Three things you need to know before you start a blog

Part Two in our series on business blogging.

At the ProBlogger Training Event recently, we were lucky enough to meet Cas and Craig Makepeace owners of YTravelBlog.com.  Seasoned travellers, Cas and Craig started the blog in 2010 as a new way of funding their idyllic travel lifestyle.  Or at least that was the plan.

While YTravelblog.com is a success and Cas and Craig now travel the world, two young daughters in tow, it hasn’t always been that way.  They had to learn things the hard way as they navigated their way into the blogging community, and they were gracious enough to share their top few lessons with us all.

Don’t spend all your time worrying about SEO and SEM

Considering the online realm is obsessed with SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) and SEM (Search Engine Marketing), Craig thought they should be too.  He spent a lot of time and effort making sure the site followed all the rules to ensure Google ranked it well…and then watched as most of his traffic came from social media.  By all means, make sure your blog has solid and effective key words, and that it’s attractive to search engines, but don’t lose sleep over it.  At the beginning, you’ll most likely receive most of your traffic by direct referral, rather than organic, so focus your efforts on direct promotion, such as via social media.  And unless you’ve got large pockets, hold off on the Google Adwords campaign.  It’s difficult to get a decent first time ROI without a large investment and professional help.  There’s a great conversation on this very topic going on over here on a post by Paul Hassing.

But you should worry about your site’s design

When Craig and Cas first started their blog, Craig did most of the layout and design himself, with no understanding of website design.  While he does acknowledge that he did save money, he shudders to think of what the user experience was like.  When they took a moment to review their site they realised that it was slow to launch, difficult to navigate and didn’t reflect their personality – well warranting the investment for some professional attention.  While you might not have a large budget to spend on your company’s blog (or any budget at all!), if your web skills are limited it’s generally worth the investment to have an expert help you set it up.  Remember, the aim of the game is to create a site that people want to come back to time and time again.  Think about your own behaviour – how often do you revisit sites that are slow to load or difficult to find your way around?  Luckily, with abundant online skills and resources, getting a user friendly site doesn’t have to be expensive.  If you’re using WordPress, you can purchase a theme for under $100, which usually includes support, and there are plenty of web design companies that will build a basic site for around $250.  Keen to upskill?  Check out e-books and webinars for blogging best practice (and a great place to start is the ProBlogger site!)

You monetize an audience, not a blog

Keen to earn a dollar from their blog, Cas and Craig took on ads.  And then promptly turned them off a few months later.  Advertising earns you money from traffic, views and click throughs, so in the beginning when your traffic is low, you’re displaying big ugly advertisements on your home page for very little return.  You can also run the risk of alienating readers by displaying products or services that they don’t like or don’t fit with their beliefs.  People as a general rule, don’t like advertising, and you could lose loyal readers who feel that your blog has ‘sold out’.  While Cas and Craig do advertise now – they carefully hand select the companies they want to work with, and make sure the products and services promoted add value to the site and fit with its personality.

So – get blogging!   Next week, we’ll cover off some hints to writing effective content that rewards your readers and keeps them coming back.  (Just joining us?  You can read part one in our business blogging series here.)

Have you started a business blog?  What lessons did you learn along the way?  Anything you wish you’d known from the beginning?

 

Emma Mulquiney | Online Editor – MYOB