It seems every where you look lately someone has launched a new website or blog– whether for personal use or for business use. Because of this, most of us assume it must be super easy building and managing an online home which, in fact, is not the case at all and although it’s certainly not rocket science, there are a few things I wish I’d known when I first started blogging. This blog may be relatively new, but I have been blogging over on my photography website for a few years now and in that time, I have learnt valuable lessons and shortcuts in having a better, more productive online life.
There are a few things you can do if you have recently started a website for your business or maybe like me, you are blogging for the sheer hell of it and these things will make your life a whole lot easier when it comes to sharing content with your readers. Unlike what most people assume, writing a blog post and hitting the publish button, doesn’t automatically mean people are finding and reading your content– Google doesn’t come along and say hey newbie, I’m gonna rank your website right here between pages one and three because I like you and this post is the best thing I’ve seen in a while.
It’s basically about having a great platform, an effective social media strategy and of course, following Googles rules.
1. Use WordPress as your publishing platform.
I learnt a long time ago (after a failed attempt at using Moonfruit) that Google loves a good WordPress site and not only this, it is like the easiest platform in the world to use. For both of my websites I use WordPress.org not WordPress.com and this is because I wanted a self-hosted website with my own choice of domain name. A self-hosted website means you need to sort out your own hosting rather than let the kind people at WordPress.com handle it for you, but concentrating purely on content and leaving the rest to them, wasn’t enough for my photography website where I basically wanted to redesign the entire theme and make it a lot more personal. I’ve become a bit of a website nerd over the last few years and using WordPress.org means I have more options in how my site looks and also what themes I can upload. You can set up a free website on WordPress.com but there are limitations to what you are able to do and eventually, you will probably want more from your website or blog, which can become really expensive on WordPress.com, so you may as well start as you mean to go on and save yourself any future hassle! Read more about the differences between the two HERE.
2. A clean and responsive theme
Before you go spending all your hard-earned cash on a theme for your website, double-check 2 things: is it responsive? And is it easy on the eye?
I know what it’s like to get carried away when looking for themes because OMG some of them are so goddamn fancy with pretty buttons here there and every where but you need to take a step back and ask yourself whether other people will actually enjoy navigating around your site? And yes, this is important because the more user-friendly your site is, the longer people will stay, and the longer they stay, shows Google your site is awesome and this means higher ranking and more traffic. YES!
Also, I could write an entire blog post on having a responsive theme because nothing is more frustrating than clicking on a website which isn’t mobile friendly and having to zoom in to see any flippin writing. HELLO! Over half of web traffic is mobile! No matter how interesting your post is, if it’s not optimised for my iPhone, I won’t be staying long. Plus, Google favours mobile responsiveness and with the latest major algorithm update, Google now penalizes websites which aren’t optimised. So yeah, this one is important.
3. Verify your website with webmaster tools
If you want to have access to google analytics and any search data (which is pretty important if you want your content to be seen), then you need to verify ownership of your website. Once verified, you will be able to optimise your site for search engine rankings as well as detect any issues and errors that may be present within your site. There is a lot of information on Google about how to set up your webmaster tools so I won’t bore you with all the details!
Once you have webmaster tools set up, this is where you can submit all your content. Each time you publish a new article, you can head over to your webmaster tools and submit the URL of that post so it can be indexed.
4. Disclaimer (for bloggers)
Sounds a bit legal and important doesn’t it? That’s because it is. Basically, whether you are blogging about food, fitness, blogging tips for other bloggers, or you’re simply blogging about your own life and thoughts, you need to realise that maybe someone out there will take your advice literally and hold you responsible for telling them to do this, that and the other. And this is where your disclaimer comes in because you do not want to be held responsible for something you wrote about which happened to be tongue in cheek. Take my blog post on having a bad day for example, which I hope anyone reading will realise I’m just over exaggerating and taking the mick out of something lots of women relate to. I don’t want to be blamed for the fact you cancelled all your plans one weekend and missed the best party in the world just because you were on your period. Not everything you read on the Internet is literal and you need to tell people this in your disclaimer, especially if you are reviewing brands and making money from affiliate links. One last point, if you are using images which are not your own, you need to include this information in your disclaimer and credit the source of the images.
