One of my favourite recent posts is this infographic with some useful reminders about keeping your WordPress blog in order. If you’re a none techy WordPress blog owner like me you too might welcome this simply laid out check list.
Right, now if you’ll excuse me I’m just off to pop the hood on this thing …
This week one year ago I started this blog – my first personal foray into the blogging world. Forty six posts and one big adventure later here’s what it’s been like.
A is for Attention
Sometimes I’ve had a lot of attention as a result of a blog I’ve written (the one I got the most views for was this one about the do’s and don’ts of website relaunches). Other times I’ve written a post I liked and hardly got any views. And then posts I wrote ages ago suddenly pop up as being viewed, for no apparent reason.
B is for Blogging platform
I chose Word Press primarily because it’s what we use for the Learning Pool website so I’m very familiar with it. Familiarity was good because it meant I was able to get on to the interesting stuff – writing – quickly enough. I also chose WP because @davebriggs recommended it.
C is for Challenge
Sometimes it’s a challenge finding the time and knowing what to write about. I’m keen to ensure I get the balance right by not mentioning my employer too much; I try to only mention them in the context of the marketing work I do there because this blog is not just another way to promote the company I work for.
D is for Dad-in-law
One of the most popular posts I wrote was this one about my father-in-law being a digital champion. I automatically linked the publication of my posts to my Facebook page when I first started (something I debated over) which is what drove the traffic to this post.
E is for Experiment
My blog was an online experiment when I started it all those months ago. I was an avid reader of other blogs and decided to give it a go myself. I started off quietly at first, I didn’t tell anyone, and just launched to see what would happen. I was then quite surprised when what I wrote started getting read.
F is for Feedback
The feedback I’ve had from people about my blog posts has been both polite and motivational. Some posts get more comments on than others, naturally; the thrill of a reading a new comment is still there.
G is for Grammar
This is a tricky one because it’s something I’m actually quite anal about and therefore something I’ve set myself up to fail on. Hah. If you spot any grammatical or punctuation errors tell me so I can hang my head in shame. Because I tend to write my posts at night after the end of the working day there is definately room for error.
H is for Help
I’ve had lots of support from @mmarymckenna and @mcelvaney, bloggers themselves, who retweet to their (much bigger) online networks. Thank you.
I is for Interesting
Sometimes I write stuff that only I’m interested in, I’m sure. When I first started out I wanted to write about marketing because this is what I spend most of my time doing. I’m lucky because I find most of the stuff I work on really interesting and I can wax lyrical about different elements till the cows come home.
J is for Jump in
It didn’t take me long to set up my WordPress blog, just a few hours. I already had quite a few ideas for marketing related posts about stuff that had caught my eye or I was already interested in. My first post was about the introduction of the new P for product placement sign before TV programmes to warn us we were being sold to – that hasn’t really taken off much, has it?
K is for Key milestones
This week’s birthday is important to me because I wasn’t sure, when I first started, how long the flush of enthusiasm for writing my blog would last. Now, a year down the line, I’m still here and still enjoying thinking up new posts (see T is for Topics) and still writing.
Sometimes it’s been hard to generate the necessary motivation to write. Work is busy and homelife equally so. I gave myself time off over Christmas when my father in law was poorly but was quietly pleased when I got the urge to blog again in the New Year.
N is for Nervous
There are so many people who write better than I do, so many more interesting blogs and posts. I work in an industry and sector where I see great examples of blogs I wish I’d written every day. How easy to be nervous, and how easy to then be put off. So I decided to blog just as a way to improve my online writing. And if this gets read then that’s a bonus.
O is for Online footprint
I’ve been involved in a fair bit of recruitment this year and have always researched a candidate’s digital footprint before interviewing them. Big bonus points are gained before we even meet if a delegate blogs.
P is for Pictures
An impactful image at the start of a blog post looks lovely and gets attention straight away. I choose them with care and caption and alt text them too.
Over the year I’ve written stuff that’s put me, albeit digitally, in front of lots of people. My reach has grown gradually over the year. This has been more tortoise than hare, which I’m grateful for.
S is for Statistics
I don’t really look at them as often as I probably should. Unlike my work blogging the stuff I write here is for me and so the numbers are not really relevant. But every now and then I take a look. The stats dashboard is really nicely put together on this WP theme.
