Almost everyone who starts out blogging is told to write about something they love – it's common advice because it's sensible advice.
But even if you are hugely passionate about a subject there are going to be days when the thought of sitting down in front of a blank page and filling it with words isn't going to happen. You might be too busy, too distracted or you might be suffering writer's block. The sooner you face up to the fact that blogging won't always be easy, the better. But there are some tactics you can to do to minimize the disruption these periods will bring.
- Store up ideas from periods when the words are flowing and use them when things dry up.
- When you start blogging draw up a list of 15-20 ideas and whenever you cover one of them add another to replace it.
- You might find you write five entries without putting an idea back on the list, but as long as you refresh it when inspiration strikes, you'll never run out of content ideas.
- You might also be the kind of person who likes to have specific blog titles in place before you start writing, but it doesn't matter if your ideas list is headlines, rough thoughts on a post or a mixture of both – having it in the first place is what matters.
So you've got your blog, you've got your ideas list and maybe you've even written a few posts - it's time to talk SEO.
SEO is as important as writing
If you're writing for the sheer fun of it then you won't have to worry about search engine optimization if, however, you want to attract visitors to your blog then you need to focus on more than just producing content.
SEO is all about making your blog attractive to search engines. If you do that, you're more likely to rank highly for terms relating to your site and attract more visitors. To start, think of your own experiences of using Google – when you search for something how often do you look any further than the first result on a page?
Around 80 percent of people who use Google click on the first result they see – so the benefits of having your site as that result, and hence the benefits of SEO, should be obvious.
The bad news is some SEO tasks can be very boring. The good news is others are a lot of fun. There is so much to learn about SEO, however, that it's important to remember you won't become an expert overnight.
Google wants to help you
A good place to start for an absolute beginner is by taking a look at Google's Webmaster Guidelines. This will give you a solid overview of the kind of thing you should (and equally importantly shouldn't) be doing. There are a few technical terms in there, but it will pay for you to get a grip on these areas early in your blogging life.
As you grow in confidence you may want to start using things like Google Webmaster Tools in order to make SEO improvements to your site. But as promised, there is another side to SEO and one which involves plenty of human interaction.
Links are crucial to boosting your search engine rankings and getting them should be a key focus for any blog. However, you need to be choosy about the kind of links you're getting.
Good links and bad links
Anyone taking their first steps into the world of SEO will find it impossible to avoid ads for services that promise thousands of links for very little money. But like most things in life, if an SEO offer seems too good to be true, it is.
You'll get your links alright, and they may even boost your Google rankings for a short while. But sooner or later the search engine will realize you are buying links (a big no-no in the Webmaster Guidelines mentioned above) and your site will plummet down the rankings.
Exactly why Google doesn't like link buying, and the full horror of getting caught doing it, would fill at least one blog post on their own, but anyone interested in such things can get a rough overview by reading the Wikipedia article on one of Google's most recent algorithm updates.
So if that's the wrong way to get links, what's the right way?
Firstly, you need to make sure your content really stands out – linking to something is a way of endorsing it and people are more likely to do that if your blog is of a high standard.
There are a few ways of doing this but the best one is to try and ensure you bring something new to the debate each time you sit down to write. Not every post needs to be a thesis, but if you draw on your own expertise and experiences you'll find you can bring a fresh spin to almost any topic.
Make the most of the social side of blogging
Great content on its own won't bring in the maximum number of links – to do that you need to get out there and make friends. Blogging is a social activity and whatever you are writing about there will be a community that revolves around that particular subject. Twitter and Google are your friends here – use them to find other bloggers and start a conversation.
If you're both passionate about the same thing this should be easy - by tweeting people and commenting on their articles you'll start to form a relationship which will be beneficial for your blog. This should be two people talking about something they love – there's no need to fake anything. If you're friendly, open and honest, you're far more likely to get a link than if you brazenly ask a stranger for one. Gently making someone aware of your blog will reap all sorts of benefits – if they like what you're doing they'll link to it and tweet about it – you won't have to ask.
Blogging is what you make of it
This is only the beginning though – we haven't even touched on SEO topics like guest posting or linkbait. And that's the beauty of blogging – you can treat it as just a way to get your thoughts down on the page or as a long-term project with specific goals and aims. Professional bloggers do exist and if you want to start on the road to becoming one, following the tips here will make sure you are heading in the right direction.
About the Author: Will Stevens – a journalist and SEO expert who is part of the 123-reg.co.uk blog team. The company is the UK's largest accredited provider of domain names.