I thought I would offer tips on how to start a blog if you are a Baby Boomer entrepreneur, because blogs, in some form or another, are how people are getting the majority of their information these days. I thoroughly enjoy being a blogger and have been doing it since 2008. I learned how to blog on my own and started a business in 2010 helping others set up simple and affordable WordPress sites. I also offer one-on-one WordPress tutoring and blogging help. You can find out more about what I do here.
With that said, I’ve been in the process of transitioning out of that business to full-time blogging because I find myself sitting in front of the computer too much. Sitting for long periods is hazardous to your health especially if you’re over 50. You have to balance it out. I enjoy traveling, going to events, and other activities that give me fodder to write about my experiences. I’ve found through blogging that it has not only improved my writing but has connected me to amazing people, brands, and experiences I would have never been privy to.
helping other people with their sites has been interesting as well, and working online is the kind of job you can do from anywhere in the world as long as there is some Internet. At first, I was surprised at how easy it was to find clients. Many found me online and I never had to leave the house to network. (although I love doing that too) If you’re looking for a post-retirement income opportunity, website design, social media management, or virtual assistant work is not a bad way to go. I grew up with a typewriter and wasn’t born reading code but have learned to follow instructions and work with it when I need to.
So here goes. These tips can help you even if you’re tech-challenged
Use WordPress as your blogging platform
If you’re serious and want to start a blog on the right foot then make sure you have a self-hosted WordPress site. WordPress is the premier blogging platform. Be aware that there are two types of WordPress software. WordPress.com is free and is hosted by WordPress. However, it has restrictions for posting ads and affiliate links and has limited functionality. If you don’t purchase a custom website address, (domain) you’ll find yourself with a long website address like www.myboomerblog.wordpress.com. The same thing will happen if you use Blogger, (Blogspot) which is hosted by Google.
Those sites are fine if you’re only blogging as a hobby but if you’re a Baby Boomer entrepreneur, you should install your website on a more professional platform.
If you’re in business you should own your content
To do this, the first thing you need to purchase is a hosting account. I recommend Bluehost and I’ll be upfront and tell you I have an affiliate relationship with them. If you use this link, I will receive a small amount of compensation if you purchase an account. Affiliate income is one way bloggers can earn passive income. When you sign up with Bluehost you get one free domain and WordPress will be automatically be installed on that domain when you complete your purchase.
I have a page on this site that will walk you through how to set up your Bluehost account so you can start your blog right away. Click here to access it.
Another reason I recommend Bluehost is that they are good about keeping their servers up to date on the backend. I’ve had clients who have hosting accounts at other companies that had to upgrade their site to a new server because their’s was too old and not up to speed for new technologies. Bluehost customer service has always been excellent for me especially when I call them directly. They’ve always helped me fix issues I’ve had with my sites over the years.
Find the best WordPress theme for your business
Once WordPress is installed, you can start blogging right away but you’ll probably want to choose a theme that fits your needs. There are thousands of them to choose from. A WordPress installation uploads with the current default theme. It’s okay but isn’t usually very exciting. You can either choose a free theme directly from WordPress.org and other online sites or purchase a premium theme. I prefer premium themes because most of them offer support. My favorite theme company is StudioPress and I use their themes on almost all my sites. They are well coded, are constantly updated, and offer excellent support. The theme I’m using on this site is called Magazine Pro by StudioPress. I’ve had it for quite a while because I love it so much!
At this point, you may need some help setting up your theme and adding all the doodads you need for your business.
I offer WordPress tutoring by the hour. To learn more about my tutoring services click here.
Ask yourself why do you want to start a blog?
I’ve set up some WordPress sites for clients who had no interest in blogging. Not everyone has the desire or need to blog. even though it’s one of the best ways to get traffic to your website. You can use a WordPress site simply to advertise an existing business or project or use it as an online business card. WordPress works just as well as an attractive and functional website as it does as a blogging platform.
However, if you want to express yourself and write about your interests, you may be a perfect candidate to start a blog. Some people use a blog to organize their ideas and eventually write a book. Others start a blog as a way to generate additional income, which can come in handy if you’re a Baby Boomer moving into retirement. I love expressing my ideas, connecting with interesting people who have found me online, and I earn an income doing it. The beauty is, you can do all that and more with a blog.
Blogging tips for those who already have a blog
Visitors will arrive on your site organically from Google search if you’ve formatted your posts and pages properly by inserting targeted keywords. For the best organic (not paid) SEO results, make sure your SEO (search engine optimization) is optimized. I use the Yoast SEO plugin to help me with that.
