May 1, 2012
The April issue of Adventure Cyclist delivers a detailed Cyclists' Travel Guide. But since Adventure Cyclist anticipates that our readers will be keen on more information, we present the fourth (we hope not final!) in a series of four blog posts by Ryan McAfee and Michelle Cassel (of America ByCycle) to appear in the month of April that will serve as the sassy supplement to our annual Cyclists' Travel Guide.
1.) Pick a title for your blog.
Think of something that relates to your subject. It should be original, catchy and easy to remember. What’s more eye-grabbing — "Ted’s Bike Blog” or “Biking With Ted?" Get my drift?
2.) Buy a domain name.
Try to pick a domain name that matches your blog’s title. If it’s already taken, try to find something similar or think about changing your title to a domain name that’s available. A mismatched domain name could confuse your readers or lead to incorrect search results. If you decide to go with a self-hosting website, then try to buy your domain name from the same company you host with to make things more streamlined.
3.) Decide which platform you want for your blog.
Wordpress, Blogger, Tumblr, crazyguyonabike, and Squarespace are just a few of the more popular options out there. Depending on how much you know about the web, building websites, and adding/modifying content on those websites, you can find one that will suit your needs. At the very least you can create a Facebook page for your ride (more about that in #6). Oh, and if you choose Myspace, no one will ever see it.
4.) Choose what type of web hosting you need.
There are two ways to host your content: third party hosting and self-hosting. Both have advantages and disadvantages, and you’ll need to figure out how much content and what kind of content you’ll be adding to your site. Some give you more control over your content but lack download speeds and file space, and some give you little control but allow for more content space and faster downloading times. Do a little research and figure out what’s best for you. And if you want good customer service, it’s always best to look that up, too! For more information you can check out this link.
5.) Find a theme for your site.
Your theme is the first thing people are going to see when they come and visit your page. Pick one that compliments the subject of your blog. Keep it clean and simple, while fun and interesting at the same time. Choosing a busy theme can compete with the content and be too distracting for your readers. Most importantly, pick a theme that you can easily customize/edit to make your own. Just a little CSS and HTML knowledge can help make your blog more original. For all levels of codes, search these awesome resources: HTML Codes, CSS Codes.
6.) Add web analytics to your blog.
Web analytics are great for tracking what people are and aren’t reading. Your post about the 1967 quarter you found on the side of the road not getting any hits? Well, maybe it’s time to take it down.
7.) Spread the word and incorporate social networking and aggregators to your site.
Think about starting Facebook/Twitter/etc. pages. Including social network plugins on your blog will help get the word out as well. Many sites are built to have your posts shared among all of these external sites, so look around for the one that can fit your needs. If you want to do it the old fashioned way and copy and paste your posts, then by all means do it! The more social networks you’re on, the better chance you have of people finding your posts!
8.) Visuals are great!
People love pictures, so think about bringing a (small) camera along on your trip! Photos break up text nicely and they can really compliment your writing if used effectively. Get a flat tire? Wash yourself in a sink? Randomly run into a close friend in a tiny town in Colorado? WE WANT TO SEE IT! And if you’ve got a video camera or a video option on your phone, then post a quick clip of it. YouTube is billion-dollar company for a reason!
9.) Add a Google map!
Our map was hands down our most popular page. Everyone wanted to know where we were (mostly because they loved publicizing our slow progress). There are many different map-making programs/plugins out there to choose from. We used Google maps to track our route, which included rollover icons to insert photos and descriptions of the places we camped, ate, and any beautiful sites we saw along the way. It’s slow and tedious to draw your route, but it’s incredibly rewarding to see your progress on a daily basis. Here’s a link to our map.
10.) Publish a post before you leave!
Announce to your friends and family that you are going on this big adventure so they can tell you how insane you are. Get people following you BEFORE you actually take off on your life-changing tour. You could blog about the preparations/thoughts and feelings you’re going through, for instance. Tip: Keep it short and sweet! Other than your sweet mother who will probably check out your blog every 30 seconds, time is money for most of your readers, and they most likely have the attention span of three-year-olds. That being said, less is more. Posting too much may cause people to ignore you. Posting too little may cause them to forget about you or miss it when you do actually write something. You want to remind people that you’re there, without smothering them. Watch “ Fatal Attraction” if you don’t know what we’re talking about.
10.) Bike, blog, and keep it light!
Don’t pressure yourself into letting your blog publishing take away from your biking experience. You don’t have to write a blog every day. Trust me, the only thing you are going to want to do after biking 70+ miles is PASS OUT! But if you absolutely HAVE to tell your grandmother that a tree didn’t fall on your tent the night before, think about using Facebook or Twitter to post your daily statuses (stati?). Use your off days (hopefully at least once a week) to find yourself a library, or (if you have a larger budget) your hotel room to write your weekly blog. While writing your blog, make sure to always be yourself. This is YOUR journey and YOUR place to share it with others. Therefore, keep it personal and not too professional. Your blog should look, sound and feel like you. Most importantly, have fun with it!
Photo and screenshots by Michelle Cassel & Ryan McAfee.
MICHELLE CASSEL & RYAN McAFEE are Los Angeles-based journalists who recently biked across the country on the TransAmerica Trail. They continue to ride their bikes on tours and share their stories of the road through videos and blogs, and can be found at AmericaByCycle.com.