How to Blog: A Beginner’s Guide

This is part one of a two part series.

First and foremost I want to put out there that there is no right or wrong way to blog. Many people are out there making good money perpetuating this myth when, in fact, some of the most successful blogs in the blogosphere become that way because the blog writer is doing his/her own thing. The purpose of this tutorial is not to tell you whether or not you are doing it right (you are!) but to offer you information on getting started and suggestions on how to make your blogging experience pleasant, enlightening and growth inspiring.

Choose a platform

The first step is to get yourself a blog. There are literally hundreds of choices out there and you should have an idea of what it is you want to do with your blog. Some things to get you thinking: Will your blog be strictly text or will you want to upload pictures? Will you post video and audio as well? How easy is it to use? Do they allow you to edit your template? It is important that you find a blog host or use blog software that will support your blogging needs.

I recommend making sure your blog supports a category system. A category system is sort of like a file cabinet for your posts. Having one will make it easier for a visitor to read more posts you’ve written about a particular topic and some online services such as Technorati will use your categories as tags (more on that later).

Personalize your blog

Whether your blog is privately hosted or setup with one of the more popular public platforms, your blog will come with a default template. You should endeavor to make your blog reflect your personality and interests as much as you can. You can do this several ways.

The first is to give your blog a unique and memorable name. Be sure to do a search on the internet to make sure that no one else is using your proposed name. It could get pretty awkward and confusing if there are more than one blog with the same name. It wouldn’t hurt to check the Internet Archives either to see if the name has been used in the past and especially if you are registering a domain name for a privately hosted site. You don’t want to register a domain name that has been banned by the search engines for spamming them. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

The next thing you can do is to create a blog header that includes your blog’s title. If you have graphic design skills, you can use a program such as Photoshop to create something truly unique. Don’t worry, though, if you don’t know the first thing about graphic design. There are many designers on the internet giving away free headers to show off their skills or bring traffic to their website. Do a search on the internet and be sure to read their terms of use before grabbing one.

You can also personalize your blog by changing the default template. If you are hosting your blog on your own private domain, oftentimes the platform you choose will have a support site that can refer you to places where you can find templates. If you know, or are willing to take the time to learn, CSS and HTML, many platforms will also offer information on how to design your own template. Not only that, there are a myriad of web designers on the internet, myself included, who will design you a personalized template from scratch at a reasonable price.

However, if you are hosting your blog with a public service, the host may limit your choice of templates to what they provide but allow you to make minute changes such as the color scheme or add a personalized banner. This should be among the things you check for when searching for a blog.

Another way to “own” your blog is to make sure you fill out the personal information space on the site. You don’t have to give all of your deep dark secrets (We really don’t want to know what you did with the instrument at band camp) but including a few details will help readers get to know you better.

Getting visitors

After you have set up your blog it is time to let people know you exist. Your first step is to submit your blog to the major search engines Google, Yahoo and MSN. Despite what you may have heard or what their cult followers say, search engines are glorified filing systems. Think of the catalogue system at your local library. When you type in a subject that you are interested in the computer, it pops up a list of books, magazines and newspapers relating to that subject. That’s because the librarians spent time going through and cataloguing each book according to title, author and subject matter.

Search Engines do the internet version of the same thing. When you submit your blog, their little librarians, or in this case their robots, will come to your blog and catalogue your site according to their criteria which includes but is not limited to; title, author and subject matter and keyword usage. So when someone searches the internet for a particular subject, if you have information regarding that subject, your blog will be listed among the possible matches in the search result.

Use the following links to submit your website to the majors:
1. Google
2. Yahoo
3. MSN

Is it necessary to submit to smaller search engines? Not really. Unless they are specialized, most of the smaller search engines get their results from the majors. Also about 85% of searches are done on at least one of the majors.

Continue to Part II

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