How to write a blog? This is a question I get asked lots. From general queries, like can you make money as a blogger to very specific, techie questions like what are the best plugins and widgits?
I’m by no means an authority on blogging; in fact I only started a year ago, but having worked in editing, copy writing and social media, I’ve picked up a few tricks along the way. So instead of just replying to each email, I thought to include a blogging resources section on The Expater with more detail.
First off, here are eight tips before you start your travel or expat blog to set you on the right path.
Why are you starting a blog?
Perhaps you want to keep in touch with close friends? Maybe this is a new hobby for you? Perhaps you don’t want that 9-5 job and need to make a living on your own terms?
Ask yourself why you’re starting a blog; identifying what you want to get out of your blog will clarify the direction it needs to take.
Who are you writing this for? Who’s your target reader?
If you’re writing for a young backpackers, your layout, content and social media strategy will look very different than if you’re going for the affluent, over 50s bracket.
Really have a think about this. If you’re stuck for ideas, create a mood board with magazine cut outs, photos and articles that resonate with your potential reader.
3. Picture your reader
Look around. Consider the people and groups who fit into your target audience – what websites, magazines and TV shows do they like?
This will bring you closer to your reader. Even if you’re writing your blog just for friends, it’s great to consider a style and layout that will keep them interested. (Once you’ve nailed this, you can move on to looking at the layout and which menus to add to your site)
4. WordPress or Blogger?
The most renowned renowned sites for starting your blog are WordPress and Blogger.
I personally prefer WordPress. I did have a Blogger account once, but I found WordPress more intuitive and easier to personalise. It’s free and from there you can choose a multitude of templates to make it your own.
Play around with both sites and get a feel for how they work. You don’t need to get advanced yet, just have a look around to get an idea how they work, and which you might prefer.
5. Spend time, not money
There are zillions of apps, tools and services promising to make your blog generate millions in months, but go easy.
When you’re starting out I’d advise against getting sidetracked with paid for services.
I do spend a nominal amount on a few select services to maintain my blog, and I’ll cover these in a later post.
In the meantime, you have plenty of ‘work’ to do getting your site in gear before it’s worth paying anything extra. Besides, it’d be a waste to pay for a annual subscription, product or service if you decide a couple of months down the line that your blog will actually take a different direction.
6. Beware of scams
Even if you’ve just started blogging, spam and scams can be overwhelming.
In the first week of blogging, with barely a handful of followers, I got several emails along the lines of, ‘Hey there, I love your site and follow it regularly. I work at x company where we make y and I wonder if you could include a link of our product in your post please?’ Or offers to include random, totally unrelated links into articles for a $100 USD credit. Or asking to add in a guest post on completely irrelevant topics.
They’re all scams, spam or time wasters. Delete, block sender and move on.
7. Embrace the love, ignore the hate
I reckon The Expater is a pretty non offensive, upbeat site. But that doesn’t stop the haters. I once received several lengthy emails from the same woman, all typed in red capitals, about how I’d go to jail for a certain blog post (in case you’re wondering it was about a survey claiming some expats didn’t like living in Greece).
No matter how uncontroversial, happy or innocuous your subject matter, people can still get their feathers ruffled.
Don’t take it personally. Don’t engage. While you should report any real threats to the authorities, unfortunately hate mail comes with the territory and you’re best to laugh it off.
8. Be patient
I started my blog just over a year ago while in between jobs, but it’s only recently that I’ve really seen a shift in my readership.
When I started I got very hung up about why my numbers weren’t growing quickly enough. It takes time to build a readership, and The Expater is still growing.
Technically speaking, it also takes time for Google and other sites to find you, so the number one rule is to be patient.
Keep it consistent, keep it real and most of all, keep it fun. If you don’t enjoy your blog anymore, then why should your readers?
It’s also really important to stay safe online. Read my advice for staying safe, dealing with trolls and avoiding scams here.