Is this really happening? Are my words under the category of “tech geek?” Me, who just got her first smart phone a few months ago? Yes. This is happening. So trust me, what I’m about to teach you is simple. You can easily start your own blog – and the benefits may surprise you.
I started Community College Success last January as part of a New Year’s goal-setting exercise from one of my favorite authors Christine Hassler. I set a goal that I wanted to write and publish a book about community college success, and so like anything I do I started first by asking advice. What I heard most often was that I should write on the topic often and try to build a platform of expertise.
A blog seemed like a perfect way to start.
Now I realize blogs have been around for a while and today we seek most of our news and information from Facebook and Twitter. However, I still think there is a place for blogs – in fact I know there is – because I’ve seen incredible benefits from this venture.
And they are benefits you can reap as well.
So should you start a blog? Is it worth the effort? It just may be depending on your goals and what you want to do with your life. If any of the following benefits appeal to you then keep reading as I will tell you how to get started on your blogging adventure.
You should start a blog if…
- You want to be an author, speaker, or writer/journalist
- You want to become a better writer
- You have creative writing energy/thoughts that are dying to get out
- People have told you that you have unique opinions/ideas about a certain topic
- You have a concept that would relate to a future job/industry you are interested in
- There is something random you love so much and would love to write about for fun
Behind every blog there needs to be a purpose and a passion.
The benefits of a blog are…
- Build a platform of expertise that will help you seem legitimate in that field/topic
- Get spin-off business (I’ve gotten 3 speaking gigs so far from the blog)
- Practice and perfect your writing (especially when it comes to writing economy)
- Connect with like-minded people all over the world who care about what you do
- Build incredible partnerships with people from great organizations who actually find you. Some of the amazing people who I am so thankful reached out to me are:
– Leah at NSCS
– Ashkon at StudentMentor
– Ellen at The Chatty Professor
- Great conversation starter (trust me, people will talk to you about it if you do it right)
- Great resume addition if the topic is related to your future career goals
- If you choose a topic you love that also helps/entertains others, blogging is really fun.
How you can get started today…
If you think blogging is for you then get ready to start an incredible adventure.
Below are the steps, tips, and resources that helped me build my blog that has had over 6,600 visits since January and led to some opportunities I could never imagine (e.g. 2 publishers are currently interested in publishing my community college success book!).
Setting up the blog so it looks legit:
1. Read a book on blogging → The book that I highly recommend if you really want your blog to help you reach other goals in your life is Blogging for Fame and Fortune by Jason R. Rich. (The book doesn’t focus on fame and fortune as much as it does every single tip you need to start a good blog).
3. Set up a domain name → You can do this for free but it will be yourblog.blogspot or yourblog.wordpress. While this is fine, if you are blogging to help reach your career goals the investment of buying your own domain (usually under $10/year) is well worth it. Blogger.com gives you an easy way to purchase your own through Google during the set up. Make sure your blog name is concise, unique, clear, and easy to search.
4. Read up about vlogging → See if adding videos/audio will help further your blogging goals. If so, YouTube, a Mac, and iMovie make it so easy.
5. Create the look → Choose a simple solid-colored background or an image that relates to your topic and a great looking banner at the top. Keep it simple, relevant, and personal (consider using a nice picture of yourself). You can make your own banner at MyBannerMaker. If your blog is really for professional advancement I highly recommend investing in a great looking banner. My good friend and amazing photographer Ashley McCormick created mine.
Marketing the blog so people can find you:
Just because you build it does not mean they will come. Do not take this personally. Blogs take effort and marketing them takes a lot of persistence and dedication. But I promise the rewards are well worth the effort. There is nothing more exciting then when a student e-mails me asking for advice or to tell me how my blog helped them improve something in their life.
1. Ask advice → I read a lot of blogs on college and asked the writers for advice. That is how I found Lynn O’Shaughnessy who told me how to market my blog by writing for other websites that my target audience (college students) would frequent.
From there I started e-mailing editors of college blogs to ask for further advice on what they look for when it comes to guest content and the USA Today College editor e-mailed me back!