However, that isn’t enough. If you write a blog post and want other people to read and share what you’ve written, make sure you have social media accounts set up so you can share your posts on them. WordPress.org has an array of free plugins that make it easy for you to install share buttons. I use the Social Pug plugin on this site because it’s light and efficient. Where most bloggers go wrong is how their social sharing buttons are configured.
Your share buttons should be large enough to be visible. Some are so teensy they get missed. If your demographic is midlife and beyond, remember we don’t see all that well without our reading glasses. The same goes for your content’s font size. If the text on your blog is hard to read because the font is too small, visitors will click off your site. I recommend using a font size of 16px or larger depending on which font your WordPress site is styled with. To change your theme’s font, you can use a WordPress plugin like Easy Google Fonts. And, don’t worry, there are videos on YouTube that will help you configure just about any WordPress plugin. Just type in the name of the plugin in the search bar and find the most current video.
Share button configuration
This is one of my pet peeves. When I read a blog post and leave a comment, I also like to share it on Twitter. What often comes up when I click a share button to tweet looks like this.
“Blog post title – or no title – Website URL – via @shareaholic” Unless your twitter handle is Shareaholic, you won’t ever know that someone shared your post.
Tip – If you have a blog, click on your Twitter share button to see how your Twitter button has been configured.
I always try to be nice and will usually edit the tweet so people know what it’s about and who posted it but most people won’t do this. They’ll either tweet the post as is or not bother at all. It’s annoying to have to search for the blogger’s Twitter handle. Some don’t even have a Twitter account. It also helps to have links to your social media accounts visible on all your pages so that others can follow you if they want to.
All it takes to fix your share buttons is to go to the plugin’s settings and fill in a few blanks.
Build your traffic using social media
If you’re a blogger, sign up for social media accounts on Twitter and Facebook at the very least. Linkedin is important if you’re a professional. Instagram doesn’t let you link to your posts directly but is an excellent way to promote your business if you take the time to post striking images and use hashtags. My best traffic comes from Pinterest because I upload a lot of images.
You don’t have to join every social media network there is. Only focus on the ones your audience hangs out on otherwise you’ll waste time playing around when you could be writing useful blog posts or guest posting on other sites.
When you set up new social media handles use either your brand name or your real name if they’re available. You may want an account for both so that no one takes it. There’s someone out there hanging onto the Twitter handle @babyboomster and their profile picture is the Twitter egg. She never tweets but won’t give up the handle even though I’ve offered her money to close her account. I’m not sure why she’s so stubborn about it because I own all the domains for BabyBoomster. For now, I have to use @baby_boomster.
Social media helps increase your traffic and Google will reward you for social media engagement. However, if you never use your accounts or seldom interact, it’s a waste of time. You would be better off focusing on optimizing your posts and pages for SEO. That way your content will be found organically without having to deal with social media accounts.
You can also boost your traffic using Facebook, Google, and other paid ads if you can afford it. Just remember, the more you blog the more opportunities Google has of finding your pages on the Internet without spending extra money for ads.
Optimizing your content
If you’re using the Yoast SEO plugin on your WordPress site it will help you optimize your posts and pages for Google search. Your Google listing for each post and page can be tweaked to stand out when someone enters a search term in their browser.
For instance, when I put in the term “Best Clothes for Women over 50” this is what my Google listing looks like. It’s the most popular page on my website.
As you can see my listing is a mini ad for that page. Rather than have Google take an excerpt from my first paragraph, which could be gobbledegook, it grabs the title and description I have entered in my Yoast plugin snippet for that page. Google sometimes changes how much of the title and description it will show. You can see in the screenshot that my title cuts off a little, but Yoast gives you the parameters that usually work best for SEO.
Try to use compelling titles – you get up to about 70 characters – Your title should include the main keyword you’re focusing on for that page and the same keyword should also appear in the description. Imagine what a title like “Oh my Gosh!” would look like in Google search. No one would know what your post is about and they’d have no compelling reason to click on it.
Scheduling social media shares
I use Hootsuite’s paid version to share my posts because I have multiple accounts but they also have a free version. It’s super affordable and easy to use. I pay slightly less than $6 per month. It has a built-in scheduler that will post at optimal times rather than in real-time so I don’t have to be available when a post goes out. I use it mainly for my three Twitter accounts and to post Instagram photos. Because I’m over 60, I find it’s easier for me to write an Instagram post on my computer than try to squint and do it on my little smartphone. I can also upload a photo from my computer to Hootsuite that’s been edited on my computer. However, I don’t use Hootsuite for Facebook, even though you can.
Posting on Facebook – Auto-posting using 3rd-party software often doesn’t work well on Facebook. You’ll get better results and more views if you post on Facebook directly or use their native scheduler. Also, if a tragedy happens you won’t look like a jerk if you auto-post something goofy or blast an ad to sell a product, while everyone is grieving. This happens a lot and is so obvious.
