I WROTE a piece recently about setting up a blog that I posted to a freelance journalists' email list and thought it might be worth putting it on the site.
Remember it was written with writers in mind, but if you have a passion about a subject then there is no reason why you can't do the same and enjoy creating a great website. Here's what I wrote:
The first thing to consider when setting up a blog is to think of a tightly focussed subject that you will be happy writing about.
This shouldn’t be too difficult for freelance writers as you are most probably already specialising in a particular subject.
But if you can narrow it down and still have plenty to write about that is the best way.
A good example of this is the blog run by Graham Holliday at http://www.noodlepie.com/ he covers food in Saigon.
Another food example is http://www.chocolateandzucchini.com/ that is written by a computer programmer, but the author loves French food and writing and has been commissioned to produce pieces thanks to her site.
So when it comes to a subject think narrow, as this will establish you as a specialist within your field and also impact on other elements of your site, more on that later.
Setting up a blog can be done very quickly and easily, personally I use Typepad, which costs around £50 a year – this covers hosting and the software behind the blog.
There is a steep learning curve but once you have hit the plateau you will have had no problems with Typepad.
Blogging software is just a way of dragging articles out of a database and presenting them on a website, content management for the techies amongst you.
I also plug in a couple of other elements into my sites, the first of which is a newsletter subscription form, which costs £30 a year from auto-resonder.co.uk
This is a great way of keeping in touch with people but also ensuring they come back to your site to see what you’ve been writing.
I provide a free guide on my ThisFrenchLife site about buying property in France, it is just a collection of articles and in return I get their email address.
To raise some money on my sites you will see Google Adsense advertising which is a real set it up and forget service.
You register with Google, design your advert, place it on your page and it reads your site content and displays related ads.
This is one of the important elements when focussing on narrow, niche content. Visitors to your site are more likely to click on ads related to the content that brought them there in the first place.
A few emails I’ve received in the past day have spoken about marketing the site.
One of the great things about blogs is that they are search engine magnets. Think about it, Google is in the business of providing information to people searching the web.
A well-written blog, with useful up to date information does exactly that, so Google will come round often and index your site.
To borrow a phrase; if you write it, Google will come.
Other ways of promoting your site are to visit other blogs related to your field and leave useful comments on them, again building up your reputation as a specialist.
A quick aside here, comments are a major feature of blogs allowing site visitors to do just that, leave a note related to the article that others can read and get involved with.
Another method of promoting your site is to visit related messageboards, again leave useful messages answering people’s questions but ensuring your signature contains a link to your site.
Really though I am a great fan of a regular weekly newsletter, just outlining what you’ve written in the past seven days and getting people back to your site, which is where you want them.
But really what you should be looking to establish with your blog is credibility within your field so over time your site becomes a useful resource for people and a great advert for your skills as a writer, which you can promote to potential editors.
Most importantly you are getting your writing out to a wider audience so editors will start coming to you, and instead of begging for crumbs off one or two, you can take your pick and decide who you want to work for.
So here’s an example of how I’d set up a blog about orchids (I know nothing about orchids!!!).
First thing to do is to decide that I will only write articles about all things orchids, no slipping in pieces about roses, Pop Idol or Manchester City – unless there is a strong orchid connection.
Register an orchid website name, at godaddy.com you can pick up a name for around $9 a year. Lets say it’s called The Orchid Blog http://www.theorchidblog.com/
I decide to use the services of Typepad and put together a three-column site with a short piece about myself and experience of the orchid world, an About Me page.
Then I start writing articles about orchids and link across to news articles I’ve seen, again adding my own thoughts and ideas, with Typepad you can even categorise pages so that everything about Japanese Orchids has its own section.
I sign up to Google Adsense and notice that the adverts I’m running are all focussed on orchids and gardens, perfect eye-candy for potential readers of my site.
I let Google run around my site indexing my pages and displaying me on the first page of search results for the phrase ‘Tips on displaying orchids’ or ‘How to buy bargain orchids’.
Once or twice a week I drop in on orchid related messageboards and leave useful ideas and tips in answer to people’s questions, ensuring my signature links back to my site.
I offer a free ebook on Caring for Orchids to subscribers of my newsletter and issue it once a week, making sure people are aware they can forward it to a friend.
And just keep writing content, if you can do two/three pieces a day that’s great.
And when you start spinning off other sites covering other areas you may soon be producing 15/20 articles a day that are earning income from related advertising, meaning you are not hanging on for an editor’s telephone call.
If people have questions, I’m sure you do, then pop a comment below and join in the conversation.