There are so many articles out there about blogging, repeating much of the same mantras and basic content strategy. While that’s great for new bloggers (and reminders for the rest), I feel more emphasis should be placed on brand unification and the value of permanence. The following tools and strategies are important for any blogger, and while they’re not new to some, others may be missing out.
Own Your Domain
Domain strategy is among the basic necessities of any online entity, but especially for a blogger. While “yourname.tumblr.com” can be fine for an Instagram feed or for “fun stuff,” your primary blog should have its own domain and be self-hosted. Don’t rely on third-party platforms for your main site and domain. They’re hot now, but may be gone in future, and you’re subjected to their updates/changes, downtime, errors, and domains you don’t own. While you can purchase a domain and point it to a Tumblr site, your content remains out of your control. Third-party blogging platforms and social networks can be valuable, and I use them, but they’re not the place for your main presence. Purchase your domain through a certified registrar, and buy any likely misspellings (“tkographix.com” vs. “tkographics.com”) and applicable tld’s (Top Level Domains). Unless you’re a non-profit organization (.org) or government entity (.gov), the .com tld is typically top prize, but purchasing other tld’s (.net, .me) secures your marketing, while compensating for user error. You can 301 redirect all domains to your main domain (“yourdomain.com”). A couple of my recommended registrars, who also provide hosting: name.com, Namecheap.
Host Your Blog and Get WordPress’d
After purchasing your domain, setup a self-hosted WordPress account with a good provider like Hostgator, bluehost, or DreamHost; they provide an easy, inexpensive, automated setup. Whether you’re a developer or a newbie, WordPress allows for ease of use and flexibility. It’s important to know the difference between the self-hosted WordPress.org and the free WordPress.com platform. The self-hosted platform is YOURS with lots of customization, whereas the free “.com” platform is hosted elsewhere and is more limited. The self-hosted version is a little more to figure out, depending on your goals and knowledge, but plenty of help is available. There are many popular frameworks, WP communities, and forums—and it’s highly worth it. Non-developers typically choose a quality theme that fits their needs, while developers often develop from scratch, or modify existing themes by creating child themes.
Establish Your Google Plus Profile and Work It
More and more, Google Plus is becoming a central source for your info, tying everything back to you. Yes, Google Plus is great for SEO, but it’s not simply a repository to dump our posts. Like any social network, we need to be active and engaging, and with AuthorRank becoming a BIG part of SEO strategy, it’s especially important to have a properly completed “About” section. Pay extra attention to the “Contributors” section, and list blogs you guest with or contribute to.
While you’ll create a Gmail account for Google Plus (I recommend “firstname.lastname@example.org” or “email@example.com”), you should use an official email associated with your new domain, like “firstname.lastname@example.org,” for everything, including AuthorRank. It’s more professional, it ties back to your main site, and it unifies your brand. Just make sure you register it with Google’s Authorship tool for verification after signing in to your new Google Plus account. Andy Crestodina’s overview of AuthorRank is pretty helpful, and The Orbiter has a nice piece on Google Plus setup.
Let Me See Your Gravatar
Essential to your online presence, your avatar needs to be consistent, of good quality, and representative of you. So how do you keep track of uploading to all your social networks? Most blogs and social communities automatically pull from Gravatar, or provide the option. With Gravatar (Globally Recognized Avatar), your image goes wherever you go, making your online identity more consistent and care-free. Simply create an account, provide the same email you use for Google AuthorRank and all other networks, then upload and associate your properly sized avatar with that email address. Make it the same avatar you use for everything else, and you’re good to go. Whenever you enter your email address to comment on most blogs, your Gravatar will show up.
The blogging community is constantly flourishing with innovation, so it’s imperative to stay on top of the curve, always learning and growing. Great content, high quality typography and writing, and targeted marketing brings in readers, but a cohesive, visible brand (that’s you), ties it all together nicely.