Monday, December 26, 2011

Blog Widgets

Blog "widgets" are extra features or functions that you can add on to your blog.  Some of them may be created by the blogging platform (such as blogger) but many of them are created by third part providers.  Think of them like cell phone apps.

Usually there is a button in your blog's layout area that says "add widgets."  This button will give you basic suggestions recommended to you by the blogging platform company.  You can also search for widgets online.  The site you find them on will usually have directions on how to install the widget on your blog.  Be warned that not all of these third party widgets will be high quality.  So shop around.

Some examples of things widgets can do:

-Ways for people to follow your blog (follow by email, follow using Google reader, etc.)
-Follow by Twitter button
-"Like" a page on Facebook button
-Display ads
-Display how many views your blog has received
-Blog archive
-Your most popular posts
-Search your blog

There are hundreds if not thousands of widgets.  Those were just a few.  Widgets are usually placed in your blog sidebars but they can also be placed in the blog footer.  Remember, widgets should enhance your blog, not distract from it.  Some widgets are fun but before you install it think about how that widget will help your readers.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Blog Sidebars

The blog sidebars are the columns next to your main text column.  The number of columns that you have is up to you and is only really limited by the blogging platform that you use.  While the information presented in the blog sidebars can change, on the actual blog this information is usually static.  In other words, everything in the sidebars will appear the same even when you add a new post.

In terms of purpose, the sidebars are similar to blog pages in that they should display general information that you would want your reader to access at any time.  The sidebars are also where you place your blog widgets.  I'll get more into blog widgets in a later post.

Due to the fact that blog sidebars are right next to your blog text column, they are more visible than pages.  Here are some basic things that I think are necessary to have in a blog column:

- At least one subscription method for a reader to follow your blog.  Multiple is better.  But if I had to pick just one, I would say having a "follow by email" option is the best.  It's easy, people understand email and people usually read their email.

- Blog archive.  This shows all of your older posts.  It gives readers a place to browse your blog.  More importantly, it shows your readers how active your blog is.  

- Search this blog.  I think it's a useful tool if people want to type in a particular keyword.

- About me (blog author).  This isn't really necessary.  But it's a nice touch.  Makes it seem more personal.

If you are trying to promote something with your blog, the sidebars are a good place to have small announcements or pictures.  But moderation in all things.  I really believe that the actual blog text should be the primary focus.  The more columns you add and the more stuff you add to columns, the more distracting it will be from the actual blog posts.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Blog Text Column

The text column is another basic blogging key term.  It is the main display area that shows all of your most recent posts.  All the other add-ons can be fun but this is area where you are going to generate and keep readers.

Most blog hosts (Blogger, Wordpress, etc...) allow you to adjust the width of your blog text column.  If you want to get really fancy, you can even adjust how many columns you have.  The number of posts displayed in the text column may also be adjusted.  On this blog, I have it so it shows my last 7 most recent posts.

The text column should always be wide enough where it's easy to read without excessive scrolling.  Also be sure to check that the font color you are using does not clash with your background.  Beautiful backgrounds are nice but they should never make the actual text difficult to read.

This is a personal preference, but I like to make sure that the blog text is one of the first things that catches the eye when opened up.  The human eye naturally tracks from left to right, top to bottom (in Western cultures at least).  So the upper left corner of the site is what people will look at first.

In the end, a blog should be about the blog posts; not the number of followers or number of views or advertisements.  A reader should be able to find the main text content of your blog almost as soon as they open  up the page. 

Monday, December 5, 2011

Blog Header

The "blog header" is just a basic part name that you should be familiar with.  This is yet another one of those blog key terms that many people just assume you know the meaning to.  This was not the case for me and I'm sure I'm not the only one.  I actually had to look this up when I first started blogging.

The blog header is the area at the top of your blog that contains your title.  If you want to use this blog as an example, "Non-Techie Blogging" is my header.  Underneath the blog title is my tagline: "Simple tips and tricks for effective blogging.  The tagline is also part of the header.

The header should not be confused with post titles.  Each blog post will have its own title.  The header is going to be a pretty consistent thing.

If you want to get fancy you can make a custom header.  Personally, I prefer having the title of my blog being very clear.  I want it to be one of the first things people notice.  This helps people remember the blog if they want to recommend it.

