build a unique brand for your blog Blogging Basics

How to build a unique brand for your blog

So you’ve started blogging. Great, there are literally 700M other people doing exactly what you do. What you do being writing 300 to 500-word posts at a regular interval. You see, just blogging by itself isn’t enough any more when it comes to standing out. When a 12 year old with an internet connection can do what you do, and a professional writer can do it better where does that leave the rest of us? Instead of focusing on what you do, focus on why you do it and build a unique brand for your blog. Read more “How to build a unique brand for your blog”

why should my company blog Blogging Basics

Why should my company blog?

Blogging is something single guys in their mom’s basements do right? Why should my company blog?

Well imaginary questioner, you’re wrong and you should blog because, frankly, if you’re not you’re behind. Blogging has become essential to growing and marketing businesses in the past five years, making companies still relying on cold calls look like they belong on display in the local museum. Read more “Why should my company blog?”

blogger persona Blogging Basics

Building a blogger persona: how we did it with…

I learned quite a few lessons from running Monstah Mash, namely when it came to growing my blog and competing with the already numerous other Red Sox-themed blogs on the market. It wasn’t about being the loudest, writing the most, or having the biggest team. There was a different secret weapon we utilized: personality. From the get go, creating a blogger persona was crucial and instrumental to our success.

In fact I credit most of my success on the blog to it. If I wasn’t able to differentiate Monstah Mash so well I doubt I would’ve recruited a team of 18 and reached so many readers. Instead I probably would have run it as a one-man show only for it to peter out when I got too busy, tired, or bored. Pretty bleak, right?

What is a blogger persona?

Crafting a blogger persona is something we’ve written on before. And for good reason: it’s essential. I’m not going to bore you too much though and rehash everything I said before. No, instead this post will be a deep dive into how I actually did it with Monstah Mash, and why your blog should too.

Before we go ahead though, let’s look at the basics.

The reason people read blogs is to be educated as well as entertained. Primarily it’s to be entertained though; if I wanted the score of the game I’ll read ESPN, if I want the commentary, the “something extra” I read my favorite sports blogs. It’s not just to get the facts, it’s to get the opinion that you’ve come to know, love, and trust along with it. That’s what makes blogs special, because they are biased and not afraid to show it (unlike the news which can be biased and afraid to show it). That “opinion” or “stance” is the blog’s persona. It’s what separates it from the rest of the pack, the unique proprietary quality that no other blog can copy.

With Monstah Mash we were sarcastic, authentically Bostonian, often angry or bitter, and sometimes outrageous. We made jokes in our articles, used lame pop culture references, and ragged on Boston in the way only a true Bostonian can. Someone who read our blog wouldn’t feel like they were getting the box score of last night’s game. Instead they’d feel like they were on their friend’s couch, favorite bar, or the corner of the kitchen table swapping sports facts with their favorite uncle.

Everything we wrote tied back to that unique persona to strengthen and affirm it with each article. Just like how your actions and words contribute to your own personality, the actions and posts of your blog will reaffirm your blog’s persona to your readers.

How do I create one?

That’s great and all, but how do I actually do this?

I’m not going to lie to you: it’s not easy and it won’t be finished in 10 minutes. It may even take months to perfect, but it will be worth it.

I knew I wanted Monstah Mash to be unique right from the start. I was fed up with stale and bland news. Not to mention that bloggers who were disassociated and removed from the city I’ve come to love were irritating. So I knew I wanted Monstah Mash to scream “Boston” and have a hefty dose of tongue-in-cheek humor sprinkled into each article I wrote. It was an important first step that shaped the three years that I ran the site. And trust me, the initial leg work paid off. I tried to cultivate a personality surrounding the site that was built around my writing style as well as the types of stories we would cover. As I brought on new writers more voices joined the chorus adding some unique flavor to the site while committing to the same essential goal.

I’d be lying if I said we didn’t evolve. We found more pieces to add to the puzzle, new sections of stories to cover and new voices to bring different styles of humor to our readers. All the while though we stayed the course, improving but not deviating what we built in the past, and wouldn’t you know it worked. Monstah Mash quickly gained thousands of dedicated readers worldwide, which I attribute entirely to the work we put in. So how do you create a blogger persona? Start small, thinking about the top five adjectives you want to come to mind when someone reads your blog. And build upon that. As the months go by try to experiment and see what works, see if you can bring on additional team members and let things evolve in their own time.

Creating a quality persona takes thought, planning, and the ability to adapt. With those three in your tool belt you can do no wrong.

Why bother with a blogger persona?

This seems like a lot of work. That’s because it’s a ton of work. Make no mistake about it, crafting a compelling blogger persona takes time, effort, thought, and planning. But it’s worth it.

A quality personality for your blog separates you from the rest of the pack. It’s not just about what you’re writing, it’s how you write it and how your readers identify with your work. A quality persona attracts like-minded people to follow your blog and inspires loyalty with your base. How do you build a brand that has thousands of dedicated readers? Give them a brand they’ll believe in and trust. Monstah Mash didn’t grow just because we were good writers, it grew because people cared about what we had to say and identified with our message.

If you truly want to see your blog succeed, craft your blogger persona and watch the views and followers roll in.

Squarespace review Blogging Basics

What should I build my blog on? Squarespace review

We ran our WordPress review a short while back, so let’s move on to another popular content platform: Squarespace. I’m sure you’ve heard of them. The slick, modern site platform came onto the scene recently and has risen in popularity. And for good reason: they stand by making stunning design easy and affordable–something many small businesses and startups appreciate. So let’s get to our Squarespace review!

What do we really think? This post will give a review of Squarespace and how it stacks up against other popular platforms helping you make the right decision for your blog.

Squarespace

Squarespace has the same prodigious story of many successful startups. Founded by a lone-wolf CEO in his dorm room and now, over 10 years later, is an immense success. That’s a bit tongue-in cheek and this is not to knock their success in the least. If you say you’re not impressed then you’re lying; or jealous. Squarespace took what WordPress did to make website building mainstream and went niche with a focus on elegance and design (hey we’ve talked about how going niche helps…).

WordPress pretty much commands the CMS market, but Squarespace occupies the corner of the market that is obsessed with sleek and modern design. And they’ve become pretty darn successful at it with over 1M paid users and more coming each year.

So let’s get into the meat and potatoes of the post–what is our verdict?

Benefits

Beautiful designs

First and foremost Squarespace cares about design. They believe in simple, clean, elegant sites for the common man. Gone are the days where you’d have to shell out $50/hr to a developer to build you a parallax site, now you can have one in a matter of hours or minutes. With out-of-the-box templates that are beautiful to say the least, builing a stunning website or blog is easy.

Coming from a company who’s office looks like this would we expect anything less?

squarespace-desks . squarespace-offices-interior-design-print-shop-conversion-aplusi-a-and-i-new-york-usa_dezeen_2364_ss_3-852x609

We ran a post on minimalism a while back as far as design trends are concerned. If you’re looking for a premier product on a minimalist design, Squarespace may be the one for you.

Extensive styling options

With an emphasis on design comes an expansive array of styling tools. Squarespace offers well-designed templates up front (as opposed to crappy half-baked sites that need to be tweaked) allowing you to get a head start on creating a premier blog or site. From there you can use their drag-and-drop functionality to change the look and feel of your blog, which allows you to add sections and pieces of content where need be. What’s more, you can alter the colors and images to perfect your brand. If your blog is design-oriented, Squarespace makes it easy and stupidly simple.

Remember though, much of what makes these tempaltes look so good is high-quality photographs. If you have grainy or low-quality images they will bring your site’s design down and negate the effect of premier templates.

Ease of use

One knock on platforms like WordPress is the steep learning curve. Squarespace stands in stark contrast presenting a platform that is easy to navigate and user friendly.

Squarespace offers a fully code-free platform if need be, giving you a rich design experience with a low barrier to entry. Want to dive in a bit deeper though? You can modify the CSS of your site and revert back to the original settings giving you a bit of flexibility to give your blog a unique twist. For the newbie blogger who really just wants a pretty site and focus on the writing aspect, Squarespace has a lot to offer and makes designing and cultivating your brand hassle-free.

Negatives

Limited access to code

Chastise me all you want for being a techie, but I like accessing the nuts and bolts of a site. Maybe I’m biased but I like being able to access the code, whether it’s the CSS or the actual template to make modifications. Not only that but being able to add jQuery and JavaScript is a huge plus. It allows you to take a static site and make it dymanic and engaging–something people will remember.

