Does Your Blog Need An Oil Change?
Does your blog desperately need an oil change? Is your blog service well overdue? What is this crazy guy talking about and why should you think about your blog the way you think about your car?
Well to my mind running a blog has many parallels with running a car and we should consider these similarities when we are setting up, maintaining and developing our blogs. I am of the opinion that both the initial choice of your blog/car and the way you run them require a similar way of thinking and these are my reasons why – let me know what you think!
A to B or Pride and Joy?
Some of us love our cars more than others. To me a motor vehicle is something that gets me from here to there but I know many people for whom their car is the love of their life and something to be treasured and enjoyed. Our choice of vehicle will be very much influenced by factors such as engine size, top speed, number of seats, green or gas guzzler? So many things to think about.
So it is with your blog, ask your yourself where you want to go and how fast do you want to get there. There is no point investing in a top of the range Ferrari if your ambition is onlyÂ to blog largely for your own pleasure, you may be wasting a lot of money on that domain name and expensive theme and having a lot of power that you will never use. Better to start with a simple Blogger or Posterous model that will be inexpensive and simple to use, you can always trade up later.
By the same token you may have grand plans to take over the blogosphere by burning blogging rubber as soon as possible. If you haven’t thought it through and find your self with a motor scooter you will be mighty frustrated when you hit the gas! Plan ahead, work out where you want to be and select the right blog vehicle to get you there.
For my own part I started with a Blogger blog – great for a starter model but limited in power. Moved on fairly soon to a free WordPress theme – more power but not very reliable. Traded up again after a few months to a paid Woo theme, more reliable with a greater engine capacity. Working for me well at the moment so no plans to change.
Beware though of trading in your blog for a new shiny one too often, people get used to seeing you in that car and might not recognise you if you change too often!
Technical wizard or never look under the bonnet?
I admit to being neither a technical or engineering expert and I have had my share of near disasters in attempting things I don’t understand both with my blog and with the many cars I have had over the years.
Do you think it would make sense to delve into the engine compartment of your average modern car without being trained first so that you understand what you are doing? The same goes for your blog – fiddle around with that code in the blog engine at your peril, your actions, although well intended may lead to a nasty blogging accident. ( I speak from bitter experience having once nearly deleted all of my blog content)
So again when you are working out how to blog consider your level of technical expertise and follow a route which you can cope with, you can learn the mechanics as you go along.
Do you have some back up in case your car breaks down, perhaps a rescue service membership or a friendly garage owner who will come to you aid? Your blog needs something similar which will rescue you on that horrible day when you look at your blog and find that all your great content has disappeared or been corrupted.
Make sure you have a look at the back up services available to all of us bloggers to find what will work best for you and that you regularly save your valuable work to protect your blog.
If you have ever neglected having your car serviced regularly you will know that it’s a false economy, hence the title of this post, try to run your car on old, or worse, no oil (Oh dear, my experiences coming out again) and you will soon find out how expensive that can be!
So give your blog a regular check, have a look at it and check that all is working well. Do those links that you put in your great post last year still work? Did that plug in that you added last week conflict with something you already had on that was working well? As an example of this I once added a plug in that meant that my featured posts panel stopped working, another time a plug in disabled my comments.
Make sure your blog engine is up to speed and doesn’t drag along in the slow lane as it loads, this article on Problogger will give you some ideas on streamlining your blog.
Get into the habit of having a regular servicing routine, do some checks routine on a weekly or monthly basis, do some random checks as if you were a first time visitor, check everything still works ok if you make any changes.
Do your lock your car? Do you have an alarm or immobiliser? If not you will probably not take too much notice of this section!
We all need to make sure we protect our blog and all our personal information. There seem to be so many people out there who are keen to get their hands on our details and are very adept at doing so. We all have to use many password protected applications and web sites these days, do you have simple passwords for your blog and use the same ones to protect all your information? If you do you are at risk.
When it comes to your blog you need to make sure you have a solid password and change it regularly, consider adding another level of protection to your blog by adding security plug ins such as Secure Admin or Secure WordPress.
Do you have a sense of direction for your blog? Do you have journey mapped out or will you just set off on your journey and see where the road takes you? The answer to that depends on your motive for blogging, if you are developing a business you will have a different road map to someone who blogs just for pleasure. If you are blogging in a tight niche area you need more control over your vehicle, a broader area and you can afford to drift across the road a little more.
But whatever your planned journey you will need to steer the blog in the right direction and be prepared to veer onto a new course if things aren’t working for you or if you feel that you are driving into a dead end. Have a plan, however loose and flexible it might be so that you have an idea of where you want to go.
If you feel you are going in the wrong direction don’t lose heart and slam into reverse but have a look at what’s ahead and steer around obstacles by making changes to what you do. You don’t need to lurch from side to side and risk crashing the whole thing, just subtle changes to keep moving forward.
See where you are going
You have got your blog, you have decided where you want to go and you are steering carefully to your destination but you also need to be able to see what is going on around you so that you know you are on the right track.
