Monday, September 24, 2007

Blogging for Beginners

Question of the Week: I'm thinking about starting a blog. Can you tell me where to start and how to go about it?

Well, starting a blog is easier than you think, maintaining it is more difficult. To start a blog, simply sign up with either Blogger or Wordpress, and voila, you're a blogger. FWIW, I opted for Blogger because its functionality seemed easier, but I do admit that I like Wordpress's design and layout a bit better. Beyond that, I don't really know the differences between the two, though some readers might, so feel free to chime in on your preferences below.

Once you're up and rolling, well, that's when the work begins. According to some article I read recently, there are millions, literally millions, of blogs out there, so before you start typing furiously away, you should probably assess what you intend the purposes of your blog to be. Will it be something personal for friends and family? A promotional tool for upcoming projects? A way to help hone your writing? An niche outlet on, say, knitting, to reach other knitters? I think that without a purpose, your blog is likely to flounder because a) you won't have much motivation to keep at it and b) you won't have any readers. (Note: these two things may self-perpetuate.)

Once you figure out why you're blogging in the first place, you're faced with your next two hurdles: posting frequently, which takes more time than you'd think, and gathering an audience, which also isn't such a breeze. I don't have any brilliant insights into getting readers other than befriending - genuinely - other bloggers. Take the time to visit their blogs and leave comments. When the time comes, ask for them to link to you. Hone in on your niche - for our purposes, knitting - and maybe participate in some online forums, then ask people to check out your blog. I'm sure that there are other ways to drive traffic - I was fortunate enough to get mentioned in MediaBistro several times - and that certainly increased eyeballs, but I'll also let other readers chime in here with other tactics too.

One wonderful side effect of blogging: I've made a whole slew of online friends whom I'd never have met without the blog. It's a nice and welcome perk when you sit in a lonesome office...even when updating the blog falls to the bottom of my list, I'm grateful that I started it because I've met such awesome people through it.

Speaking of you awesome people, what are your suggestions for this reader? What blogging format do you use? And how can she increase her traffic? Any other blogging tips?

9 comments:

Kvetch said...

Reading and leaving intelligent, thoughtful and well-written comments is key. They don't have to be novels, just perhaps indicative of the nature of the writing on your blog. Comments like "me too" or "way to go" don't generate as much interest.

Someone will read the comment and want to read more by whomever wrote it, and they'll click over. I suggest posting every-other day MWF if you can handle it, blog traffic seems to decrease on the weekends so you can rely on Friday to carry you through the weekend and ramp it up on Monday. If you can post daily, even better though, especially in the beginning.

Depending on your style if you are going to write lengthy posts, you might want to split them up...with a "read more" link. Unless I'm really familiar with a writer/blogger, I wince at those posts that fill the entire page.

Just my .02...ok, maybe .03.

Larramie said...

As you stated, Allison, every blog needs a purpose as well as new and relevant topics for that purpose.

Manic Mom said...

If you're a mom, read mom blogs, and post comments regularly, or find like-minded blogs. Also, for instance, you might want to google mom blogs--there are a bunch of group blogs where you can input your info about your own blog.

If you're not a mom, forget any of this! Hahah. But if your interest is writing, google writers' blogs, whatever... if you write it, if you build it, if you comment, they will come. hhahhaa

Allison Winn Scotch said...

And if you're a mom, check out Manic's blog - it's hilarious, occasionally boozy and real.

Susan said...

Definitely try to establish good blogging karma by commenting on others' blogs. Another way to do this is to invite others to write guest posts. Once you start generating traffic, this is a nice way to introduce your readers to others in your niche and to create links to someone else's blog (self-promotion would be the incentive in this case).

If you're a writer, then you might mention your blog's url whenver you have a chance to include a bio with your articles. You can also include it in your email signature, in your MySpace and facebook profiles, etec.

Dawn said...

Also, I would say pick a theme and stick to it. You'll establish a following and people will keep coming back to see what you have to say. Quality writing and a a readable format are good ideas, too (I never return to cluttered blogs with poor sentence structure).

Finally, be sure to tell everyone you know about your blog. They won't all be interested, but those who are will probably pass your URL along to friends.

Jen A. Miller said...

I've found readers for my blog (at downtheshorewithjen.blogspot.com) by putting my blog in my email signature line. The blog, and my first book, are about the south Jersey shore, and I have more people than I ever expected, especially editors, tell me that they've vacationed in that area/continue to vacation in that area/or have memories of the area. Most of them say that they want to buy my book, which is a travel guide, when it comes out.

I'm using the blog to promote my book -- and it seems to be working so far!

Nicky said...

I've just started a blog, too and am wondering how to get an audience. Thanks for these great tips - I'm definitely going to use them.

Also, if anyone is interested, check out my brand new blog.

http://hypocriticallifecoach.blogspot.com/

If you have advice or critique, it's greatly appreciated!

Thank you.

Carleen Brice said...

You can also join listserves and post on forum boards and chat rooms and include your blog address in your signature.

One of the nicest things about blogging is how helpful and friendly other bloggers are!