Choosing a blogging platform is your first challenge. There are lots of free options out there including WordPress, Tumblr, TypePad and Blogger. All of them offer free design themes so you can customise your own blog so it’s very easy to get started. And if you’re not sure how to use them? There’s plenty of online video tutorials to be found on the web – for example, WordPress has its very own lesson list to help get you started.
From an SEO point of view, it’s worth getting your blog integrated with your existing website to build content and make the search engines love you even more. After all, SEO (search engine optimisation) is all about content. But if you’re not able to do this or can’t afford to hire a web developer to sort, then start a free blog and make sure you include links to your main website or other links, for example to your artistic portfolio.
Find a niche
When choosing a creative topic to blog about, try to find a niche. Make your blog about something very specific and you’ll please both the search engines and your readers. Try not to be too general and really focus on one specialist topic and stick to it. Find your own niche and go for it – just remember to stay on topic.
Write about what you love
Write about something you love, otherwise you’ll show no passion in your writing. And if there’s no passion, your content will suffer, so find a topic you are comfortable with and only write about that. For example, if you’re a museum curator, talk about the industry, emerging trends and other museums or exhibitions you love. And if you’re a theatre director, you could write about industry folk you admire or share your working day with your followers.
It goes without saying but if you don’t provide something the public wants, your creative blog will never be a success. Give people what they’re after and offer real value to their web browsing experience. What do I mean by this? Well, value is demonstrated in the content you publish. If your content isn’t valuable people won’t read it or return to read more. Really think about what you’re putting out there and give the people what they want.
Focus on marketing
You won’t get anywhere if you just launch a blog and hope that people will come without any marketing effort. You have to actively market your blog and you can do that through a variety of ways. You can start chatting with other bloggers by leaving valuable comments on other people’s blog posts – this will help draw people back to your own site. Or you can make use of the search engines and write about topics that are popular in the searches, like this very feature. Or you could even offer to contribute to influential e-zines or blogs to help raise your profile. Whatever you choose to do, just get out there and market yourself like mad. There’s really no excuse not to.
Get people talking on your blog. Ask them to add their comments on various articles, like I’ve done with this post. Encourage interaction wherever possible. Ask for feedback, respond to people’s contributions, build a community and be nice. People love to interact, so make sure you’re friendly and welcoming.
Make commenting easy
Just be aware that there are many reasons why people might not comment on your blog posts. It could be anything from not providing easy access to log a comment to writing about negative things people don’t want to be a part of. Bottom line? Make commenting easily accessible and write about stuff that gets people talking positively. If people can interact on your blog, they’ll keep coming back for more The Haze.
Don’t worry about negativity
Occasionally you may get the odd negative comment on your blog. Don’t let it put you off or scare you away from blogging. Any comments you’re not happy with can be deleted or responded to positively. Despite what people say, it’s very rare that you’ll face negativity so don’t worry about it too much.
Don’t get stage fright and believe in yourself
Once your blog starts to get more than 1,000 visitors per month, it’s only natural that you may lose confidence in yourself and you’re writing. Don’t get stage fright and keep at it! There is a reason why you have so many visitors, so believe in yourself and keep writing fantastic content.
Images, images and more images
People love images. Some of the most popular arts and creative blogs in the world include a lot of imagery. This is partly because people love to quickly scan through web pages and they enjoy seeing photographs and pictures that help to break up text and add visual interest. When writing a creative blog, images are essential so provide as many as possible and give your audience lots of things to enjoy.
Provide easy reading
Research suggests that people view and scan web pages rather than read every last bit of copy. Therefore, try to keep your articles as easy, quick reads. Provide lists wherever possible and break up the text. From an SEO point of view, you want to provide at least 250 words of copy. But it’s also good to stick to this number for your readers — unless of course you’re writing an article such as this one – in which case, add in bullet points or lists because it will hold people’s attention more.
Give your posts punchy titles
When thinking about things to blog about, write articles that have punchy titles: ones that people search for through search engines and titles that are appealing and catchy. You want to draw people in and inspire their curiosity.
Keep it regular
A blog is almost like an online journal and suggests a “regular” focus. Try to keep your blog updated with at least two articles a week. Ideally, you need to be blogging every single day, especially if SEO is one of your key priorities. Otherwise, just try to keep things going. And if you go on holiday, make the best use of scheduling tools on your blog so you can post articles automatically while you’re away from your desk.
When designing your blog — either creating one from scratch or using any of the free blogging platforms online — try to keep the layout clean, fresh and uncluttered. Avoid adding lots of unnecessary features. Keep it easy on the eye and you’ll please your blog visitors and have them coming back for more.
Don’t neglect social media elsewhere like Twitter and Facebook. Make sure you hook these up to your blog’s RSS feed and update your followers and fans with your latest post. Twitterfeed is a great tool that automatic publishes your posts to your Twitter and Facebook accounts — great for Twitter but looks a bit spammy for Facebook at present. Test everything first and make sure you’re happy with the automatic updates and tweets you’re putting out there.
Keep an eye on analytics
Keep track of how people are landing on your blog and how they’re finding you. You can then tailor your blog posts to your readers’ needs as well as making the best use of those external sources that are really drawing people in. If you invest in any online advertising, your analytics will also help determine your ROI (return of investment) and whether it’s working or not. Keep an eye on your web analytics and ensure your blog is working as powerfully as it should be.
Allow easy following
Place “follow” badges on your blog wherever possible. For example, on Blogger you can add a free widget which encourages people to “follow your blog” in their own Google readers. Tumblr has something similar but this is already integrated. Make sure you provide an easy follow option on your own blog, even if it’s just clear links to your RSS feed.
Reveal more about who you are in your posts and your audience will love you for it. People want to follow people, not brands. Include an “about” section if possible and a photograph of yourself. By offering a personal slant, you’ll be encouraging people to like you and by tapping into their emotions you’ll encourage loyalty hence happy, returning visitors.
A really great example is Ana Kinsella, a fashion blogger from Ireland. Her Ripped Knees blog is mixed with lots of fashion news, but the personal slant is when she posts pictures of her own outfits. Stylebubble is very similar and hugely popular. Add a personal touch to your own blog.
Spell checking and proof-reading
Finally, before you hit the “publish” button, it’s crucial you check your spelling and proofread your article again and again. Bad spelling will not only ruin your credibility, it will damage your SEO as the search engines won’t appreciate poor copy. Make sure you check everything before you go live.