Don’t let your windows get dirty and allow your lights to become defective as you may be driving your blog in the dark. Open your eyes, look around at what your peers and competitors are doing, read voraciously so that you are aware of developments and trends in blogging and in your chosen niche.
Watch out for traffic, look at your stats to see where your traffic is coming from and steer accordingly to reach your desired destination. Get yourself a decent spam filter to make sure that those spam birds don’t obscure your view with their unwelcome droppings!
Your content is your fuel and without a steady supply of good quality content your blog will soon grind to a shuddering halt. The good news is that unlike the fuel you use to power your car content is usually free and attracts no taxes. The bad news is that you need to work to plan, research and publish your content.
So where do you get your fuel from? Do you know what you want to write about? I must admit I didn’t when I started this blog, I had just had a vague idea that I would compile Top 10 lists and things have developed from there in some unexpected directions. You may have a rich vein of subject matter in your chosen niche, you may be a writer who has no trouble putting your thoughts down or it might be something of a struggle. Whatever your situation you will need to have a strategy to produce content and you will also be well advised to have some form of schedule so that you can plan what is coming up.
Make connections by guesting for other bloggers (Dino Dogan suggests how you can do this) and invite guests to write for you. Planning a series of posts has worked well for me so find a subject that interests you and plan a weekly series. Above all try to produce good quality content that is helpful and informative to your readers as you won’t get far if you are trying to use a cheap alternative to high octane fuel.
We all know, or should know, how to drive safely so that we don’t have any nasty accidents. With your blog I see staying safe as making sure that you don’t expose yourself to any potential risks by taking unnecessary chances when you are producing your content.
So make sure that you are publishing content that is original and not copied or plagiarised from another writer. Take care that you are not publishing copyrighted material by way of text or images. Ensure that you obtain the appropriate permissions or give the correct attribution when required. Beware of writing something defamatory or libelous. All in all think about what you are doing so that you steer clear of that potential law suit.
We need to have insurance for our cars to protect us in the event of accidents or claims from 3rd parties but how should we consider protection in terms of our blog? This I think comes down to disclosure and disclaimers, we need to be upfront with our readers and let them know if any links that they click might earn us money. We need to let them know what our privacy and comment policy is and have a copyright statement to protect our own content.
Simple steps but important ones to protect ourselves and our readers. You might find this post from Danny Brown at For Bloggers By Bloggers really useful.
Pimp my Ride
You probably spend a vast amount of time and maybe money on that car trying to make it look good. Go-faster stripes, alloy wheels, spoilers, super sound systems, velvet interiors (Yuk) and fluffy dice! You clean and polish it and make sure those little scratches and rust spots are removed.
You need to lavish the same care on your blog so that your readers will love and admire you. A good theme with a clear, consistentÂ layout, simple navigation and good use of images is a must. Compelling content, good spelling and grammar, a clear method to contact you and subscribe to the blog, these are all vital elements to a successful blog. You need to clean and polish your blog too, have a good look at it from time to time to see if some of your old ideas of layout and content are looking a bit rusty now and polish them up if they do.
Add some accessories with your plug ins and widgets but do it slowly so that you can measure the impact of everything you do, you don’t want to overload your blog with gadgets or gimmicks that end up slowing it down or spoiling it’s sleek lines.
So now you have your bright shiny new blog what are you going to do with it? Are you going to leave it in the garage in case it gets scratched?
I hope not, you have worked hard at making it look good and ensuring that the engine is running smoothly so you need to get out there on the highway and show it off so you get those admiring looks from people. Don’t be shy, shout out from the rooftops that you are on the road.
There are so many vehicles you can use, Tweet about yourself, set up a Facebook page, link up on Linkedin, Digg, Stumble and Buzz. Join some blogging communities such as Blog Engage, comment on other blogs so that people get to know who you are. Whichever platform you choose make sure you engage, communicate and join in, people will like you for it and get to know you.
Whatever you don’t sit at the side of the road with your engine idling frightened to pull into the traffic. You may hit the odd pot hole or have the odd minor bump and you may never have a totally smooth ride, but you do need to be out there being seen. Do remember though to make sure that the driver can be seen, people relate much better to real person with a face and a name than they do to a impersonal business persona.
Commercial or pleasure driver
Are you blogging like taxi driver, courier, truck or bus driver drives and blogging for money or are you doing it for the joy and pleasure that it brings you?
I have written before about my Blogging Focus and Blogging Balance and I have to say that I am generally somewhere in the middle – having a load of fun but wanting to have a little income to enable me to keep doing this thing I love.
That can be a hard balance to maintain and the each blogger must decide how far they want to push the boundaries in commercialising their site. Beware though of turning your vehicle into an advertising hoarding as you may risk alienating your passengers.
So what do you think of my idea ofÂ thinking of your blog the way you think of your car? Do you agree with my conclusions and do you have anything to add? Have I driven you crazy with my motoring analogy!
What other analogies with the real world can you think of? Let me know and maybe that will a new post for me, lay down the challenge and I will try to rise to it.
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Bad Environmental Car – Paul / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
First Aid Key – renjith krishnan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Car on Ramp – Chris Sharp / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Steering Wheel – dan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Content Low – Sean MacEntee Flickr