Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Blogging the easy way with

Do you want to get blogging but really can't be bothered to figure out how? Easy peasy. Just follow the instructions here. 

Spend a few minutes thinking about what you want your blog to do. If you want to achieve global domination and make a fortune then stop reading now and go elsewhere. If you're still here because you simply want to air your thoughts or share your adventures, carry on. The chances are that you don't care too much about armies of strangers finding your blog on Google. 

It’s also worth having a think about how much information you are willing to share with the world at large. For example I don’t put my address or my kids’ names in my blog though I have loads of photos of them. I’m fairly relaxed about security but I reckon that someone could probably piece together the entire story of my life but they’d have to be pretty desperate and anyone that desperate would ‘get’ me anyway.

Here’s how you set up a blog:
  • ·        Go to and sign in. It’s owned by google so you’ve probably already got an account.
  • ·        Find the button that says ‘new blog’ and click.
  • ·        Choose the name of your blog. The most obvious ones will be taken. It doesn’t really matter what you pick though open-ended and not smutty are preferable. Someone blogging at ‘single girl looks for love’ might not be happy with that when she’s a smug married in the Shires.
  • (Later, if you get keen, you can buy a URL and route your blog through it. There is much waffle about the name of a blog and while you might want to avoid anything utterly stupid, you can change later. Also, unless you’re really interested in becoming leading blogger per se (with lots of traffic from Google) it doesn’t matter a whit.)
  • ·        Choose a template. Simple will probably do you for now.
  • ·        You should get a button that says something like ‘your blog has been created, start posting’.
  • ·        If you want you can start and that’s it.
However, most people like a little personalisation.
  • ·         All the controls you need are down the left of this dashboard page.
  • ·         Go to template and have a look at the different styles of blog background/ layout. Hopefully you’ll find one you like. The less fussy the better. Avoid dark backgrounds/pale text.
  • ·         Layout is the next stop. This is how you can add things like lists of blogs you follow, counters of visitors, search boxes etc. None are necessary. (If you do want to do this, click on add a gadget, a box comes up with quite a good selection created by Once you’ve added it, you can shuffle the position around within layout.)
  • ·         It’s worth looking at the header bit where you can change the title and the sub heading of your blog. You can also put a picture under the text (or instead of the text). Just upload it from your computer.
  • ·         If you want to fiddle further (for example with font sizes and colours) return to template choose customise, then advanced.
  • ·         Cheerfully ignore earnings, google + and stats.
  • ·         Settings has one or two bits of note.
  • ·         Under comments you can control whether you need to moderate comments before they are published (or indeed if you allow comments at all). Personally I find authorising comments too much of a pain, so I just let them go live and have only occasionally had to delete ones later. Here word verification employs the dreaded captcha (the really irritating squiggles you must copy to be allowed to continue) or not. I’d say not.
  • ·         Mobile and email allows you to post from your email address and also sets up notification of new comments.
  • ·         Pages. This is where you can add information that will be permanently attached to the top of your blog. This is one of my pages: It’s up to you, but some people find it helpful to have some ‘about me’ information.
  • ·         Posts. This is the meat of the thing and very simple. Go to ‘create a new post’ or the little pen icon and get going.
  • ·         A heading is helpful. The tools you need for altering the way it looks or adding pictures, links or videos are all along the top.
  • ·         Blog settings run down the right. Mostly they aren’t important.

·         And that’s it…

Obviously there are fiddles and tweaks to last you a lifetime. But I'd say, don’t worry about anyone who says a blog must be or do this and that, it doesn’t generally.

Happy blogging. 

Sunday, 5 January 2014

Do as I say, not what I do.

The theory is very easy - set up a blog and write something relevant in it regularly. How hard can that be?

Well a glance into the archive of this blog will reveal that it really isn't very easy at all. In fact, it's quite hard.

You see, life gets in the way. You set up a blog to help promote your business, to get new work in. Then it works and your order books or diary fill up.

This is fantastic new, but it means that writing blog posts go to the very bottom of your to-do list again. Before long the tumbleweed is blowing through the pages of your blog.

So how can we keep the blogging momentum going after the initial enthusiasm wears off?

  • Make it a priority.
  • Put it on the to-do list - then highlight it.
  • Make a plan for content.
  • Set time aside regularly.
  • Allow shorter posts if necessary.

OK here goes....

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Blogging with passion to give you authority

Everyone knows that blogging, with relevant and timely posts, is good for your SEO. It drives traffic to your site. 

