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Blogging Basics for Beginners (Plus Tons of Resources)
Recently I was asked to present a workshop on basic blogging to a group of pastors wives. I’m posting the main points from that talk here. The end result is a pretty decent guide to blogging for total beginners although experienced bloggers will probably find some useful tidbits as well. This article will teach you the definition of blogging, explain the various types of blogs and recommend some great blogging platforms. I’ll also provide you with some guidelines for writing a good blog post, talk about blog design and making money through blogging as well as how to integrating social media into your blog. Finally, I’ll end the post with some awesome resources and stand-out blog examples to get you inspired!
My Blogging Experience
I’ve been blogging for many years now–I love to blog. It’s exciting to have an audience. I originally got started blogging as a “design blogger” while I was a freelance designer which got about 100,000 page views per month in it’s heyday. When I took a full-time job, unfortunately it fell into disrepair, but I was focusing my attention on creating a blog for my new employer. Now, as you can read, I have started DailyTekk. Read more about why I started this blog here.
What is a Blog?
The term Blog comes from “Weblog” which is simply the words Web+Log combined. Essentially, a blog is a website that is updated over time. The frequency of these updates depends on the person (or people) behind the blog. Some people might post updates every day and others might post once per month. Blogging is typically very social at it’s core as people read your content, post their comments and share your links with their friends.
Types of Blogs
The way I see it, there are four major types of blogs as described below. In some instances, blogs cross-over between two or more different types.
Personal blogs really function like online journals. People use them to talk about their life and keep friends and family members updated. Typically, a personal blog is non-commercial and “just for fun”. It can be a creative writing outlet or a way to share the latest baby photos and videos. A personal blog is all about the author.
Corporate blogs are basically for marketing, releasing news and having a conversation with customers. Many companies and organizations have made corporate blogging and integral part of their online strategy. Corporate blogs can function like a brand extension allowing companies to help steer their public image online.
Genre blogs focus on a specific topic. Food for instance. There are countless genre blogs out there that cover everything from snowboarding to Apple rumors to gardening to startups. The tighter the niche, the larger potential for a strong and devoted audience.
Media blogs are devoted to certain forms of media such as videos (vlogging), audio, photos (photoblog), etc. Depending on the type of media a blog contains, it could take more or less time to manage. A video blog that shows original movies will obviously take more time to produce content for since movies are more complicated than typing. Photos, on the other hand, are very easy to upload.
There are TONS of blogging platforms out there and they all vary in ease-of-use and features. Some are dead-simple to use while others may require a bit of learning to fully understand the entire feature set. What type of platform you choose will probably depend mostly on your skill level and what features you really need. I’ll describe a few of my favorites here and list some other popular platforms as well.
WordPress is my favorite blogging platform and is so popular it is downloaded twice per second. It actually powers nearly a tenth of all websites. Why is it so popular? For one thing, it has more than 12,000 available plugins (enhancements or add-ons) many of which are available for free and others which are premium (have a cost associated). For that reason, you can make WordPress do just about anything–many people use it to power their regular websites (thanks to the pages feature). Another reason why people love WordPress is for the themes: there are currently more than 1,200 free WordPress themes available with many excellent premium themes to choose form as well. WordPress comes in two versions–a hosted version which is available at WordPress.com and a self-hosted solution for more advanced users which is available at WordPress.org.
Some popular WordPress blogs include:
Tumblr is fast becoming the blogging platform of choice for many people. Currently, Tumblr users generate 38,000 posts per minute, 42% of which are photos. Tumblr grew 218% from 2010-2011. Like WordPress, Tumblr has many themes available–around 1,100 to be exact (some free and some premium). The thing I like about Tumblr is it’s speed and ease of use. Whereas WordPress has traditionally been a great way to share text posts, Tumblr is an excellent way to share media like photos, videos and audio. Tumblr also has community features built right in. Every Tumblog (as they are called) has a button in the top right corner that lets other Tumblr users follow your posts quickly and easily.
Here are a few Tumblogs to check out to help you get a feel for the platform:
Another interesting blogging platform is Posterous Spaces. While Posterous works great for traditional blogging, it’s most popular use is group sharing which is perfect for family vacations, book clubs or interest groups. Group members can all publish easily to the same blog to provide a more robust sharing experience. The Cross Atlantic Report is a posterous blog with contributing news writers on each side of the Atlantic ocean.
