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Sunday, August 16, 2015

Blogging Basics, Lesson Two: When, Where, How


Do you remember when there were only one or two blog platforms to choose from?

Yeah, those were the days. Now there are lots of 'em, and though it's nice to have choices, it can be confusing for newbie bloggers (and even worse for an old fart like me).

So, today we're covering not only WHERE you're blogging at but also WHEN you'll be blogging (frequency) and HOW you're going to blog (your writing style, voice, and overall vibe). This is the second lesson in the free Blogging Basics course and if you haven't yet read lesson one, you might want to go do that now.

(Also, if you like what you see here and you're looking for personalized one-on-one help, you can check out my short-term blog analysis program or my long-term coaching packages in which I give you honest feedback and concrete steps to reaching your online business goals. It's fun, I promise.)

But before we get into the details of Blogger, WordPress and Squarespace, let's talk about when you'll be blogging and how to create an organized plan so that you can stick to your schedule.



LESSON TWO, MODULE ONE: WHEN DO YOU WANT TO BLOG?

It's really a personal decision, but I'm going to give you my opinion here because I get this question a lot.

When deciding how often you'll be publishing posts, you need to ask yourself the following:
  • How many ideas can I think of for each of my three categories in a 10-minute time period?
  • How much time am I willing to allow myself to write and curate content each week?
  • How often are other bloggers publishing posts in my niche?
  • How often do I normally read blogs myself?

Blog post ideas should flow quickly and easily when you are passionate about your brand's mission. The more topics you can cover within each category, the easier it will be to fill out your editorial calendar.

I've talked about how I plan out blog posts before, but here is the gist:
  • Keep a running list of tentative titles (in a notebook, in your phone, whatever)
  • Write out each idea on a sticky note
  • Pull out your calendar for the next month and place the best ideas wherever you see fit
  • Save the rest of the stickies for later (you never know when you'll be able to recycle a "bad" idea)

I like using Post-Its because they're easy to switch and move around if need be. I also make sure that each month is planned out a month in advance. I start writing each article at least a week before the "due date" and save them as drafts in Blogger.

I'm clearly the type of person who needs everything written by hand, but if that's not your jam, you don't have to do it my way. I asked the Loud Ladies in our Google+ group about their personal blog planning and organization routines, and they also mentioned apps like Evernote and Asana.

The bottom line is, whatever you choose to use, just make sure you're somehow planning in advance.

Even if the plan changes, it will make your life better and easier to have some kind of structure (especially if and when you decide to start monetizing).

Another tip: Don't force yourself to post when you don't want to. But if you keep not wanting to, consider whether or not you should continue blogging about that genre.

When I was a life and style blogger, I posted at least once a day because that's what others were doing in my niche and that was what was easy for me; now that I'm a coach with a blog, I post at least once a week because that's what others are doing in my niche and that's what's easy for me. See the pattern there?

Yeah, I knew you would. You smart cookie, you.

Extra Credit Reading:


LESSON TWO, MODULE TWO: WHERE DO YOU WANT TO BLOG?

As aforementioned, there are lots of different places to blog from. Once again, I surveyed the Loud Ladies for their opinion on this and asked about it on Twitter and in various Facebook groups.

Besides the top 3 I'm going to talk about in a sec, we have also seen these in recent years:

It may seem backwards to plan out your posts and THEN plan where you'll be posting from, but I know from experience that it's good to go into this with a slew of ideas as opposed to jumping in with both feet and not knowing where to start. Of course, nothing is set in stone and you can always switch platforms or rebrand yourself (we have a guest post coming up next week about just that)!

But the good thing about already knowing what kind of blog you want to have and what kind of blogger you hope to be is that you've done enough research and observation to be able to figure out which platform is best for you.

As for me? I know for a fact that I'm super lazy when it comes to html, css, and all that techy mumbo-jumbo so I moved from LiveJournal to Blogger in 2010 and I've stuck here ever since (paying someone else to do my blog designs). I'm thinking about switching platforms in the future, but for now, I'm good. Blogger is simple, relatively free*, and easy to use.

*If you purchase your own domain name (which you should if you want to be taken seriously), you will have to pay SOMEthing (this goes for any free platform that you use including Tumblr, Weebly and Wix).

Here's a little info on the three that continue to dominate. I'm also including the findings of my own research, which was fun to put together...

This Charming Life using Blogger

More about Blogger.com:
  • Launched: August 1999
  • Popularity: 22% of bloggers polled
  • Pros: Simple to use, owned by Google so easy to find in searches
  • Cons: No tech support you can contact (just message boards), difficult to use as a storefront
  • Best for: Bloggers that want their site to look like a blog without anything too fancy


XO Sarah using WordPress

Fast facts about WordPress.org:
  • Launched: May 2003
  • Popularity: 45% of bloggers polled
  • Pros: Open-source, so you can DIY the whole thing + have unlimited freedom
  • Cons: Could be too much work to set up + maintain if you don't have the funds or knowledge
  • Best for: Bloggers or online businesses that want an endlessly customizable design



Megan Minns using Squarespace


The lowdown on Squarespace.com:
  • Launched: January 2004
  • Popularity: 22% of bloggers polled
  • Pros: Easy to use and style with ready-made templates + designs
  • Cons: Has a small startup cost and not as much freedom for coding as some would like
  • Best for: Someone who wants to create a clean and simple, low-maintenance website or blog

As you can see, beautiful blogs and online businesses can be created using any platform. It's up to you to decide what's best for you given your current budget, time and talent. (Now that I've written this, though, WordPress is sounding pretty damn good. Only time will tell.)

There are lots more resources listed below to help you (and me) decide.

Extra Credit Reading:


LESSON TWO, MODULE THREE: HOW DO YOU WANT TO BLOG?

We all know that there are millions of other bloggers out there, but that doesn't stop us. Why?

Because we know, behind the insecurity, that each of us has something different to offer.

It's always good to niche down and choose a specific target market, but no matter what, you will always find someone else who has the same dream you do. And that's totally okay.

You just need to make sure you're writing in YOUR own voice. Pretend you're hanging out and talking with your best friend. Write as if you are speaking JUST to her. Like it's a secret conversation and your reader is super special.

Because the fact is, she is.

Just as every blogger has something unique to offer the world, so does every reader.

Be yourself and you will find an audience that loves and appreciates you for you. It may take time and practice, but making your online presence as personal as being right there in the same room with someone is completely possible (and fun as hell). Your homework (below) will help with this, too.

Extra Credit Reading:


THIS WEEK'S HOMEWORK

I hope you found today's lesson useful, and these free worksheets should help you learn even more.

Feel free to click and download on your own time. The pdf is just three pages, one for each module. Quick 'n easy, my friends. And don't forget to tweet about this course using the hashtags #liveloudly + #loudblogbasics. Don't know what to say? That's okay, I've whipped up a little something for you.

Homework is sexy, didn't you know?



PS: I know we're not supposed to be talking about social media until next month's series, but have you guys jumped on the Periscope bandwagon yet? Be sure to follow me @stephanieshar because I'm already addicted. Click to see Lauren and I discussing 3 Ways to Strengthen Your Confidence as a New Blogger.

PPS: I'll be at Molly's Stratejoy Summer Camp next week with limited cell phone access and zero internet (yikes!) but will be popping up on Instagram during layovers and the like. Follow our adventures under the hashtags #SSC15 and #loudmouthgoesglamping! See you soon...
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