Hello and welcome to this post from ChurchBait about blogging. We will talk a little bit about ideal blog content as well as some handy tips and tricks to ensure that you are blogging effectively. Before we go into it, a strong recommendation is that you use WordPress to host your blog. If you are serious about blogging, don’t use Blogger or any other platform, opt to use WordPress instead.
How to Setup a Blog
First, I will use some blogs as examples starting with the ChurchBait website in order to study some of the blogs typical features. The overall layout of my blog is nice and simple. I choose a layout which suits the purpose of blogging really well, because the whole point of this website is to exhibit blog posts. So my homepage is displaying the most recent blog content. I also picked a theme that allowed me to use custom post types, which allows me to customize my post types, for example I could use a quote type for a quote or an announcement post. This is a type of post that really stands out and catches the eye. Other post types include a picture post, which allows for an image at the top of the post. I use that type of post frequently as I think it looks really nice. Audio posts are also an option with WordPress, where you can post a podcast.
Your blog will need certain features. Firstly a search bar located at the top of the page will be needed, WordPress has a widget that provides this feature. This will allow for easy navigation on your blog. Advertisement can be added, this is a difficult feature, as it can be hard to know what type of ads will be effective on your blog. If your blog is a personal one, an about us section or widget can be a good feature to add to your sidebar. Jeff Goins, a blogger who posts about writing, presents a very nice about me section for his blog. On a little side note, if you wish for advice or information on how to become a great writer, make sure to visit Jeff’s blog at goinswriting.com. The about us section is a great addition to your blog as it allows strangers to gain a little bit of information about the author of the blog. This can help form a relationship between writer and reader. Keep it short but informative. Because ChurchBait is not my personal blog, I have not added that feature instead I have an ad in place. Below the about us or advertisement is a category section. Now there is a little bit of decision-making involved here, where you have to decide whether or not to use categories or tags. With tags, you can have as many tags as you wish and you tag each post with relevant tags, for example, posts about churches I would tag with church or posts about leadership tag with leadership etc.
Categories are more limited and you sort all your posts into six-seven different topic categories, don’t extend past seven. ChurchBait has the following categories; news, websites, church marketing, tutorials, and social marketing. Those are the things I am going to talk about and I will organize my posts with respect to this categorization, for example every post about church marketing will go into the church marketing category. Categories are handled as a separate domain by google. So you will have your website domain name followed by a /categories/[insert category name]. Tags will also create a new url where it will be your domain name /tags [tag name]. The reason why this important is even if you write one article if you use tags and categories Google will treat the content as two separate pages even though it is one page. This is because there are two separate URLs. This is where the problem of duplicate content comes in and you will be penalized by Google for this. So use one or the other, don’t use both tags and categories. I personally recommend dropping tags as you will normally be able to narrow your subject matter into limited category groups, normally four to five categories is enough and seven is the absolute maximum. A common misconception held by bloggers is this idea that more is better. They feel like they need to cover every little thing and cram as much content as possible on their blog about many different things in order to get the largest amounts of people interested. In reality, the narrower or the more focussed your content is the more traffic you will generate with your blog. Going back to Jeff Goins, his blog content is narrowed down to writing topics. Even when looking at different topics like apps, he always keeps the writing subject matter in the forefront. For a minster, think about where your expertise lies [leadership, theology etc] and tailor your categories according to this.
Below the categories section, is a display of my most popular posts, followed by a twitter widget, showing my most recent tweets and then recent comments, so visitors can easily see the discussions going on through my blog. All of those features listed or discussed, make up my sidebar in totality. The rest of my blog page is content. One decision that you will need to make in relation to the content is visibility. Do you want the entire post to show or do you only want a preview limited by a read more tag? I have personally decided to limit my posts as this generates interest and intrigue. When a person clicks read more, they get taken to the post page which is more powerful than my homepage. There is my share bar at the top of the post. which can increase my reach if they decide to use this feature. I also have a call to action features present in the post, one in the middle, and the other at the bottom. I also have the comment section right down at the bottom. All these interactive features are only possible on the post page so you will want people to visit the actual blog post instead of just reading it on the Home Page. The read more feature brings people in for this purpose and can help you to extend your influence. I always place the read more tag just after my introductory paragraph as I think it looks really nice and clean.