2. Write for other blogs → The editor of USA Today College told me how to pitch for them, and you can too! Just fill out the form to get on their writers list and they’ll e-mail you about once a month to ask for pitches.
3. Link your blog to your e-mail signature → The editor of USA Today College checked out my blog after getting my initial e-mail and asked me to do a video for my first USA Today College article after seeing my vlogs (they had never used video before!).
4. Facebook, Twitter, Facebook, Twitter → Over 60% of my blog audience come from Facebook via the app Networked Blogs, my Community College Success Facebook page, and my personal Facebook page. Link your blog often and link your Facebook to your Twitter. It is also really easy to allow people to like your Facebook page from your blog through Facbeook’s developer section.
5. SEO → Search Engine Optimization is how you input keywords into your site that allow people on Google to search for and find you. You also have to sign up with the search engines themselves. This is a bit more complicated and I actually hired Next Gen Design to do this for me for a few months. Before I knew it my blog showed up #1 in Google when you type in “community college success.” It was well worth the investment, but if you are just looking to start simple you can read up on how to set up SEO yourself.
6. Find partners → Search out like-minded people and websites and find ways to add value to what they are doing, such as sharing their site on your blog or offering to write for them for free. As you build the relationships they too may want to link your site to theirs. Don’t try to sell yourself; focus on adding value to others first.
7. Business cards → Add your blog to your business cards with your basic contact information (if your blog is industry/career related of course). Vista print and many others offer free business cards.
Creating content people will read:
The most important thing you need in order to write a blog is to have something to say that is interesting to other people. And you also need to be able to communicate that topic in a concise, interesting, and well-written manner.
1. Keep your content relevant and timely → Browse similar topical sites to keep up to date in the industry and also draw from your current personal experiences.
2. Stick to a pattern → For example, I post every Monday morning. Be consistent.
3. Keep posts short and to the point → People scan web pages online and don’t like to read a lot on the internet. Make paragraphs very short and highlight a key word or two in every paragraph so scanning is easier and people can find what they need.
4. Use stories/anecdotes → People love stories. Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable and share yourself, without making it all about you of course. Think about what you want people to get out of your blog and make it about them or no one will read it.
5. Know your target audience → Be careful not be too general in thinking about who will read your blog. Be specific and get to know these people by reading similar websites and talking to them in real life. Listen, listen, listen and think about how your blog can fill their needs.
6. Be mindful → Remember what you write will be up forever, so think about what you are putting out there and make sure it’s something you’d want your mom and your future employer to read. I think anything you put online should be something you’ll be proud of for the rest of your life – because that is how long it could exist.
7. Find your voice → Find your unique writing style and be consistent. Don’t try to create a voice – be yourself.
8. Never stop learning → Constantly read about your topic, talk to others about your topic, and read other popular blogs to see what gets attention. The #1 secret to success in anything is to study others who are successful in that field and ask their advice.
The time to start is now!
My blog has opened doors of opportunity I never could have dreamed. It has allowed me to connect with students all over the world, and it has become a hobby that fuels me. The same things and much more can happen for you, so what are you waiting for?
Keep in mind it takes a while to build an audience so stay persistent and don’t give up. Work on marketing your blog every day, and constantly learn about what is relevant and needed for your target audience.
Ask yourself: Would I take time out of my busy day to read this? Of all the billions of other web pages trying to get my attention, would this stand out?
Blogging does take a lot of effort – but if it is done with passion and purpose it will be so incredibly worth it.
While I’m certainly not the expert on blogging I have learned a lot in the past 6 months and would love to help you start your blogging adventure; if you have any further questions please don’t hesitate to contact me firstname.lastname@example.org.
Isa Adney is a first generation college graduate, $110,000 Jack Kent Cooke scholarship winner and currently works as a Student Life Coordinator while finishing her M.Ed. When she’s not writing her blog or book (Community College Success: Networking Secrets to Winning Friends, Scholarships, Internships, and Jobs) she loves going to Disney, reading on the beach, and watching How I Met Your Mother. Isa loves nothing more than speaking to college students about the tips that helped her succeed and she’d love to connect with you on her blog, her website, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube.