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Please do not copy any part of this book without written permission from the author. You may quote brief passages with attribution.
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2. Ideas for Blog Topics
3. Ideas for Setting Up Your Blog
4. Ideas for Running Your Blog
5. Ideas for Blog Posts
6. Ideas for Getting Traffic
7. Ideas for Monetizing
8. Ideas for Coming Up with Ideas
Did You Enjoy Blog Ideas?
More on Blogging
About the Author
Also by Steve Shockley
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I had a blog in 1997. It wasn’t WordPress because this was years before that was even an idea. It was on a platform called GeoCities. GeoCities was a free website hosting service. Back then, people didn’t have blogs. They had personal homepages.
I was a freshman in college with an undeclared major. I didn’t know what to do with my life yet. My high school teachers thought I should go into art because drawing and creativity seemed to be my best talents. My parents would never have supported that, so I had to decide between computer science and chemical engineering. Both those majors would have appeased my parents, though they hoped I’d choose an engineering major. They preferred that I didn’t become a computer nerd, but that’s what I was. I opted to study computers because I had such varied interests. You can combine any field with computers. Art on computers. History on computers. Sports on computers. I can’t say the same about chemical engineering. How do you do art with chemical engineering?
It was this spirit of combining two unrelated fields to make something new that sparked my creativity. No idea is original. They all build upon a base of past ideas just as you would build a pyramid out of blocks. A new idea cannot exist without the foundation of many old ideas beneath it. I looked to computers to build the base of my idea pyramid.
I discovered that computers would let me take part in any field. I could use my knowledge of computing to practice art. Or learn about ancient history. Or write. I could build anything I wanted upon this base. It was the foundation upon which I could test any idea.
Soon after everyone started getting on the internet, I discovered blogging. It wasn’t called blogging at the time, but I found that I could express any idea to the world by updating a personal homepage every day. I could write anything and share it with a world of strangers. And the things I wrote on my homepage might help some of those strangers. That was a good feeling.
Over the years, GeoCities and personal homepages went out of fashion. I had started experimenting with some of the newer content management software. My blog went through drastic changes between platforms like PostNuke, Gallery, and b2/cafelog. I even created a custom blogging platform while in graduate school. It ran my blog for a couple of years until I discovered WordPress.
WordPress made me abandon development of my custom blogging platform. It had it all, and I couldn’t compete. It's like WordPress gave me a blank canvas on which I could create anything I wanted. All I had to do was imagine what my website would be, then make it happen on WordPress. I would choose colors and how to lay things out. Then I would apply the brush strokes. These were the settings, themes, and plugins. I would paint until my vision became a reality. If the look that I envisioned for my site didn't exist, I could just create a new theme from scratch. If I had a great idea that nobody else had, I could write a plugin to make it happen in WordPress.
With blogging, we’ve combined ideas of computing with ideas of writing. We’ve laid a foundation of computing down with a layer of writing on top of it to make the solid base we call blogging. This book will show you some of the idea blocks you can use to build your blog.
Misadventures in blogging
My early attempts at blogging were like throwing darts in the dark. I would post anything that was interesting or amusing. My blogs had no direction. There was no target. I would do a complete revamp of my website every few months. New software, new style, and new content.
None of those blogs had any readers besides a few close friends. In hindsight, I realize my early blogs failed because they didn't have any focus. There was no reason for someone to visit my blogs. They were personal homepages filled with random thoughts and rants.
As with many amateur bloggers, I blogged whenever I felt like it. Sometimes I would post an article every day. Other times I would stop posting for months.
I once had a baseball card blog that gained a small following of daily readers. It wasn't a lot of traffic, but it was enough to pay the hosting bills with Google AdSense advertising. I scheduled a post every day for about two years. Then, when things got more hectic at my day job, I stopped posting for a couple of months.
When things got less busy at work, I came back to my blog. It was a ghost town. The readership disappeared. Internet silence greeted my new posts. I was writing to no one.
I made many mistakes like these over my years of blogging. Most of the time, I was just grateful that I stayed at my day job. Blogging is a constant struggle for traffic. Traffic comes from great content. Great content comes from ideas.
What's in this book
This book won’t tell you what a blog is. It won’t give you instructions for installing WordPress. It will not lecture you on how to create a proper blog. The purpose of this book is to give you ideas.
I'm sure you already have a blog or are thinking of making one. Whether you’re a beginner or veteran blogger doesn’t matter. There are ideas here that anyone can try. Some of the ideas are current best practices. Other ideas sound interesting in theory. And others are just plain crazy. You should have fun blogging. Otherwise, it's too easy to quit.
WordPress is the standard for blog platforms. About 60% of websites that use a content management platform use WordPress. While this book assumes most readers use WordPress for their blogs, you will still find this book helpful if you use something else. You can apply most of the ideas to any platform, whether it's Typepad, Tumblr, or even Facebook.
Everyone has creativity. It doesn’t matter if you have a down-to-earth, logical mind. Anyone with a brain can be creative. This book has dozens of ideas to get you thinking. And once you get thinking, the creativity will flow.
Many blogs fail because the blogger stopped coming up with new ideas. This book will give you ideas and solve your writer’s block once and for all. In this book, you will get ideas for blog topics. You will get ideas for how to set up and run your blog. You will find ideas and prompts for blog posts. There are chapters for getting traffic, engaging readers, and making money. And the last chapter will teach you how to find even more ideas.