In something like the way you know eating green vegetables make you healthy - it's enough to do it and trust that it works, because it does. 

However, your blog is also an excellent way of demonstrating your expertise and specialist knowledge. 

If you create regular posts where you talk with authority then you'll start to become known as an authoritative voice on that subject. 

For example - and here I get to the point of the Starsky and Hutch photo - an interesting thing happened to me the other day. 

When I'm not writing for other people, I'm tapping away having fun and creating posts for my own family blog. A couple of months ago, I'd written a post about who I had my first crush - Starsky was one of them, if you must know. 

Then I forgot about it. Only a week or so ago I got an email from a producer of the Mark Forrest BBC radio show. They were talking about teenage infatuation with celebrities and would I mind talking about mine. I didn't mind and that evening Mark interviewed me live on his show. 

Of course, fond memories of an American cop show isn't going to earn me any additional business directly, however, several people said they'd heard the show and it prompted them to visit my blog and see what else I'd written. 

The point is if you use your blog to discuss the things you want to get know for being an expert on then, before long, people looking for that expertise will find you. 

All you need to do is talk about what you're passionate about (in a grammatically correct and well tagged post) and the readers will come. 

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Snappy advice about photos for your blog

create your own images using pic monkey
Blue sky thinking

Your blog will look better - more interesting and attractive if you add some images. Not only do they illustrate the point you're trying to make, but they break up blocks of text making them more tempting to a potential reader. 

But you can't just go taking pictures from anywhere you like willy-nilly. In general they belong to the person who took the photo - not the person featured - and you can't just help yourself. 

Publishing a picture credit or link back to the source isn't going to cut it. Instead, here are my suggestions for images you can use. 

Take your own. The easiest source of images is your own camera - the one on your phone is good enough. Just remember to wipe the lens clean of finger marks and hold it still enough to focus. 

Make your own. If your photos are a bit, well, meh you can try the various fancy (and free) editing features on PicMonkey to make it more interesting. You never know, you might even look like you planned it all along. 

Enhanced photo
I took this one of Mark from Black Cab Quotes and, hopefully, rescued it
from being me with a bit of editing
Create your own. You can also use PicMonkey to add words or to create collages. Try something different and start with a screen grab if you fancy. 

Beg and borrow. Just ask. Often the owner of a striking image on a blog or other website will be delighted to share it with you - just ask first. Manners and all that. Actually it's more than good manners, taking someone's image is theft.

Use creative commons. Search for images on Flickr, the huge image hosting website, that are under a creative commons licence. That means the owner is happy for people to use them. Just check the conditions of use and comply with them.

Other freebies. Sites such as Dreamstime, Morguefile, Stockvault and DeviantArt have photos you can download for free. Just read the small print first. 

If all else fails, pay a photographer. A radical idea here - but the best person to supply excellent photos of your business to illustrate your blog might well be a professional photographer. 

Improve the photo's value. Your blog photos can also form part of the mix that lets people find your blog posts in a search engine.

  • Give the image a relevant name, don't leave it with whatever name the camera created. 
  • Add a caption, description and alt-tag. 

These things will help signpost the way to your post, your blog and your business.

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

The blog posts that you don't need to write...

Blogging ideas in a nutshell 

You don't know it but you've already got dozens of post just about ready to go. They only need a minute or two's work. 

Yes, really.

For some folk the idea of a blogging seems like a massive chore - like clearing out the loft or doing the tax return. It really isn't, but sometimes it feels that way.

However you'll be delighted to know that the chances are you've got loads of posts sitting around your desk almost ready to go.

No, neither of us is losing the plot. It's just that anything you've written for your business is potentially the bones of a post needing the slightest tweak.

If you drafted a job advert, that would work. Start with the vacancy and talk about the amazing opportunity your organisation is offering. Outline the kind of team you're building and what the work is all about.

Did you send out any press releases this week? Then use the content on your own blog too. Clearly you thought you had a story to tell the world about. If that's the case tell your blog readers too. It helps to create a story of you and your brand too. 

Staff newsletter? The chances are that some of what you told your workers is of interest to your customers and potential customers too. Perhaps not the minutiae of the canteen opening hours, but that you have healthy food or how you encourage your staff to take their breaks. It all reveals a bit more about the kind of organisation you run. 

Have you written down your idea for something new. Maybe a recipe, a product or a service. Let the world know what you're thinking. The feedback might be useful. 

