Reflections of a Newbie BloggerPosted: June 4, 2011
Yesterday Avad Fan reached a couple of milestones. After seven weeks, Avad Fan published its 40th post and hit 1,000 Views. Though very small in the huge blog world, the idea that Avad Fan has been visited 1,000 times is very exciting, especially because less than a handful of my friends had even known about Avad Fan.
Writing this blog anonymously for seven weeks has been great fun, like planning a secret surprise. Having no blog-writing experience, I wanted to get it up and running and see where it was going and if it could be sustained before revealing its existence to any of my family or friends. I have tweaked it several times, and there is still more to do but all in good time.
Besides my Hub (who for four weeks couldn’t imagine why I was spending so much time on the computer), the only people who knew I was writing Avad Fan were a couple of my very closest friends who had happened to tell me that they were thinking of starting a blog. The blogging world is all about sharing information, so sharing Avad Fan with them was a way for them to learn about this world along with me. These dear friends respected my desire for anonymity but kept encouraging me to announce Avad Fan’s existence.
I decided to come out from under my hat (that’s my Gravatar) when the blog hit the 1,000 views mark. That happened yesterday afternoon, and I somehow screwed up the courage to send an email to my nearest and dearest suggesting that they might want to link to this site to find out what I have been doing. Feeling very vulnerable as I hit the Send button not knowing what non-bloggers might think of this crazy idea, I have been humbled by the kind replies. Thank you. I hope that you will keep coming back.
Maybe it’s a mid-life crisis thing, but I find it fascinating that some of my friends have also contemplated starting a blog. With my vast ;-) experience blog-writing for all of seven weeks, I thought I’d share some tips that I have read and confirmed through my own experience or discovered on my own. Maybe these points will help you get your own blog going.
Just Start Writing.
It may sound too simplistic, but the only way to become a blogger is to, as the ubiquitous ad campaign says, “Just Do It”. You can think about it all day long, but it won’t happen until you sit down and start writing. Seven weeks ago on a rainy Saturday, it dawned on me that I could and should create my own blog. Unlikely so many other crazy ideas that pop into my head, I did a little research on getting started then just began typing. That first post, which was automatically set up with the headline “Hello World”, is pretty lame, but it got me going down this road.
Luckily I made the right choice that Saturday to use WordPress as my blog platform. The basic blogging service is free and comes with about 100 free blog formats from which you can choose. Fortunately, you can start with one format and switch to another if you find that you want or need a different look. You can also pay for premium formats that might have better graphics or offer more choices for the look of your blog. I decided to go with a free format, though a couple of weeks ago I paid a small annual fee to be able to modify some of the graphics. It would be helpful to understand the HTML language, but I was able to figure out how to clean-up Avad Fan a bit. As it evolves, I imagine that I will pay for some more upgrades, but it is not necessary to spend money to get your blog up and running.
Since starting this blog and doing more research about blogging, I have found several confirmations that WordPress is the best format for a new blog like Avad Fan. A couple of weeks ago, Blogger, the blogging platform by Google, went down for a couple of days. Several of the blogs listed to the right went down along with it and lost some of their posts. There was a lot of ruckus in the blogging world about this inconvenience. WordPress has a great track record for helping its now 371,451 bloggers as it continually works to improve its services for them. For a neophyte like me, WordPress makes blogging pretty easy to understand and provides a cheap, easy and reliable way to get started.
When I started with WordPress, I did not understand the technical side of blog writing. WordPress takes care of so much of that. You have several set-up choices in what WordPress calls your “Dashboard”, the default location for everything that you will do with your blog. Little did I know that I would become obsessed with the “Site Stats” page for Avad Fan. This page shows how many Views of each post your blog has on any given day, as well as what search engines and search terms brought viewers to your blog. It provides fascinating information that helps you learn from what you accidentally do right.
Be Persistent and Consistent.
The silver-lining of a 4 a.m. wake-up call to get my son out the door to swim practice is that I have a built-in chunk of time to write regularly. Like any other creative endeavor, the more you write, the better you get at writing. Recently one of my most favorite bloggers, Maria at Colour Me Happy whom I profiled here, shared a wonderful reminder that the only way to get good at something is to create a volume of work. Yes it takes a lot of time, but so does every good thing in life. The more you write and publish, the more you find out about yourself and your potential readers. and what works and what doesn’t.
Link Yourself in to the Net.
Remember that the internet is a tangled web connected in a zillion different random ways. You want to get into this net so people can find your blog. The way to do that is by inserting relevant links and tags into your posts so that search engines can find them. There is a whole science behind Search Engine Optimization (SEO) that I am very gradually learning. You aren’t going to understand it all before you start writing your blog, but you should be aware of tying yourself in to the internet where it makes sense.
Once you get your blog going, you will want to start reading blogs about blogging. I now subscribe to Copyblogger, and WordPress has its own blog, Freshly Pressed. These blogs are great tools to help your maximize your blogging experience.
Make Your Headlines Count.
My most viewed posts have been the ones with the most straight-forward headlines. Cute and clever do not cut it when potential viewers are trying to decide which Google result to view if Google will even find it. To date my most viewed post has been “It’s Soft-Shell Crab Season“. I noticed on my Site Stats page that it was getting a lot of hits, and I was curious. I went to Google and entered “soft-shell crab season”. Lo and behold, it was the 7th result on the 1st page! People want this kind of basic information, so consider the simplicity of your own Google searches and let those guide your headlines. Copyblogger agrees. Save cute and clever for the body of your blog.
Write What You Know.
Isn’t this supposed to be the mantra of all writers? I know the West End of Richmond having lived here for almost 25 years, so I have tried to focus Avad Fan on what my friends and I love about living here and the things that we enjoy doing. The bloggers whom I read all write about the things they know and have actually experienced. Their blogs come across as authentic and honest, and even though they might be writing about something as mundane as a great cleaning product, their blogs keep the reader engaged.
Include Great Pictures.
Pictures are great visuals for the points being made. Some bloggers take their own pictures, while others access great web sources like Pinterest and Flickr, as well as scans from their favorite magazines. If you aren’t using your own, be sure to give credit to your source.
Centsational Girl wrote a terrific post a couple of months ago about how to take better pictures for your blog. Lots of other bloggers have referenced it, especially the tip about not using a flash indoors. Now that I have my great new Canon Rebel T-3, Avad Fan’s pictures should improve.
I cannot believe how much enjoyment writing this blog brings. It’s like having a new baby whom I am nurturing. Sustaining a blog changes your perspective as you see the world around you through this new being. With one child soon to go off to school and another teen who wants as little to do with me as possible unless he needs food, clean clothes or transportation, it feels so great to be giving life to Avad Fan. I ponder potential blog entries as I go about my daily chores and think about them when I can’t sleep at night.
While I have some ideas, I can’t know for sure where this blogging journey will lead. Isn’t that the fun of travel: first, the anticipation of the unknown and then the discovery of the previously unimaginable? Set yourself on a journey into the blogging world and be prepared to discover how much fun it can be.
Thanks so much to everyone who has viewed Avad Fan. It’s surreal to think that friends, as well as complete strangers, have read my words and perhaps found something of interest. If you think that you’d like to read Avad Fan posts on a regular basis, please subscribe where indicated in the upper right, and you will get an email whenever there is a new Avad Fan post.