Blogging – the what and how; co-post with Jesse Fewell

I’ve mentioned blogging as an important part of your personal brand numerous times. If you’ve been following my earlier posts, I talk about blogger’s block, and securing your domain for a blog. But what does a good blog look like? How should you make your blog stand out to gain readership? I have a few ideas and I also reached out to my good friend and successful Agile blogger, Jesse Fewell, (@jessefewell) to get his thoughts.

First, there are a ton of options for hosting your blog on certain platforms, you know how to research so I’m not going to waste time on that. I use WordPress.org so I can have my own domain that I purchased (not to be confused with WordPress.com) and have it hosted externally by a hosting service that I pay for monthly. There are free services but the offer less customization. Here is some more detail on WordPress blogs because I have a bias. But once that is set up, what else does a blog need?

Customization of templates is fun but not for everyone. Luckily most platforms make it pretty easy. If you’re using WordPress.org I’d suggest using the Jetpack plugin to hook it up the features on WordPress.com like share and “like” buttons and much more. Some of the important features I suggest for a good blog are:

  • Blogroll or “Blogs I follow” section – you can partner with others and drive cross site traffic
  • Twitter Feed – Twitter has a great API (https://twitter.com/settings/widgets) you can generate and place in your blog
  • Contact section with links to all your social media (that you set up after the last post, right?)
  • Gravatar card – WordPress add in that allows your picture and contact info to show up on comments on WordPress blogs
  • An “About me” or “About this blog” page – who are you and why should people listen? (Make sure to include your headshot!)
  • Pictures on posts – not excessive but enough to break up the page and add visual interest
  • Favicon – that little icon to the left of your blog title in the browser tab (mine is a purple infinity symbol) – you can create it here
  • Archive page of past blogs – can be modified with some code or a user interface to display how you want it
  • Recent/Popular posts listing in navigation – drives more clicks and time spent on your site
  • Subscribe feature to allow people to follow your new content more easily (Most blogs have a widget or plugin for this – Jetpack for WordPress)

I would also suggest setting up Google Analytics or something through your blog platform to track traffic to your site, page views, and time spent on posts. As far as other customization and pages, the sky is the limit. Many people have pages for when they are going to be speaking next, custom contact forms, search boxes, resumes, certifications, anything you want really – after all it is your blog.

For how to blog – there is no one right way. Jesse did have a tip though:

“#1 just write…That’s it.

Yes, it’s really that simple
First, the research that I’ve done shows that the people who post most often have the most followers and traffic. The whole point of blogs and blogging is to give a platform to those who have something to say. If you don’t have much to say, then nobody cares. You don’t even have to have a unique topic.

 

Second, the more you write, the more you develop your voice. One of my favorite rising agile stars is David Bland (@davidjbland). He started out by writing a few things on his first blog (no longer available). Over time, as he delved deeper into agile methods, his posts become more and more interesting. Now he has a voice and you can see his content all over the various social channels. Trust me, you really don’t want to see my oldest posts; they’re really clumsy and simply parrot whatever I learned in training classes. HOWEVER, over time, I started developing my own voice with my own questions and thoughts. You CAN’T develop that voice in private before going live. You HAVE to develop it by doing it.

 

Too many beginner bloggers worry about saying things right, or worry that nobody will read their stuff. My challenge is to not care about those people. Don’t do it for them. Do it for yourself.

 

However, it’s not so easy. 
Although I believe that posting on some kind of regular basis is key, it’s really really really hard. It seems like EVERYTHING is ALWAYS more important than blogging. Work. Kids. School. Whatever. However, when I actually sit down and type up something, I feel good afterwards. It’s a lot like exercise. Just do it, and you’ll get better and people will notice.”–

 

Thanks for the thoughts, Jesse. Is anyone inspired yet? Get blogging! One more quick afterthought, make sure when you’re linking out to other sites and blogs to have it open in a new window or tab – you want to keep your blog open and not direct traffic away. More about promotion of blogs via other social media platforms coming in the next posts!

 

Here are some other articles I’ve found helpful:

24. September 2013 by Natalie Warnert
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  1. Pingback: Why Personal Brand? | Confessions of a ScrumMaster

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