Please make it EASY for people to comment on your blog. Commenting shows Google that your readers are engaged with what you write. What I hate is when I have to log in to comment, try to decipher captcha codes, click on where a bus is in a photo, or jump through other hoops before my comment gets published. It’s especially hard to comment using my phone. It’s also frustrating if I have to wait until my comment is approved before it shows up. All of these things turn-off commenters.
I have my comments set to automatically post. If I get a spam comment or something inappropriate, I will delete it later. To avoid spam comments, I use the plugin Akismet so that my site doesn’t get hacked. Akismet is installed with WordPress but you have to connect it to your site through WordPress.com to activate it. It’s simple to do, but not everyone bothers to go through the steps.
A good blog design is easy to read and navigate
When you start a blog, you can organize your navigation bar menu items so that people can click on categories. This helps if you write about multiple topics or want to add specific pages to your menu. The WordPress theme I use has a magazine homepage layout to make it easier for people to find posts in categories.
Most people skim rather than read an entire article especially if it’s a long post. It’s always a good idea to break up your text using titles, (like H2 tags) bullet points, numbers, italics, quotes, etc. If it’s a super long post, like this one, you can use a table of contents plugin like Easy Table of Contents. It will pick up your title tags so readers can click on a portion of your post they want to read about.
Avoid using a script-style text font in your main content area. Script-style fonts are sometimes okay for titles but if you use it for your main text, it’s much much harder to read. Use standard easy-to-read fonts that work on all browsers such as Tahoma, Georgia, Helvetica, Arial, or click here for more suggestions.
Check your spelling and grammar
I use a free app called Grammarly with my Chrome browser. It checks my spelling, grammar, and punctuation on my blog, Facebook, Twitter, and Word Docs. I don’t know what I’d do without it. When I first started using it I was alarmed at all the mistakes I made and went back and fixed most of my previous posts. It also catches extra space and other flubs you may make when you’re typing.
Collect email addresses to build your list
Building a list is crucial if you are using your blog for your business and most website owners use some type of form on their site to collect email addresses from willing participants. Sending regular emails helps you connect with your audience and will send them back to your site to read new posts or to offers you want to promote.
Popups are annoying but are an effective way to add new subscribers. If you use a popup, set it to appear after a visitor has been reading your content for a while rather than immediately after they land on your site. This gives them a little time to get to know you first. You can use a premium (paid) plugin like Optin Monster, which is very fast loading or another option is Optin Skin. If you use an email service provider like MailChimp or AWeber, they have scripts that will create a pop-up opt-in form for free.
GDPR – The General Data Protection Regulation was implemented in May of 2018. It’s a data privacy law that was introduced by the European Union but affects website owners globally. It protects users’ privacy when it comes to data collection. I won’t try to confuse you with all the details but it’s something all website owners need to comply with. If you’re using the latest version of WordPress you can automatically generate a privacy page on your site that’s pre-written. However, it’s a template and you’ll want to tweak it for your business. You must post a link to your privacy page and ask your visitors for permission to collect data via email opt-in, contact form, and shopping cart information. For more information on how it applies to bloggers, click here.
Some of this can be accomplished using a GDPR plugin that pops up on your footer when someone arrives on your website. A visitor must accept your terms and is invited to view your privacy page before continuing. I use a script, rather than a plugin that was generated through one of my affiliate relationships. It only pops up when a visitor visits from the E.U., where rules are very strict. If you’re in the U.S., you won’t see it. At some point, the U.S. will probably join in so it’s best to have GDPR compliance in place.
Bloggers are also supposed to implement GDPR rules when readers subscribe to their email list. MailChimp has a specific GDPR opt-in form you can use that you can link on your site. It has boxes that subscribers can check to receive the information they desire. My form only has a post updates checkbox. When I switched over to GDPR, I lost a huge chunk of my list because my subscribers had to re-opt-in and I hated that! However, those who did opt back in were much more loyal readers.
Some bloggers never bothered to comply and didn’t lose their subscribers. I recommend that you comply from the start because GDPR may be more strongly enforced in the U.S. and you don’t want to upset your email apple cart when it is.
If you aren’t on my email update list currently, PLEASE click here and SUBSCRIBE. I would LOVE that!
Just FYI, Most of the email opt-in box plugins out there are not compliant to GDPR requirements. Hopefully, they all will be soon.
Make sure your blog is mobile-friendly.
Many people view websites on their phones or tablets. Google will penalize you in search if your site isn’t mobile-friendly. You can do this by using a responsive theme or a mobile plugin if you have an older website. A responsive theme configures itself to the device a visitor is using to view your site and makes it easier to read and function.
My site passed but has some errors due to some of the ads I run. You can’t always be perfect.