I would also highly recommend adding a tagline.  Keep the tagline short and precise.  It should give new readers a quick one-sentence summary of what your blog is about.  I've noticed that a lot of bloggers neglect to add a tagline.  Remember: don't make your readers work for information.  Make your blog easy to understand and easy to navigate.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Blog Posts vs. Blog Pages

As you explore your blog's dashboard, you've probably noticed the option to make "pages."  If you're new to blogging, I feel it's important to understand the difference between a "post" and a "page" and what they can each be used for.

A blog by nature is not a static site.  In other words, it's designed to constantly change have fresh content.  When you open up any blog the first thing you come across is the text column on the home page.  The blog home page is what features your blog posts.  Usually the posts are displayed chronologically with the newest post being at the very top.

Which leads us to blog pages.  All blogs have one default page: the home page.  But you do have the option to add more pages.  A "page" is static content.  So a good example of a page you might want to have is an "about this blog" page.  If you add an "about" page, it will add a permanent tab for people to click on your blog.

Pages are an extremely useful tool.  Having pages such as an "about" will allow any new visitors to instantly see a summary of what you generally blog about and why.  This helps to reduce confusion if your home page happens a few posts up that are seemingly unconnected.

Pages are also a good way to answer questions you are frequently asked.  For example, if you run a book review blog, the submission guidelines would be a really good page to have.  That way you don't have to tell every person that emails you what they are.

While pages are extremely useful, I recommend being extremely selective when adding them.  I've seen blogs with 10 or more pages to click on and, personally, I find this to be a bit overwhelming.  Most of the focus should be on the posts on your home page.  The pages are just there as a tool.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Posting on Forums

Online chat forums are a great way to help attract attention to your blog.  However, in order for this to be effective, you have to be prepared to make a long-term commitment.

The first instinct for a lot of new bloggers is to think "Hey! I have this great new book review blog!  I'm going to sign up for every single book/reading forum and post my link!  Then everyone will click on the link and I'll have the most popular blog ever!"  Save yourself some effort:  don't do this.  For several reasons:

1.  You are not the first person to think this.  It's been done before.  When it's done in excess it's called spam.

2.  Even if you have good intentions, your post will be written off as spam since the veteran forum members will only register that you're a brand new poster and trying to make a sales pitch.  They'll ignore you.

3.  In doing this, you risk alienating people and you lose the true, long-term (and much more valuable) benefits of posting on forums.

Ok, so let's get into those long-term benefits.

The first step is to find forums that interest you.  Don't feel like you have to join forums that are directly related to your blog.  What makes online forums fun is that they attract people that share a single interest but those same people also have other interests.  It's how you learn.

Once you sign up for a forum or two that looks like you could actively participate in, it's important that you set up your profile and signature.  Your profile is what people on the forum see when they click on your name.  Most forums give you the option to list your name and a website.  This is a really good opportunity to post the link to your blog.  The signature (not every forum allows them) appears underneath every single forum post that you make.  This is an even better way to share you blog link.  The profile and the signature will do the sales-pitch for you.  That's the beauty of forums.

The final step is just to interact with the other forum members actively.  That means you need to post at least once a day.  You have to make a concerted initial effort to become a regular member on the forum.

Why put all this work into a forum?

1.  Once you become a regular member, people will be more open to you sharing links to your blog.  They know you're not just a one-hit spammer and could be interested enough in you to see what your blog has to say.

2.  As you become online friends with the other members, there is a really, really good chance that they will start to recommend your blog to other people; especially if your blog targets a niche audience.  Word of mouth recommendations are everything if you're a blogger.

So go out there and get social!

Monday, November 14, 2011

What Are Backlinks?

As a blogger, backlinks are a really important concept to understand.  A backlink is anytime someone posts a link to your blog somewhere else online.  So if someone sees your blog, likes what they see, and then copy/pastes the link in an email or forum that's a backlink.

Why is this important?  Backlinks play a big part in how search engines (especially Google) rank your blog.  The logic is that your site must have some decent content in order to make someone post the link and then, in turn, make someone else want to click on the link.  The internet is not perfect.  But the backlinks work better than just judging a site by the number of clicks that it has (easily faked).

