Blogging can be a fun pastime. It can also be a way to earn a supplemental income. If you’re trying to turn your blog into a meaningful business, then you’ll want to look like a pro blogger from Day 1. Even if you’ve never blogged before, you can still get your blog started on the right foot and look like a professional with a little planning before you publish your first post.
The goal is simple: to offer your visitors the best possible first impression. Here are the methods you’ll want to implement to make sure you look like a pro blogger, even if you are just starting out on this journey.
#1. Purchase your own domain.
There’s nothing wrong with taking advantage of a free blog. WordPress and Blogger are popular options because you can get started with a new blog in minutes. The only problem is that these free blogs have an extended URL that sends the wrong message to visitors. You will want to remove the “.wordpress” or “.blogspot” portion of the blog’s address.
You can do this by purchasing your own domain name. Both WordPress and Blogger have options for you to purchase a domain name during the signup process. You can also purchase a domain name independently from sites like GoDaddy if you prefer and then direct traffic to the blog itself.
Why is this important? Because showing visitors that you’re willing to invest into the branding of your blog means that you are taking this process seriously. Without that investment, there’s no real reason for visitors to invest into you.
#2. Structure your content so that it can be sponsored.
Many blogs tend to include personal stories about life. There’s nothing wrong with that, but to be a professional blogger, you’ve got to extend beyond yourself. Maybe your family is the most important aspect of your life. To look like a pro blogger, you’ve got to move from generalities to specificities.
Let’s say the kids make a mess in the house. You write up a blog post about how you cleaned it up. It’s sort of funny, sort of serious, and you offer a lesson learned at the end of it – like when it’s quiet, you know the kids are getting into trouble.
Great. But blog posts like that are a dime a dozen. Add specificity to it so that a sponsor might want to get involved with your blogging efforts. What products did you use to clean up the mess? Why are you loyal to that brand of product? What does it do that competitive products are unable to do?
When you write with specificity, then the brands which are involved in your post might take notice of you. They might see that your stories are authentic, funny, and reach out to their core consumer.
Even if you don’t have sponsored posts, write like they are a post that has been sponsored. This will make you look like a pro blogger.
#3. Don’t settle for a selfie in the bio or “about me” page.
Being a pro blogger means thinking differently in all aspects of your blog. Just one little touch of amateurism can offer a visitor the wrong impression if that happens to be the first thing they see. Since blogging is so personal, many visitors want to know about the blog’s author before they actually start reading it.
This is where the power of a professional photograph can really give your blog a boost. Selfies have their place on social media and personal journal blogs, but they don’t leave the same first impression that a professional image can create.
Of course not every blogger that is first starting out can actually afford to hire a professional photographer. Here’s what you do: invite a friend over, feed them pizza [or their favorite food] and have them snap a bunch of images of you looking at your best.
Having someone else take your photograph offers some distinct advantages.
- You can have a full body image instead of a close-up of your face.
- You can work with your photographer to have different backgrounds that match the look of your blog.
- You set yourself apart from the other blogs that don’t take this small, yet important step to looking like a pro.
#4. Get rid of that free theme.
The content of your blog will always be the most important component you have to keep visitors around. Just behind that in importance is how a visitor can navigate through your blog and how aesthetically pleasing it is to them. Unfortunately, many of the free themes that are out there for blogs today just don’t make the grade.
This gives you three options to make sure that you’re looking like a pro blogger.
- You can modify your free theme extensively. Sometimes a free theme can be modified so that it becomes very useful to visitors. You’ll need coding experience to really get the most out of a free theme, however, so this option may not actually be an option for some.
- You can purchase a premium theme. Premium themes offer your blog a lot of variety and many different looks with a minimal amount of customization. Of course the down side of a premium theme is the fact that you’ll have to shell out $25-$100 for a decent one and there’s no guarantee that another blog hasn’t already used the theme you think is awesome.
