Beginner Blogging: The Prequel
Are you interested in starting a blog? If you do, you will join a club with millions of members. The number of blogs created each week is in the thousands. The competition to have a popular, successful blog is enormous. However, do not let that discourage you. Be aware of what you are faced with in the world of blogging. The best way to start out on the right foot and have a successful blog is to be prepared.
Get Social & Engage
Join and be active on social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Pinterest. You have to tell the world you are out there. You have to let people know you are interested in them. Engagement is key. People will notice if you only convey your blog posts. No one wants to open the door for a salesman. Post, tweet, like, share, retweet, pin, and comment your way to building good relationships. You will be surprised by the amount of friends you will find out there.
Schedule Your Activities
Blogging takes time. Take a look at your typical day and find where you can set aside time for the tasks at hand. Writing, editing, formatting, publishing, promoting, and all the things necessary for your posts. Take a food blog for instance. There is recipe selection, testing, cooking, photo taking, photo editing, and so on and so forth. As much time as you set aside to do all the stuff for your posts after you start blogging, you will need beforehand for setting up your blog. The good thing is blogging is so captivating you will look forward to your scheduled blogging times. You may find yourself sneaking in a few other blogging moments.
Research Your Niche
Check out your competition. Find out what blogs about your subject are out there. Look for what is missing. Understand the standards of your topic, especially if they are technical, medical, scientific, and the like. Subscribe to your competitor's blogs and read them. Do searches for blogs. Follow your competitors on social media sites and get to know them. Let them get to know you too. Fellow bloggers get excited about new blogs and have been known to spread the word about great finds.
Learn Blogging Best Practices
Are you familiar with copyright law? It applies to blogs too. Both written content and images are protected. For example, you cannot download an image from the internet and use it in your blog without permission from image's owner. However, you can search for and use images on flickr that are under creative common license or purchase stock photos from sites like Veer.
There are also best practices for disclosure of paid posts, deep linking to other sites, trademark usage, handling private data (email addresses, banking information, etc.), user-developed content (comments, reviews, etc.), and tax laws. Protect yourself by understanding and following the rules. An excellent resource for information on copyright and blogging practices can be found here. It may seem daunting but do not let it get in your way. As the old saying goes: “Better to be safe than sorry.”
Get Familiar With Blogging Terminology
HTML, ftp, hyperlink, trackback, SEO, permalink, tags, RSS, categories, themes, blogroll, pingback, slug, and the list goes on. Go through websites about blogging sites and read everything. These terms will become a big part of your vocabulary soon. Here are a few to get you started:
- HTML – Hyper Text Markup Language. It is the main “computer” language for web pages. The HTML elements are the basic building blocks of web pages. A simple example is: To make words bold, there are html codes before and after the words. But note: most blogging software has a user-friendly interface of HTML built-in so it makes it easy to do things like highlight and click on the “B” button to make words bold. Click here for further explanation and example.
- SEO – Search Engine Optimization. It is what you do to get your blog higher up on the list of websites when someone does a web search. The goal is to get on the first page and at the top. For an extensive beginners guide go here.
- RSS – Originally “RDF Site Summary” but is most commonly known as “Really Simple Syndication”. It is a way to publish your blog posts in a standardized format. It allows people to receive your blog posts via a RSS Reader. It started with techies and has caught on with a large portion of the general population. RSS Readers are a great way to for folks read blogs without having to go to bookmarks or through their email inbox. Find more on RSS here.
- Blogroll – Is a simple list of other blogs (with links) on your blog. Most people use it to show a list of other blogs they enjoy reading or are resources for their particular field.
For a glossary and definitions click here. It is also a good idea to do an internet search on each of the terms to find more information.
Become A Student
Put yourself in learning mode. Clear you mind and get ready to soak in new knowledge. Building a basic blog is somewhat easy. Adding all the bells and whistles takes a little more skill. Start small and work your way through it. Call in all your favors with any techie friends. Be their BFF. Remember I said to get social? Connect and look for mentors and teachers. You would not believe how helpful people will be if you just ask. The free flow of information in the blogging community is astonishing.
Brush-Up Your Writing Skills
No one wants to read a 500 word post that is 3 giant run-on sentences. Use your spell-checker. Triple check your spelling. Get a thesaurus. Limit your contractions. Write strong, well-structured sentences. “It was a lovely day filled with fun, friends, and good food.” is much better than “All my friends, along with the fun we had, made the day lovely while we ate the good food”. The first sentence is straight-forward with the main subject at the front. The second sentence makes it hard to figure out the main subject.
Layout Your Setup
Your blog says a lot about you. Not only the content, but also the visual aspects. Plan what you want your blog look like. Make drawings. Go to other blogs for inspiration. Research current blog design trends. Decide on column width, header size and image, font, font size, background, sidebar(s), photos, pages, navigation menu(s), ad space, footer, colors, and background.
List all the functionality you want your site to have. (Examples: a rotating serious of photos on your home page, a form for collecting email subscribers, a scrolling twitter feed, or list of recent posts. This will help you decide on which blogging software and platform you want to use. Selecting the right one to fit your current and future needs is critical. Switching later is not easy.
On Your Mark, Get Set, Go!
There is no better time than the present. Start now. Do your homework and reap the rewards of being prepared. Blogging is fun, exciting, and worth all the time and effort. You can do it. Now go and blow us all away with launch of your fabulous blog!
Featured image courtesy of Creative Commons.