Everybody’s doing it
You’d think they were… blogging that is. There is enough talk about it.. But the truth is, there are many people who are not who should be.
If you are an author, an aspiring author, a professional, or anyone who wishes to (or should) convey a message, then you need a blog. And you need to write blog entries (posts) regularly.
I’m going to speak directly to the aspiring author – because that is the focus of this series… getting published. (that would be you, Lori).
Remember your platform?
We’ve discussed the idea of building a platform. Your platform is a combination of items that give you credibility. That tell a publisher or agent that you are worthy of listening to; someone they can publish and tout as an expert. (check out: Becoming An Expert – the E-Book)
Your blog is a place you can get published, practice your writing, and engage readers without having to wait for an editor’s response and acceptance of an article you’ve submitted. You are the editor! You determine what gets published… and when.
So let’s discuss some of the particulars of blogging..
What is a blog?
You are reading one. Basically, the word “blog” is a shortened version of “web log” – an ongoing diary or updates on a website. Blogs generally have very specific features like reverse date order of blog entries, most recent first, an archive of past entries, and RSS (Really Simple Syndication) – a way to subscribe to a blog and get updates.
When you start a blog, you can use a blogging service (Service-Hosted) or install blog software on a web hosting account that you own (Self-Hosted). Let me explain.
A Service Hosted Blog
There are a few major players in the blog service-hosted blog world. By service hosted, I mean, a company or service hosts your blog and takes care of ensuring the service is available. They also ensure the blog software they run is up to date. Three big names are:
Typically, you can setup a free account on these service-hosted sites. When you do, you usually have a web address that looks like this:
So, for each of the services mentioned above it would look like:
- Blogger: yourblogname.blogspot.com
- WordPress: yourblogname.wordpress.com
- Typepad: yourblogname.typepad.com
From a branding standpoint, this is not ideal. I would rather see a more professional, www.yourblogname.com. See Domain Names below.
A Self-hosted Blog
A self-hosted blog is what I recommend. That is where you register a domain name (website), setup a hosting account, and then install (don’t become frightened, I’ll make this easy for you) a blogging software on your hosted web site.
WordPress.com is a service that hosts your blog. However, WordPress.org is the wordpress software, free to download and install on your own hosted account. Or, what I recommend, is find a hosting company that has a WordPress installer..
I use, recommend, and am affiliate with Bluehost, so if you sign up with them, through me, and then contact me, I’ll install WordPress for you and the basic setup in a matter of minutes. Please note: I used and I recommended Bluehost long before I became an affiliate.
Sign up for 1 year of hosting and get a free domain registration through affiliate link.
When you’ve done so, contact me via my contact page.
Rather than be, somebody.wordpress.com or somebody.blogspot.com or somebody.anyotherservice.com, consider being, “YOU.COM”. It is about you, after all.. or about your content, name, and growing platform.
NOTE: There are many professional and popular blogs that break this rule and are service hosted. I’m offering a recommendation but it is NOT the only rule. Your GREAT content on a service hosted site will generate readers and establish you as someone to listen to.. GREAT CONTENT being key.
The benefits of a self-hosted blog on your own domain name.
- Personal Branding.. It’s you. You own the website… You own the name.
- Greater control of the design
- Greater control over files you can upload
- Greater control over add-on software, referred to as “plug-ins”. These can add mailing list, image galleries, search engine metadata (how search engines find you), music and video players, etc.
Again, you can choose service-hosted or self-hosted. It’s totally up to you. but choose self-hosted.
How Do Blogs Work?
There are many blog platforms but most share some common elements. I describe each below.
Themes or Layouts:
Most blogs contain a very standard layout or framework. Themes or layouts often have one or two side-bars or columns with static information or other blog elements (a listing of post or a listing of categories). A larger column typically has the content – either blog posts or blog pages.
Some blog platforms have very complex “Themes” that provide amazing layout flexibility. However, I recommend a more standard layout because your average reader will be able to find content more quickly. Also, it is much easier to move to a change themes when you use a more basic layout.