- You can hire a professional designer. This is the most expensive option of the three, but is also the best option. A professional designer will customize the user experience, incorporate easy navigation, and put in the colors, fonts, and spacing that will make your blog fun to access.
If you’re not keen on the expense of hiring a professional designer, many communities offer free classes on coding and theme alteration for low-or-no cost to you. This will delay the start of your new blog by a few weeks, but could also save you hundreds of dollars on the startup costs you’ll face and you’ll look like a pro blogger right away.
#5. Favicons and avatars should never be ignored.
This is where most new bloggers get tripped up when it comes to looking like a pro. Favicons and avatars help to shape the story of your blog’s design. Without them, it sends a message to your visitors that you’re trying to take shortcuts with your design.
If you’re willing to take shortcuts there, maybe you’re willing to take shortcuts with your content as well. Once that thought happens, the visitor will become critical of your content and look for errors instead of looking for value.
What is a favicon? The favicon is the small icon which appears next to the URL of your blog. It’s often overlooked and may be thought of as unnecessary, but paying attention to the small details is what professionals do. A favicon is also an easy way to keep your branding relevant to a visitor because it will appear whenever they search through their browsing history.
What is an avatar? Many of today’s comment systems for a blog incorporate a profile picture when a comment is left. Sometimes your picture will be pulled from Facebook, Twitter, or Disqus. Some comment areas pull from a unique account. If you put an avatar image into this account which is different from your bio picture, but still reflective of your blog’s brand message, then you can reinforce the value you’re able to provide.
You can update both of these images in 15 minutes or less.
#6. Offer something that only you can provide.
Because there are so many blogs and brands available to people today, the online experience is often sorted into three categories: useful, interesting, and useless. You want to be useful instead of useless. To be in that category, you need your blog to be able to offer something of value that only you can provide.
The advantage of offering a unique service or product to site visitors is that you open up another way to monetize your blog. The disadvantage is that if your service or product doesn’t live up to the value promise you’ve offered to visitors, then it will damage the reputation of your brand and blog.
An easy way to look like a pro blogger using this method is to link your blog to online stores that you may already be maintaining. If you have an eBay seller’s account, then you can incorporate some of your product listings onto your blog. You can promote your Etsy listings on your blog as well.
If you are a freelancer on a site like Upwork or Fiverr, you can include your service/gig listings or your account profile onto your blog.
You can also setup unique services on your blog and use a digital payment system like PayPal to let people purchase products or services from you directly.
#7. Get that search bar up and running.
There are two primary reasons why someone visits a blog. They either want to read new content that was posted or they haven’t seen before… or they want to access a blog post that they found to be profound. This is where the installation of a search bar for your blog will make you look like a pro.
There are numerous places where you can add a search bar. The sidebar is often the placement of choice, but the header might be a better option. That way a visitor can immediately search for the content they wish to read the moment they reach your site.
Placement is less important than visibility. If a visitor can’t find your search bar in 3 seconds or less, then it isn’t placed in the best possible position.
You also have the option of including default text within the search bar. Something basic is fine here, like “Search Here.” Sometimes jokes are used or a phrase that is slightly more descriptive, like “Are you searching for something?”
As long as you keep the default text professional, then you’ll take another step toward looking like a pro blogger, even if you’re just starting out.
#8. Hold regular business hours, even if it’s only an hour or two per day.
What sets pro bloggers apart from amateurs is their availability. Having great content posted on a regular basis can attract a crowd, but personal availability is what will actually grow your brand. There are several ways that you can make yourself available every day – or even around the clock – depending on how you people can contact you.
Here are some of the best options that are available right now that will help you look like pro.
- Offer a place where people can ask questions. You never know when someone might actually access your blog. They might have a question about your content that is important to them. By offering a place where it is easy to ask questions, you’ll begin the relationship-building process. Just make sure you take the time to answer the questions which come in each day.
