Blogging is a bit like digging for gold, only that you are doing it in the internet space in an environment of social media using technology, connectivity platforms, and other applications. It is not as complex as it seems and once you get the hang of it, blogging is simple and logical. If the passion, application and share intelligence is there, anyone can build and profit from a blog. So how does one plan and execute a blog? The chapters below will elaborate on that and much more.
Power of Positioning
Your blog needs a sharp positioning. It has to define its goals and focus upfront clearly. The reader should know immediately what your blog stands for and what it talks about. You have to be clear about what you want to say and what topic you want to address through your blog. For instance, my passion for solo travelling was the reason for starting a travel blog. Once I had decided on its over-riding theme, I decided to choose a name and buy a URL on the internet along with a company email id. The name of my blog is Tikku’s Travelthon. It conveys my name and the theme of the blog upfront. People immediately know it’s a travel blog run by a chap called Tikku. The ‘thon’ is a creative twist like a marathon. Here, it’s a travelthon representing a revel journey that keeps going and never ends. The by-line of the blog is One Man’s Journey to Discover Himself. This reinforces the blog name and gives the blog a sense of purpose and direction that elaborates the purpose of the blog.
You can buy a URL at the cost of a fee. You can buy a URL for two years along with a company e-mail id and some space for Rs. 4,615 from sites like Rediff. Even Google and Yahoo provide this service. Payment is to be done online through a credit card. Once that is done, you can buy a basic WordPress.com site for Rs. 14,000 per year and upgrade it to a business site later after you have filled it up with basic content.
Logo design is also very important as it should go with the theme and positioning of the blog. The logo I have is bold and creative with a blue seagull on top. This conveys the element of the sky in the colour blue and the gull flying in the sky. The thon in the Travelthon is in green depicting the earth, jungle and forest. The logo should be chosen carefully. You can design it yourself but ideally get it done by a professional for maximum imp ace. It will not cost more than Rs 5,000. Now you have a theme, an intent identity, and a face. These are the key. Without these, you are a nemesis and faceless on the Internet. A lot of bloggers do not define their blog with sharpness and focus and thus the content looks and sounds diffused. They talk about too many things and thus confuse their readers. So keep the positioning tight and the rest will follow. Remember, the blog is an expanded identity of you and you have to give it shape through the vision of your thoughts, feelings and emotions. It is an attention to your primary hobby and your current passion. So let people understand clearly about what you want to say.
Keep your Audience in Mind
You need to keep your audience in mind, who you are talking to and why they should read you. You should also have in mind what is in it for the reader and whether you are addressing some of his needs either by educating him or by giving him vital information that he needs. Is it adding value to an aspect of his life? Do you connect with her through your writings? Do your photos and videos excite them that they would want to become a follower of your blog and read your stuff again and again. Say what you want to say and be precise. Before you finish each post, know who you are addressing and what reaction you want the post to have on your audience at the emotional level.
How and what is the mindset of your prospective reader? Is he or she an adventurer, an outdoors person, a foodie or a fitness fanatic? Maybe the reader is just a couch potato or a sports enthusiast. How does the person like to spend his free time? You should ask these kinds of questions to define the category of your prospective reader. For my blog, I choose people who enjoy travel, leisure, adventure and outdoor sports. These will depend on your chosen blog theme and matter. So make sure once you have done the positioning, you also start to profile your prospective audience. This will help you frame your posts better and will help in focused ideation. At many times, ill-defined target audience leads to a confused blog and you will be unable to attract the right kind of readership. Remember those who agree with your vision and approve of your mindset and philosophy will only flock to you. So know your followers before they become your followers and it will be easier for them to find you.
Where does your audience reside and what age group or income category do they fall into? What are their profession and qualification? You also need to know your gender splits to male, female etc.
This defines the demographic of your audience. This will help you to choose your language, tone and matter when you formulate your posts. Demographic profiling is the key to the success of your blog. Use the demographic profiling tools used by Facebook as they are much focused and narrow the audience down very well. Your content will depend on your profiling and hence, keep it sharp. Once the above steps are taken care of after much thought, one can move to content creation.
Now is the time to fill up your blog with written words and links. Start with what this is all about as this elaborates the theme of your blog. You can also try telling a story about yourself. My blog has a backstory of my life and on how I overcame the death of my father and how my current passion of travelling is helping me rebuild my life and seek happiness and control of my life. Put this up front for all to see.
Then comes your profile and contact details. Your background, educational and professional, go a long way in establishing credibility and the audience gets a glimpse of who you are as a person. Make it brief and precise. Ideally, your posts should not be more than 500 words. Say what you want to say within this word limit. Remember, on the net people want to gauge and costume your content with ease without wasting too much time. So say what you want to say upfront.