T is for Topics
Sometimes I scrabble around for things to write about. I’ve got loads of draft posts with half baked ideas waiting to be polished, merged or abandoned. Must clear some of them out when I get a moment.
U is for Uncluttered
I use the Word Press theme Twenty Ten for this blog, as you can see. I like its simplicity and the ability to add a strong image in the header. I’ve seen some beautiful header images on other sites and chose the little fairy at the top of my site because someone once asked me to add a bit of marketing sparkle to their communication.
V is for Vacuum
Me and this computer, we’re generally friends. I don’t like to say that out loud in case we fall out but that is the norm. Even with all the connections that social media brings there is something about the blank screen and the keyboard that can sometimes give a false sense of isolation. But it’s not a vaccum, I remind myself.
W is for Weekly Blog Club
Deadlines are good and I find the midday each Thursday deadline set by the Weekly Blog Club a great focus. I also love reading the posts from other bloggers as they are invariably interesting, thought provoking and entertaining. The bar is set high, which is also a good (if scary) thing.
X is for tagXedo
I love the nifty word graphic site, Tagxedo (forgive me, what else would fit under X?). A great, fast and creative way of making interesting word clouds and more useable than Wordle.
Y is for Your blog is your online CV
It’s cockle warming to have had feedback from a few kind people who say I’ve inspired them to blog. And I have tried to bully others to start blogging as part of their studying to make them more employable upon graduation. Similar to O is for online footprint.
Z is for Zep
My references to the Best Band in the World have gained a few more views throughout the year, I’m sure.
Whilst working with our tech team this last week or so to get our new website over the finishing line I got to chatting with two of our placement year students about blogging and social media in general.
Both Declan and Conor are in the third year of their tech related degrees at University of Ulster and are working in their respective 12 month placement years at Learning Pool under the mentorship of our Head of Tech, Mark Lynch.
(What lucky souls they are, I have thought to myself and, no doubt, Mark would agree. Not just because they are working with Mark but because they are each assumed to be one of the team which means that they have individual responsibilities that are both real and business critical. Indeed, Declan has played an integral role in the development of the functionality around Learning Pool’s online community during our recent website refresh, amongst other things.)
Anyway, back to blogging.
When I asked the team why nobody blogged I got the answers I anticipated – “I don’t have the time,”, “What would I say?”, “I can’t write,” and “Who would read it anyway?”
Therein followed an interesting discussion where I talked about why it’s good to blog, especially if you’re a student. Here’s some of what I said:
You don’t have to be the world’s best wordsmith to blog. A basic understanding of writing and being able to tell a story is all that’s needed. Given that Conor and Declan are both still at college they haven’t yet forgotten how to write assignments so they should be in good stead.
You don’t have to be the world’s best story teller. Often the most interesting posts are those that are lists, comments on an article, story or news item or just pointing to some bookmarks that have caught your eye. Conor and Delcan both have to submit frequent assignments back to their respective tutors during their year out about what they’re up to and this, I told them, is the content for perfect blog fodder.
Students, it is assumed, will be looking for employment once they graduate. One thing that Learning Pool does before it interviews anybody is check their digital footprint. You probably won’t get an interview with us if all we can find out about you is that your email address is firstname.lastname@example.org, for example (my apologies, Conor, I know it’s not). However, if you’ve written a blog about the subject area that you’re looking for employment in then you’re already head and shoulders above any other candidate, in our eyes. You’ve demonstrated ambition, thinking around your subject area and an ability to articulate yourself already.
You don’t have to blog ‘for’ someone. Even if you’re just writing down your ramblings and then sharing it with a very select audience, that is still a good thing. Not every blog needs to get on Google’s first page. Blog for yourself, because it interests you and because you can. It looks great on your CV.
Finally, and the thing that really appealed to Declan and Conor, most students have to submit progress reports during their placement years to update on what they’re learning and tie this back in to the curriculum. How much more impressive would it be to a lecturer if you were able to point them to your latest blog post as your submitted assignment, rather than a standard emailed Word document, especially if you’re a tech student?
So I’m pleased to say that, at the end of the afternoon, both Declan and Conor told me they were now going to start blogging, it seems I had persuaded them into it.
I look forward to their first posts soon and, you never know, I might get them on Twitter next.