, however, blogs have evolved and are sources of incredible expertise, news, entertainment and cornerstones of community.
There are many reasons why someone might start blogging, but here are a few:
An expert is someone who has deep knowledge about a narrow subject. Maybe it’s your work. Now you’re retired and you need a new outlet. Crafts, cooking, collecting…there are blogs on every subject imaginable. A blog is a platform to share your knowledge and teach others what you know.
Market your Business
Blogs are a good business strategy. Adding a blog to a business website ensures ongoing new content, which search engines like. It adds keywords to your site to promote different services. Blogging can position you as a leader and connect you to important trends in your industry.
Once a blog is posted people can follow it, like it, share it and comment on it. That’s called “engagement” and is a cornerstone of building community. A cancer survivor might write about their journey and others will chime in to share their own stories and resources. Nomadic travelers, runners and more attract kindred souls around their topic with their writing.
How to blog
The decision to start a blog is solely in your hands. When you are ready to go, here’s how to get started:
Pick a platform
Both WordPress and Wix offer easy “Do It Yourself” options for creating your own website/blog. (Here’s an in-depth comparison, including a quiz to see which is a better fit for you.) To start, simply go to Wix.com or WordPress.com and follow the directions. Wix even has an AI assistant, where you answer questions about your preferences, and it will create the site for you. WordPress has a selection of ready-to-go templates. For WordPress, start with the “.com” version. You may also run across WordPress.org. The .org version is more if you are looking for customization and likely using a website developer.
There will always be something newer and better—but that doesn’t mean better for you
If you house your posts on your blog, think of hosting as the street where the house is. Both the WordPress and Wix free versions include hosting, which you need.
There are many other platforms for blogging. There are Weebly and Ghost and Tumblr and more. Just beware of “analysis paralysis” where you hear this one or that one is the newest or the best. There will always be something newer and better—but that doesn’t mean better for you. It’s finding the system that works for you.
Along those lines—you may decide to have your own website is more time than you wanted to invest. There are platforms, such as Medium or LinkedIn, where you can just create an account to post articles. The upside is that it’s super easy and has a built-in social sharing component. The downside is that you don’t own the content once posted.
Pick a Domain Name
Your domain is your website’s address. Domain names in the free versions of WordPress and Wix include their company name, for example “sitename.wordpress.com” or username.wixsite.com/sitename. I recommend you spring for the paid versions ($5 to $13 a month, if paid annually), so that you can apply a custom domain.
GoDaddy.com and Domain.com are options for finding your perfect domain/site name. They’re usually under $15 a name per year, so don’t be afraid to purchase a few if you can’t decide. You might want a URL (web address) that is your first and last name. Or go for something that describes your content. Allmushrooms.com would be a good one for Edgar (except that it’s already taken!).
Both GoDaddy and Domain (and I’m sure many others) have a search box on their home page. Type in your ideas for your site name and find out instantly if that name is available.
And if you can’t decide, purchase a few names. You can always have several domain names point to the same site.
The core of blogging is writing. While you can write your original draft right into the backend of your blog, I recommend using Microsoft Word for PC or Pages for Mac—some sort of word processing software that will allow you to write, edit and save your work. Once done you can copy and paste your post into your blog. That way if you accidentally delete a post after spending hours writing it but before saving it, you’ll have a back-up copy. I’m not saying that would happen—just that you don’t have to freak out if it does.
There is much advice on how often you should blog, from daily to weekly to monthly. What’s most important is to make a commitment and be consistent. Weekly and more frequently has a better chance to build a following. Once a month might work for a business looking to add more in-depth content to their website, especially if they are sending it out via a monthly e-newsletter. Other considerations are good photography, whether you take it yourself or look to free stock photo sites like pixabay.com or pexels.com. A great big photo at the top of your blog post is sure to capture attention from the get-go.
The good news about writing is that the more you do it the better you get. So why not give it a try? And, if you have any questions feel free to contact me directly.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR – DEANNA SHOSS
Deanna Shoss is a marketer, writer, interculturalist in Chicago. As President and CEO of Intercultural Talk, Inc. she provides digital, intercultural and real-life marketing for entrepreneurs and people following their passions post age 50, who need strategy and know-how to adapt to new communication technologies. She speaks Portuguese, Spanish and French and is a certified Body Pump and group fitness instructor.