Content is not easy to come by. You have to do research on the net depending on what you want to write and then go out and get it. I have to keep travelling regularly in order to generate content and stories. I have to keep meeting and chatting with strangers in search of a story, humour or a particular angle.
Always have a Headline
Your blog post must have a headline which should give the reader an idea of your content and what to expect out of your post. Make it catchy and rhythmic. Remember you are spinning a yarn, make it exciting. One must read the headline and become excited about reading your post.
What’s The Angle?
This is important. While formulating your post, always have an angle. Do you want to talk about the history of a place, convey a story or just be plain funny and stupid? What is it you want to say through your post? You get the angle right and your post is bound to be a hit and results in getting a lot of attention though sessions logged in, likes and shares. Engaging posts always have an overriding angle. It may be linked to your direct experience and what moved you the most on that day. My posts on Demonetisation, David Sheldrick project, Lake Tritiva or Airline Miles have an angle to it. They are also informative posts. You can have call for action posts that get your audience to react and do something. These can be posts encouraging them to enter a contest or just pick up their bags and travel just like me.
Be Funny and Positive
Chisel your posts with humour and motivational quotes. Be motivational and inspiring through your stories. If I can do it, so can you. Take pride and have a sense of achievement.
Lace your content with information. You will need to do some research for that. If you are talking about food, talk about the ingredients, the cost, the decoration and packaging. Where is the particular dish available and what are its ingredients? Can you order it? If yes then how and from where. Limit your blog to 500 words through and do not ramble aimlessly just to fill space. Don’t use too many adjectives as they sound repetitive and boring. Be more visual and descriptive so that your reader can be stimulated enough to visualise the scene himself. Put links so that the reader can search further and gather more information going through other sites.
Spelling and Grammar
Have zero-error content, no spelling mistakes, no grammatical errors, keep it crisp and position the links well. You can do this on your own or outsource this to a service provider who will charge Rs. 15,000 approximately for this service. No abusing, no ranting. You can be mischievous but not malicious. With practice, your posts will improve. So give it time and a lot of thought.
Your posts should be littered with sharp and bright photographs. Start with an amateur camera first and then move to a professional one. Do not jump the gun. Choose two lenses, a basic and a zoom. I started off with a Canon EOS amateur camera with a zoom lens that cost about Rs. 3,500. After a year, I moved to a professional Canon Mark IV 5D camera with a 70 mm to 200 mm zoom lens and this set me back by 3.5 lakhs. But invest time in photography and a visually appealing blog catches eyeballs and inspires people to share your posts. A photograph says so much, sometimes, even more than words. I also use my iPhone 7 to take photos and make videos which I clip and edit myself. Try to have a background commentary to your videos and shoot them in 4K which is the high-quality format that is used across popular platforms. Name your photos and videos with a descriptor so that the reader knows what it is all about. Make sure you use watermarks of your logo on your photographs that show direct ownership. Use Vimeo
and Youtube to upload these videos and also integrate them with your blog posts. I have an average of at least one video and 10 photographs per post. The video can be a party, an event or also an interview. Wildlife videos are very appealing, so make sure you say the name of your blog every time you shoot one. It, again, establishes your brand and reinforces your blog identity.
Categorise Your Blog
Your blog must be divided into categories. These are the broad set of subtopics that you will talk about. For my travel blog, I have chosen five broad categories.
5. Adventure Sports
Depending on the theme of your blog, you can also categorise your content. This will help focus your content and will make it easier for your followers to search for your content with ease. You can then research and write content specifically for these categories.
Keep an Idea bank
Write down your ideas or record them when you get strokes of inspiration. I record my thoughts and ideas on the recorder of my iPhone and refer back to them when I am writing my posts.
Be On the Move
As a traveller, the best way for me to generate content is to travel more. The more I travel, the more sights and places I see and the more photos I take. The more stories I uncover, the more experiences I have to share. Whether it be Africa or Mauritius, I have to be on the prowl in search of content. I have already done more than 220 days of on-road travel in the year 2016 and hope to do more this year. I have been generating around 20 posts at an average per month and that has made my followership increase dramatically.
So remember, content is king. The more enticing and appealing the content is, the more it will be shared and commented on.
Integrate a monthly newsletter in your blog. You can do that easily through Mailchimp. A newsletter is a reprise of the month’s events. You have to add a letter from the editor which will be your views and takes on the month that has gone by. Have an essay from a fellow traveller and contests to spice it up. Use colours, pictures, fonts and boxes to make it visually appealing. People who subscribe to your newsletter will be your most ardent fans and you must get to know them. They are the people engaged with you the most. Have a big bright and bold button at the top of your blog so that it is upfront for people to click and add their e-mail ids to subscribe to it.