- Host a chat on your blog or on social media. A Twitter chat can help you immediately connect with people. Reddit and Facebook are also good real-time options, especially with the new Live feature on Facebook. Because you are immediately engaging with your community, you have the ability to instantly answer questions or concerns while letting visitors get to know you better. As an added benefit, the logs of these chats can be uploaded as a blog post later on.
- Respond to comments left in 24 hours or less. Comments aren’t always left on a blog, but when they are, there should be some form of acknowledgement. Even if all you leave is a simple “Thank you” or “Appreciate your observations,” you’re giving the time it takes to leave that comment added value.
As long as you create a predictable schedule of availability, you’ll add a sense of professionality to your blogging experience. Whether it’s just one hour per week or four hours per day, connecting with your community will always be one of the best things you can do for your brand and blog.
#9. Remove all of the annoying stuff that detracts from the visitor experience.
Blogging is all about the first and last experience a visitor receives. If both experiences are positive, then there is a good chance that you’ll receive a return visit. If one of them is negative, your shot at a return visit is about 50/50.
And if both are negative, you can forget about ever seeing that visitor stop by another time.
This means you need to take steps to reduce the things that visitors will generally find to be annoying when visiting a blog for the first time.
- You’ve uploaded too many photographs or videos. Page loading times for a blog should be one second or less. Now you do need to have photographs and videos on your blog to maintain visitor engagement – just don’t overdo it. Put the bulk of your visual content on the actual blog post URL instead of the static pages of your site to avoid unnecessary slowing.
- You’ve approved way too many advertisements. Monetizing a blog is important, especially if you really want to be a pro blogger instead of just looking like one. If you create too much clutter with your approved advertising, however, it will leave people feeling frustrated because the visuals will be chaotic and the site will be difficult to load. Be selective with advertising – quality over quantity.
- You have music or videos that auto-play. Most people are playing their own music when reading blogs thanks to Pandora, Spotify, and other music apps or sites. Having your music auto-play is really annoying, especially if the visitor feels like your choice in music is inappropriate. Videos that auto-play slow down loading time.
This brings us to the topic of pop-ups. So many blogs and sites have pop-ups today for a variety of reasons. Some pro bloggers love pop-ups because they increase conversion rates for a newsletter or email marketing effort. Others hate them because it reduces the number of quality visitors they receive. You’ve got to make your own decision by weighing all of the pros and cons of pop-ups on a blog because there is no best practice to really offer.
#10. Shorten up those lengthy blog post URLs.
When you publish a blog, the title of the article will often become the basis of the URL address. You’ll also have the date in there and the actual domain name. If the title is long [say like ways-to-look-like-a-pro-blogger], then it becomes more difficult to share. If you change the title, then the URL may not match or you may have a different URL, creating an error for people who click on the old link.
And what happens if you update an old post when the date of publication is in the URL? Yep – you’ve just eliminated the value of all the social media sharing that happened when you first published it. That’s no good at all, professional or not.
When you go into the permalink settings of your blog, you’ll find a way to change the structures of your blog post URLs. First make sure that you eliminate the date from being populated into the URL as a default. Then, whenever you post something new, go into your permalink settings and physically modify the URL address so it reflects the subject matter of the post, but can be updated without further default modification.
#11. Have clear terms, conditions, and copyright notices on your content.
Every blogger has a built-in copyright for the work that they publish. The moment you publish unique content, you own a copyright to it. No one is allowed to copy it without your permission. So why are there so many copyright notices placed on blogs if the copyright is built into the publishing mechanism?
Simple. Because it gives you more options should someone decide to copy your content and call it their own. You’ve warned them that this content is your own and cannot be used without permission.
Then you can publish this stuff on a single page and put it into the footer of your site. This way the link to your terms, conditions, and copyright notices is always accessible, no matter what page ends up being the landing page for a visitor.
It can take some time to implement these methods, but looking like a pro blogger takes time. Don’t be in a rush when getting your blog setup. Make sure everything looks great before you publish. Otherwise you’ll find that many of your visitors will still think of you as an amateur, even if you’re working hard to look like a pro from the very start.
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