Blogging 101: A Beginner's Guide to Building Your Online Enclave
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Even a casual look on the internet today will tell the most internet-illiterate person how common the humble web-log, or 'blog' is in everyday online life. These small, personal websites are found all over the worldwide web! They cover any variety of topics, from illness and disease, collecting, restoring, repairing, cooking, sewing, advice and inspirational material, to pets, children, business tips and much, much more! Why is this, and how do you go about setting up your own blog? Why would you want to, and how do you do it?
Blogs are common because they are easy to set up and easy to operate. Anybody who can follow a step by step list of instructions can set up a blog, and anyone who can type and has at least moderate web-surfing and research abilities can find the information they need to build a half-decent blog. This posting is here to guide you through the details that you'll need to consider if you want to build a successful blog of your own.
MY BLOG AND I
Now of course, to write about blogs, and to write about how to create a successful blog, it is beholden upon the author to actually know something about blogs, how to run one and to have a successful one which he can use as an example.
So what do I know?
My own blog sprung from extremely humble beginnings. I started it back in October, 2009 and it has since grown by leaps and bounds in the intervening years, beyond anything that I could possibly have predicted. It has gradually turned into an online repository of all my writings and thoughts about the things that interest me and which I want to share with the world.
It gets comments every single week (and almost every day), and has garnered interest, praise and followers far beyond my wildest dreams - it's even mentioned on Wikipedia! It averages 1,000 hits a day, and gets visitors from as far afield as the United States, Great Britain, Europe and Asia. How can YOU get a blog like this? Start reading...
BLOG HOSTING SITES
To have a blog, you first need a website to host it - that is - a place online which your blog can call home. There are a number of free blog-hosting websites available; two of the more common ones are blogger.com and Wordpress. They are both easy to use and offer great variety in customisation. Reading up on the various free blog-hosting websites and deciding which one has the features which best suit you is the first step in building your blog.
For the beginner blogger, a hosting website which is free, easy to use and navigate, and which provides a wide variety of choices is best, as it allows the novice blogger to go at their own pace to create what is likely to be their very first website.
WHY BUILD A BLOG?
The reasons why you might want to build a blog are numerous, from sharing ideas, information and experiences, to wanting to help or educate people, to informing them about what is happening in your life or business. Your reason for creating a blog can be whatever you want. As high-born or lowbrow as you like, so long as it's a reason that will keep you coming back to your blog on a regular basis to update it - there's no point starting a blog which you have no intention of maintaining.
TIPS FOR BUILDING A SUCCESSFUL BLOG
Most bloggers build a blog hoping that it will be highly successful. They hope to get high rankings, five-star post-ratings, and loads of encouraging and admiring comments from their readers, and build up a huge following of loyal fans who will come back week after week or month after month, to see what new things they've written about! How do you do this?
A successful blog has many components - and many of these I found out through my own experience running my own blog. The following advice is based on six years' worth of dedicated blogging.
What Is Your Goal?
The first element of having a successful blog is knowing what your goal or aim is. What is your purpose in having a blog?
It doesn't have to be some great and amazing purpose, but it has to be one that will encourage you to write and which will give you the confidence, and motivation to update your blog on a regular basis. Having a clearly-stated aim or purpose in operating your blog and what you intend to put into it will encourage people to visit it and read it, and perhaps, follow it, so that they will be kept up to date with your latest postings.
When I started my blog, I had no real goal. My first impression of blogs was that they were like journals or diaries, and I'm notoriously bad at keeping a diary - I don't do enough exciting or interesting stuff in a day to sit down and record it. And even if I did, I doubted anybody online would give a damn about what was going on in my life! So why bother keeping a blog?
As I thought about it more, however, it occurred to me that a blog is a lot more than a list of postings in chronological order - it is, or could be, whatever I wanted it to be! And who cared if people were, or weren't interested in what I had to say? I'd let them come if they wanted, and if they wanted it, then good for them. Concentrate on why YOU want to write a blog, first of all, and let the followers and readers come of their own accord.
With this in mind, I finally had my purpose - to create a blog which would serve as a storage space for all my random writings. It was not a great purpose, but it was something to motivate me - and sometimes - that's all the motivation you need. It doesn't have to be great - it just has to be good. Good enough to motivate you and get you started. Over time your aim might change, and that's fine - but you need something to get you going to begin with.
How Regularly Will you Post?
How regularly you post in your blog is up to you. You should post when you have something to say, something to share, something that will grab the attention of your readers and hold it. It does not have to be a long post, it just has to be an interesting post. A blog that is updated every day or every week with useless dribble will not get a very loyal following. A blog that is updated once a fortnight, or once a month (which is the rate at which I usually update my blog) with informative, interesting, funny, or attention-grabbing posts is far more likely to get dedicated readers than one that's updated every two hours with cute cat videos.