A mobile plugin will change the entire appearance of your site on your phone so make sure to take a look at it to make sure it’s working correctly. Even though my theme is responsive and is mobile-friendly, I use a plugin called WP Mobile Menu because it allows me to customize my user’s experience.
This is what BabyBoomster.com looks like on my phone:
Site speed is mucho important
When you upload large files like images, it makes your site slower to load. This is frustrating for readers, especially if they have pokey Internet. Always resize your images first before uploading them to your site. I use www.picmonkey.com. It’s a free photo editing site that’s easy to use. Never upload your images directly from your camera because your files will be huge! Rename all your images using specific keywords before uploading them to the media center on your site.
Camera image file names are usually all numbers that do not give Google any useful information for search. When you upload your image in your media center you can fill in the alternative text title, description, and caption. (if appropriate)
I post multiple images on my site, so I use a plugin called Imagify. Another good alternative is WordPress Smush Image Optimizer. (both reduce the file size of images so they load faster) I also use a paid caching plugin called WP Rocket to speed up my site.
Web design doesn’t have to be expensive
If you’re just starting there’s no need to spend an arm and a leg to have a functional and attractive site. And, don’t let anyone talk you into custom coding your entire site. It isn’t necessary and can even be detrimental. A website designer can easily customize a well-coded WordPress theme by changing colors, adding images, and tweaking fonts at a reasonable cost. The problem I’ve encountered with clients who have had their sites custom coded is that they are often “user-unfriendly” and can’t be updated especially if the designer goes AWOL. Some are downright mediocre and I feel bad that the client spent a fortune having it designed.
Keep your site updated to avoid hacks and so it will function the best
WordPress and its respective plugins have new versions that come out often as well as bug fixes. This prevents your site from hacks and other problems. You can purchase WordPress managed hosting from Bluehost that includes backup and keeps everything on the server-side updated. If a web designer tells you that you should never update your site be suspect. It’s best to always keep your site updated but make sure you do a backup first either on the server end or by using a backup plugin.
Don’t be afraid to make money blogging
There are multiple ways to earn income as a blogger and I love that I can run my business even if I’m traveling. Unlike owning a brick and mortar company, or promoting a direct sales product, (my previous reinvention) there is very little overhead. A starter hosting account will cost you about $100 per year unless you upgrade because you have great traffic. You can spend money on web design, and to add whatever bells and whistles you need, but you can also do a lot of it yourself for free as I did by investing in a little training.
There’s nothing wrong with making money on your blog and there are multiple ways to do it.
How to monetize your blog
Below are just some of the ways bloggers monetize their sites:
- Sell a physical product if you have one by writing about it and promoting it
- Write sponsored posts – This is when a brand asks you to review their product or service and contracts you to write a post about it. You must add a disclaimer in your post that you are doing this. Be honest in your reviews so your readers won’t lose trust in you.
- Make affiliate income – Find products you LOVE, and join their affiliate program for free. Then, add links or banners to your site. If a visitor clicks on a link and makes a purchase, you will earn a small commission. The best way to make this work is to write reviews with embedded links. Banner ads are not as effective as people are more suspect to click on them. Add a disclaimer that reads something like this: This post contains some affiliate links and I will earn a small commission if you click on them and make a purchase. You may want to start with Google Adsense at first. (You have to apply first) All you have to do is insert a snippet of code on your site where you want the ad to appear (you can use a plugin to do this) or run auto ads. Amazon Associates is also an easy affiliate program to join and you can add links to any products you talk about on your blog. Other affiliate networks I like include Commission Junction, Rakuten Linkshare, Shareasale, Awin, Impact, Pepperjam, Link Connector, and Avantlink.
- Sell eBooks or insert links to your published works. (Amazon, Barnes, and Noble, etc.)
- Create online courses – Link your site to a CMS learning site to teach others what you know or build one on your site using a plugin. (that’s a little more complicated) You can create a course on Udemy, Teachable, Thinkific, or other online teaching sites.
- Sell customized products that are printed and shipped by companies like Red Bubble. Or, sign up to create your own Etsy shop and put links on your website.
- Build membership sites using a membership plugin – Readers pay a monthly fee to view exclusive content that only members receive.
- Sponsorships – Allow brands or business owners to purchase advertising space or place banner ads on your site.
- Podcasts, YouTube channels, IGTV – Sponsors pay to have you create video or audio to promote their products.
Generating additional income, especially passive income, is important for Baby Boomers approaching retirement age unless you have a very healthy nest egg, or were born rich. Why not make some and have fun doing it?
Pheww! This post is already way too long, but if you want more information on how to start a blog or have questions about the WordPress platform itself, please feel free to contact me by clicking here.
This post was updated 10/31/2019