Tag all your posts with keywords that define your posts and the words that are used most in your posts. Good and precise tags help people to discover your blog faster in Google and help in keyword searches. Tag your videos on Youtube and label things at all times.
Be imaginative, descriptive, creative, eloquent and informative while writing your posts. Your grasp on the language should come forth on the material you post. Don’t just ramble but paint a picture and describe the scenery. Transport the reader so that it seems he is with you at all times seeing and feeling just like you.
How To Promote your Blog
Direct marketing tools like targeted ads with click throughs, generating user generated content for other websites, co-promotions, and media write-ups are one of the ways to promote your blog and get attention in the internet space. For advertising, one has to pay platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn and Outbrain a fee for them to show your ad to a targeted audience. These are calculated on a CPC model of cost per clicks. So for one dollar, you can buy 5 to 6 clicks on Facebook. Other social media vehicles have their own rates depending on their reach and audience size.
Facebook advertising can help in getting followers and clicks on your blog but one has to buy these and invest money in it. If you spend 500 dollars and above, a Facebook adviser will be provided to you who will take you through the online advertising process and teach you how to create a targeted ad.
Online advertising can be replicated on other social media platforms like LinkedIn and Twitter too.
SEO Level Marketing
SEO means search engine optimisation. This is tweaking of the search engine at the backend so that your blog URL comes up on top when anyone searches for it through related keywords. It is here that things like tags are important. If you have used the right tags, your blog will be shown more prominently when keywords are used to search content by people on the net.
Also, there are a set of rules, a set of dos and do nots that have to be followed in order for your blog to appear more on searches. The more your blog shows up, the more likely it will be discovered on searches. The more rules you follow, the higher your SEO score, the more followers and click throughs you will get.
Social Media Platform Integration
Integration of Social Media Platforms with your blog is of paramount importance and one should integrate the blog with all the prominent platforms like Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, Youtube and Facebook. When your post is out, make sure you do a simultaneous broadcast on all platforms. This way, your followership on these platforms will also steadily increase bringing an increase on overall followership.
Facebook Page Creation
The creation of a separate Facebook page will get you closer to your target group. On this page, you can be more specific about your blog and proposition. You can also build a store if you are selling a product or service. Building customers and prospects become easier with a page as it represents your blog theme and proposition. Make sure you regularly post to your Facebook Page to keep the content on it rich and exciting. People can leave a comment or leave a message. They can even chat with you on the messenger to establish a business contact and trade with you. So having a separate page is important for your blog and its right promotion.
Posting On Group Pages
You can also post on other group pages that are relevant to your blog like photography and travel blogger groups. Groups of your old school and college or groups formed by old colleagues. You can create your own friends group also and be its moderator. These groups encourage discussion and exchange of ideas. You can guide and give advice to people on the theme and knowledge of your blog and pass on valuable information. This builds followership, retention and loyalty. It increases stickiness and encourages people to comment and interact within the group.
You can invite other bloggers also to share their knowledge domain with you and write for your blog as experts. If they happen to have a renowned name, it will add credibility to your blog and increase the level of knowledge and content on your blog. It will make your blog more informative. You can add a guest column to your blog where the guest uses his space to pass a specific message or impart a certain knowledge.
Write for Publications
Try to impress editors of publications relevant to your theme and write for them. This will not only promote your content but also give visibility to you and your blog. Try doing barter deals where you give the content and get publicity in exchange. In the beginning, it will be difficult to get money but keep at it. The more you write, the better you will get at it and the more value you can give to your publications. I got a story plugin from YourStory that helped in giving me positive publicity and garner support for my blog.
User Generated Content
Write for domain sites in their user generated content section or participate in their blogger programs. I did that with TripHobo and Tripoto. I posted on these sites for free in a hope to become visible to their users. This will be free of course but does help in getting your blog more views. It is nevertheless a slow process and takes time. But you need to identify and approach these domain sites first to get yourself listed on them and then post your content. You can also integrate your blog with these sites through a widget. So that whenever you post, the content appears on their site also.
Try and participate in blogger conferences and create a network of like-minded trines for a free flow of ideas. You can also submit your blog and test your skills against the best in the business. Who knows, you might get a winners badge that will add credibility to your site. You might even get invited to TEDx for a talk or get training assignments too.
