I thought I would offer a few tips on how to start a blog if you are a Baby Boomer, or anyone else for that matter because blogging is the way people are getting the majority of their information these days. It’s something that I thoroughly enjoy and I’ve been doing it since 2008. I learned how to blog on my own and started a business in 2010 helping others set up WordPress sites. I also offer WordPress tutoring and blogging help.
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 way too much. Sitting for long periods of time is hazardous to your health especially if you are a Baby Boomer. I’d rather be out traveling, going to events, and engaging with human beings in person and then writing about my experiences. It’s much more fun for me.
Working on other people’s sites has been interesting, though, even if it’s time-consuming. I was surprised at how easy it’s been for me to find clients. They come to me and I haven’t had to network except to get out of my house and socialize. If you’re looking for a retirement reinvention WordPress help, site design or virtual assistant work is not a bad way to go. You can do it from anywhere in the world that has the internet. I grew up with a typewriter and wasn’t born reading code but have learned to follow instructions and move it around when I need to.
So here goes. I will try to keep my tips on how to start a blog as non-techie as possible.
Use WordPress as your blogging platform
If you’re serious and want to start a blog then you need to have a self-hosted WordPress site. WordPress is the premier blogging platform. Be aware that there are two versions of WordPress. WordPress.com is free and is hosted by WordPress. It has restrictions and doesn’t allow you to post ads or affiliate links. Unless you purchase a custom website address (domain) you’ll find yourself with a long website URL like www.myboomerblog.wordpress.com. The same thing will happen if you use the Blogger (Blogspot) platform. (hosted by Google)
Avoid both of them
Instead, purchase a hosting account. I recommend Bluehost and I will be upfront and tell you I have an affiliate link that I would love for you to use by clicking here. (That means I will receive a small amount of compensation if you purchase an account – which is a way for bloggers like me to earn income) I have a page on my business site that will walk you through how to start a blog and set up WordPress using Bluehost. Click to view my tutorial here. I also purchased their Site Backup Pro. It creates backups and restores all my site’s files, databases, email accounts, email forwarders and filters for a very nominal cost.
Another reason I recommend Bluehost is that they always keep the server updated on the backend. I’ve had clients on other servers whose hosting accounts had to be migrated because their server wasn’t up to speed for newer WordPress updates. I won’t name names, but the owner shoots elephants.
Find a theme you like
Once you set up WordPress, you can start blogging right away. Well, maybe not immediately. You may want to make your site look pretty first. WordPress installs with a default theme right out of the box. It’s okay but pretty boring. There are literally thousands of WordPress themes floating around on the internet. You can choose a free theme directly from WordPress.org or purchase a premium theme. I like to use a premium theme because they offer support. My favorite theme company is StudioPress and I use their themes on almost all my sites. Click here to view their themes.
I could go on for days on how to set up your site. For now, I’m only going to share tips based on what I’ve observed on blogs I frequently read. If you want a screen-sharing tutoring session to go more in-depth on how to start a blog using WordPress, click here.
Why do you want to start a blog?
I have set up many WordPress sites where the owner never writes a single blog post. They only use their site to advertise an existing business, project or use it as an online business card. There’s nothing wrong with that. WordPress works just as well as an attractive and functional website as it does as a blogging platform.
Those who want to express themselves and their interests are perfect candidates to start a blog. Some of them blog as a way to organize their ideas to eventually write a book. Others want to generate retirement income online. I love expressing my thoughts and also enjoy earning income from my blog. The beauty is, you can do both.
Sharing your posts
If you write a blog post and want other people to read it, then you need to share your posts on social media. Some visitors will arrive organically from Google search if you’ve formatted your post properly by inserting researched keywords and make sure your SEO (search engine optimization) is optimized. I use the Yoast SEO plugin. However, that isn’t enough. WordPress has an array of free plugins that make it easy for you to install share buttons. Where bloggers go wrong is how they are configured.
Your share buttons need to be large enough to be visible. Some are so teensy they get missed. If your demographic is Baby Boomers, remember we don’t see very well without our reading glasses. The same goes for your font size. If your content text is hard to read because the font is small, visitors will click off your site. I recommend using a font size 16 or larger depending on which font you choose.
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 comes up when I click to tweet in the browser often looks like this.
“Love this – Website URL – @shareaholic”
Tip – If you have a blog, click on your Twitter button to see how your tweet is formatted.
Being a nice person, I usually edit the tweet so people know what it’s about but most people will not. They will tweet it as is or not bother at all. The tweet above does not have a title and is attributed to @shareaholic (the plugin developer) rather than the blogger’s twitter handle. It’s annoying to have to search for the blogger on Twitter to find their handle. Some don’t even have a Twitter account. It also helps to have social media icons on your site near the header with links to your social media accounts.
All it takes to fix your share buttons is to go to the plugin’s settings and fill in a few blanks.
Connect with social media
If you are a blogger, sign up for accounts on Twitter and Facebook at the very least. It also helps if you have a Google + account and post your blog post link there even though Google + is sort of dying out. Google will bump your post up in the search index. Linkedin is important if you are a professional and Instagram and Pinterest increase traffic if you post photos. You don’t have to join every social media network there is. Only focus on the ones where your audience hangs out otherwise you will waste time when you could be blogging or guest posting.
Make your social media handles either your brand name or your real name if they are available. It’s good to have an account for both so that no one takes it. There is someone out there hanging onto the Twitter handle @babyboomster and their profile picture is still the Twitter egg. She never tweets and won’t give up the handle even though I’ve offered to pay her money for it. I’m not sure why she’s doing this since I own all the domains for my brand name. For now, I have to use @baby_boomster.
Social media interaction will increase your traffic. However, signing up for accounts is useless and a waste of time unless you regularly engage with your followers.
