Fish Catching Travel
The question I get most often here at fishcatchingtravel.com is how hard is it to do a blog? Folks it is both hard and easy. When I began thinking about a blog my only computer experience was in email and research. Other than that limited computer use I did not have a clue. So how to start? Google it. But that is not the first step. Step number one, and the most important, what to blog about?
Why should people care?
To sustain a blog you have to write about something that you are passionate about. Not only is it what you know the most about, but it will keep you writing when you are tired or discouraged. Once you decide on your subject there is a big question: Why should people care?
The great thing about fishing is it is the most popular sport in America, which gives me a committed audience. Of those practitioners many are passionate and ridiculously dedicated to their hobby, a fertile ground for getting folks to give my blog a visit. So when you decide what you want to blog about, make sure that there are lots of folks out there who share your interest. A website detailing the life and times of the Siberian Three Eyed Toad may be a good read, but who cares? A site about a specific breed of dog, or the joy of cooking, has millions of folks who care about those subject, so choose well. And so important to your subject is a significant presence of websites on the net where folks with similar interests gather. Later we will see the true importance of that.
So now that you have a subject, and a potential audience, what do you do next? For me it was using a commercial hosting company. I decided on HostGator and boy am I glad I did. For a small fee every year they renew my domain name. Then I pay a fee every three years to cover the hosting of the site. It basically runs about $220 for all of it every three years. What they provide is the actual hosting, and the biggie, a complete minute by minute tracking of who comes, from where, what time, and on and on. These numbers let you know how your blog is doing. It is imperative that you know these numbers, especially if you are hoping to sell advertising at some point.
Now this may sound funny, but I am still amazed that my blog came out like it did. HostGator provides Word Press, which is the program that you use to write and build your blog. I had no experience and was able to work my way through setting it up. It wasn’t always easy, but message boards through HostGator can get you help from others, many of them serious webmasters, and folk on their staff. The few times I have used the board I was able to solve the problem fairly quickly. So do not let the setting up of the blog deter you, there are other issues that are so much more important.
So now you have your website set up it is time for the hard part, writing. I can not stress this enough, you have to write, and I mean often. If you are not committed enough about your subject to write something at least 2 times a week, on a slow week, your blog will fall flat on its face. You can not build readership and continue to get folks to come back without new content. There are so many blogs and websites that have stale content from last year, or 2 years ago, and when most of us land there we might read it, then we leave, never to return. If you do not write they will stop coming, end of story.
As part of you writing you must post photos. Now if your subject is politics or some specific scientific site, as a couple of examples, photos are probably not necessary. But if you write about fish, dogs, kids, or a host of other subjects, you must have photos. One great thing about the Word Press platform is everything you need to post photos is part of the program. If you can save a photo from the camera to your computer you are in business. So carry a camera, folks love photos and you do not have to be a pro for them to like it. You just have to take the time to put yourself in a place to take pictures of your subject to post on your site. And it does not take a high dollar camera, a good point and shoot will do the job. You just have to take the time to do it.
If you have chosen your subject well, there will always be something to say. With that comes research and planning. You have to keep up with your subject no matter where it takes you, but as long as you do you can always say something that folks with your interest or passion will listen to. So unless you are an expert keep your subject broad enough that there is plenty of subject matter to keep writing. And part of that research is doing a web search and find where folks with interest in your subject hang out, that is where the money is, as they say.
Making Folks Come
Search out the message boards, the online chats, and anywhere else people gather online who have your interest. And then participate. Take part in intelligent discussion online with others. Be a constant presence on these sites and participate so folks know who you are. Then begin to network. In my case I would post my fishing trip results, take part in discussions, and post pictures. Basically I participated in about 10 sites, which takes time, but pays big dividends. By posting reports and information I was able to add my link and they started coming a few at a time. It was around 80 visits the first month to my site, now we will top 120,000 visits a year 3 short years later. And all of it was by participation online.
