So you want to start your own own football blog website? It’s really quite simple and cost effective to get started and we’ve got some advice you may or may not wish to take on board.
We’ve been running FootballinBracknell now for 18 months and it is hard work keeping everything up to date, but an absolute labour of love for Darrell and myself.
Here’s our top tips for getting started..
1. Don’t spend any money (at least to start with)
It’s all very well having a customised domain name, shiny site and funky gadgets, but having attempted over the last 10 years to start any kind of blog it’s worth trying things out first to see if you have the time and commitment.
It’s perfectly easy to do as well. We use WordPress for FiB and you can sign up for a free account and access to a very straightforward content management system via their website here.
WordPress will give you some internet space and a sort of customisable URL as well as access to any number of free themes to make your blog stand out.
Our friends at OxOnFootball have gone down this route and a thoroughly decent website it is too.
2. Decide on your sites focus
This is where a little bit of planning is worth it’s weight in gold.
I mentioned I’d tried to start a few blog sites before FiB came about. These were attempts to cover the whole of non league football or quirky ‘funny’ stories about football.
The former is just to large a scope (and something I don’t know anywhere near enough about) and the latter as Darrell will tell you – I am not that quirky or funny.
When we both stepped down from running the Bracknell Town website we decided we wanted to run our own site, and focused on what we knew.
Local football, and specifically Bracknell football. That’s obviously expanded out in to neighbouring towns like Wokingham and Ascot but the point is they are all intertwined in a specific area.
A number of sites have popped up with a similar local focus – OxOn as we mentioned, SevernSport in Gloucestershire and there are undoubtedly others.
3. Regularity and reliability is key to building an audience
If like us you want to run a football blog for (dare we say) fun and you don’t have £££’s to spend advertising then building an audience is going to take time and patience in equal measure.
The simplest way is to (and apologies if we are patronising you – that is absolutely not the intention) do what you do regularly and often.
That might be committing to writing a preview before every match day, or filing the results on the same day after a game. Your regular audience will know when the information is being published on your site and will expect it.
When we started out we were writing articles for each team we covered (three main one’s at the time) titled ‘things to expect from team A vs team B’.
They were well read but exhausting to write and we quickly found ourselves developing regular cliches and at times writing the same thing every week to the point where we decided to drop the format. We still do it occasionally for a big derby or cup final, but as volunteers with day jobs the commitment was simply too big.
4. Keep an eye on the statistics
If you are on WordPress, it’s worth installing the JetPack plugin which has in built statistics – if you are keen on building an audience you’ll soon be able to see what your audience likes, and what they don’t.
We noticed a spike in audience to articles when we put players names in the headlines – this largely came through social media and went against what we thought would be higher value search traffic for team names.
We have free Google Analytics installed which is a bit more in depth and gives us real time figures via the Google Analytics Dashboard for WP plugin which you can read about here.
5. Find a source of images
Maybe this should be number one, but I can’t stress how important it is to have images of people for your website.
Whether you get these through going to games and taking them yourself – a modern day smart phone in most lights will do a decent close up but match action is not so good – or making friends with local photographers.
We were lucky to already be friendly with the Bracknell Town photographer as well as the Binfield photographer and had an offer of help from the Ascot United photographer who started going to games we requested but you could always put out a call on social media for any interest or contact that local news organisation to see if they could help.
However you do it, images will make your website and encourage more clicks on your stories.
6. Social media..
If you only do one thing, setup a twitter account for your blog.
Our biggest referrer of traffic to FiB is through twitter. That’s people clicking on the links we put out there and it’s also how we’ve made a lot of our local football friends.
[cue Inbetweeners gif]
We’ve also got a facebook and instagram page but the biggest of the lot is twitter. Simply sharing stories and @ing clubs and players means they share your content (providing it’s positive naturally) and generate interest in your site.
What if you do want to spend some money?
We’ve been lucky enough to get a couple of sponsors in to help us pay for some dedicated web space which we have through a company called Site Ground.
They are a dedicated WordPress host and are quite simply the best we’ve found in 10 years of running WordPress sites.
They have 24 hour support and will transfer your site from it’s current host to their’s as part of the deal. If you sign up using this link, we get a couple of months of paying our bills so feel free. We’ve previously used the likes of Go Daddy and 1&1 and can honestly say Site Ground has been the best by a country mile.
URL: What about that fancy URL you wanted? You can usually get a .co.uk address for around £10 a year but at the time of writing Namesco are offering the first year free.
Themes: Fancy a smart professionally designed theme? Themeforest is the place we picked ours up from. There’s a true vault of options in there.
We’re also using a GMAIL business account for our email which gives us customised FiB addresses and a plugin called AdSanity which allows us to display and monitor the effectiveness of advertising on the site.
If you have any questions about what’s in this article then feel free to email [email protected]