coffee time Heather Stillufsen

Heather Stillufsen

Whether you wish to start a local blog for interest or politics, there’s a huge market for talented artisans to change the status quo, as most tourism and council blogs are boring and uninspirational. Rather than do what they do and promote zoos, aquariums and fast food outlets – you could promote local nature, litter clean-ups and artisan shops.

It’s pretty easy to gain traffic for a small local site, if done well. So you will find it easier if you focus on a niche (say independent shops). Get your community involved in veggie restaurant reviews, green politics, litter clean-ups, public transport campaigns and zero-waste initiatives. It takes a few months for Google to pick up your site (it kind of ‘waits and watches you’ in the Google Sandbox to ensure you’re writing quality original content). But if then decides to trust that you have an inspiring site that helps,  the world’s your oyster!

You can download a free plugin to submit posts to Google (like putting a sandwich board outside your indie shop hidden down an alley). But like a small shop, you’ll have to build trust over several months, before you start getting customers. Keep things simple. Recent Google SEO (search engine optimisation) changes have rewritten all the rules, to focus on quality content (it’s de-indexing spammy sites, so actually that’s good if you write good unique information that helps). The main points to take away are:

  1. Create inspiring titles (how-to posts are good, round-up posts of favourite books or products, interviews and simply write what you wish to share). Keep things simple (have as many external/internal links as you need, but no more).
  2. Regularly edit posts (people read slower online) and divide long content into short paragraphs with H2 sub-headings and bulleted points to make info easy to read. You don’t have to write ‘really long posts’, but do write enough for the subject to be the best it can be. If it gets too long, break the post into two or three shorter ones, then interlink.
  3. A few images per post is fine, but don’t overload (this slows the site down and also means more hosting fees for you). And if you want to share a video, it’s best to just link to it (adding it to your site uses up a lot of bandwidth, and again will slow your site down and increase hosting fees).
  4. Keep your sidebar clutter-free. An about widget, search box, popular posts widget, category list and perhaps a music video link (don’t embed) is good. Make the site easy to navigate and never use ads (most people block them anyway with free plugins). And never use hugely-annoying pop-ups.
  5. Social sharing buttons are hardly used either, so remove these too, to make your site relaxing to visit and bookmark. Regular posts are good (but not too many, a few a week or month is the norm, once you’ve got your backlog of essentials up and published).
  6. Don’t worry too much about social media. Instagram is good if you know how to do it (simply because it’s so popular for sharing images) and some people like Pinterest. But it’s far better to build stable organic traffic from search engines (and nearly everyone uses Google).

This is traffic for the long-term. Someone may share on Instagram which is great to get the word out to start. But the idea is to get them to your site, and then stay when they find it’s a place packed with quality information to help and inspire. Google traffic will build over time, and stay.

where to host your community blog

Self-hosted WordPress is the best bet for most people (non-profits can use free hosted WordPress which is free, but its business hosting is good for established sites as you get unlimited traffic and free Jetpack Backup of your site, should you press the wrong button and everything disappears in a puff of smoke!) You can run sites on green hosting (the main players Siteground or IONOS are both also pretty green). Others prefer to use hosted SquareSpace (runs on green energy with a free trial).

Choose a domain name (fairly short and easy to type with no hyphens), and add domain privacy to protect from spammers and keep your personal details like address private. Once you’ve launched, delete unused default plugins and add only those that you need. We use:

  1. WP Grim’s sitemap generator & classic editor
  2. Jetpack (for stats and related posts)
  3. Open external links in a new window
  4. Stop spammers (disable Jetpack security for this to work)
  5. A broken link checker
  6. The SEO Framework (a far simpler version than Yoast)

time to load a pretty blog theme!

Restored 316 Designs

Most people (like it or not) decide whether to stay on your site or blog in seconds, so make things look nice! Choose a good reliable theme with readable font (keep the content area fairly narrow for text-heavy sites like this one, reserving wider themes for photography blogs). We like Restored 316 themes run on the super-fast Kadence base theme (these themes have more bells-and-whistles if you are planning to turn your blog into a business.

We also like Code + Coconut themes (run on free SEO-friendly Genesis framework). They are affordable, easy to use and customise, with stellar customer support. If you wish to make the default underline thicker, use this code in your CSS box (change the number to match your colour hex code):

.entry-content a, .entry-summary a, .nav-links a {
border-bottom: 3px solid #f6cdb6;}

Other nice blog themes (from lower to higher price) are sold by:

  1. StudioMommy (Kadence)
  2. 17th Avenue Designs (Genesis & Kadence)
  3. Bluchic themes (Elementor)
  4. Pix & Hue (Elementor)

always be nice on social media

Code + Coconut themes

Code + Coconut themes

If you are going to use social media, always be nice! There is enough nastiness and comparison in the world right now, so use it discerningly and don’t let it take over your life. Far better to focus on building quality content and getting your business paperwork in order, using social media as a helpful add-on.

If when you participate in online platforms, you notice a nasty thing inside yourself, an insecurity, a sense of low self-esteem, a yearning to lash out, to swat someone down. Then leave that platform. Simple. Jaron Lanier

I didn’t know what Facebook was. And now that I do know what it is. I have to say – it sounds like a huge waste of time. Betsy White

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