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Friday, September 23, 2011

Starting A Blog 101

So you've decided to start a blog, maybe to make money, maybe for your own personal uses whatever those may be.  I'm here to take you through the basics in this post of getting a basic blog up and running.  We'll cover more in depth topics in later posts.

1) The first thing you need to do is assess your skill level. 

Are you a beginner, or have you done this before and know a lot about html and other website design?  If you're a beginner or just want an easy to use blog, then use blogger.com (this blog is made with blogger).  
Some people suggest that once your blog grows and has a large user base to switch to Wordpress so that you can host the blog yourself.  While I'm sure Wordpress has it's advantages, I've never been a big fan.  I've always been able to do everything I need to with blogger, and in an easy to use manner.  My suggestion: start yourself off with Blogger.  Here's a great video that will show you some reasons why I believe blogger is the best platform to use:

2) What do you want your blog to do?
It will be helpful if you sit down before starting your blog and think about what your blog concept is and what it needs to do for you.  Is it a personal blog that's just there for your family and friends?  Then maybe you can relax a little on the blog design and do whatever feels fun.  Is it a blog for your business?  Then you should think about researching websites that have a professional feel and look trustworthy.  Is it a blog to make money?  Then we need to think about layout a little bit, which we'll cover in a later post.

Keep in mind how you want the blog to feel... professional, grungy, fun, interesting, amateurish?  Probably not the last one, which is why we'll be covering some styling topics as well.

3) You need to pick one topic.

You really don't want to make one blog and cover five topics.  If you're going to be using the blog to make money, then you need to target one specific niche (a group of people basically).  You don't want to write one blog and be writing about dogs, the internet, video games, your home life, and canned beans.  If you want to cover all those topics, then start a different blog for each one.  The great thing about blogger is that you can basically have as many as you want (or at least I haven't hit the limit yet).

You need to pick a topic that is relevant and interesting to you.  If you know nothing about cats, then don't write about cats.

Once you find your topic (lets say Dogs for this example), then your goal will be to cover every single thing you can think about that would cover the topic.  A Dog Blog for example might cover: Dog breeding, dog breeds, dog food, dog training (this would be a good possibility for a main topic), great dog products like dog beds, how to choose which dog to buy, where to buy dogs, where to get dogs for free, taking dogs to the vet, what to do if your dog gets sick, toys dogs might like, funny videos of dogs online, strange behavior of dogs, reviews of dog movies and TV shows like "The Dog Whisperer" and the techniques the Dog Whisperer uses... the list goes on, and on... and on.  The point is, you need to pick one topic that you can cover extensively.  This is the reason you need to pick a topic you like and are somewhat knowledgeable about.  You have to be willing to wile away the hours researching your topic each week and making great posts to bring people into your site!

4)  Name it well.
Ok, so let's say you've decided to use Blogger for the ease of use, and decided to write on dogs (or whatever your topic really is).  Now you have to choose a name for your blog.  It needs to be something catchy and memorable, but also something that describes your blog.  For instance, "Dog Blog," or "Dog Lovers," or even "Dog Training" might be great titles, but keep in mind that there may already be blogs out there with those titles, so you might have to pull out your dictionary (or go to the one online) and look up synonyms.  For instance, when starting this blog, I tried a variety of titles like Blog Pro and Pro Blogger, but those were taken.  So I looked in the thesaurus under Professional and came up with 'Hot Shot'.  Now we have Hot Shot Blogger.  Not a terrible name either, and it will stand apart from the rest because it's the only one on blogger with that name.

When starting a blog with blogger you will be asked to name the blog, and then to pick a url address ending in .blogspot.com.  Generally it's a good idea to use the blog name as the blog url... for instance this blog has the url www.hotshotblogger.blogspot.com.  This is how you will tell if the blog title you want is already taken.  When you type in the blog name as the url hit the button "check availability" and it will either come up with happy green letters saying the blog url is available, or come up with angry red letters saying it's already taken.  Keep thinking of titles until you get a url that's not taken.

If however you are absolutely set on your blog title (and it's already taken), you can try using the blog title's initials as the url... for instance hot shot blogger could be turned into www.hsb.blogspot.com.  You will probably find that those urls are already taken too though.  It definitely takes some thought at this stage.

5)  Topics

Ok, so you've set up a basic blog now with a topic, a title, a url, and any template you choose.  Don't worry if you don't like the template now, we'll go into changing that in a later post.

You're homework now is to pull out a pad of paper and a pen and begin writing down every single thing relating to your topic (as we did above with the example of dogs).  This will be your reference sheet for the weeks and months to come.

Follow us to our next post to see what to do with that nifty blog you just made!


Blogs, So they are more than an online journal? Some people have blogs to just tell about them, at least ive always heard it that way. So you can use them as sort of a free news ad to promote yourself? maybe even businesses?

@Kari_Jessie, what you're reading right now is a blog. A blog is basically a free website. In the old days they used to just be like a personal journal about your life and your own opinions, and today some people still use them as such. Many people use blogs as a web site however because of their ease of use.

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