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Guest Post from Nicole at MamaNYC

I have been doing some heavy duty blog maintenance on MamaNYC over the past few days. Actually, I am constantly working on improving my blog and the user experience. I work on new ways to interact with my readers, provide relevant and informative content, and reach new readers that may enjoy my blog. Therefore, I have been hanging my head as I read over my blog posts that were published very early on. What was I thinking? Did I seriously write my posts like this? I realized that there were a lot of questions I had and did not look into finding the answers.

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I jumped into blogging without a fair amount of knowledge or understanding of what was about to happen. I knew what a blog was, but I didn’t have all of the puzzle pieces put together. I had recently quit my full-time job as a workaholic Internet marketing executive at a local e-commerce business. I actually stumbled into the idea of starting a blog after looking for some free magazine subscriptions that I could read while my son napped. I was bored and needed something to fill my time. Sure enough, I got what I asked for and my schedule is jam packed between blogging and motherhood.

We all have our different reasons for wanting to start a blog. I was bored, but maybe you just want to share couponing tips, recipes, or writing tips? Although our reasons may not be the same, I have put together a checklist for new bloggers to decide how they are going to start off. I would have never considered these questions and create a plan, but I was a mess and jumped into blogging very fast!

[1] Who will be your audience and what will you tell them?

Finding your niche can be difficult, but it is a fundamental step to kick-starting your blog. Will you feature recipes and cooking, family life, fashion only, or cosmetics? Think of this step in relation to creating a business or marketing plan. What type of content will you provide readers with on a daily basis? Try to answer these questions first, because this will become a platform as you start to establish your blog.

Of course you can make a change in the future, but drastic changes should be avoided. If your blog name includes “couponing” and you switch to recipes and cooking in 6-months, I would suggest starting a new blog altogether.

[2] What will you name your blog and how will it help you build up your brand?

You may think it will happen, but you may fall in love with blogging and want to do things like copyright your name, develop a team of writers, and become a blogging household name. Do some online research for tips on creating a blog name that will work for your goals and blogging plans. Your name won’t be easy to change once you have a large following, so it is important that you stick with the same name from the beginning.

Make sure your blog name is somewhere between general and specific. Do not narrow it down to something like “My Life in 2012”.  What if the year changes in December? Avoid a title that describes a specific time or place in your life.

This may seem to contradict my previous statement, but also select words that can define your niche. This can help your SEO, or search engine optimization. If you can fit a keyword into your title that describes your niche – run with it! “I Love Couponing” would be a great hit for your frugal living and coupons blog. MamaNYC works very well for me since I am a mom blogging about parenting, motherhood, family friendly products, and I also live in New York! I receive some great event invites for local activities, movie premieres, and more! Fit in a major city if you are interested in developing a local following and attending events in your area.

[3] How will you keep readers interested? Use visuals!

If you want readers to stay interested in your blog, I would encourage some sort of visual inside of every post. Your theme should have some photography or clipart in the header and neatly scattered throughout sidebars, but do not forget to put some in your posts. I enjoy reading posts with visuals much more than a long and boring text-only post. Even if you are only including silly clipart, I can guarantee your readers will appreciate it much more.

[4] Are you writing a blog post or finishing your thesis?

This might not be relevant to those that are indeed interested in putting together a blog for Graduate students, but try to remember you are not writing a thesis! Blog posts should be written at a 7th grade level or lower. You can check the grade level of your writing using an online document readability test according the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level system.

[5] How will readers get in touch with you? 

Too many bloggers either forget to display a form of contact or hide their email address deep within their blog. Ensure your contact information is easy to find so that potential brands or advertisers can reach you without difficulty. You should create an email address separate from your personal account. You can use a free email account and try to incorporate your blog name into the username.

Ask your web host if your hosting package includes free email accounts. Using your URL’s email address will help build your brand up and allow brands to identify who you are. Also include a professional signature for all outgoing emails that includes other places that you represent your blog on the Internet. Recipients can look at your other networks, such as Facebook and Twitter, and see how impressive you truly are!

[6] How will you monitor your comments?

Believe it or not, but there are a lot of SPAM comments received by bloggers every day. If I had a penny for every SPAM comment that I received every day, I would be on vacation in Tahiti right now – for a month! It may take an additional 15-minutes each day, but you should elect to “APPROVE ALL COMMENTS so that you can monitor what is posted on your blog.

Beyond the SPAM comments, I would also suggest moderating so that you can avoid any angry readers that are in disagreement with your posts. Everyone is entitled to your opinion, but do you want someone with an angry temper giving you a piece of their mind? Everyone will see the comments, so it is best to manually approve so that you can maintain a certain level of professionalism.

[7] When will you stop educating yourself about blogging?

Never! Learning new tips, techniques, and blogger knowledge has been an ongoing daily process. I will never stop looking into the best techniques for marketing, writing, or networking my blog. The Internet is changing every second at a very fast rate. Keep up with the changes and always remember that there is more to learn.

Sign up for a daily or weekly blogging newsletter so that you can keep discovering new ways to run your blog. Search engines are filled with blogger tutorials and information on how to do just about everything from Tweeting your blog posts or how to use StumbleUpon for your blog.

I love blogging and I am forever grateful for that one day I was bored and need a magazine subscription to keep me busy. Who knew I would be here nearly 2-years later talking about how bored I was? Blogging can be a hobby or a full-time career. It is up to you to decide how serious you will take it, or how far you want it to go.

Do not expect to get rich quick! This is NOT a scheme as advertised on your local news stations (Seriously? They were serious about that?). If you start off expecting to get rich quick, you will likely end off in the same place you were in a few weeks. Expect nothing and work hard to show your talents. Develop a strong readership, publish relevant content, and have fun!