Something on social media. Was there a facebook update that got people talking? Or a tweet that stirred a response? These are the things you could put on your blog as you clearly pushed a few buttons. 

To-do list. Who cares what's on your to-do list? You'd be surprised. Let the public know the kind of things you do on a daily basis and you're giving them a peep inside your brand. 

Notes from a meeting. As long as you weren't sketching unflattering profiles of your colleagues, then spill the beans. What were your thoughts, what did you talk about? 

If you're stumped for ideas, take a look around inspiration might be closer than you think.

Monday, 22 July 2013

How to get over blogger's block...

writer's block by Marie Coleman via Flickr

I sat down to write a post for this blog, when it happened. 

The ideas that usually fill my head had vanished. Poof. Blogger's block had struck. 

So, obviously, I found inspiration and I'm going to write about how to cure yourself of the dreaded blank mind. 

And the first on the list is: 

Write about what's on your mind right now

Obviously you need to make sure you've got a personal filter installed and operating, but once you're sure you're not going to write about your crush on Alex in the office down the corridor, write from you current experience. You can be fairly sure that whatever you're going through someone else is too. 

Perhaps for your work blog you could write about something that's happening in your business at the moment. Electric fan shops selling out, nursery suppliers talking about the royal baby or rainwear manufacturers twiddling their thumbs.

Look at the calendar

What's coming up tomorrow, next week or even next month. What plans are you making? How are things progressing? 

It's often a good idea not to say everything about a forthcoming event - that means you can come back to the subject without repeating yourself. 

It's been emotional

Always the best posts are ones with some genuine feeling behind them. Passion, love - call it what you will, but it will seep through the words. 

So pause to consider what has fired up the strongest feeling and use that as the subject of your post. This might feel a bit weird if your business communications are normally dry and starchy, but that's the very thing about blogs - they have to be human. 

Look at the list

You remember way back when you were brimming with inspiration? Well the chances are you wrote a list of things to blog about. Go and find it. There will be something you've forgotten. Even, if you're still not exactly flowing with creative juices - get started, you might surprise yourself. 

Imitation is the most sincere form of flattery...

Maybe so. Have a look at your favourite blogs and the blogs other people in your industry. Is there an idea there you can 'borrow'? Don't lift things wholesale, but be inspired. If you refer to the post that gave the notion, the original blogger is more likely to be flattered than anything else. 

Call it aggregation or curation and dish up some of the best things you can find on a relevant topic. 

Pose a question

Is there something you're grappling with - a problem you can't quite solve? Then ask the readers of your blog. You might find yourself pleased to see answers flooding in. And if not, you'll at least have found something to post about until real inspiration arrives. 

Find a picture of a kitten

The fall-back of internet people all over the world when they can't think of anything else. Find the cutest image possible and let it do the talking. Awwww.

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Why a career in national newspapers is the ideal training for a blogger

I spent quite a lot of my working life on the production side of national newspapers - as a subeditor and night editor. 

That means I got paid to play with words. Retelling stories in the most easily digestible form, making them considerably shorter but still just as informative, and writing catchy headings. 

And yes it was often just as much fun as you imagine it might be. 

However, times change and late night production shifts weren't compatible with small children so I moved on... and into the world of blogging.

But the move wasn't that big a leap because the skills that make a good blogger are exactly the same as the ones that make a good tabloid sub.

An instinct for story telling. It's crucial to understand deep down what it is you're saying. What's the story or the post about or who did what to whom? Not just the topic headline but exactly the point you are making.

Can write for toffee. Or anything else. We're not aiming for the Booker Prize here, but it's quite important to be able to string a sentence together. And to spell, a bit. 

Can see things from the other side. Tabloid folk know how to get out from behind the paper and see what the reader sees. They - and bloggers - must understand how to provide the reader with what they want, how to answer their questions and entertain. 

The ability to grab attention. Can you write a headline that makes people itch to read on? If so, you're in. Blogs, like tabloids only have a titchy smidge of time to capture a reader before the move on to the next shiny thing.

Understanding images. A good picture will always beat words, however beautifully crafted. Deal with it. 

Happy to get down and dirty. Obviously one day I will be a revered author of great literary fiction, however, until then I'd rather have people read stuff I've written because it's funny, pithy and interesting. Who wants high-brow, when there's fun to be had? 

I can also work fast, punctuate properly and swear extravagantly. None of these are essential for blogging, but they can help. 

So if you want to find an exceptional blogger in the crowded marketplace of very good ones, look for one who is used to juggling words for a living.