Photo: Blogging Research Wordle
I created this list several years ago and have shared it with a few people. While I don’t think they really cared for it, I truly believe in its importance. If you are someone who is considering starting a blog or are a blog newbie, this post is for you. The advice I’m sharing here comes from my own experience setting up and running the WorkplacePsychology.Net blog as well as several other previous blogs. While I am certainly no blogging expert, I do know a thing or two, and want to pass the knowledge I’ve gained on to others.
Here’s my advice about blogging:
1) Time Commitment: Blogging takes a considerable amount of time, creativity, and energy. Have a clear understanding of what you want to write about and why you think it is relevant. Keep your content fresh so it’s important to post regularly. When you’re first starting out and are building readership, you’ll need to post 2-3 times a week. Once you build your “brand” (i.e. your name/reputation) then it’s ok to post less frequently.
2) Target Audience: Know who or what kind of person you want reading your blog. If you want business people reading your blog then the topics and tone of your blog should be about business or a particular business topic. If you want people interested in cooking then the topics and tone of your blog would cater to cooking.
For instance, on my WorkplacePsychology.Net blog, I focus on several key topics (Industrial-Organizational Psychology, Occupational Health Psychology, and Organizational Behavior) and only those topics. My audience are industrial-organizational psychology, occupational health psychology, organizational behavior, human resources, and business and management professionals. Thus, my content is targeted at that demographic only. By being everything to everybody, you lose focus and will turn people off.
3) Free vs. Paid Hosting
Advantage: If you want to save money, I recommend that you use, WordPress.com. It’s free and there are many templates available to you. The learning curve isn’t too steep and there’s much more flexibility down the line if and when you want to do more with your site. You go to WordPress.com, create a blog name, and within minutes you are online with your very own blog!
The two biggest advantages to going the free route are that (1) you don’t have to worry about maintaining it (on the back-end side) and guarding your blog from people trying to hack in, (2) it’s free or the upgrades available are much more affordable (premium themes, options, etc.).
Disadvantage: While you can tweak a pre-existing theme somewhat, you can’t design your site (i.e., your theme) from scratch and you are limited to the themes available to you.
Advantage: You’ll have total control over how your blog/website will look.
Disadvantage: However, when starting out, I do not recommend the paid hosting route for anyone new to blogging. First, the cost involved is much greater. Second, it is much more complicated to set up your own domain (yourname.com), install or set up the CMS (content management system) like WordPress, and maintain it on your own. Third, and most importantly, it is VERY easy to mess up your blog if you do not know what you are doing (e.g., html, ftp, etc.).
4) SEO (Search Engine Optimization): A good blog will use keywords and be search engine-friendly. So when people look up topics (they type in business consultant) your name will come up in Google searches “higher” than someone who didn’t optimize his/her site. WordPress.Com does a nice job helping you optimize your blog if you continue to use a set of keywords or tags.
5) Blog Name: Pick a name that’s easy to remember and that ends in either .Com or .Net. If possible, keep it short but if it’s easy to say then it’s fine that it’s a little long. In general, I recommend a short, easy to remember blog name. Avoid using a dash (-) or underscore (_).
Here’s what I did for my own blog. For WorkplacePsychology.Net, I’m using the free WordPress.Com’s service. That means I don’t pay anything to have my blog “hosted” on the Internet (it’s where your blog lives online). But WordPress.Com forces me to have a domain name like this: “workplacepsychology.wordpress.com”
As you can see that’s too long for anyone to remember. So, I bought the domain upgrade which replaces my site’s default address with a custom domain of my choice. Instead of https://workplacepsychology.wordpress.com/, this upgrade makes my site available at http://workplacepsychology.net/.
6) Layout: Make sure your blog is user-friendly and easy to navigate. Font size should be large enough so people don’t squint reading it. There should not be “clutter.” On my blog, I paid for a premium theme and added some information unique to my site on the right sidebar. Some blogs are littered with ads, flashing signs, and stuff everywhere. Those are big no-nos. Pick a design (theme) that is easy on the eyes, with legible font size.
7) Academic & Scholarly: This last and final tip applies to bloggers who want to write a scholarly/academic blog. A key differentiator about my WorkplacePsychology.Net blog is the scholarly content and crediting of sources, but one that’s presented in an easy-to-digest manner. My inspiration for this comes from the “The Idea in Brief” (a short, bite-sized summary of an article) that the Harvard Business Review uses in its magazine and website. Naturally, each person’s blog and writing style is different and what works for me might not work for you. That said, if you plan on providing academic content on your blog, my advice is to keep it short and simple. Experience has taught me that no one wants to read or listen to academic jargon. Perhaps one of the funniest stories about academic-speak comes from a conference I attended in which one professor attempted to explain a concept he was unfamiliar with. However, instead of being upfront and telling the audience that he had limited knowledge and giving a short summary, he went on and on, further confusing the audience and himself in the process. Those of us who actually knew the material (I was one) could not help but laughed. Finally, to put the poor guy out of his misery, a charismatic and wise professor (he’s also a retired Army Colonel) stood up, interrupted him, and asked this beautifully rhetorical question: “Do people really talk like that?” The entire room erupted in laughter! He said what we were all thinking but couldn’t say. It boils down to this: Keeping it simple has nothing to do with “dumbing down” the material, but everything to do with understanding it well enough to simplify it for others to grasp. That takes a great deal of effort.
“If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” – Albert Einstein