Then again if you’re just a blogger, that really doesn’t matter much so at the end it’s a bit of a wash. If having access to the code isn’t a big dealbreaker then by all means go for it. However if you want to make custom modifications Squarespace may not be the best option.

Cost

You definitely get what you pay for. If you want premium design at minimal effort then you’ll have to pay a bit more. Squarespace charges $12/month for up to 20 site pages. This is already more expensive than WordPress (around $80/year with unlimited pages) but that’s the beginning. Squarespace offers a business plan at $18/month which translates to $216/year. Not egrigious but it can add additional costs for the ease of use.

The prices increase if you use their E-Commerce solutions as a basic store adds $26/month while an advanced option tacks on $40/month. This can get quite expensive if you want a large site, as you can easily spend upwards of $50/month just to maintain and run your site compared to other cheaper and more affordable options.

For a large and already-successful blog (or someone with money to burn), Squarespace is a great investment. For a smaller blog though, you’ll burn through your cash pretty quickly.

Verdict

There is a lot to like about Squarespace. Sleek and modern design becomes highly accessible on their platform allowing bloggers to showcase their work in a stunning display. In minutes you can have a premier design to showcase your work, giving yourself time for a much-deserved pat on the back. That said, be prepared for the higher cost than WordPress, as well as a limited access to make drastic or noticeable changes to the template’s structure. For the newbie blogger or someone who wants to pick a design and forget it, Squarespace is a great option. For bloggers on a budget, or who are looking for more of a challenge going elsewhere may be best.

Overall I give Squarespace a B+. It’s simple and beautiful, but leaves a bit to still be desired.

wordpress review Blogging Basics

What should I build my blog on? WordPress review

Trying to start a blog but not sure where to start? You’re not alone, heck it’s a pretty big world out there on the web so we don’t blame you for being stumped. Picking a name and topic for your blog can be hard enough. But what the heck do you build it on?

Well if you’re in a bind, have no fear because we are doing our series on the main platforms many use to build their blogs. We’ll start with WordPress this week and work our way through the major CMS platforms. By the end of it you’ll have a complete assessment of the options out there, and a little know-how in which ones to choose.

So let’s get to it.

WordPress

There’s no doubt about it, WordPress is a giant. WordPress powers roughly 26% of the web–a fairly sizable chunk if you ask me. Considering how many content platforms there are, that’s a pretty big section–and it’s growing. It’s not just that though, a ridiculous  amount of content is produced through WordPress. Just last year there were 650M posts were published on the CMS giant. As new blogs are created daily that number will continue to grow.

But first, let that sink in. 650 million. And that’s just 26% of the web.

Seriously is no one else astounded by that fact? The internet is growing more and more crowded and if you think 650M posts is a lot to compete with, that’s literally not even the half of it. With the ease and stretch that WordPress has, it’s no wonder they have commanded such a presence on the web.

With a gargantuan marketshare comes quite a bit of savvy, there is a reason WordPress is so popular: they know what they are doing. Not only that, they do it well.

Benefits

WordPress benefits from being one of the big players on the content management scene and as a result is quite easy and straightforward to use.

In fact, when starting this site they were the very first ones I thought of. They have a simple interface that makes blogging easy, along with access to some very cool and powerful tools. Coupled with a directory of ready-made themes, and a full list of plugins starting a site on WordPress is a breeze. Like a brand new box of Legos, WordPress gives you the tools you need to be successful.

For example when buying a domain you have the option to pay for WordPress hosting for around $70-$80 per year, giving you full access to the tools, themes, plugins and more. It is incredibly easy to create a well-designed site using WordPress. Not only that, you can integrate other apps such as MailChimp, Constant Contact, and more to create an automated and connected marketing system.

Interested in the technical side of things? WordPress allows for that too. You have the ability to customize any theme and edit the source code of your individual pages. Through that you can build unique and beautiful blog and landing pages, access the stylesheets, and build a site that will dazzle your readers. Don’t like the default colors and design of the theme? Well add in your own code to give it your brand’s twist.

Simple as that!

Especially if you are a business with a blog, you’ll want to experiment with this type of access to put a unique stamp on your site and make it memorable to your readers.

Negatives

While WordPress is fantastic, there area a few things that leave me wanting more.