This is partially why it takes so long for a blog to get steady traffic because you are literally just waiting for a healthy number of backlinks.  Consistently posting high quality, engaging content is the best way to ensure backlinks.  

Basically, you want one of your blogs to become one of those email forwards that everyone passes around.  This doesn't mean spam people.  It means you should make content that people would want to share with others.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Pinging Your Blog

"Pinging" your blog basically means that you have notified blog search engines that your blog has new content.  Most how-to blogs will recommend this as a good way to get traffic.  I have mixed feelings about pinging.

In order to ping your blog, I would recommend using a pinging service.  Ping-o-Matic is a good one. All the available ping sites pretty much do the same thing and recommend your blog to the same list of blog search engines.  You type in your blog's name and web address and then check off which places you would like to ping (or "notify").

In theory, you could ping as much as you want.  But it would be a waste of time.  It won't generate that much more traffic for you.  Only ping when you have fresh content up on your blog.

Pinging does "work" in that it generates views for your blog.  There's no question there.  If you've had a blog for a few months and then you start to ping, you'll notice a traffic spike minutes later.  While this is very exciting to see the first time you do it, most of the traffic is not good traffic.

Every time I ping I look at the referring site addresses sending traffic to my blog and it will usually be some spam site.  Which tells me that hundreds of views I just got weren't really humans interested in reading my content and were probably just some automated data mining computer software.  So the views are totally meaningless.

What pinging has helped with is keywords.  After I started pinging, I noticed that places like Google have been picking up more and more on the keywords in my blog post rather than just what's in the title.

So, ping if you will.  But I don't feel it's really crucial.  Back in the early days of the internet I think it was much more effective which is probably why the pinging advice persists.  These days there are just too many automated spam sites in place.

Monday, October 31, 2011

How To Get Blog Traffic: Guest posts

Guest posts are one of the best ways to get some traffic to a young blog.  But it's a tricky balance.  Any new readers that you have should see that it's your blog and not someone else's.  If you decide to have guest posts, be sure to intersperse them with a healthy amount of posts you have written yourself.

So why even bother with guest posts?  Two reasons:

As I mentioned before, it takes awhile before search engines will even start to take your blog seriously.  Therefore, a guest post is a good way to spark natural traffic.  Feature someone that works in your field/does similar things to what you do.  But featuring that person, there is a good chance they will announce the guest post to their friends/followers.  So the traffic goes from only people you know to people you know plus all the people the guest blogger knows.

The second reason to have guest posts is that it adds variety to you blog and it help you to pace your ideas.  A blog that has consistent, weekly posts  always looks more appealing than a blog that seems to randomly update once a month.  If you are scheduling blog posts every week, a guest post is one more week where you don't have to think of a new thing to write about.  So it's a really good option if you're struggling for content.

I'm going to repeat here that your blog should not be only guest posts.  Unless the focus of your blog is feature other people all the time -and you should state this as the purpose of your blog- guest posts should just add variety.  Most of the content should be yours if you want to attract a loyal following.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Allowing Your Blog To Age

This is one of those things you're not going to want to hear, but I have to say it all the same:

You must allow your blog to age.

Yes, age.  Like a fine wine.  You will not be getting thousands of visitors overnight.  Traffic generating services or paid ads are a complete waste in the early days.  Yes, you will generate traffic.  But for a blog, a temporary boost in traffic will do nothing.  You need quality subscribers that are not only commenting on your blog but also maybe sharing your links with their friends.

To give an example, when you first start your blog - as in sign up and put your first post - it takes about two weeks just for the blog to become part of "the internet."  That means that not even typing in the exact name of your blog in the Google search bar will bring it up.  For the first two weeks, the only way to bring a blog up is to type in the exact address ( or whatever).

After it finally filters into "the internet," it will take another six months before search engines such as Google start to take the blog seriously.  You have to think of the thousands of people every day who start websites or blogs, only put one post and then burn out.  If search engines counted every single one of those sites as viable search results right away, we, the searchers, would be flooded with useless information.

Therefore, you have to prove to the search engines that you are viable content.  Consistently posting high quality, focused content  over several months makes your blog appear more worthwhile in the eyes of a search engine.  A blog with lots of posts with similar keywords, comments and backlinks (people who copy/pasted your link somewhere else on the internet) will always rank higher than a fresh blog.