So that’s my blog’s layout and features, now I am going to look at Jeff Goins blog. On the Homepage, the first thing that affronts the visitor is a large call to action feature, encouraging people to join his free email newsletter list. This tells me that Jeff is serious about building his email list. This is something you should be serious about also, especially for your ministry and personal blog. It will help you build your audience and reach more people. Going through Jeff’s blog we come to his sidebar, which again has an option of joining his email list. Below that feature is his social profiles, popular articles, a search engine feature and it ends with another call to action, this time advertising his product. The rest of it is just great content and he is using the read more tab also. On each post page, there is a share bar, which is a little nicer than mine but he has deeper pockets than me so it’s expected. There are also subtle call to action features, one encouraging people to join his online writing class, as well as further encouragement, to join his mailing list. This is obviously working as he has over 200,000 readers now. Building a list is vital and you need to pay heavy attention to this when you are running your blog. Mailchimp, which we will cover later, is a tool which you can use for this task. I actually really like Jeff’s blog, its content, layout and theme, and I think it is a really good blog.
Now I am going to talk about Michael Hyatt, an influential figure in leadership. This influence comes from his professional background grounded in publishing as well as his ability to blog. He wrote a book called building a platform, which is really informative and I would recommend it for those interested in leadership. He also has platform university, which inspired ChurchBait. Platform university talks about extending influence. Hyatt is a very prominent and influential figure who has been around for years, which in turn is reflected in the sheer massiveness of his blog.
Let’s briefly look at his actual blog. Despite the mass of content, he is only using six different categories. He has a nice picture of his smiley face at the top, below this is his search bar, a call to action to join his mailing list and an incentive of a free ebook if you do join. This is the most prominent feature of the blog. Below this is a display which shows his total number of subscribers. This is called social proof, where you can say so and so amount of people follow me. He also has a very long sidebar. This is fine for him as he has comments that make up for the length. But if you don’t have this level of comments, the thing that will most likely happen is your post will finish long before your sidebar content does. So you will just have a whole length of sidebar features. I don’t really like long sidebars because of this but use your own judgment on the matter. In regards to the blog posts, he uses the read more tag. This really does give you more power and the potential for more interaction with your post.
If you don’t follow Michael Hyatt yet, I recommend that you do as he has a lot of great web content on how to build influence as well as some insights on blogging, as well as some amazing podcasts. If you want an aspiration to strive for, Michael Hyatt’s blog would definitely fit that role well. His blog is very professional and a joy to visit. A thing to be aware of in regards to Hyatt is that he blogged for five years before his blog really took off. So this means a lot of dedication and effort is definitely required if you wish for your blog to one day be a success. Don’t expect to be a huge success after only a few months, it takes a long time to build an audience.
To wrap it up, let’s briefly talk about the New Spring Church blog. I really like this simple little blog. They have very few navigational options and they strive to keep everything simple and not cluttered with loads of content and features. Their blog has several neat little categories, which are sermons, stories, resources, daily devotionals and articles. Their sidebar has been kept simple and small, with the categories and the social share bar, just displaying things that are actually needed. The only shortcoming of this blog is they did not include a call to action at the end of their posts. When a person reaches, the end of reading the post what are they going to do? Will they leave the page? It is better to add an interactive element at the end of a post, encouraging people to sign up to something, like the mailing list then just leave it blank. This way you are building an audience and exerting more influence and also bringing people in connection with your church. It would be like Peter preaching on the day of Pentecost, and in the end Peter would just walk off rather than staying and interacting with his listeners. You need to include the call to action at the end of each post.
On an endnote, again I recommend using WordPress for your blog as it is easy to use and manage and has great free widgets that you can use to make your blog look great. Thank you for reading this post about blogging, there will be more content at a later date on this topic as there is a lot to cover. But this post was just meant to share some handy and cool tips and tricks on what a good blog should look like and how to utilize this online feature to the best of your capabilities. Thank you again and please spread the word about ChurchBait.