Being a blogger can mean a lot of things. It can mean sharing your thoughts and ideas in a longer form than simple social media updates will allow, relaying important information surrounding current events, giving tips and advice for a variety of subjects of which you have some useful experience and/or understanding, and virtually anything you else you can imagine connecting with the term. For me, being a blogger means relaying pertinent information on a variety of subjects.
At its root, what separates a blog from any number of sites out there including major media publications and small personal websites is the blogging platform itself. Simply put: a blog is a platform on which content is delivered. It’s the backbone that supports a dynamic front end site. That said, the only thing that differentiates a news-focused blogger with a reporter working for a major media outlet is the company that funds his/her efforts.
So, what resources can help take your blog to the next level? How can you create content that competes with multi-million dollar media conglomerates? Well, the value is in the writing, but there are plenty of great free resources out there that can make it easier for you to create interesting and eye-catching content on the fly.
Here are five great resources for bloggers.
Once you have your blog up and running, you’re going to want to make sure that you have the most accurate and useful information about your audience as possible. After all, knowing your audience is the best way to determine what draws them to your site. This information can be absolutely key to planning the future of your site, setting up complementary advertisement sales, and ultimately determining what works.
Google Analytics breaks down your site’s traffic in a remarkably detailed fashion. Not only can you see where your visitors are originating from geographically, but you can also find out what search terms they use to reach your site, how long they stay connected on average, and which specific pages are experiencing the most traffic. In addition, you can also see what isn’t working. This is a great way to weigh whether or not a specific type of article resonates with your audience.
This may be the broadest resource at a blogger’s disposal. Don’t think of social media as little more than a soap box for you to stand on and shout about your latest post. The real power of social media can be found in seeking out and connecting industry leaders and experts in order to grab an authoritative quote for your writing. Simply spewing out a brain dump about the latest version of Android is fine, but the value of your writing is in what sets it apart from the millions of other Android users out there. Think about what makes your post different from every other article out there, and come up with a few questions that you’d like to have answered for your audience.
Reaching out to industry leaders is easier than it sounds. Send an email to the address listed on their contact page, tweet to them with your question, connect with them on Facebook and send them a message, or reach out through a variety of other social networks and attempt to establish a positive contact with that individual.
Doing this not only adds to the credibility of your writing, but can result in back links from said industry leaders. There’s nothing better than having a respected expert in a given field sharing your article on the subject with their followers.
Are you stuck on a post, and need some help beefing up an otherwise thin piece? Poll your audience on the subject and include their response to your article. This will not only create a more interesting post, but encourage those followers to keep sharing and engaging with you and your content.
Over the past few years, I have tried blogging on virtually every platform from the back end of WordPress to dedicated writing apps designed to help novelists punch out 1,000 word books with as little distraction as possible. Of these platforms, none has proven as helpful or reliable as Evernote. Not only does Evernote have spell checking built-in, but it’s a great tool for organizing your sources, notes, and ideas.
Since I switched to Evernote, I have never been far from my writing. Half-finished articles are instantly synced to every Internet-capable device I own and can easily be accessed from virtually anywhere. Even at 35,000 feet, Evernote works like a charm to allow me to add to various articles as I need to.
Shared notebooks also make it easier to collaborate with colleagues and co-writers on various projects. For a blogger on a budget, Evernote is one of the greatest things to happen since WordPress. I honestly believe that.
Recently, LockerGnome’s Kelly Clay wrote about Evernote and how this service contributed to making her a better blogger.
Few additions to your post can have a better impact on visual quality than photos. Adding a photo to your articles breaks the “wall of text” so many long-form blogs tend to become. This also allows you to give your post a personality that catches the eye and draws people in.
Social networks such as Facebook actually have built-in features that pull in any photos you have on an article and displays them next to the title and excerpt. Having a photo for Facebook to pull makes your links look more appealing, and thus more clickable to the reader.
Wikimedia Commons is a great resource to find Public Domain and Creative Commons photographs that you can use on your blog legally. Unlike Flickr’s Creative Commons resource, Wikimedia Commons includes a lot of photos and clipart related to current events and a wide variety of specific subjects.
Corporate Press Pages
Virtually any company in the world has a section of its website dedicated to press releases and press relations. This material, sourced directly from the company, is a great way to get reliable information that you can pass on to readers. It’s never a good idea to report what other blogs are reporting, because at that point you’re not actually contributing anything unique or interesting. If one site takes the effort to read and relay the information announced by the company itself, and 100 blogs report on that original blog’s report, those 100 blogs are performing a disservice to the reader.
What’s more, these press areas often provide you with press kits that include high-resolution photos, videos, and logos that you can use freely in your coverage of their product and/or service. Press kits are intended to be used for this purpose, and make for a much better resource than Google Images and other commonly-used image search engines that often put bloggers in jeopardy of legal action as they stumble across copyrighted material that is unique to a specific site.
Corporate press pages also give you the contact information you need to get a quote direct from the company. These quotes are gold for bloggers, and an exclusive answer from a newsworthy company will make your article much more useful to your audience.
Bloggers often get a bad rap for being amateurs and kids that do little more than repeat information they hear at one of thousands of the more “legitimate” news sites out there. The fact is, bloggers range from amateurs to professional journalists working for major media outlets. The resources mentioned above can help take you to a new level in your writing. Your audience will no-doubt appreciate the extra steps, and that usually translates directly to revenue for your site.
Blogging is fun, and the most important resource for your blog is you. Your personality and experiences should be embedded in everything you write. Like many things in life, blogging is an activity that virtually anyone can take part in, but only those few that take time to go the extra mile will enjoy long-term success.