As you probably know by now I really enjoy blogging. I started my blog, as most people do, just to keep friends and family up to date on our travels but the thing evolved to a journal & mini-comnmunity of like-minded people. We’ve met new friends through the blog, reached out and inspired “newbies” to make the jump to fulltiming and touched folks as far abroad as Italy & Australia, I’m always amazed and I truly love it!
You might also notice that I don’t monetize my blog. We have no ads or paid links and this is purely a personal preference. My blog is an unbiased view of how I experience this lifestyle, and we are fortunate enough to make our income elsewhere, so for the time being this is a free & unadvertised resource.
But what about newcomers who want to start a blog? What are the ins and outs? How about those folks who DO want to monetize their blogs? I’m no expert by any means, but having grown a blog over the past 2 years from only ~10 hits/day to ~30,000 hits/month (yeah!) I’ll be more than happy to share my meager experience. Maybe it’ll inspire you to start a blog too?
1/ Decide on a Platform -> Free or Hosted?
The most basic decision you need to make up-front when you start a blog is whether you want use one of the free fully-hosted platforms out there or you want to host it yourself. There are advantages and disadvantages to each:
Free Platforms – Free platforms do absolutely everything for you -> just sign up for a free account and off you go! And for the vast majority of bloggers it’s all you’ll ever need. Blogger & WordPress.com are the 2 most popular platforms. I’ve used both in the past and they are both super-easy and similar to use. Blogger allows a little more integration (for example with Picassa for pictures) and has the advantage of allowing advertizing & affiliate links (so you can monetize it), but can be unstable at times. WordPress is a much more stable platform and has more design flexibility, but doesn’t allow advertizing or affiliate links. The nice thing about a free platform is that, no matter how big your blog grows or how much traffic you get, the free host takes care of everything. I’ve never had any complaints, delays or problems with WordPress & would recommend them anyday.
Hosted Platform – You can host your own blog using your own unique website and your own hosting service, but you do need to pay $$ here. The main advantage of this is that you get TOTAL design control, TOTAL advertizing control and can do super-cool things (especially with plug-ins) that you just can’t do on a free platform. WordPress.org has a desktop version of their software that you can use for self-hosting which also has a ton of outstanding plug-ins (it’s the platform I would use if I self-hosted), but there are plenty of other software platforms out there. If you go this route chose a reliable host that can handle traffic (if your blog grows) and make sure you have a great back-up strategy for your blog.
2/ Decide If You Want To Monetize Your Blog
If you want to monetize your blog there are plenty of easy ways to do it, but you should decide this up-front. As I mentioned above the free WordPress platform does not allow advertizing & links, so if you’re using a free platform and want to monetize you should consider Blogger. If you self-host you can do anything you want, of course. The easiest money-making links are Amazon Affiliates or banner ads like AdSense or Tribal Fusion, but there are hundreds of other options out there. Too many ads can be distracting/annoying so plan up-front how many avenues of links you want to include. Also don’t expect to get rich quick on this scheme. You need a solid traffic stream to make any kind of significant income through advertizing/affiliates, so plan for other income streams while you put in the time and energy to get your blog growing.
3/ Link To Sites & Grow Your Readership
I LOVE having readers. To me, the bigger my readership the bigger the “community” we’re creating on-line…and all of it for the love of RVing!! The support keeps me motivated to blog, and provides so much valuable feedback and love. It is just SO COOL! So I do look for ways to keep readership growing. When I first started out I told all my friends and family about my blog. Then I started looking for other free linkups specific to RVing. HitchItch is a great RV resource and I get a ton of regular referrals from there. RV Resources and RVThereYet are two other free places to link up. I also participate in RV forums on an active basis and put my blog link as a signature on all my posts, plus I publicize my posts on Twitter & Facebook. And finally, I share links with other bloggers (in my blogroll section – which is badly in need of an update!). There are lots of other ways to create traffic to your blog.
4/ Find Your Own Voice
If there was only ONE piece of advice which I could give any new blogger it’s this -> try to find your own voice. It’s great to be inspired by other blogs (I certainly am), but don’t try to copy them. No matter what kind of writer you are, or what kind of photographer or what kind of experience (or not!) you have, finding & expressing your own perspective will be key to growing your blog. The truer you are to yourself, the more likely you are to attract readers. So focus on things & experiences that are interesting to YOU and write about them. Really I mean it!! I’ve seen this over and over. People are attracted to experiences that are real and they can sense this in your writing (and photos). If YOU are passionate about what you’re doing & experiencing, no matter whether it’s rock-collecting or wine-tasting or photography, your blog will show it! It’s like everything in life, love and adventure….be yourself and good things will come your way.
5/ Write, Write, Write
Once you decide to do a blog commit to keeping it up. People want to be part of the adventure (while it’s happening) so that means keeping everyone updated on what you’re doing while you’re doing it. You don’t have to blog everyday and not every blog has to be spectacular, but make a commitment to blogging on a regular basis and keep your blogs up to date. Also the more you write, the easier you’ll find it is to write. By the mere act of regular writing you will “find your voice”. Trust me, you will!
If you DO get inspired to blog, feel free to link to it in my comments. I always love discovering new blogs. And of course, if you’ve got your own tips to share, let ‘em loose!