So you're just going to have to wait.  And be patient.  And continue to post.  If you don't believe me, take a look around at any popular blog in an category.  Yes, they will have fun content.  But they have also all been around for at least two or three years.  Aging your blog is key.

Monday, October 17, 2011

How To Get Blog Traffic: Choosing a title

The title of each blog post is possibly the single most important thing you should consider when it comes to blog traffic.  This is something you can directly control about your blog and it makes a huge difference in how people find your posts.  So, it's kind of important.

Cute, catchy titles with lots of play-on-words and puns may make you inwardly glow but they are not going to help other people find your blog.  So if you don't care about how much traffic you get, be as creative as you want.  If you do care, take my advice: title each post with the exact keywords you want people to type in on the internet to find that particular blog.

So, an example of a cute title would be: "My hysterically funny yet disastrous baking experience!"

An example of a specific, keywords in mind title: "Easy Apple Pie Recipe" or just "Apple Pie Recipe."

Yes, I know that the second option is not as much fun.  But when people go onto the internet and type in "apple pie recipe," the second post is the one that's going to pop up as a relevant.  So, as a blog author, you are going to have to make some artistic decisions here.  How much do you care about others seeing your blog?

Even if your titles have to be boring, all is not lost.  The actual content of each blog post can be as wacky and funny as you want.  Just because the blog is titled "Apple Pie Recipe" doesn't mean that you can't throw in your own experiences about the fire extinguisher glaze you were forced to add on top.  In fact, I would recommend that you do.  Things like that are what make people remember the blog later.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Pacing Your Blog Ideas

Pacing your blog ideas kind of goes hand in hand with the idea of posting consistently.  I've lost track of how many times I've heard people say that they don't want to start a blog because they don't know what to write about or they started a blog and then ran out of ideas.

Here's a secret: blogging takes practice.

Even prolific authors/writers have to practice blogging because it's not the same thing as writing a book or a short story.  But, as with most things in life, with practice it becomes easier.  Your brain starts to have a "blog mode."  Think about how it is playing Scrabble.  The first time you play or if you haven't played in a long time you're not in "Scrabble mode." You can't think of any words and the words you do think of are usually small and simple.  A few games in, your brain gets warmed up and you can start dishing out those more complex 5-letter words.

Same goes for blogging.  The first few weeks are going to be rough.  But the more you blog the more ideas will start to pop into your head.  You'll start to think of different ways to approach the same topic.  But this isn't going to happen overnight.

If you're having a rough time coming up with ideas, here's what I suggest: don't blog until you have three or four blog topics you want to write about.  Once you come up with the ideas, give yourself a few hours and write all of the blogs at once.  But don't post them right away!  Schedule your blogs so one posts each week for the next few weeks.

Why do this instead of just posting one every day?  A blog that updates weekly still looks active to potential new viewers.  It also means that you basically gave yourself a month to come up with more blog ideas.  Coming up with new blog ideas every day is stressful.  Coming up with blog ideas over the span of a month is reasonable.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Blog Layouts - How should I arrange my blog?

This is a tricky subject.  A blog is a very personal thing and so, ultimately, a lot of how a blog looks will depend on the author.  Personally, I like to keep my blogs very simple looking.  In the end, I feel like the blog should be about the entries and not the exotic designs bordering each post.  But I have encountered many bloggers who say they like to have lots of design because images draw readers in.

As I said, to each their own.  But there are some basic things that I think are important to keep in mind:

  • Are the titles and text easy to read on your blog?  Orange font on a pink background is going to be rough for most people.  Design all you want around the blog but the text is one area where I think simple is best.  A dark font on a neutral background is the easiest to see.  Even though white font on black is clear, some people have a hard time reading it for long periods of time (myself included and I'm not that old).
  • Is it easy to find a way to follow or subscribe to your blog?  I can't tell you how many times I've been on a blog that I've really liked and the follow button was like playing Where's Waldo.  If you want subscribers, you need to make it easy.  Don't bury these buttons in a sea of color or blog "gadgets."
  • For most western language speakers, the eye is naturally going to track from left to right.  So keep that in mind as you add new stuff to your blog.  The things in the upper left-hand corner of the screen will be noticed before the bottom right-hand corner.
  • For better or worse, images are a distraction.  People will notice images before they notice text.  As I said before, there are different theories on what draws people in to a blog.  I have multiple blogs and my image usage varies.  Keep images tasteful and keep them relevant.  If you are a graphic designer or photographer, you would want lots of images.  If you are writing a how-to, only add images if it helps to understand the concept.   
  • Is your blog easy to navigate?  A lot of bloggers neglect to add a home page.  This is a common problem with wordpress users.  On a wordpress blog, the default "home" button is just clicking on the blog's title.  But only wordpress users would know this.  Make your blog computer-idiot proof.  You don't want to lose a reader just because they got frustrated navigating.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

