So you have this great idea for a blog, huh? You want to get started TODAY, right? Well, before you just jump into blogging, take a step back and make a strategy, a game plan. If you aren’t sure about how to get started, you could spend a lot of time just spinning your wheels, getting nowhere.
Luckily, there are a lot of bloggers out there who were once in the same position as you, and with the right tools and strategy, they turned out to be real bloggers — whatever that means. So if you want to write good content and have your writing read, read on!
Writing good content / having something to say
If you want to blog, you have to write good content.
Writing good content is the most important thing that a blogger can do. But good content isn’t just written and researched well (but both are super important) — it’s also adding something new to the conversation. It’s not enough to simply repeat something that another blogger, journalist or writer has said elsewhere; you have to do something different.
When I teach English, I use the fantastic text Rewriting: How To Do Things With Texts by Joseph Harris, an English professor at the University of Delaware. I borrow the idea from Harris’s book and tell my students that they have to do one of two things when they encounter a source: forward the argument or counter it.
It’s a handy way to think about blogging, too, I think. When you read something online and you want to talk about it, ask yourself if you’ll be forwarding the writer’s argument in some way, taking it a step further or adding to it. Alternatively, if you won’t be forwarding the argument, will you counter it? Countering simply means how will you supplement the writer’s argument? What will you add to it that will give your readers a fresh perspective on the topic?
If you’re not adding something to the conversation about your topic, you shouldn’t be blogging about it. It’s as simple as that. As soon as you’ve thought of something new to say, get to writing.
Choosing a topic
Some of the most famous bloggers and video bloggers out there are also personalities. People actually want to know what Jenna Marbles gets excited about as an adult, and they’ll watch her YouTube videos just to see what she thinks. For the large majority of us, however, we’re not personalities, and a huge number of people aren’t going to care what we think just because we’re, you know, us. (Go ahead. Make a YouTube video about what makes you excited as an adult. Her video has over 2 million views. 2 million. It’ll take a while before that many people care that you own all the original Power Rangers episodes on DVD.)
But none of this is to discourage you. Having people care about what you write or make a video about is tough and it takes a lot of work. That’s why choosing a singular topic that you truly love talking about is important. Where some established bloggers can jump around and talk about whatever they feel like at the moment, when you’re starting out, you have to make a name for yourself in a specific niche. (That’s not to say that you can’t run multiple blogs, but it’s tough enough to write and manage one.)
Choose the right blogging platform
Few things are as frustrating as building a blog on one blogging platform before you realize that the one you chose isn’t really designed for the work you want to do. Tumblr, for example, is a much more visual platform, so you (and your mom — maybe) might be the only person who actually reads that 2,000 word critique of President Obama’s strategy in the Middle East that you posted on your political wonk Tumblr blog. It’s too much text for the medium. That’s not to say that some people don’t have great success with all sorts of blogs on Tumblr, but often you’ll be working against the grain. In short, do your research and know the platform.
Related to knowing the platform, be sure that once you’ve picked the right template as well. Blog templates are crucial to your blog’s success. It’s not just about making sure that your blog is aesthetically pleasing, although that should be a consideration; your template has a lot to do with usability and functionality as well. Make sure that your template and design is easily navigable, even for someone who has never been to your blog before.
Though there are hundreds of blogging tips out there, if you want to blog, these will help you get started writing your own blog. Be sure to check the Blog Herald often for more tips and guides about building a blog and for the latest news bloggers need to know about.
If you’re a veteran blogger and have other tips or suggestions for those just starting out, leave your ideas in the comments below!