So, if you’ve read the first article in this series about blogging, maybe you’ve decided to start your own pottery blog. Or maybe you want to refine your current blogging efforts. Fantastic! But now what? Where do you begin?
You can always just jump in and learn as you go. But it may help to organize your thoughts and come up with a plan. Especially if you hope to grow a following or sell products. Below you will find some things to think about when starting a pottery blog. These should be considered loose guidelines and not rules set in fired stoneware.
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Planning The Content
Decide the Goal for your Pottery Blog
Start with the end in mind. What do you hope to achieve? What do you want to get out of your pottery blog? Here are a few reasons you may want to start a pottery blog:
- Sell your pottery and ceramic art
- Sell yourself – as an instructor, speaker, etc.
- Establish your credibility, expertise, authority in the ceramics community
- Grow your network, connect with other potters
- Journal, record your thoughts, tell your story
- Keep people up to date with your latest activities and experiences
- Record and share your research
- Practice writing and thinking about pottery
- Express your views about creativity, art and pottery
- Build a brand
- Promote other potters, pottery events, galleries, opportunities, etc.
- Earn some extra income by blogging
- Compile resources for other potters or yourself
- Learn more about technology
It is usually better to focus on one or just a few of the goals mentioned above. Perhaps one main goal and a few sub-goals. That way you’ll find a specific audience and keep them happy. If you try to “do it all” your message can get diluted or your audience might get confused. The more focused you can be, the easier it will be to create content and make decisions. Of course, some people really enjoy random facts or surprises. And some just want to get to know you no matter what you are blogging about. As long as you have good content, you’ll find an audience.
As with any goal, it’s important for it to be measurable. Think about how you will measure your goal: visitors, subscribers, sales, income, comments, new relationships, articles published…? Also, think about what time frame you will measure. Weekly, monthly, a full year? Set a specific number and specific time to help keep yourself on track. You can also break it into smaller milestones. For example, instead of saying 500 subscribers in a year you might shoot for 10 in the first month. If you make that try 20 more in the next month, etc.
Who are you blogging for?
Once you have decided your goal you can start to find your target audience. What kind of readers should you attract to reach your goal?
- Other potters
- Other bloggers
- People that want to try making pottery
- Future customers
- Current customers
- Gallery owners
- Retail spaces
- Other creative people outside the ceramic community
- Friends and family
As you can probably tell, many of these can overlap. You might learn that your target audience is different than you expect.
One thing that can help you find your audience: imagine the perfect reader for your blog. What excites them? What kind of job do they have? What kind of sites do they visit on a regular basis? What questions or problems to they have? Why would they trust you? What about age, gender, economic status, etc?
Try to be as specific as possible. If you are selling your pots and you make yarn bowls you’ll probably want to target people who use yarn. Not just people who buy pots.
More thoughts about finding an audience from Ken McArthur.
What Will You Blog About?
So you have a goal and an audience. Now you just have to figure out what to blog about! Think about your readers. How can you answer their questions or help them solve problems? How can your story impact their lives? What will make them trust you and your product. This should get easier to figure out as you interact and get to know your audience.
For example, if you’re writing for other potters you might share:
- glaze recipes
- tips and techniques
- videos you have made or have enjoyed
- how you made a pot
- discoveries you’ve made
- how you photograph or sell your pots
- interviews with other potters
- book reviews
- commentary on other potter’s content, etc.
Think about questions or problems you’ve had as a potter. How did you solve them?
If you are writing for people that buy pots you might show:
- your story, what makes you unique
- how the pots are made
- what they are used for
- the finely crafted details
- why they are unique
- quality photos of your pots in use
- upcoming events
- why you make pots a certain way
- testimonials from previous customers
- how you know your pots are food safe
- new places to buy your pots, etc.
Think about how you feel as a customer. What questions do you ask before you purchase something? How do you decide on one brand or product over another?
Organizing Your Content
Categorizing your content may help spark some new ideas. List a handful of categories which can be used to sort your blog posts. For example, you might have categories: Events, Work in Progress, Finished Work, Technical Information. Your blog might let you break each category down into subcategories as well. Under ‘Events’ you might find: Sales, Workshops, Classes, Conferences, etc. You can create a mind map or bubble map to organize your thoughts.
Need some more ideas? Check out this post from Copyblogger.
How Often Should You Blog?
In short: it depends. How much time do you have to create content? How often do people want to hear from you? Is your blog more of a daily journal? In that case, feel free to write… daily. How long is your content? If it’s just a photo and a sentence you could probably pull it off at least once per day. If you’re trying to explain the intricacies of a computerized kiln controller you might spend a month creating a detailed post. If in doubt, I feel like it’s better to blog a little too often than not enough. But above all, make sure your content is helpful or interesting.
Many people like to publish on a schedule. Getting into a routine makes it easier to do and it gives your readers something they can count on and look forward to.
Planning the Design and Technical Parts
Now that you have some idea of what you’ll be blogging about you can start to contemplate the look and feel of your blog. You want it to complement your story and content. There are plenty of things to consider…
Self Hosted vs. Free Blog?
One of the biggest choices you’ll have to make is whether you want to host your own blog or get an account on another company’s blog platform. There are pros and cons to both options.
Free Blogging Accounts
If you want easy, find a free blog platform (Blogger, WordPress.com, Weebly, Tumblr, etc.) and try it out. I would recommend this if you are new to blogging or are not extremely comfortable with technology. You can even set up a dummy account just to try some of the different services and see which fits your goal or style best. These free accounts usually offer fewer customization options and more restrictions on what you can and can’t do. They also might stick their logo on your blog or even put ads on your blog. So, as they say, “free” isn’t always free. The upside is that many of these platforms make it easier to network with other blogs on the platform by sharing, following, re-blogging, etc.
