How to Get Started Blogging

This is a second post on blogging, one that is more directed toward beginners (and is much shorter). I’ve decided to write this as a resource for friends and the students I TA for who are interested in starting out as bloggers.  I’ve written a very lengthy post on “How to Blog for Religion??? that offers tons and tons of resources and ideas about how to “do??? religious blogging.  This current post is meant to be a lot more simple and more accessible for the blogging novice.

Once you’ve found a blogging platform (see some different reviews if you have any questions), hopefully you’re using, you need to get a couple things in order.

Come up with a good name (and tagline) for your blog: Hopefully you put some thought into your blog title, and address name.  You want something easy to say and type so that when you give out the address to other people, they won’t have any difficulty remembering it.  You also want your title to help remind people what your blogging about.  Are you mainly writing about yourself and your daily activities?  Find some kind of catchy name that helps draw people in.  Are you writing a blog about Quaker theology?  Well then you might want to consider a name that evokes that feeling like Robin’s “What Cans’t Thou Say….???, which is a famous line from the Mother of Quakerism – Margaret Fell.

Select your template (or theme): Its important to try out multiple templates until you find one that works for your purposes.  Sometimes having all the bells and whistles takes away from other parts of your website.  I have found that most people look at your top two most recent posts, and only if they are regulars to your site will they venture into clicking on your blog roll and other fun gadgets.  I think the more simple and aesthetically pleasing your blog, the more you will find people sticking around.  I personally don’t like sites with tons of flashing ads, links and text everywhere because it takes the reader’s attention from what you are really trying to do there.  For a couple great wordpress themes, see lofitribe, scarylittlemonkey, eric-taylor, Paulstamatiou, open switch and getk2.

Decide whether you are going to focus on journal or content blogging
In my How to Blog for Theology and Religion post I talked about the difference between content blogging and journal blogging.  Its not that you have to be exclusively one or the other, but you do need to have a focus one way or the other.  Will you mainly stick to writing articles, and blog posts that are filled with content in a way that helps inform your readers about some specific topic (typically and hopefully something you are interested and know something about)?  Or will you mainly be writing about your daily adventures and letting people know what you’re up to and what your opinions are on all kinds of topics?

Write an introduction post and get your feet wet
That’s it, write your first post and say a little bit about yourself and what you hope to do with your blog.  This will help you get your feet a little wet.

Set up your about page and profile
It is really, really important to have a good about page.  Use your real name, let people know what you are into, what your interests are, what beer you like to drink, what music you play on your ipod or whatever.  But let your readers get a good broad picture of who they are dealing with.  My about page is my second most popular page on my website, people want to know a little bit about who this writer is.

Get a contact page
You can find plugins for contact pages in wordpress (Dustin Diaz has made a really great AJAX one), which makes it really easy for people to get a hold of you.  Whether you leave a link to your email address, or have a contact page, it is really important to make yourself easily accessible to your readers.

Find other blogs and link to them
What better way to learn how to blog than to read other bloggers; find great blogs by searching or by going to specific blog search engines like technorati and sphere.  I think its really important, especially if you are focusing on a content blog, to find other bloggers who are writing about your topic.  Its good to engage with people who both agree and disagree with your points of view.

Set a regular blogging schedule
It doesn’t matter how often you write, what matters is how consistent you are.  If you post this week and then don’t write for a month and a half people will stop checking your website.  Being regular in your writing will help to form a discipline of reflecting on your topic and engaging with your readers.

Experiment with content and style
Experiment with different types of posts, content, styles for templates, and see what works best
Don’t expect to get it all down, and don’t get discouraged if it takes awhile to get interaction on your site.  Play around with ideas and topics.  Stats like Mint and statcounter are a great way to help do this.

Let other people know you’re online
Hey, send out a friendly e-mail and tell all your coworkers about the newest blog in town. Inviting people into your conversation is a great way to get started.  Just ask that they forgive the shameless self-promotion one time.

EDITED 5.15.2006

Paul Stamatiouhas posted some extended ideas that are extremely helpful in getting you started right.
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