For one, there are a ton of possibilities when it comes to features. However you have to add them in as plugins which can crowd your account and slow things down a bit. Sure having MailChimp, contact forms, site trackers and more is pretty cool. But it’s a lot to keep track of, download, and update to have it run efficiently. Frankly, it’s a bit of a pain.

Secondly, and my primary complaint, is that WordPress is not Javascript friendly. You cannot add your own Javascript files to your account which hinders a user’s ability to create a truly dynamic and engaging website. Instead you are left searching for plugins as a workaround way of adding custom scripts. Trust me, from experience this can get a bit confusing and is far from straightforward.

Verdict

Honestly, I think WordPress is great. I use it. I chose to use it. I will keep using it. At the slim yearly cost, you get access to a pretty powerful site builder and incredible platform that is easy to use and quite engaging. With code-free, and technical access it truly is a user-friendly platform though leaves a bit to be desired for those more technical among us.

That said I give WordPress an A-.

Stay tuned for our following posts on the other popular blogging platforms as we aim to help you make smart choices for your site!

Target Audience Blogging Basics

Find Your Target Audience

For a moment, think of yourself as a landscaper. If you happen to blog about your work, you would write about techniques on creating a beautiful garden and how to leverage the available land that homeowners use. When it comes time to promote that content, what target audience would you reach out to? The first idea that comes to mind is that you would contact other landscapers. Seems obvious, right? How else would you get the word out about your business if you do not reach out to others who share the same interests?

However, think back to the nature of your business. You are a landscaper? Who are you writing your content for? You are absolutely not writing it for other landscapers. You are writing it for homeowners who are looking to discover how to upkeep their property. That is your target audience.

Blog Trackr’s goal is to show you how to tighten that target audience even further in order to better reach an audience who is curious or passionate about your blog.

Begin with Analytics

In order to start crafting your audience’s persona, you need to begin with analytical software. Google Analytics provides the best option based on the sheer data that it provides.

Google Analytics enables bloggers to discover what websites their audience is coming from. This knowledge provides bloggers the ability to post more frequently or advertise on particularly sites.

Analytics also can tell you where your audience is located geographically and what times they access your site. This knowledge can help you schedule posts that gets the most eyes on your blog.

Finally, Analytics also gives you insights into which posts get viewed the most often. Once you see what posts generate the most traffic, you can devote more of your time to articles that get the most views and spend less time on others.

Social media also provides helpful analytical tools such as Facebook Insights which tracks the age, gender, location and other demographics necessary to craft the ideal audience persona.

Conduct Market Research

Once you look at the numbers, you need to conduct market research.

There are many techniques that encompass this category of finding your audience. The first is to utilize keyword research tools to discover the words for ideal search engine optimization (SEO) results. Google and Bing offer research tools while LongTail Pro and Market Samurai offer more advanced SEO software platforms.

In addition to researching keywords, you can also scan your competitors analyzing what topics they cover, what content works best and what comments their articles produce.

Finally, you can conduct market research of your own through direct feedback with polls on your site or questions via social media.

Compose Audience Personas

After conducting market research, the next step is to come up with an audience persona for the people reading your blog.

Audience personas consist of answering the five W’s: who, what, when, where and why. However, the best audience personas go beyond these questions. With analytics and market research, you can also compose personas based on gender, personality, family life, job status, location, income and needs and other factors.

These personas can allow you to tailor your content specifically to them and reach out to individuals like this for feedback and discovering what kind of content they want to read.

Why do you need to create these audience personas? It is far easier to maintain the same members rather than attract new ones to your blog. If your blog is obsessed over a single subject, it can limit how many people you reach, but if it dives into multiple topics or produces varied content, it can enable your target audience to have a unified identity. This unity can grow over time as your audience shares your content with a wider community.

Create Compelling Content

After you write your audience personas, ensure you write your content in a journalistic style that anyone can understand.

Finally, ensure that your content provides too much detail rather than not enough. Being thorough leaves the reader with certainty about what you are trying to communicate.

Rinse and Repeat

One of the best aspects of blog writing is that there are many types of people who view your site. Every time you notice a different contingent of readers, sit down and go through this process to ensure that you maintain that new audience. You can never have too few audience personas if you work hard enough!

Obviously, this post is not enough to capture the unique craft of finding an audience and writing audience personas.

For more information, check out this blog post from CoSchedule or this guide for building a blogging audience from Quicksprout.