Social media sharing
I use a paid plugin/app called Co-Schedule that allows me to schedule out tweets, Facebook posts, and Linkedin shares. They also have an amazing headline analyzer. I have my social media shares go out at various times for a month after my post is published.
WARNING – Be extremely careful if you auto-post. Never depend on it and don’t do it on Facebook at all. If a tragedy happens like when all those innocent people were plowed down in Nice, you’ll look like a major jerk if you post something happy or blast ads to sell a product. I use Co-Schedule because it allows me to share my posts at optimal posting times in case I forget or it isn’t convenient. I can always change the dates and times if my scheduled posts aren’t appropriate. Click here to view the app.
Make it easy for people to comment on your blog. Commenting brings engagement to your site and Google loves it. What I hate is when I have to log in, try to decipher captcha codes, or jump through other hoops before my comment gets published. It’s also frustrating if I have to wait until my comment is approved before it shows up. Things like those turn-off commenters.
I have my comments set to automatically post when someone publishes one. If I get a spam comment or something inappropriate, I 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 not everyone makes the effort to connect and activate it so it works.
Make your site easy to navigate and read
When you start a blog you can organize your navigation menu items so that people are able to click on categories. This helps if you write about multiple topics or want to add specific pages. My blog has a magazine homepage layout to make it easy for people to find posts in categories as well.
Most people are skimmers. They don’t always read the entire post especially if it’s long like this one. Break up your text using bolded titles, (H2 tags) bullet points, numbers, italics, quotes, etc.
Check your spelling and grammar
I use an awesome 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 would do without it. I was also alarmed at how many mistakes I had made previously and went back and fixed most of my previous posts.
Be careful using popup optin boxes
Popups are annoying but are also a good way for a blogger to build their list of blog subscribers who want post updates sent to their email inbox. A healthy email list helps bloggers create a relationship with their audience. If you use a popup set it to appear after a visitor has been on your site for a period of time rather than immediately after they land on the site. This gives them time to get to know you first. I use the SumoMe Plugin (share buttons, popup, and smart bar) on this site, which is free, but on other sites, I use premium (paid) plugins like Optin Monster, which is very fast loading or Optin Skin.
Make sure your blog is mobile friendly.
More and more people are viewing blog posts on their phones or tablets including Baby Boomers. Google will penalize you if your site is not mobile-friendly. You can do this by using a responsive theme or a mobile plugin. A responsive theme configures itself to the device a visitor is viewing your site on making it easier to read and function. A mobile plugin will change the entire appearance of your site and it isn’t always attractive. It’s always a good idea to view your site on your phone to see if it looks the way you want it to.
Site speed is mucho important
When you upload large files like images, it makes your site slow to load. This is frustrating for your readers, especially if their internet speed is slow. Always resize your images first before uploading them to your site. I use www.picmonkey.com, a free photo editing site that is easy to use. Never upload images directly from your camera because the file size is huge. You should also rename your images using specific keywords before uploading them to your media center on your site. Camera image file names are all numbers and tell Google nothing for search. Include an alt image tag, (more keywords) description and caption. (if appropriate) These can all be added to the WordPress media center when you edit your image after it’s been uploaded.
I like to post lots of images on my site, so I use the plugins BJ Lazy Load, (loads images as the reader scrolls down) EWWW Image Optimizer or WordPress Smush Image Optimizer (reduces file size on images so they load faster) and a caching plugin called W3 Total Cache. (it speeds up everything on my site) I have the Bluehost Pro Account and my customer service rep went in and properly configured my caching plugin so that it worked well with the CDN app I am connected to called CloudFlare. A CDN protects your site and optimizes web performance on the server end. I know, this all sounds extremely geeky and believe me, it is.
I have a client who has a vegan recipe site that garners huge monthly page views. (over 100,000) Her site runs smoothly using her Bluehost Account. (she easily upgrades her site when needed)
Tip – If you want to start a blog that has huge page views make your site all about eating vegan. LOL
Web design doesn’t have to be expensive
You don’t have to spend an arm and a leg to have a functional and attractive site. Don’t let anyone talk you into custom coding your entire site. It isn’t necessary and can even be detrimental. A site designer can easily customize a well-coded WordPress theme by changing colors, adding images, and tweaking fonts at a reasonable cost. They don’t need to start from scratch. The problem I’ve encountered with my clients who have had their sites custom coded is that they are often “user unfriendly” and difficult to update. (especially if the designer goes AWOL) Some are downright mediocre and I feel sorry that the client spent a fortune having it designed.
Keep your site updated
WordPress has new versions that come out periodically 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 and worried that it was poorly designed. It’s best to always keep your site updated. (make sure it has been backed up first either on the server end or by using a backup plugin)
Don’t be afraid to make money from blogging
There are multiple ways to earn income from blogging, 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 hosting account will cost you a grand total of $100 or less per year unless you upgrade because of heavy traffic. You can spend money on web design, and some bells and whistles, but you can also learn to do a lot of it yourself for free like I did.
There is 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 somewhere in your post that you are doing this.
- Make affiliate income – Find products you LOVE, join their affiliate program, (for free) and add links or banners to your site – if a person clicks on a link and makes a purchase, you 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. As a disclaimer, this post contains several affiliate links and I will earn a small commission if you click on them and make a purchase.
- Sell Ebooks or insert links to your published works. (Amazon, Barnes, and Noble, etc.)
- Create online courses – coaching, video tutorials, etc.
- Sell customized products that are printed and shipped by companies like Zazzle or Red Bubble, All you have to do is add links to them on your site.
- Build membership sites – 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, TV channels – Sponsors pay to have you create commercials to promote their products.
Additional income, especially passive income, is important for anyone approaching retirement age unless you have a very healthy nest egg, or were born rich, but you never know.
Phew! I’m done
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.