5. Resize images for web use
Oh god, it’s all getting too technical isn’t it? Don’t worry, I promise this is the easiest thing in the world just stick with me and hear me out.
I read a post the other day from a blogger who wrote that when it comes to image size, the bigger the better. I was like, huh? If you want your website to load quickly and display your images correctly, you need to resize them for web use and this is where the amazing Blogstomp comes in. I may be a photographer but believe me, the last thing I want to be doing is wasting time resizing images in Photoshop so I use Blogstomp, which basically does it all for you. YAY!
Your website or blogs content area is a certain size and if your images exceed this width, you could end up messing up your theme and cause your website to load super slow which isn’t fun for anyone who happens to visit. My content area is 883px wide so I stomp all my images to fit the full area.
6. Shorten your links
Okay, so this is a personal thing and it’s not imperative that you do this and you certainly won’t get marked down in the online world if you do not shorten your links, however, there are a few little benefits. As you know, each blog post has a permalink which you then share across your social platforms so people can read your content. I often see ridiculously long links which feature the date of the post and various other web symbols and quite frankly it all looks a bit messy. Now, you can actually change this within your WordPress settings by clicking Settings > Permalinks and choosing the ‘post name’ option if you do not like the idea of shortening links and creating a middleman between your content and your audience. However, if you have been blogging for a while, you will need to redirect your old URL’s to your new permalinks.
To make my links more readable, I use Bit.ly. One of the main reasons I do this, other than the fact I think it looks better, is so I can track how many people are reading my content, and although you can do this through analytics and webmaster tools, I love to have the app on my phone so I can instantly watch the numbers going (hopefully) up. You may think this is totally self-indulgent but it also gives me the chance to see what content is most popular with my readers and what content I should probably just avoid writing about ever again.
7. Yoast plugin for SEO
I think most people who blog or have a website, hear the words ‘search engine optimisation’ and want to run a mile because, let’s face it, it just seems so mind-boggling half the time. When my first website went live about 5 years ago, I had someone else build and manage it for me and within days I could search ‘wedding photographers Swindon’ and BAM, there was my website happily sitting on page 1 of Google and I didn’t even lift a finger. Since then a lot has changed and the lovely people of Google want good quality content rather than websites using spammy keywords. I remember the guy who designed my first website actually hid keywords on my home page and throughout the website so it would rank higher. Doing this now is a big faux pas and can cause your website to be removed altogether. This is where lots of people seem to fall down as they don’t understand how to use keywords properly within a blog post. Luckily, there is an amazing little plugin for WordPress users called Yoast and this makes SEO slightly more bearable. It works on a traffic light system, making it easy for you to see where and how you can make improvements. Obviously you’re aiming for green lights every time.
8. Sharing buttons
Sharing buttons act as a call to action for your readers when they get to the bottom of your article and if they love what you have to say, it’s likely they will want to share it with their friends on social media, so you need to make this super easy for them. My theme came with social sharing buttons but if yours doesn’t there are some really good plugins out there which you could use.
Most people these days pretty much live on their phone so it’s likely they will be checking their email on a daily basis and if you can get them to subscribe to your website or blog, your content is less likely to be missed. I use Mailchimp to design Newsletters for my wedding photography website, giving brides a heads up on any discounts and offers I may have or to share any info on a venue recently visited, or basically to share any inspiration with them to help them plan their wedding day. For this blog however, where I’m not offering a service, I have set up an automatic newsletter which goes out every time I post a new article and also on a Monday morning with my most recent blog posts. You will need to add a call to action on your website so people can clearly see where to sign up.
Follow these 9 simple steps for a more productive and hassle free online life!