Sports Blogging Blogging Basics

The Principles of Sports Blogging

When you pour over ESPN’s website, you see a vast amount of information thrown at you. However, what’s hidden on their main web page by the Fantasy section are the links to the popular sports blogs FiveThirtyEight and The Undefeated. By simply Google-searching the most successful sports blogs out there, you will find one called SB Nation which collects timely articles throughout the athletic world.

Do you want to start a sports blog of your own? It is not as easy as you think. Luckily, Blog Trackr has some helpful tips about starting a sports blog and distinguishing it from the many voices peppered throughout the Internet.

Find your area of interest

If you have thought about starting a sports blog before, you obviously have strong opinions about sports. However, you should select a sport or team to follow. Obviously, you should choose to write about something that interests you the most. You would not choose to write about soccer if you have never watched a second of the game, would you? Writing intelligent, well-crafted articles emerges once you find something that is a natural extension of your own personality.

If you want to start a sports blog, find your sport or team of interest and demonstrate sound reasoning skills and the passion that drew you to the sport in the first place. Most importantly, select an angle that fills a void in the world of sports blogs out there. If you majored in economics for example, perhaps you could start a blog that focuses on the business side of sports? Or if you manage a high school football team, you could elect to focus on what you know (the ins-and-outs of high school football) rather than something you don’t (such as the broader NFL).

Choose a blogging platform

Once you find the area of interest that ignites your passions the most, the next step is to get the website up-and-running. At Blog Trackr, we have written about starting a blog before, but it is always good to have a refresher.

If you are a sports photographer, a free site like Tumblr could be an efficient way of displaying your work.

However, if you are like most other blogs, you will most likely elect to choose a blogging platform like WordPress.

Despite its simplicity, solely using WordPress has its disadvantages including the fact that you do not own your blog and your website name will include WordPress in its title.  How do you distinguish yourself as a sports blog with WordPress? Well…

Customize your blog by choosing a domain name and a hosting site

After determining the type of sports blog you want to write, you have to create its domain name. At this point in the blog-creation process, you may get discouraged because many ideas you have could already exist. However, if you remain persistent, design a logo and create a unique name, your blog can stand out.

Bluehost is an excellent hosting option because not only does it allow you to run your own site and market it to advertising executives, but it is also a site where you can check registered domain names across the web. Once you find one that has not been used, your sports blog is ready. However, before you make your first post…

Consider your audience, keep it short, respond to comments and make it come alive

Before you begin writing, make sure your writing appeals to the audience you want to attract. Is it young or old? Are they parents of athletes, athletes themselves or other sports fans?

Once you choose your audience, keep every post to a maximum of 750 words. Not many people have the time to pour over a long blog post. You should carefully select what words you use and ensure they capture the reader’s interests right away.

After publishing your post, make sure you respond to comments. Blogging, like social media, is meant to be social. It entails disagreements and engaging in back-and-forth bantering.  Sports fans are passionate and blogging allows you to express your thoughts in a logical manner.

How do you make your posts come alive? Blog Trackr has written about the importance of crafting a blogging persona, that is, ensuring that your blog is timely, unique and something more than just simply a game recap. If you have strong opinions, write them! If your team made a terrible trade call them out and explain why!

Where Blog Trackr Can Help

If you are a blog looking to regain the “edge” that characterizes powerful blogs, the Blog Trackr app can link you to exactly the right articles that will allow you to take a strong opinion and ensure that your sports blog experiences continual growth in terms of readership and engagement with the fans and other blogs out on the web.

 

five things to consider when creating a blog Blogging Basics

Five things to consider when creating a blog

You could be just beginning a job as a communications specialist for an important non-profit advancing a vital cause and looking to raise money to continue its philanthropic efforts. Perhaps you are looking to sell a product and are looking for ways to showcase its diverse and varied uses. Or maybe you are simply looking to share your thoughts with other folks who share your common interest. Read more “Five things to consider when creating a blog”

creating a blogger persona Blogging Basics

Crafting a blogger persona

I’ve written on the importance of blogging with some flair before, however I wanted to go a bit more in depth this week. I’ve touched many times on the fact that people don’t just read blogs to be educated, they read them to be entertained. While there is a great deal that goes into entertaining and delighting your readers, the best place to start is crafting your blogger persona. Read more “Crafting a blogger persona”