Creating a successful blog has many different components. We've discussed ease of use and operation, your own personal reasons for operating a blog, and the regularity of the postings. The next thing to tackle is what these postings of yours look like.
Proper written communications skills, paragraphing, spelling and grammar seem like pithy, trivial things, but nobody will read your blog if they can't understand what you've written. It might be the most amazing story of survival ever told, or the greatest flea-market find of your life, or the funniest family reunion story in the history of recorded existence, but it will mean nothing if people are unable to discern what it is that you've written! Make sure your writing is clear and easy to understand and free from ambiguity.
Apart from this, there's also two other elements of an attractive blog-posting - good pictures and paragraphs. Proper formatting and use of paragraphs helps people follow and read your writing much more easily. Traditionally, you should have no more than ONE idea per paragraph. If you start talking about another thing while writing about something else - stop and make that another paragraph! It stops people from being confused. On top of that, reading overly-large paragraphs is a strain on the eyes and people can easily lose their place from line to line. This will make them disinclined to read massive walls of text – they’re intimidating and frustrating to wrap one’s head around.
When uploading pictures to your blog, make sure that they come from public domain sources! The majority of people will probably not complain so long as you credit them as the photographers of their own pictures, but it's always better to ask if you can use their images. If you can't, then it's best to look elsewhere, unless you're sure that it's OK. It's always better to use your own photographs or images when possible. I suggest having a private album on Facebook or at some photo-sharing website where you can keep a repository of images which you wish to use on your blog.
Interesting and Informative Titles
Interesting, colourful content is all well and good, but it's useless if people don't know it's there! One of the most important parts of creating a good blog is having interesting and informative titles, not only of your blog-postings, but of the blog itself. If it's a business blog - make sure it has a business-like title. If it's your personal blog, then be creative and whacky - the more unique and interesting a blog-title is, the easier it will be to find through online web-searches, and the more easily it will be remembered by friends, colleagues, family and followers. The title of your blog should be individual, creative, but above all, reflect the content that people will find inside it.
The same goes for the titles of your individual blog-postings. They should be catchy and should provoke either thought, or curiosity - they need to entice the reader to want to know more- to click on the title or the link or the 'Read More' button, to find out what is the content behind the title. A flat and bland title would probably work as well, but a title with a bit of whimsy can inject curiosity into the reader - and fewer things are more powerful than making someone curious to know more.
Another key component of having a great blog is organising your posts! Most blog-hosting services will allow you to set up pages and categories so that you can do this - take advantage of it! You should have as many categories or pages as you need to make your blog easy to navigate. These pages and categories should be clearly titled with what people can expect to find within them. Having great content is useless if people cannot find it!
Most blogs have a search-feature as standard so that people (or you) can find old blog-posts that they might want to read. To make this feature more effective, make sure you give your blog-postings relevant tag-words, so that people can find them more easily.
Getting In Contact!
Part of having a successful blog is being an accessible blogger. People are more likely to visit, rate and comment on your blog if they know they have a way of contacting you, without having to leave a comment on one of your blog-postings. Post an email address in your 'About Me' or ‘Contact Me' page, so that people will have a way to message you privately, if they wish.
This is useful for people who want to ask for advice, information, or who have something important to tell you, and wish to do so privately. Having this option available means that more people are likely to visit your blog, knowing that they have this avenue open to speak to you without having to share their views or questions with the rest of the world. To prevent your regular email address from being bombarded with emails, set up a second email account specifically for your blog. How often you check it depends on how popular your blog is. Once a week should be sufficient. More often (every two days, perhaps), if your blog gets lots of emails.
PRIVATE GRIEF ON PUBLIC SLEEVES
Your blog can be many things - an outlet for creativity, a platform for sharing, an educational and informative podium - but whatever you do - do not make it an outlet for personal details! Your followers are here to read about what it is you write or do or see or accomplish - not to be assaulted by all the unsavory or frustrating things that are going on in your life right now!
Keep private grief off public sleeves! It makes your blog look like your diary or your grief-counsellor, and nobody wants to read that! Your blog is not an episode of Dr. Phil or the Maury show. People read blogs to relax and have fun, or to be informed. Keep the content aimed in that direction. Nobody wants to read a sob-story. Seeing a stream of negativity will turn readers away, and stop them coming back, thinking that the main purpose of the blog has been lost.
This ends our look at the ins and outs of building and running a successful blog. If you want your blog or website to be an even greater success, or need assistance or advice, then contact West Island Digital to learn more about how to market your website or business online. In the modern era, one of the best ways to grow your business is by harnessing the power of the internet and its various avenues of digital marketing open to us in the 21st century.