Setting your blog up for big-ness

Even if you launched your blog more as a creative outlet than marketing strategy, a funny thing happens. If you’ve been thoughtfully blogging (genuinely expressing yourself, listening and reaching out to readers) your blog will get bigger.  It might even become a business.  So, why not set it up for big-ness right off the bat?

To do this, you’re going to have to get a bit tech-y, typically not the creative type’s forte. Fortunately, there are great teachers out there to guide us…I met one of them at Tobi Fairley’s Blog Camp. Thomas Wallace, Professor of Information Science at the University of Arkansas, knows a trick or two about SEO, hosting, design and happens to be the technical genius behind Tobi’s blog.

Tobi started her blog as a creative outlet and way to organize projects. She had no idea it would become the marketing engine that would drive her brand.  Tobi and Thomas have lived the transition to big-ness. Here, they share a few tips they learned along the way:

Own your own domain.

Registering your domain (I use GoDaddy) and hosting it at BlueHost (Tobi’s and my choice) means you own the content vs Blogspot or Facebook…which could come in handy if they go away one day.  While not necessary, you might consider using your name vs a catchy business name.  It’s easy to remember and less limiting in terms of growth (who knows where your blog will lead you?)

Use an SEO-friendly blog platform.

WordPress automatically sets your blog up to be easier read by search engine machines. Google doesn’t read visuals like bolding, highlighting and colors, so it doesn’t really care how it looks. It cares about weighted content and WordPress themes have built this into the design.

Keep design simple and manageable.

When you’re ready to change the look of your blog (you will be one day), with WordPress, you’re just a couple of clicks away from a new design.  If you find yourself wanting to customize a bunch of things, like colors, columns and fonts, look for a new theme…there are thousands to choose from.  If you’ve made a lot of custom tweaks, you’ll have to repeat those changes by hand in the new theme. So, what could have been easy, is now more complicated.  Unless you’re html savvy, you’re  probably going to need a freelancer to help you. (Which is what I do… well spent, in my opinion.)

Choose Categories over Tags.

While there’s nothing wrong with Tags, Thomas thinks Categories show more clarity and consistency. If you use Tags, make them relevant to how someone might search for content.  Maybe list the name of the designer (Tobi Fairley) and the overall subject (blogging). No need to list all of the subjects and emotions covered in each post.

Google rewards real relationships.

Don’t let anyone tell you they can put you at the top of the Google rankings. Metatags (title, description and phrases) are just a piece of the puzzle and the post is just the conversation starter. Google looks for people linking back to your site. This means you’re providing content others are finding helpful. You can’t pay for that… Reaching out to other bloggers is key. Leave genuine comments and promote their work (without expectations).

Consistency is key.

While Google likes frequent updates, consistency is just as important, especially for your readers. Once a week is a nice, manageable start.  Get ahead of your content so you don’t fall behind. Post at regular times. Have an editorial calendar or a running list of ideas at the ready because life will inevitably get in the way of your blogging.

Subscribe to Google Analytics.

This isn’t just for the big guys. You can learn all kinds of interesting insight about where your readers are coming from. If they’re more from Twitter, spend more time there than Facebook. If other bloggers are referring you, send a thank you note to them or look for opportunities to partner with them… you never know what could evolve.  How much time are people spending on your site? If it’s 20 seconds, they’re not consuming your content……why not? If the bounce rate is high on a specific page or post, notice how it’s presented. Is it too long, too busy, hard to read?

Don’t be afraid to try new things.

Run an ad or change your blog’s look if it’s not consistent with the experience you want to create. Ask a thought leader for an interview or a like-minded blogger for a guest post.

Most importantly, keep all of the above in mind but don’t get overwhelmed.  Take a deep breath and think about how you build relationships off-line.  Be as thoughtful and generous as you would to a friend, co-worker or potential client and your blog will naturally become bigger.  Sure, you might run into a few tech-y glitches. But, you don’t need to be a tech expert to be a great blogger. Google one and let them clear your way to big-ness… and by all means, bond with fellow bloggers in person at events like Tobi’s Blog Camp!

What’s holding you back from big-ness?