Other Popular Platforms
WordPress, Tumblr and Posterous are just a few of the many available blogging platforms out there. Before you choose a direction, you’ll also want to check out the following:
Writing a Good Blog Post
If you’re trying to build up an audience there is one rule above all others that you should strive to follow: always, always post something that is interesting and/or useful. Don’t make the mistake of posting something just to post something–if it’s not good, readers will never come back for more. In general, a good blog post should be somewhere in the neighborhood of 400-1,000 words (if you are creating a written post as opposed to a media post) and should be easy to read (use header styling to make your posts scannable). Finally, a good post usually includes some sort of call to action (follow me on Twitter). While these are very, very basic strategies, I think they will serve you very well. For more in-depth blogging strategies, check out the useful resources I’ve posted below.
The first thing to understand is that there is usually quite a big difference between a free theme and a professionally designed theme. Whether or not you want to buy a premium theme probably depends on why you are blogging. If you are just planning on posting some personal thoughts online, maybe a free design will do just fine. If, on the other hand, you plan on making some money with your genre blog that is focused on fine dining, then it is probably wise to buy a premium theme or hire a decent web designer to make a customized theme for you.
If you’re interesting in buying a premium theme, check out the following marketplaces:
These days it’s just plain dumb NOT to incorporate social media into your blog. If things go according to plan, people will want to share your interesting content within their social circles. Integrating social media can happen in a number of ways. Most commonly, blog authors will put sharing buttons at the bottom of their posts (for WordPress users, this is very easy to do using a free plugin). This allows people to quickly and easily share a link to your page on their Twitter or Facebook accounts or post it on a social sharing service like Delicious or StumbleUpon. Another way to incorporate social media into your blog is to display content from your social media profiles. For example, many premium WordPress themes make it easy to display your latest Tweets as a sidebar widget.
Making Money by Blogging
Blogging doesn’t have to be about making money, but it can be (known as professional blogging). If you have something useful to talk about there’s no reason why you can’t monetize it. The way most blogs make money is by selling advertising. I’ve had some experience with this and there are a few things to keep in mind. Many advertising networks won’t accept you as a publisher until you reach the 100,000 page views per month mark. This doesn’t apply to Google which will accept you as a publisher for their AdSense program no matter how large your audience is. One other interesting way people can make money from their blog is to erect a paywall. A paywall basically charges readers a fee to access content. This method is not as popular, but one place I have seen it put to good use is on Chris Spooner’s blog.SpoonGraphics site (check out the Access All Areas section).
Here are a few blog ad networks to check out:
Blogging Resources and Inspiration
The sites below will provide you with blogging strategies, ideas and inspiration. While this article is a great place to start, I’d definitely recommend checking into the links below to take your blogging to the next level.
General Blog Resources
Blog Ideas and Inspiration
Below I’ve compiled a list of blogs you’ll want to check out when you have time. Every single one has something unique to offer. I’m convinced that just by browsing around these sites you’ll be inundated with ideas. Check out the topics, design, features, tone, etc… And yes, I compiled this list for a workshop I gave on blogging to a group of pastors wives so this list may lean toward the girly… but secure men will have no problem getting ideas.
- theburninghouse.com – if your house was on fire, what would you take with you?
- thekidshouldseethis.com – videos your kids should see
- dearphotograph.com – old photos held up next to modern backgrounds
- the99percent.com – insights on making ideas happen
- babyology.com.au – modern finds for hip kids and parents
- usethis.com – what people use to get stuff done
- tinywrld.com – the world through tilt-shift and time-lapse (videos)
- consumerist.com – shoppers bite back
- uncrate.com – gear for guys (present ideas…)
- pinterest.com – cool finds
- 30secondmba.com – tips from business leaders
- coolhunting.com – art, design, culture, technology
- holykaw.alltop.com – Guy Kawasaki’s blog with lots of interesting links
- imremembering.com – pop-culture nostalgery from the 80’s and 90’s
- houzz.com – inspiration for your next home project
- architizer.com – amazing and inspiring architecture
- theadventureblog.blogspot.com – all things adventure
- treehugger.com – eco everything
- bigthink.com – ideas from luminaries
- toms.com/blog – Toms Shoes blog
- etsy.com/blog – crafts
Blogging can be both fun and profitable but building an audience takes time. Depending on your marketing budget, time and dedication it could take up to a year of serious blogging to reach the 100,000 page views per month mark. Just keep at it. It helps to pick a topic you are very passionate about so that writing content isn’t a burden. Above all else, post high-quality content as often as you are able and have a good time!