Getting Your New Blog Off on the Right Foot: Thinking Content
by Ben Huberman on January 2, 2014
It’s the second day of the year. Time to roll up your sleeves, take a deep breath, dive head-first, grab life by the horns, and use up all known clichés about fresh new starts.
With that out of the way, it’s also time to blog. Yesterday, Michelle started you off with some tips on making your blog personalized, inviting, and easy to navigate. Today, it’s time to think about the content itself — let’s walk through the basic building blocks you’ll need to make sure your readers have something to chew on when they come for a visit.
Bear in mind that this checklist is the equivalent of a quick cheat sheet for new and returning bloggers alike. If you’re looking for a more detailed, step-by-step crash course in blogging, consider joining our Zero to Hero 30-day blogging challenge, which starts here today.
Hitting the “Publish” button will never be scarier than the first time you do it. Which is all the more reason to get it over with and click away: that’s what an intro post is all about. (Writing an intro post is also the first assignment on our Zero to Hero 30-day blogging challenge— come join us and other bloggers to see what’s next!)
Some bloggers feel like diving right into a specific post they’ve been thinking about for a while. For the rest, a good place to begin is simply to tell the story behind your decision to start a blog. You can also share whatever information about yourself you feel like, and explain how the person you are (a student, a retired chef, an expecting parent, an expat in Siberia…) affects the blogging you intend to do.
Unlike posts, pages are static: they don’t get pushed down your blog as you add new content (posts are always shown in reverse chronological order). This makes writing an Aboutpage a great idea. It’s a place where visitors who just stumbled upon your homepage — or a specific post — can get a better idea of who you are, and, equally important, what your blog’s about.
You can use the About page to tell your story, show a photo of the cats you constantly blog about, or simply give a one-sentence motto for your blog: your house, your rules. Visitors can then decide whether they want to keep reading, follow your blog, or even interact with you about your shared interests.
A good habit to acquire as early as possible is to add tags to each and every post you write. Tags serve multiple purposes, but the most important one is making your content visible and findable to users looking for blogs on the WordPress.com Reader. As you write your post, think about the best words to describe its topic — a handful of terms, both broad and specific, is best — and add them as tags.
Tags are not only for your readers — as you develop your content, you’ll start seeing patterns emerge and discover the topics that engage you (and your readers) the most. For bloggers who start out without a clear niche, that can be a very productive process — even if you end up staying a general-interest blogger.
Readers love posts that go beyond mere text — these are often easier to digest, and allow you to branch out by incorporating great content from around the web. You’ll have plenty of time to learn about the many types of media you can embed in your posts, from YouTube clips to SoundCloud playlists. It’s a good idea, though, already to master the simple task of adding images to your posts.
Images enhance and complement the written word, and give a visual break to your readers’ eyes. If you’re ever short of images of your own, a Creative Commons image search is sure to help you find some that you can use (make sure you give others’ images proper attribution, of course).
As you probably know already — if not, you’ll quickly find out — blogging is a community endeavor. To make the most of this incredibly rich network of smart, engaged people is to join in a discussion with others. This means referring and responding to others, which, in blog-land, often entails linking to other bloggers’ posts (as well as to content from the web more generally).
Adding a link to another post opens up your blog to a larger community, makes your writing more grounded and richer, and, if the other blogger is also on WordPress.com, sends a signal (called a pingback) to the original author that the post has been mentioned elsewhere. This sign of appreciation can often launch an interesting exchange (and, sometimes, long-lasting friendships). As your own pool of posts grows, you can also link to older posts you’ve written, as this adds depth and a sense of history to the discussion in which you’re engaged.
Feeling ready to jump in and write your next post? Go right ahead! Or, if you’d like to ease into blogging life more gradually, come join our Zero to Hero 30-day Challenge. Either way, be sure to visit The Daily Post regularly: with daily prompts, weekly challenges, and a constant stream of tips, ideas, and information, you’ll be a pro in no time.