- Internet & the Web
Want to Become a Blogger?
Advice for Aspiring and Beginning Bloggers
So, you're thinking about or have already started your journey to become a blogger. Congratulations! You are about to join an online community of people who are unafraid to state their opinions on the net! Regardless of how you reached this point, welcome! Whether you are thinking about blogging for money or just want people to read about what you ate for lunch, you've come to the right place. This is a detailed guide on how to begin or revamp your blogging adventure. Feel free to bookmark this page for future review if you find the content helpful.
The first question to ask yourself is, "Why do I want to blog?" The reason for this question is to get an honest baseline for your expectations. If you want to blog for money, traffic and readership is paramount. If you are just looking for an online diary for friends and family, there will be less concern for commercialization and traffic generation. Some people may choose to use a blog as a professional resume of sorts, demonstrating to potential employers their ability and expertise regarding specific subject matter.
Whether you blog will be oriented in profit generation, professional development, or social interaction, you will need a home for all your amazing bloggerific content.
Blogger is Google's free blog hosting hub. Since I am most familiar with Blogger as a blog host, I'll be able to provide the most information regarding its services. There are other blog hosting options available and I will provide links to some well known hosts as well.
Blogger is somewhat limited in the default blog "skins" or "themes" provided by default but there are several online resources available to help you customize your blog design. My creative writing blog employs the use of a third-party theme to enable a three-column look. Employing the third-party blog template was not an overly technical procedure, but it did take a little time to get just right. My first tip for you if you intend to upload a new template is to save a backup of your current template and copy out the code for all of your widgets, as they will be lost in the process.
There are features to email posts directly to your blog or into a draft for later editing. You can also manage comments and specify human confirmation codes as a spam deterrent and you can set comments to require your approval before showing up on your blog.
WordPress is another popular free blog hosting option and utilizes a spam and trackback module called Askimet to help prevent comment spam. There are several different themes available and finding additional themes is relatively simple as WordPress is also a downloadable module for bloggers who choose to host their own blogs or have hosting deals with other online entities.
The level of customization seems to far exceed that of Blogger's, though beginning bloggers may find the interface more difficult to understand and navigate. WordPress does seem to have more bells and whistles if you have the time to learn how to use them effectively. But you cannot incorporate paid advertising on the hosted version, if you want to do that you'll have to host it yourself.
LiveJournal offers both free and paid accounts and seems to place an emphasis on user interaction. A basic, free account has all the posting rights and privileges associated with maintaining a blog, whereas a paid account offers access to premium features which are listed in their F.A.Q. here.
After You've Chosen a Home:
Once you've chosen a home from your blog, you will need to decide if a domain name is right for you. An important question to ask is, "Where is my blog going?" If you dream of one day having a significant online presence, obtaining a domain name now may be the best option. As your blog grows you may decide to move off the free-host platform and have your content hosted for a fee. You can do this seamlessly if you've already obtained your domain name, but if you have been using the free naming convention you will need to rebuild your blog's online reputation and search engine ranking.
After you've decided what to do about the name and address of your blog, you'll need to settle in and tweak the theme to fit the look you're going for. Try to avoid loud, clashing colors and any other designs that may put off potential readers. If you're color blind, you may wish to ask someone you trust to take a look at your design.
Posting Frequency -
You have set up your blog and the design is just right, so now what? Start posting! It is important to set your posting expectations from the beginning of your blogging career. Will you post several times a day? Once a day? Perhaps you will post once a week? Frequency is not necessarily as important as consistency. Visitors to your blog may lose interest if you suddenly miss your regular posting schedule without explanation. So many blogs start up and fizzle out on the internet that you're already fighting an uphill battle. Along with frequency, I should also mention that the quality of your postings should be consistently high. If you want people to read what you have to say, you've got to have something worth reading.
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You've set up your blog and you have a few posts under your belt. You're feeling pretty good about yourself until you suddenly realize... where is everyone? Some people romanticize the idea of blogging as an easy way to make money on the internet by sharing your opinions. This may be the case for some people once they are established, but at some point everyone needs to do a little blog promotion.
The first step to blog promotion is getting the word out and joining online blogger communities. I've taken a moment to grab some links that will help you on your way to promoting your blog:
- Add to Google Search
- Technorati (Online blog listing)
- Stumble Upon (Promote specific blog posts)
- Digg.com (Promote specific blog posts)
- Twitter (Promote specific blog posts)
Engaging Visitors -
You've started promoting your blog and the people are trickling in! Stay engaged with your visitors and answer comments. Even a simple, "Thanks for the comment, I appreciate you stopping by!" can go a long way. Don't use form comments to answer people. A touch of personalization can make an incredible difference as to whether a person will return or not.
Types of Visitors -
There are several types of visitors who may stumble upon your blog. It is important to realize who and why these people have stopped by.
- People who know you
- Other Bloggers
- Flamers, Baiters, and Trolls
- People who have an interest in your topic
People who know you - may or may not frequent your blog. If the people who know you are like the people who know me, they may never comment and will lurk around your pages in the shadows. These visitors are very unlikely to click on Adsense ads and other advertising mechanisms. They rarely engage in discussions so you may never even realize that they've stopped by. This could include people in your office that do or do not like you, with this in mind, it may be best to filter what you decide to post, or use codenames and generalities for things that may get you into trouble. These visitors are not necessarily bad visitors and can help spread word about your topic and invite new visitors. It's just harder to detect their presence.
Other Bloggers - will visit your blog. Why would they do this? There are various reasons, but some may stop by because of similar interests. Others may visit as a way to try to promote their own blog. They may leave links in your comment sections after posting a vague snippet such as, "Hi, nice blog. You should check out my post about blogging tips. [url]" Not everyone who does this has ill-intent in mind and you may or may not decide to edit their comments to exclude the link. It is important to note that not all bloggers who visit will do so under selfish pretense, and it's generally easy to spot the ones who do.
Flamers, Baiters, and Trolls - oh my! The internet is good for a lot of reasons and it's bad for just as many. Some of your visitors will get on your nerves and anger you, perhaps even tempt you to launch an unholy tirade about how much they piss you off. Don't do it. These virtual bullies get a kick out of ruffling the feathers of random strangers. You may find that a polite response that expresses your disagreement will suffice, or you may choose to ignore the response and allow your active readership to answer for you. The important note is to not allow flames and trolling to get out of hand. Be careful with censorship, though. It's okay to let a comment stand that is in disagreement with your position. Deleting these comments is akin to saying the conversation never existed. There is a difference between moderation and censorship. Deleting a comment for continued bad language after warning about conduct is different than deleting a comment because it doesn't agree with your point of view. Your regular visitors will appreciate your discretion and will most often stand up in your defense.
People who have an interest in your topic - are by far the most valuable visitors to your blog. They will often leave engaging comments, click on related ads, and may even link to your blog as an information resource. You should strive to maintain the interest of these visitors through engaging content and regular postings. If they are bloggers themselves, take a few minutes on a regular basis to stop by their blog and leave a comment of your own. Place a link to their blog on your own if the content is related and of good quality.
It is important that you foster lasting relationships with these readers. Furthermore, your blog promotion efforts should be centered on gaining more of these visitors. This type of targeting can increase the effectiveness and reach of your blogging efforts.
Keep blogging! By now I hope you've realized that blogging is much more than just sitting around typing out a post every now and then and watching the money roll in. There is a lot of effort involved, including blog promotion and fostering lasting relationships with your readers. I will emphasize once again and I hope the concept is fairly obvious: you've got to provide engaging content. You can't just post random junk and hope the world will love you for it. Blogging just doesn't work that way.