Blog’s always have a title. The title is available across the blog. It may be as simple as “Matt’s Blog” or “Mary’s Technology Tips Blog”. I’ve had my blog, “Notes From The Toolshed” hosted at Toolbox.com for many years.
Posts are the individual articles that make up the blog. This is the main content of your blog. While a blog might be about a given technology (ie: programming in asp.net), the individual posts or articles might cover topics like: “Connecting your app to MySQL” or “An Introduction to Classes”.
Posts are time and date stamped. In most cases, a blog’s entries or post show up in a list in reverse date order – the most recently posted article or entry first.
Similar to post but more static and less time driven or time-stamp sensitive, pages provide a way to use a blog as your company or personal website. You can have a traditional style menu on your blog with pages like, “About”, “My Resume”, “My Interest”, or anything else.
Pages are typically not categorized and do not show up in the listing of content by date posted.
Most blogs have multiple categories. You could categorize blog entries with one or more categories. That way, readers can find articles by similar topic. Categories are whatever you make them, so you can have categories that fall way off topic. For instance, you could have technical categories such as Networking, Cisco, PHP, MySQL, and SQL Server but also have personal interest categories like, cooking, hiking, music, family life, etc.
Tags are similar to categories. Not all blogs have them. They tend to be more freeform but are key words you can add to your blog. You might have a category of “networking” but then have tags like, router, switches, security, firewall.
Each blog post has a title. The title should be a short (60 characters or less) description of the content.
The body of the blog post is the article content itself. It can have images and hyperlinks. Additionally, you can often embed multi-media such as video or audio files.
I’m going to cover some basic ideas and concepts to help you get started blogging. This includes things like schedule, topics, and the tone of your writing.
Most of these ideas are guidelines, not hard-fast rules. I’ll provide my opinion on these topics but as you become familiar with more blogs and start blogging yourself, you will develop your own approach.
One of the first questions I am asked about blogging is how frequently to post entries. Early on, I typically recommend that someone posts at least once a week but if possible, I try to have them post 12-16 blog entries inside the first 2 months. That amounts to 2 blog entries per week.
The reason for this is two-fold. One, it provides multiple content points for Google to catalog. Two, it gives the appearance of a more established blog. When visitors read your blog, they will have several articles they can read and review.
After that, almost any schedule that has you publishing regular content will work. I recommend you post more than once a month. Once a week is probably a good approach and would provide a significant library of content over the course of a year.
Quantify or Length
You might be intimidated by producing that much content. It is important that you realize that you do not need to publish 1,000 to 2,000 word articles. Your blog post can be much shorter. A quick tutorial or overview of a given technology that is 300 to 500 words is more than enough.
In fact, in the busy, highly-distracted, content-rich world we live in, shorter is better. I break this rule often but in most cases recommend people post shorter articles more frequently.
Multi-part Blog Post
Another way to help increase your posting frequency is to split longer topics into two or more parts. This serves two purposes. One, a single topic can effectively give you two weeks of blog updates. Two, your readers will have a reason to return to your blog. A multi-part blog or series on a topic tends to encourage dialog as well. Readers commenting on your blog and back and forth discussions on a topic, indicates that people are returning to your blog repeatedly. Additionally, a reader who is engaged in this type of dialogue is more likely to share your blog with his network of contacts.
What to say & How to say it
This is your platform. This is where a publisher and your readers learn your expertise, your writing style, and get to know you. So…
Write what you know but don’t limit it to that. You can take the reader on a learning journey – ie: come with me and let’s learn about…
You can be opinionated (I am) and you can be controversial. But, unless “bombastic” works for your reader and your publisher, try to encourage, rather than shout down, discussion.
I’ll start when I’m ready and other lies
Like parenting or marriage, you are NOT ready. If you wait until you are ready, YOU WILL NOT START. I heard Derek Sivers, founder of CD Baby, say, “If you are not embarrassed by your initial launch, you launched too late!”
Get started today! And, if you have questions or comments, please leave them here on comments section below. Thanks!!