As you become better known online you will naturally meet other folks with websites like yours which leads to all kinds of ways to help you both. One site I post photos on then allows me to put my link, which of course leads to other users. Of course I return the favor as much as possible by referring folks to his site. These kinds of online relationships lead to more readers and opens up further opportunity to expand. If your content does not fit with other types of websites do not link with them. Stick to the subject, that is why your readers are coming. Online exposure is the key to growth and one of the quickest ways to grow your readership.
There are other ways to get readers, and maybe they work, but I have never used them. They charge for their services, and some do not even bring “real” readers, something that will cause Google to downgrade your ranking. They way to get it done is to write and network. My readers are loyal, living, breathing people. If you write with passion, and do your networking, they will come.
So you build your site, write your first article, then what? You have to keep up. I do not allow commenting on my site until I have reviewed each and every comment folks leave on my site. Once you start you will be amazed at the comments you get. Some are great, some crazy, and last but not least, tons of spam.
First you must answer each and every comment you get that is relevant. Make folks part of the site, it keeps them coming and promotes discussion. Sometimes I post the comment, sometimes I broach the subject and let others comment depending on what it is. You also occasionally have to answer folks personally. It can, and does take lots of time, but it is a mandatory. Folks want to know you are out there and give a hoot about what they think. It builds good will.
Spam is another issue that comes with the territory. There may be a plug-in out there that catches spam, but I doubt they work. I deal with it comment by comment, deleting all spam as soon as it comes in. Never, ever, answer anything out of content, and never click on anything. They are leaches who pray on the internet, so ignore them. They will never go away but 10 minutes a day and they are deleted to spam hell.
Review your numbers often. They let you know the important stuff, like when people come, how long they stay, what they read, search terms that got them there, and on and on. All of that information helps you to focus on what folks want, the key to keeping your blog growing. It also lets you know the best days to blog. Many of my readers come on Friday and Monday, and that is due to the subject matter. your subject may have specific times and days readers come, so make sure that you try to post as close as those times as possible.
Odds and Ends
I have not solicited advertising on my site. There are a myriad of ways to make money off your site, but for me it is more specific than many of the programs that will generate revenue. In my case it was building readership before even considering soliciting ads. There will never be any ads on my site that are not specific companies that deal in one thing, fishing. And I will take it a little further, only companies that have products that I use and believe in would ever appear on my site. That is a decision I made, and consequently there are no distracting off-topic ads on my site. We are about fishing. So be advised that it will take a while, so be prepared to work hard.
SEO – Search Engine Optimization. Let me tell you what I know about that, basically nothing. I am continually spammed by companies wanting to sell me systems to promote SEO through use of key words, specific terms, and other techniques that draw more readership. Remember I am not computer savvy, so I stick to the plan, write and write often. If you are serious about your blog there is a world of information out there about the technical aspects of blogging. It will take time to learn, but if you are wanting to reach serious commercial viability you will have to become proficient at the technical side.
How public do you want to be? As I said before building your blog you must have a net presence, so you have to decide how far you are willing to go with your web identity. I write under the pseudonym of redfishlaw. That is my screen and blog name. I keep my personal life separate from my net life. As I have built relationships with my readers of course we exchange emails and have personal contact. As an example, if you are writing about technical issues as an example you would clearly want to write under your own name to give validity to your writing. So you decide how public you want to be, it is really site specific.
If you are passionate and committed you can do it. The technical stuff gets easier, but the work grows as you site grows. It takes time to keep you site up. It does not matter if you are tired, out of town, sick, or any of the other excuses we all come up with, you have to keep writing. It has to become a part of your life, in fact if I had to compare it to something it would be an exercise program. You have to take the first step, and then keep on stepping. It must become part of your life, and though you can take a day or two off now and then, it is a commitment. And when it works, when folks thank you for your writing, when the first 10,000 folks come, then a 100,000, every minute becomes worth it. So if you have something to say, say it.
Good Luck and Tight Lines