An Introduction to Blogging
Knowing how to blog is a great skill to have and has a wide array of applications, either as a rewarding hobby or, if done right, for making a little money on the side through advertising and sponsorships. Blogs can take a huge variety of forms and the topics that they cover are even wider in scope, from fashion, to sport, to video games and political commentary - there really are no limits to what people write about on the internet.
If you're looking to get started with your own blog, there's no doubt that things can be a little daunting to begin with - but fear not, we've called upon the expertise of the University of Portsmouth's Web Editorial Assistant Jaelithe Swan, who's kindly compiled a number of handy tips for getting started with your very own online platform!
Writing Your Blog Post
Every blog post starts in the same place - with an idea, or something you want to get across to your readers. The important thing to remember is that your post must tell a story.
It doesn't matter whether you're writing about your latest trek through the rainforest, the last book you picked up from the charity shop or how to repair a pair of shoes in an afternoon - if your writing isn't engaging then your readers won't make it to the end of your post.
When writing, try to picture the person you're speaking to. Are they male, female? Are they your age, older, or younger than you? Do they have dyed pink hair, glasses, or do they only wear blue? Once you've pictured your ideal reader, you can settle down to write.
Most blogs are 200 - 500 words long.
Blogs tend to have a conversational tone - this means there's no need for fancy words or in-depth referencing. If you want to add a link to something someone has said (or even something you've said in a previous post), it's easy enough to simply add a hyperlink to the relevant page (highlight the relevant text, click on the 'chain' icon and then copy and paste the URL of the page you want people to visit, it will appear in your post just like this link to PONToon's digital skills articles).
Imagine your readers know nothing about the subject you're writing about and make sure to explain any foreign terms. It's important to explain new information without sounding patronising - one easy way to do this is to use the conversational tone mentioned earlier, and never use a longer word where a shorter one will do. This is one of George Orwell's 5 rules for effective writing. You can find a helpful breakdown of these rules here.
Telling a story
You must tell a story in any piece of writing, especially when blogging. Your story will have a beginning, a middle and an end. Now that you know who you're talking to, and what you want to talk about, you can start drafting your post.
Here, you should introduce your subject. What are you writing about? Is there anything important we should know? If this is a guest post (ie, you're writing for someone else's blog) you should also introduce yourself: Explain who you are - and why you are the right person to tell us about your subject.
Your introduction tells the reader what to expect in your post, and makes them a promise of what they'll discover by reading on.
This is where your story develops and you can tell your reader what you brought them here to learn about. This could be your opinion on a subject, a tutorial on a new skills, an account of an event, or anything else. Here is where you'll start a conversation with your reader - they are here to listen to what you have to tell them.
This story can take any form. If you're discussing events, consider structuring these in the order they happened, but don't be afraid to change this format if you find something that works better. For example, maybe you want to start with the end product of your story and work backwards, slowly revealing the layers of work that went into creating it. The middle of your post is where you have the chance to get your message across.
Think about what you want to leave the reader with. Do you want to inspire them to join your cause? Do you want them to come back and read more tomorrow, or try out the product you've just reviewed? You should always try to link back to your introduction here - you promised your reader something, so use this opportunity to show them that you've delivered - and round off your post with a Call to Action by telling them what you want them to do. This could be to sign up to your blog, comment below, share your post with friends, or join your next event.
Wordpress is free to use, but it also gives you the option to to pay to customise your website/ blog's URL. Once you've set up an account (all you need is an email address) at Wordpress.com - the site will guide you through setting up your first website, showing you how to choose and customise a template to make your site perfect before you write your first post.
Publishing a post
The site is simple to get to grips with - you can see the post page highlighted on the left of the image below. Once you have selected 'Add Post', you're good to go! You can add your title and main text, before adding any media and editing the publishing settings in the right-hand sidebar.
As well as using all of the same formatting as Microsoft Word (e.g. bold, underline, hyperlinks, etc.) you can add media such as images by uploading the files to your wordpress account. This means that once you've added an image to a post once, it remains available for any future webpages.
Visual media such as photos and video make a post much more engaging, breaking the text and information up for the reader. It’s important to choose good quality, relevant images for your post.
The biggest (and therefore, most effective) image for your blog post is your feature image. This is the image that will appear at the top of your post, and anywhere you share it – so pick carefully! This image should capture what your post is about, and intrigue the reader, inviting them to read your post and find out more.
Make sure to include a credit for all the images you use! Depending on where you got the image and whether you own it, this can be done differently. Often, a line beneath the photo or at the end of the post naming the owner of the photo is enough.
The Settings Sidebar
Once you've written your post and added your media, it's time to get to grips with the background settings. Below you'll find 3 images displaying the right-hand sidebar, and explanations for what everything does:
This is where you can see whether your post is live (published and available to readers) or not, and where you can revert it back to a draft post if accidentally published!
This allows you to publish a post immediately, schedule it to be published in the future, or even backdate it to look as though it was published in the past.
This can help you to plan your blog in advance and schedule your posts so that you don't have to wait by your computer to publish your next piece.
2. Categories and tags
At first glance, categories and tags seem to do the same thing - both list subjects relating to your blog post and and label them, letting you group posts together. However, categories tend to be groups of posts in your blog (e.g "recipes" or "book reviews"), while tags are more specific - for example the name of a writer you're reviewing.
3. Search Options
Your slug will be at the end of the URL for your blog post, indicated in bold here: www.pontoonproject.eu/skills-articles. This is usually linked to the title of your post, but if you find yourself writing a post with a long title it is worthwhile shortening it here.
This is also where you write an excerpt of your post to appear in search engines.
Once you've written and published your first blog post, it's important to get it in front of people who are interested! As well as inviting readers to subscribe to your blog, you can share it online! Make sure to use your social media – you can share impactful blog posts on your twitter, facebook, and even LinkedIn.
As well as sharing to your own timeline, make sure to share the post in relevant groups! Facebook and LinkedIn are particularly good for this – these groups gather people of similar interests into one place, and many of them would love to hear what you have to say.
You can shorten urls for sharing using tinyurl.com.