Since 2009 when I started intothegrain.com I’ve had the good fortune of meeting many great people and making some life long friends. I’ve visited some wonderful places, played some of the nation’s best golf courses and got to play with some of the latest equipment and golf gadgets on the market. I love sharing these experiences with my friends too. My golf friends form a typical cross-section of American golfers, and it is through them that I get the feedback and opinions about equipment and golf accessories that help me with reviews.
Over the years I’ve heard people say “I wish I had a golf blog too…” or “I need to start my own website” hundreds of times. In a series of posts I’m going to show you everything you need to know to be a golf blogger and how to get started. It’s pretty easy to be a blogger in a general sense. If all you want is a medium to share your feelings to the world then you just need a computer and an opinion to get a free weblog started at wordpress.com. However, if you want to establish a real presence on the web you will need to go far beyond free blogging platforms and build a full-fledged website.
Like any venture, if it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right. There are a few prerequisites that will make your life easier as a golf blogger:
- Writing & Grammar Skills – This may sound pretty obvious, but you would be surprised how many legitimate websites are riddled with articles and posts that have poor spelling, grammar and sentence structure. Nothing makes a reader lose interest faster than bad spelling and terrible grammar. Nobody’s perfect and we’ve all made mistakes, but if you consistently struggle with English composition, do yourself and everyone else a favor and get someone to proofread your work.
- Communication Skills – This is not the same as writing. Writing is used when authoring posts on your website. Communication skills are needed to interact with readers, fellow bloggers, golf and PR companies. Not all readers will agree with you and some may have negative things to say to you. While the vast majority of fellow golf bloggers, golf manufacturer representatives and public relations/marketing pros I’ve met are fantastic people, there are always a few out there that aren’t so warm and fuzzy. Knowing how to communicate in a professional way will be of great benefit to you in establishing a reputation and legitimizing your efforts.
- Technical Skills – You don’t have to be a computer geek to run your own website and publish on the web, but it sure helps! I’m not a web developer or designer, but as an IT professional I know my way around a computer and understand how the internet works. That experience made it much easier for me to get going. Fear not if you don’t have a high degree of technical skill, because there are always people around that can help. Besides, there’s no better way to learn than by getting your feet wet!
- Golf Experience – Don’t confuse golf skill for experience. You don’t have to have a single digit handicap to be a great golf blogger, but you should have a good understanding of the game’s history, equipment, rules and industry. If you don’t know what the difference between a ferule and a fade is you may have chosen the wrong subject to start a blog about.
- Time – Bill Watterson once said “There’s never enough time to do all the nothing you want.” Being an effective golf blogger is time consuming. If your experience is anything like mine, you will probably spend more time on administrative tasks than actually writing. I’ll go into more detail in the next post in the series, but my point is not to underestimate the time needed to maintain a website. Starting out you may only need 4 to 6 hours a week, but that number can quickly jump to 10 to 15 hours or more for a busy website.
Becoming an official exit on the information super-highway is easy enough, but advertising your presence and turning your little corner of the internet into a destination for readers will take considerably more effort. Here’s what you’ll need to get started with your own website:
- Get a domain name – What will your website be called? The internet is over 40 years old, and most of the cool domain names have already been taken. I remember listing about 20 possible website names in my search for a domain and only 3 were actually available. I was very lucky that my number two choice – intothegrain.com – was there and I was able to grab it. Come up with as many names as you can and start checking if they are available on a site like instantdomainsearch.com. From there you can go to your domain registrar of choice and purchase the domain name for yourself.
- Find a web host – Your website needs to go somewhere, and there are hundreds of web hosts that will sell you hosting plans for yours. Do some shopping around and compare prices and features. Your site will start small, but make sure you find a host that will grow with you as you build your presence. Ask them how they can help upgrade your hosting account as you grow.
- Choose your website platform – The most popular blogging software and Content Management System (CMS) on the internet is WordPress. There are over 60 million websites running WordPress, including this one. WordPress is very easy to use and there are many plugins and themes available to customize your site, but its popularity also makes it a target for hackers. Fortunately the WordPress development community releases frequent updates and support options are plentiful. Other popular blogging platforms include Joomla and Drupal, although they require more technical knowledge to implement properly.
- Learn about SEO & analytics – Create an account with Google and sign up for Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools. These tools will help you understand where your readers are coming from and how they get to your website, as well as helping you to write for the web in a way that will help the search engines find and index your content, which makes it easier for people to find you. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is an ever-changing endeavor that is misunderstood by many, but learning the basics is simple and will benefit your website in the long run.
- Start Writing – Once you have a domain name and your website is up and running with the CMS if your choosing, it’s time to start putting your virtual pen to virtual paper and write! Some bloggers like to write about the professional tours, others like to focus on golf equipment reviews and travel, and others just want a sounding board for anything related to golf. What you write about is your prerogative. Have fun with it!
So there you go. You should have all the tools needed to get started in the world of internet publishing and start your own golf blog. For me it was a fun process and I learned a lot over the years. I found that my fellow golf bloggers were very helpful and supportive along the way, and for the most part the blogger fraternity is very accepting to new bloggers. If you have any questions about starting your own site, feel free to reach out to me. I’ll be glad to help.
Our next post on the subject will cover the day-today activities of a golf blogger to give readers a more detailed look at what is really going on behind the scenes. We’ll cover the following topics:
- A typical day in the life of a golf blogger
- What goes into a good article
- Handling rich media (Videos and pictures)
- Miscellaneous duties and tasks
- Perks & drawbacks of being a golf blogger