Yet blogging itself isn’t easy – you need to put in love, time, effort, commitment and a whole lot more to really make it work for you. Which is one of the reasons so many bloggers ditch their writing within the first few months.
Business blogs also need to see a return on investment as well (even though much of the real ROI comes from the interaction you build up with your readers who are all potential customers).
To help you in your blogging efforts, personal and business, here’s a list of some tools and tips that you might find useful.
Free Blogging Platforms
Starting a blog has never been easier. Free blogging sites like WordPress, Blogger, LiveJournal and Vox help you get started quickly and easily. They have a pretty good range of theme designs as well to help you choose one that fits your personality and needs.
If the idea of blogging and design seems too much like hard work to you, sites like Posterous and Tumblr offer great alternatives to full-on blogging. You can still choose to post yourself, but both sites offer you the option of emailing in your post(s) and attachment(s) and their blog team will do the rest for you.
Self-Hosted (or Premium) Blogging
If you want to go the self-hosted route (where you have more direct control over your blog’s appearance and optimization), you can either download software to help you get your blog going or use your web host’s software.
WordPress.org, Movable Type, TypePad and Loudblog (excellent for media blogs or podcasts) are all great options when it comes to downloading the software you need to get your blog up and running on your new domain. Squarespace is a solid alternative that lets you buy your domain, monthly package and design your blog from the start.
Theme Your Blog
Making your blog your own is a lot simpler than you might expect. Gone are the days when you needed an in-depth knowledge of HTML or CSS coding skills – now most of the hard work is already done for you behind the scenes.
Blogging platforms like WordPress, Blogger and Squarespace offer drag-and-drop options to help you set up your blog’s look easily.
If you’ve gone the paid route, then you can buy a variety of themes to help set your blog apart from others. On WordPress you can buy themes like Headway (used on this blog), Flexx, Lifestyle and numerous others. There are also some excellent premium-styled themes available for free download.
Even Blogger allows you to pay a small fee to upgrade to a premium account which then allows you to design your own theme, either via CSS coding or buying a ready-made premium Blogger theme.
Widgetize Your Blog
Widgets (or plugins) allow you to add anything from popular posts, recent comments, calendars, blog badges and much more. Not only are widgets excellent for helping add depth to your blog, they can help your readers find you online elsewhere.
For example, Twitter widgets are available for all the main blogging platforms like WordPress, TypePad and Blogger. This can help your readers find you on Twitter as well as see your latest updates, search results and more.
As well as the standard widgets available in many blog themes, there are several websites that allow you to design your own. Widgetbox is a great example, as is Yourminis and Wowzio. Toying with widgets and seeing what works for you is a great way to really personalize your blog.
Promoting Your Blog
So you’ve set your blog up, written a few posts and are ready to share it with the world. What next? Apart from your friends and family, how else can you get readers to your blog? Community networking.
There are a host of excellent blog communities around that will help you both promote your own blog and find other bloggers to read and learn from. Scribnia, BlogCatalog, Technorati,? Bloggeries, Loaded Web, Alltop, CommunitySpark and others are great starting points.
If you’re on Facebook, then the Networked Blogs application is ideal for letting your friends and their friends know about your blog (and you can place your Networked Blog badge in your blog’s sidebar to let new visitors know you’re on Networked Blogs).
Additionally, offer the option for your readers to share your blog post on Twitter as well as Stumbleupon, Digg, Reddit, Mixx, Delicious, Newsvine, Netvibes and other social bookmarking sites that will help you gain new visitors and traffic.
Knowing how search engine optimization (SEO) works is hugely effective at helping your blog stand out in the search engines. While in-depth understanding of SEO really needs a specialist, experts like Lee Odden offer some great free SEO resources for you to use as well as paid consultancy services.
Open Up and Share
Blog readers love to learn things and read about stuff they might not have seen elsewhere (I know I do, as a reader of numerous blogs myself). So open up and share your blog.
Offer tips and advice that your readers will enjoy. These can be lists like the one you’re currently reading, or how-to features, or even something as simple as a cooking recipe. Share your knowledge and ask for the views of your readers and you’ll soon have a thriving and interactive blog community.
Offer other bloggers guest slots on your blog as well. Not only does this allow your existing readers to hear a new voice and mindset, it also allows your guest blogger to share your blog with their own readers, again opening up your blog to a wider audience. Simply put, the more you share of you, the more of you will be shared.
Measure Your Blog’s Success
While the amount of comments and interaction are a good measure of a blog’s success, they don’t tell the full story. And if you’re a business that’s blogging or you need results from a marketing perspective, then you need to measure your blog’s success.
Monetize Your Blog
If the aim of your blog is to make money, there are various ways to do so.
However, making money blogging isn’t as easy as it sounds so make sure you’re prepared to look elsewhere for income as well.
If you’re looking for paid blogging opportunities (where advertisers pay you to write about them), Pay Per Post, SocialSpark, ReviewMe and SponsoredReviews are just some examples of sites that pay bloggers for their views.
Another way to make money from your blog is by being an Affiliate. By signing up with a company to promote their product, either by on-site advertising or links to their products, you get paid each time one of your visitors clicks the advertiser’s advert or when a sale is made from that click.
These are just some of the ways that you can turn your blog from being just another journal into a fully functional personal or business blog. Yet just like any list, I’m sure I’ve missed a ton of stuff along the way.
What do you use to make your blog work for you? Feel free to share your tips and recommendations in the comments below.
Note: This blog no longer runs on the Headway framework. Instead, it’s a custom WordPress design by Lisa Kalandjian of SceneStealer Graphics.