Just like every other year, this New Year’s Eve is a time for reflection and an opportunity to make a few new resolutions for ourselves.
These are often filled with good intentions aimed at making us better people, but sadly the vast majority of us never keep to them beyond the end of January.
However, instead of sticking to the tried and tested resolutions such as vowing to start exercising, being more helpful around the house, or learning a musical instrument, why not expand your horizons with the help of all the technology that surrounds you?
WordPress and Blogger
If you have something to say, why not say it to the world? It’s incredibly easy to create a blog these days and many companies offer free services to help remove all the headaches of maintaining a website, complete with allowing comments (or not). You don’t even need to purchase a domain name if you don’t want to, although having a distinctive address could make it easier to find, especially when you start attracting a large audience.
Before we get ahead of ourselves, which service should you use? The best known options are WordPress (www.wordpress.com) and Blogger (www.blogger.com). Each one has a large number of templates that you can customise to your heart’s content to make your pages truly unique. Select a theme and start telling the world what you’re thinking.
How not to be boring
Most importantly, you must create original, entertaining or thought-provoking work. Don’t state the obvious or repeat what others have already said. Find your own voice and be consistent. You need to work at it regularly, but you don’t have to give up the day job. John Gruber’s Daring Fireball (www.daringfireball.net) was a side project until it became big enough, and now it’s his primary source of income. He’s built up his reputation to the point that he is now a valuable and reliable source of information. It doesn’t happen overnight though, so don’t despair if at first no one reads your words. Keep going and your audience will find you.
Search engine optimisation
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) services are designed to ensure that your website or blog is near the top, if not at the very top, of any relevant web searches. These can, however, be quite expensive to use, so you’ll be pleased to hear that you can do a lot of the work yourself, and best of all it won’t cost a penny.
Google, Yahoo and Bing, the three most popular web search engines, scour the web to index new content, but it can take some time before they get to you. Thankfully, you can inform them of your new pages manually. Go to www.google.com/submityourcontent, search.yahoo.com/info/submit.html or ssl.bing.com/webmaster/SubmitSitePage.aspx and enter the details yourself.
Next, make sure your pages are properly tagged with relevant keywords to your pages’ content. You can do this from WordPress or Blogger thanks to the appropriate Tag fields.
Once you’ve started your life online, you need to make sure people know you’re even there. The best way to achieve this is with the help of social media, specifically Twitter and Facebook.
You can choose to use your own personal feeds if you have them, or create some specifically for your blog. All you need is an email address to register and you’re good to go. Don’t just start a Facebook group and leave it dormant as that’s worse than not having one in the first place.
Keeping the social networks fed with interesting information that will always link back to your blog is going to keep you busy, but if you’re consistent, interesting and have a unique voice, you will attract an audience and rise above the chatter.
Making money from your blogging endeavours is an incredibly hard thing to do. You could start with plastering your site with ads like those supplied by Google AdSense, a service that customises the ads your viewers will see, based on the page’s content (www.google.co.uk/adsense). But you’ll need a lot of viewers clicking on a lot of these ads to make this venture worthwhile.
A more lucrative option, once you’ve got a steady stream of readers, is to advertise your site to developers and producers as a viable place for them to grab customers, and pay you for the privilege.