Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Starting a Blog in 5 Easy Steps and Keeping at it!

Recently, Tumblr reached 10 Billion posts mark. Tumblr is a microblogging platform that started in 2007 and went from 1 billion to 10 billion posts in just one year! A study by Universal McCann reports that over 77% of Internet users read blogs. In US alone, this 77% would conservatively mean more than 54 million readers. It is also reported that there are 900,000 blog posts posted every day in 81 different languages. All these statistics point to the power of blogging.

My friends and family often ask me about the best way to start blogging. Do you also want to start your own blog but don’t know where to begin?

I started blogging in 2008 and consistently publish atleast one post every month (My posts are usually long, descriptive and based on best practices, therefore 1= many!).  After 55 blog posts, more than 15,000 visits worldwide, and 43 visits in the last 24 hours (as of 14 September 2011), I think I am a fairly successful blogger. I think I am now equipped to share some of the best practices, tips and traps about blogging!

So, here is a short how-to guide that can help you start your blog in 5 easy steps.

Step 1: Identify what you want to blog about.
A blog can be a personal dairy of thoughts and feelings or it can be a professional collection of articles, notes, and ideas. The first step is to identify what you want to blog about and why. Remember to pick a topic that you are passionate about. Writing a blog is all about self-motivation and if you don’t like what you are blogging about, you won’t be able to sustain your energy and keep up the blog.

Step 2: Sign into a blogging service
Before you decide to spend money on hosted services for a blog, experiment using one of the free services available including:

All these services offer free registration and options to customise the look and feel of your blog. You can compare the feature set of these services and then choose the one that works best as per your requirements. Here is a website that offers a comparison of blog services.

Step 3: Select a theme and layout
Most blogging services allow you to customise the theme and layout of your blog. Much of this is really about selecting options and does not require technical knowledge about codes and tags. After signing up, you will be able to select from a gallery of available themes and layouts. To begin with, use the standard themes available and then personalize the theme as you get comfortable with using the blogging service and the idea of blogging.

Step 4: Add generic content
Before you publish a post, you must include some generic content in your blog including information about you, how readers can get in touch with you, comments and feedback boxes and other hyperlinks perhaps to your twitter, facebook or LinkedIn pages. You can think of this as the ‘About’ page for your blog. Feel free to control the amount and type of information that you’d like to share with people. Use the generic layouts that offer ready-to-use templates to add this information easily.

Step 5: Write a post and publish it
Now that the blog is set up, it is time to write your first post. In the beginning, it may be difficult to write about your chosen topic and you may also undergo the writer’s block. But as you begin to type your thoughts, the task will become easier. You may save drafts and continue to work on posts over long periods. After you are convinced that you are ready to publish a post, if available, click on the preview option to see what the post will look like after being published. The editors are usually WYSIWYG. So, it is easy to make the necessary adjustments and then publish the post. Different services offer various publishing options including the date-time stamp, key words, and whether readers are allowed to post comments etc.

As you walk the blogging path, use the following tips:

1.       Market your blog by sharing the URL of your blog with colleagues, friends and family in an email and publish the url on other social networking accounts such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.
2.       Network with bloggers in the blogosphere, visit other blogs and leave meaningful comments with a link to your blog.
3.       Update your blog frequently and consistently and always spell-check before publishing a post.
4.       Keep your posts interesting and thought-provoking to invite participation. Always remain true to the main idea of your blog.
5.       When you receive a comment or a compliment, be sure to acknowledge it.

Here are some traps that you should avoid:


1.       It is easy to copy content from the web. But please write original content. If you like another post or want to quote a website, use appropriate references, citations and hyperlinks.
2.       It is easy to get demotivated when blogging. Don’t be disheartened if you don’t have visitors in the first few weeks or months. The more useful your posts, the better the chances of people dropping by.
3.       It is easy to get spammed when blogging. So, avoid posting anything personal or divulging too much information about your own self.
4.       It is easy to get into arguments with readers especially when you can’t clarify your point in a verbal conversation. Avoid it. Also, don’t criticize others or pass judgements about specific people in your posts.
5.       It is tempting to share ground-breaking news about your company that was just announced in a company meeting. But please avoid posting any content related to your company unless you are writing the official company blog post on the company website.

Always remember, it is fairly easy to start a blog but it is difficult to maintain it. So, keep at it and happy blogging!