Read through the ideas. Then, in the words of Bruce Lee, “absorb what is useful, discard what is not, add what is uniquely your own.” I hope this book will at least add some color to the gray matter in your head.
How to use this book
This book is a reference guide. Open it whenever you find your blog spinning its wheels in the sand. Flip through its pages whenever you come down with a bad case of writer’s block. Go to the chapter with the ideas you need and look through a few of them. That will be enough to jog your brain.
You can read this book cover to cover. You can also flip to the relevant section and cherry-pick which ideas you like. You can use it like a book, or a catalog, or a reference guide. The chapters are in the order you will need them.
Check out the Ideas for Blog Topics section before you start a blog. It will give you ideas for blogs and websites you can create. It is projects you might want to start for yourself. It will take you through ideas for several types of blogs you can start. Then, once you have an idea, it will give you ideas for finding hosting and getting a great domain name.
After you have a topic and domain name, Ideas for Setting Up Your Blog will give you ideas for setting things up. It will provide lists of useful plugins to consider installing. It will suggest functions you might want to include in your blog. And it will give you some tips on how to design your blog so visitors will like what they see.
Ideas for Running Your Blog will give some pointers on how you can build useful blogger habits. You will learn how to develop a productive writing discipline. Then it will show you some tools bloggers use to work better. Finally, it will give some tips for running a professional blogging business.
Once you’re ready to start writing blog posts, you will need to come up with topics to write about. Ideas for Blog Posts will show you different types of blog posts you can write. It will give you ideas for what you can write about, no matter what niche you’re in. You will find dozens of prompts to kickstart your creativity.
After you’ve written about 10-20 posts, you should pay some attention to finding readers. It isn’t motivating to keep writing to a nonexistent audience. Ideas for Getting Traffic will help you bring readers to your blog. It will also cover some tips to optimize your blog for search engines. Then it will go over how you can use social media to engage readers and drive some traffic to your blog.
If your blog gets enough traffic, you can make money from your hard work. Ideas for Monetizing will show you some techniques that professional bloggers use to make money. It will provide an overview of advertising and sponsorship sources. It will also go into affiliate marketing. And it will give some ideas for selling products and services through your blog.
This book has a limited number of ideas. But if you master your thinking skills, your well of ideas will never run dry. Ideas for Coming Up with Ideas can help you sharpen your thinking to come up with ideas on a consistent basis. It will also give some ideas for sources of inspiration. Then it will teach you some useful brainstorming techniques.
A hook is the broad idea of your blog. It is like an elevator pitch. It is what you tell someone when they ask, "So, what's your blog about?"
One blog I built finally gained a fair number of readers. It was because it had an interesting hook: baseball card collecting. The hook was, "I have hundreds of unopened baseball card packs from the past 25 years. I'll open one pack a day." The audience was tiny, but for the first time, I had regular readers. Finding your blog's hook might be the most important decision you make.
Other important decisions include where you host your blog and the web address you choose for it. The host you choose affects your site's reliability, speed, and features. The web address is often readers' first impression of your site.
This chapter will provide ideas for choosing a hook for your blog. Then it will show you some hosting options to consider. Finally, it will give you some techniques for finding a proper web address.
Finding your hook
There are an infinite number of ideas out there. You must pick one and run with it. This section will help you pick an idea for your blog's hook.
For your blog to be successful, it should stand out somehow from the 300 million blogs that are already online. Don’t copy or regurgitate. Give to the internet something that is unique to you. The only way to gain readers is to offer something that is not available anywhere else on the internet. Writing a blog is only worth your time if you have readers.
Before you do anything, you need a reason to do it. It's not enough to start a blog to make money. Making money is not a reason—it is a result. It’s like saying, “I want to be a famous author.” But that ignores the fact that you must be an unknown writer before you can be a famous one. So, cross “making money” off your list of reasons for starting a blog. You need to think deeper.
Think about your blog's topic. What kinds of people do you want to read your blog? What do you want to tell the world? What makes you want to wake up in the morning? It goes against intuition, but the narrower your idea is, the easier it will be to gain an audience. The journalist Herbert Bayard Swope once said, “I can't give you a sure-fire formula for success, but I can give you a formula for failure: try to please everybody all the time.” If you fall into the trap of writing for everyone, no one will read your blog.
A niche is a specialized area of a broader topic. It is a subtopic that not everyone is interested in, but the audience can still be quite large. An example of a niche is “men who wear ties.” Not many women, children, or casually dressed men will visit your blog. You might think you wouldn’t get much traffic after alienating so many people, but the millions of people who still fit into the niche will be much more enthusiastic about finding the blog. And millions of people is not a tiny audience.
People find blogs by searching for specific keywords. If someone wants general information, they will go to one of the well-known big sites. It is when someone is looking for specific, niche information that they go to a search engine. Once on a search engine, they might find your blog even though they’ve never heard of it. Narrow down your blog topic as much as possible, and find your niche. A great hook always rests within a compelling niche.
You're good at something. Perhaps you have the sweetest basketball layup anyone in your neighborhood has ever seen. Maybe you follow political news and have controversial views for the next election. Or perhaps you have a knack for finding the best deals in town. Everybody is awesome at something, but not everybody knows it.