Theme based cross promotion with related brands can garner more followers and increase loyalty amongst current followers. As a travel brand, I can approach travel boards, airlines and travel Integrators to do a cross promotion with my blog where I can launch and execute contests and give away prizes to my followers. This will create excitement and increase traffic to the blog through partner sites. Use below-the-line marketing tools and direct marketing when promoting your blog. It will be more sharply targeted and ensure less spillage of your marketing budget.
Shares, Sessions and Comments
Shares are when your content is shared by your readers with others in the network. High shares show your content is very engaging and people feel proud to share it with others because they can relate or empathise with it. They can identify with your content and thus would like others to benefit from it. More the shares, more valuable your content is.
Time spent per session shows stickiness, how engaging and appealing your content is. It shows people are spending time every time they log in. A session is the amount of time someone logged into your blog to savour your content. More the time spent, the more involved the follower is with your content.
Comments give valuable feedback about your content and is another aspect of reader engagement. These parameters need to be tracked at all times for you to remain on course.
What are Social Media Platforms?
Social Media are platforms where people can interact and share information, ideas and build awareness amongst themselves. Whatsapp, Facebook and Twitter are such platforms. Once you have a social media identity, you can interact with a sea of people and friends on any topic and issue. You can search for support groups to promote a cause or build an Idea. You can build a business just by using social media tools. It is a community on the internet which interacts with each other through these platforms and the services they provide. Platforms like Facebook have more than 2.3 Billion users who log in every day to chat and discuss with their followers or friends base. They are a rage in this era. Platforms like Youtube and Instagram have created their own celebrity culture and have users with millions of followers. They have become a more effective voice of the people and masses are a better way of judging the moods, opinions and minds of the people. In The US election traditional media got it all wrong as all the polls expert opinion pointed to a Hillary Clinton win. It was social media who predicted the true mood of the voters and leaned toward a Trump win. Social media is meant for the individual to express his opinion and thus has now become the true voice of the people. With the polarity of smartphones and the rapid rise of their usage, a large chunk of the population has access to the internet and thus, uses social media to interact and trade with each other. The digitisation of the Indian economy and the subsequent demonetisation in our country its popularity will only rise further. Billions are using it today to learn, trade and vent out their true opinion.
Capturing User Data
Social media capture user data over a period of time and analyse individual user patterns, demographics, and many such details. This helps in profiling the user to the T. This data can be used as a very effective marketing tool by brand managers to target promotional and advertising campaigns. It can be used by doctors and scientists alike. This rich data is very accurate and can help in making predictions. It is a darling for the pollsters and marketing research companies. Now even the insurance company and the banking sector are using this data.
Social media provide their users with a weekly analytics chart which tells them about their page visits, sessions logged in, time spent per session, reach and many such parameters that give info about traffic on your blog or site. This can be analysed and used to better the content and reach of your blog and is a great marketing tool. WordPress also provides these statistics and it is best that you go through these reports to get a better understanding of who is visiting your blog and how engaging your content is.
Broadcasting is a simultaneous publishing of your content, photographs and videos to a set group or bunch of people. Platforms like Whatsapp have a special feature for this so that you do not waste time and your reach is maximised.
How to Make Money Out of Your Blog
Make sure you have a substantial follower base before you jump into the market and start pitching your blog to people. Also make sure that the content and the blog is structured well including your product store, information, brochures, logo and the entire product. Going early into the market can hurt. So, be very well prepared for you to pitch and do it only when everything is in shape and order.
Make Money by Writing
If you have adequately enhanced your skills as a content writer. You can look to write for other publications also. You will be able to adequately promote your blog by cross readership. If the editors like your story angle, then they will start paying you immediately and that will give your blog adequate credibility. You can also write for industry specific websites. I have written for triphobo.com and travellers point too.
One can get sponsored by industry promotional boards who can sponsor your post or in my case, sponsor your travels also.
Banner Ads and Sponsored Space
You can sell banner ads and sponsored space on your site to others when you have enough traffic coming to your site. This will generate revenue. The transaction will be kept online and analytics can be sent to gauge the success of the specific campaign.
Through Celebrity Guest Column
You can spruce up your blog and add to its sheen by having celebrities and other people share their thoughts and expertise on your blog and sell the space to advertisers.
Value Added Partners
Tie up with tour operators in India as well as abroad to sell package tours through them. As in my case, I have also identified partners in wildlife safari and adventure sports area. Depending on your product and industry, you can identify such partners. You can draw up an agreement with them and work with them on a commission basis also. Travel with Tikku is a new offering by me where I take people on guided tours and along the way, teach them lifestyle skills like photography, videography, motivational skills and on how to create a blog.