A Furry Orange Monster’s Guide to Blogging
Blog: noun – a web site containing the writer’s or group of writers’ own experiences, observations, opinions, etc., and often having images and links to other Web sites.
I created this blog a little over a year ago, and in that time I’ve had a number of people ask me for tips and ideas about starting or improving their own blogs. I certainly don’t claim to be a professional blogger in any way – I’m just a furry orange monster, after all – but I have learned a few things in the time I’ve been doing this, and I’m always happy to share.
Choose your Topic
Before you start a blog, you should have a topic or theme in mind. This can be a video game, a favorite TV show, your math homework, or even general thoughts about your day, but you should know what you’re going to talk about ahead of time – that will help you decide your overall site style and theme.
Another suggestion on topic – you should start with something you know a lot about and have a deep interest in, because you’ll probably be writing about it a lot and you don’t want to get bored or run out of things to write about. You can also start a blog about something you’re learning, to chronicle your experiences (This is what I did with my blog, after all) – you can usually get help and feedback from the larger community.
Chose a Web Host
If you’re going to start a blog, or any website really, you need a place to put it. There are a lot of great, free to use website and blog hosting services out there, like wordpress, blogger, blog.com, and livejournal, that offer many different levels of service and features. I like WordPress, personally, but there are lots of different options – you just need to find one that matches your theme and design style.
There are probably at least a few blogs out there on your topic of interest (unless your topic is YOU, of course) , so try to speak in your own voice, have your own ideas and design. I’ve seen blogs that really just copied the style, layout, and sometimes even content of a different, more popular blog, and that’s definitely not what you want to do. Your blog should reflect your own personality and your own take on the topic. Maybe you look at things form a comedy angle, or statistics, or pictures, or original fiction…
And speaking of original, all the successful blogs I’ve seen have featured their own original content, not just a bunch of re-posts from other sites, though some re-posting is expected in some cases. If your blog is about a game, for example, you might re-post some information from the official game developer about upcoming events or features, but keep most of the content original and give your readers our opinion and your own take on the news from the game developers.
How Often Should You Post?
This is very open to opinion and has a lot to do about your chosen topic and what you’re writing about, but if you want people to visit your website often, you need to give them something new to read or view. One of the things I’ve read in multiple places (but honestly have had a really hard time implementing myself) is a regular schedule, like ‘new post on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and a new video on Saturday’ – if you can keep up a regular schedule people will know when new content is available and they’ll visit more often to check it out.
Of course I don’t know too many blogs that actually follow a regular schedule – I certainly don’t. If you can’t keep to a schedule, you should at least try to post new content once or twice a week – again, if your goal is to attract and keep readers, you want to give them a reason to keep coming back.
Regular updates are a challenge, of course – new content doesn’t just create itself, after all – but I try to create multiple days’ worth of content when I have an afternoon or a quiet morning to work on my blog. You can also set aside an hour a day, or some similar schedule, to focus on working on your blog. If you want a good blog that people enjoy coming to, you’ll need to dedicate some time to it.
Embrace New Media
Blogs can have so much more than just words now, thanks to services like YouTube (for embedded video), PodBean (for audio and podcasting), and image sharing. Where a few years ago you could only describe a game walkthrough or how to build a race car by writing about it, today you can show videos and detailed pictures about how to do it. Video blogging is also popular and more accessible than ever, with very affordable digital video recorders and even phones with HD video capabilities. My Video Bloggy Thingy posts are actually some of my most popular posts here at Dittomonster.com, people really enjoy that personal interaction.
Don’t Feed the Trolls!
If you have a blog and you allow comments to your articles, chances are you’re going to attract trolls – people who post negative things, insult you or your other posters, or just post really awful things because they have nothing better to do. A bad troll infestation can really ruin your day as well as hurt the reputation of your blog – trust me, I’ve seen it happen.
The first thing to do is try to prevent the tolls from posting in the first place – prevention is always better than reacting after the fact. While allowing people to post responses to your articles is valuable to create a dialog with your readers and to learn about your given topic, you should always turn on moderation of some sort, so that responses don’t show up automatically as soon as they’re written. You should have the ability to deny and even block posters who don’t want to play nice, and you should also keep an eye on the comments people are making to keep things clean and safe.
NEVER ‘feed the trolls’ either – that should be a universal law. Don’t respond to people who are being rude or posting awful things to your blog, that’s exactly what they want, so it makes you look bad and makes them happy – that’s a lose-lose situation. Delete their posts, messages, and emails without comment, and never take it personally. Trolls are a sad fact of Internet life, and the truth is, the more popular your blog or website gets, the more you’ll attract.
Of course that doesn’t mean you need to delete any post that doesn’t agree with your point of view – if people have a different opinion, but post that opinion clearly and respectfully, you should be open to that and even start a dialog – after all, you probably started blogging in order to share what you know about a topic, as well as learn more about that topic yourself. Be open to other people’s opinions and always be respectful when they differ from your own, and always be open to the idea that you might, in fact, be wrong about something. Nobody’s perfect, right?
Spread the Word
Finally, once you have a blog and you’ve got some content to share, start sharing it! You can use all kinds of social media – Twitter, Facebook, and topic-related mico-networks like Ning are great ways of connecting with others who share an interest in your topic. Share links with other bloggers as well, add other topic-related bloggers to your links page or blogroll, and ask them to link back to you.
Don’t be insistent or rude about that last part, though – bloggers have their own criteria for linking back to other sites, and sometimes your site isn’t going to meet that criteria. Again, don’t take it personally, and maybe even politely ask the other blogger why – sometimes you can use it as an opportunity to improve your site.
I personally won’t link back to another site that only has one or two articles up or doesn’t post content regularly. I like to see that a blog has a track record of publishing new quality content on a regular basis, because I feel that adding another site to my blogroll is endorsing that blog in a way, and if it’s not a blog that I would personally go to at least once a week, I feel it’s not right to tell my readers to go check it out.
Keep it Up, Keep it Fun!
Establishing a blog takes a lot of work and can take a long time. I’ve been running this blog for over a year, and I’ve done a lot with it, but there’s a lot more to do, you have to keep evolving and keeping things interesting. Don’t get discouraged if, after a month, your blog isn’t in the top 10 somewhere, just keep at it, keep getting feedback, and don’t give up!
The final, most important thing I have to tell you is to always have fun with it – if you’re not having fun, if you aren’t getting what you want out of it, then you need to re-think your plan, honest. If your blog starts feeling like a job and not an enjoyable hobby, then what’s the point? You’re not getting paid for it, so make sure it stays fun and enjoyable! That’s that it’s all about!
Keep Playing Safe!