You can often purchase extra features such as more storage space, remove ads/logos, or your own domain name. I highly recommend getting your own domain name if you are starting a serious blog (‘newpotteryblog.com’ instead of ‘wordpress.newpotteryblog.com’). It looks more professional and people will think of it as a serious site.
Pay For Web Hosting And Set Up Your Own Blogging Software
If you want more control you can sign up for a paid web hosting account and install blogging software to set up your own blog. You get to decide almost every detail but will also have a lot more to learn and maintain. Basically, you are buying a space on somebody’s server and setting up your site the way you want it. There are different types of web hosting but if you are just starting “shared hosting” should be fine. This site uses, and is very happy with, Stablehost.
Some hosting accounts come with a free domain name. If not, you’ll need to purchase a domain name from a domain registrar. This will be the address for your site (potterymakinginfo.com is the domain name of this site). I am happy with Namecheap and GoDaddy for domain names. More about naming your blog below.
After you get a domain name and set up a web hosting account you can install a blog program. The most popular is WordPress, found at wordpress.org. It is estimated that WordPress runs about 20% of the entire web. There are plenty of other options though too.
Themes and Templates (The Design)
Most blogging platforms offer themes or templates to make it easy to change the look of your blog. Many are free but on most platforms you can buy premium themes with extra features. You’ll want to consider how your theme or template enhances your content or products. Things to consider while choosing a theme or template:
- Fast Load Times! – If someone has to wait more than a few seconds for your page to load they won’t stick around very long. Bells and whistles are great but they can slow down your blog.
- Responsive! – make sure it looks good on all screen sizes including mobile devices
- Color Scheme – something to complement your product (no neon backgrounds from the 90s!)
- Layout – magazine, article, pinterest, journal?
- Emphasize photos vs. text?
- Support – are people still updating your theme or template? Can someone help if you have questions?
- Cost – there are many great free options but paying for one usually means better support and often better quality
This site uses a customized version of the Genesis Framework . There are a bunch of great StudioPress Themes for WordPress. A little pricey if you are just starting out, but plenty of options for a professional looking blog.
More advice for picking a theme.
Stand Alone Blog vs. Part of a Larger Website
Years ago, websites were static. You uploaded files to a server and your site stayed the same until you uploaded new files. Blogging made it possible to create new pages and edit them “on the fly” or in real time. A little bit like how you can instantly email someone instead of waiting for them to get a letter in the mail and respond.
Now, a blog and a static website can be combined. You can have a blog (a page with constantly updated articles) and also have “more traditional” pages that don’t change much like an artist statement, contact info, image gallery, etc. You could think of a blog as the ‘news’ section of your website like potterymakinginfo.com or you might have a blog with a few additional pages like Gary Jackson’s Fire When Ready Pottery.
This basically comes down to how the pages on your site are set up. First, what do you want people to see when they type on your domain name? Do you want them to see your latest blog entries or a ‘static’ home page giving an overview of you or your products? Will you only be creating content in a chronological order like a journal? Or do you want to have some separate pages with content that is invariable.
Blog articles/posts/entries usually have a time stamp and author name on them so they can be presented in chronological order. You probably don’t want a date on your pages that don’t change much because it looks like they are out of date even thought the information just hasn’t changed. To make the distinction more clear, pages are usually linked in the navigation menu at the top of a site because they are important. Blog posts or articles are usually listed on a ‘blog page’ usually by date.
Don’t get too hung up on this decision. You can always start with just a blog and add pages later. And most blog software lets you change your home page with the click of a button.
One thing that isn’t recommended though, is to have a website on one domain and then set up a blog on a separate domain. For example you have a static site at www.potterysite.com and then make a blog at www.potterysite.blogspot.com. This defeats the purpose of a “central hub” for you or your business and makes it confusing to visitors. It is also not great for your search engine ranking as you are splitting your ranking mojo. Years ago, some people built a website and then started a separate blog, like blogspot, because their static website didn’t allow them to blog. Now days, blogging or website software can make a blog and a traditional site all in one.
Naming Your Blog
You’ll want to make sure your blog name and domain name line up with your goals, audience and content. If you are starting a blog for your business the obvious choice for both is the business name. If you’re building a personal platform you’ll probably want your full name in the title. Try to avoid generic titles and goofy nicknames if you are trying to come across as a business or a professional.
Also, shorter and easy to remember is generally better for a blog title and domain name than longer, hard to type names. For example, Musing About Mud is easy to remember and really fits the content that Carole Epp shares.
There is also the decision of how big a part Search Engine Optimization will have on your blog. Your blog title and domain name can have a big impact on where you will show up in search engines. If you are sharing information and tips about the wood kilns that you have and will fire you might pick firingwoodkilns.com or woodfiringpottery.com so people are more likely to find your blog when they use Google to search for information about firing wood kilns. But if you are selling your own pottery fired in a wood kiln the previous domain names might seem too generic. People will more likely make a purchase because they have a connection with you and your work. So johndoepottery.com or doeceramics.com might make more sense.
There are instances where it is fine to disregard these guidelines. Michael Kline uses sawdustanddirt.com and has built his blog into it’s own entity in addition to Kline Pottery. Whatever you choose, it usually makes sense for your blog title to be the same as your domain name. For example, Pottery Making Info and potterymakinginfo.com.
Conclusion and Resources
So, now you have some guidelines to help you plan a pottery blog. Do you agree with these ideas? Leave a comment if you have any advice. As we continue the pottery blog series we’ll take a look at setting up your blog, some good blogging practices and some tips to grow a larger audience.