Recently, I’ve gotten a few questions from people who are looking to get into blogging but don’t know where to start. It can be a bit intimidating and overwhelming. I recommend that they start off by guest blogging, if possible, so they can get their feet wet by just writing. After all, that’s what it’s all about, right? And while I can’t help you write, I can help you at least look like a pro – you’ll have to bring the brilliance. There are a few things you should do before submitting that first post though in order to make your life easier – as well as the lives of your readers. These are, in my opinion, basic staples that I’m surprised many people just don’t do. Read on, you’re probably missing at least one of these.
First things first
This is not a post to teach you how to set up a blog; this is about how to set up your appearance on a blog – and look like a pro doing it. Most blogs are not custom built – and although all of these would apply even if yours were – these tips apply particularly well for things like WordPress blogs which are the most popular blog platform on the web.
1. Fill out your user profile
Once some you have been asked to blog anywhere, the first thing that the site administrator will do is set you up a user account so they have someone to associate those posts with. Fill in as much info as you are comfortable with but there are a few items that are critical: email address, bio, and links to other places you live. You’ll notice that I have my business email, I list my Display Name as ‘Patrick Healy’ (not Pat, Patrick, or Patty Boy), and I have html in my ‘About Yourself’ along with links to other sites you can find me on. This also helps in terms of SEO and creating links back to my other sites through Google search but I digress.
2. Get a headshot
People want to put a face with the work. This should be a no brainer for most but you’d be surprised how many writers don’t have them up there. My opinion is that it should be professionally done – that’s just my preference. The image you use should be square in proportion and a good picture of yourself that you are happy to share. Don’t make it too big (50k in file size is plenty). You in your Halloween costume from last year or rocking the banana hammock while on vacation in the Riviera are not your best choices. It should look like what you’d put on your LinkedIn profile since you don’t know who will be reading your work and decide they want a gander of the author’s mug.
3. Set up a Gravatar
Once you have that headshot, you need to go to Gravatar (short for Global Avatar) and create an account. It takes five minutes and will follow you throughout your blogging life. Have you ever seen this image to the left in lieu of someone’s picture in a comment thread? These people did not set up a Gravatar. Many blogs will automatically check for a headshot by referencing the email address you list in your user profile on the site you are writing for. (see why it’s important to make sure you have an email address in your profile?) This is not just for authorship but also when you are commenting. I’ll get to that in a bit.
You can associate any number of email addresses with any number of pictures. So if you are blogging/commenting on a corporate level you can use an email address associated with your formal picture or go more casual if you are guest blogging/commenting on your favorite hobbyist site. Just keep them straight if you are going to use a less than professional photo.
4. Write a bio
When you read a good piece by an author, there should be a few sentences about them to give the reader an idea of who they are and what they do. This is also a great opportunity to make that reader fall in love with you a little more – maybe even enough to follow your writing regardless of where it appears. Of course you should have links to other places you write, your website(s), or any other place you would like to drive people to connect with you. The site you are writing for should be fine with this. It’s the least they can do for you in exchange for your work.
I would also recommend writing a full bio highlighting any major accomplishments, your ideology, and maybe a few personal nuggets about yourself that will help readers identify with you. This could be about 500 words. A bio like this would go on an author page not at the end of each post.
5. Collect your social links
You are probably on at least a few networks where you would like to encourage folks to connect with you like Facebook, Twitter, Google+, or LinkedIn. Get a list of all of these links and determine which ones are appropriate to share with the audience of the site you are writing for. Some sites, such as this one may have places in the user profile to put these links so that they show up at the end of each of your posts. This gives readers a quick and easy way of connecting with you once they have read your latest slice of brilliance. Who knows, your fans may become friends, which would be cool.
6. Sign up for commenting services
This isn’t really critical but it will make your life a bit easier when you need it so you can probably do it as the need arises. There are third party services that will actually manage the comments sections of a blog. Popular ones include Disqus, LIvefyre, IntenseDebate, and there is even a rumor that Google will be getting in on this. These systems make it easier to comment and share those comments across several social networks. You will need to be signed in to them to take advantage of all of their features, hence why I am including this. It will also enable you to better connect with others that frequent the site and maybe even join conversations on other sites. Part of the reason for this is because you can link your social networks to them and sign in with any account you like. A few clicks and you are commenting without having to remember any additional passwords.
7. Subscribe to your post
This is one of the most important ones. If you write something that is good enough for people to comment on then you should at least be informed when they do to continue the conversation. Some blogs will notify the author when a comment is made on their work. Some require you to opt in. Some commenting systems (another reason to like them) will inform you on behalf of the site. Still some will do none of this unless you have actually commented on the post so you may have to do something like leave a short initial comment or just keep checking back until someone finds what you said interesting enough to comment on and then respond. You want readers to know you are listening and responsive. If they have questions or want to know if they can get a meeting with you, you’ll want to be listening.
When you have all of this done, the information can be pulled together pretty easily and displayed in a nice, neat author box where anyone can connect with you in just about any way they like:
If I were to update any of the information or images those changes would automatically update here in this box. No muss, no fuss.
What this means to your business
Whether you are guest blogger or writing on your own site(s), you will want to look your best at all times. You are also, hopefully, writing for a reason. When you blog for business you are (or should be) showcasing your brainpower. Your brilliance will come through in your writing and when it does you should make it as easy as possible for someone to pull the trigger and reach out to you. Doing the above things will make you look more professional and serious about you business. You’ll also make their lives easier to do business with you by being more accessible and that’s what it’s all about at the end of the day.
By this point you probably noticed that there are not actually ten tips. That’s because I am leaving the last three slots for you, the readers, to decide. Add your favorite below in the comments and I will pick the three best to round out the top 10. What do you do as an author to get better noticed and help your readers to contact you?