What Is Search Engine Optimization (SEO)?

This is one of those terms that techie people throw around completely oblivious of the fact that non-techie people have no idea what they're talking about.  "Oh, these are some things that will really help your SEO."  Well, if I don't know what SEO stands for, that whole sentence is kind of null and void.

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization.  It sounds scarier than it really is.  If you break down the whole term: "search engine" is what people use to browse the internet.  Google or Yahoo! are search engines (there are dozens, but those are big ones).  Optimization is just that, you are trying to make whatever it is that you're doing the best that it can be.

 So, in this case, SEO means that you are making changes to your blog that will affect how relevant your content is.  In layman's terms: you are changing if it comes up on page 1 on Google or page 3,122.

You want to work on your SEO because if you want new people to see your blog, you will need to have your blog come up when people type in keywords on Google or Yahoo!.  You don't want the only way to see your blog online to come from literally typing in the exact name of your blog.  No one except your relatives will do this.

All of the posts I have listed in my How To Get Blog Traffic series are things that will help your SEO.

Monday, September 26, 2011

How To Get Blog Traffic: Posting consistently

Aside from not having a focus, another pitfall a lot of bloggers fall into is inconsistent posting.  How much posting is required to be consistent?  This is another one where I use my go-to reality check: how would I react.  If I came across a blog that was last updated three years ago, I would probably think it was inactive.  Three months ago?  I would probably think it's on the back burner.  Three weeks ago?  Forgivable if the posts are long and thoughtful.  Three days ago?  Acceptable.  But this is me.  Think about how you would react.

That said, posting consistently encourages traffic.  Even if people are interested your posts, they are not going to turn into loyal readers if they feel like you don't care about the blog.  A blog should ideally be something that your readers look forward to reading on a regular basis.  Like the daily comics or something.  If you didn't know when the comics would next be published, you'd probably just forget about them.

But blogging should be fun, not life-consuming.  Making blog writing part of a day's routine can help.  More importantly, embrace the idea of scheduling blog posts.  Scheduling blog posts is usually a post setting option.  That way your whole day does not have to revolve around getting back the computer in time to make a post.  It also means that you can sit down when you have time and crack out three blog posts and space out the posting over the course of the next week or two.

The number of posts you have written does affect a blog's popularity.  But an active looking blog will always look more attractive to new readers over an inactive one.  Therefore, if you write three posts in one sitting, it is far better to have one post every week for the next three weeks than just posting all three at once.

This also helps with the pacing of your ideas.  But more on that later.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

What Are Blog Subscribers/Followers?

Subscribers/followers are one those those things that are easy to fixate on.  I think because it's a tangible, obvious thing to notice for both the blog author and the reader.  But sheer number may not necessarily be an indication of a healthy blog.

Let's first discuss what a subscriber/follower is.  All blogs have the option of becoming a subscriber.  This means that the reader has registered with the blog so the blog can send posts and updates to the reader.  Where the blog sends the posts is up to what options you provide your reader.

Blogger (run by Google) has an option to become what they call a follower.  This means that the subscriber has blog updates sent to a blog listing Google site called Google Reader.  On most blog hosts, people can subscribe to your RSS feed.  The RSS feed is just the internet coding for your blog.  So if they subscribe to an RSS feed, the blog sends your posts to whatever RSS reader they have chosen to use.  The final method of delivery is subscribing by email.  The blog sends posts directly to a person's inbox.

Usually blog hosts provide one method of default subscription and the blog author has to add the others if they want to give their readers options.  I recommend giving readers as many options as possible.  So long as each option is clearly labeled, you don't want to miss out on a potential subscriber.  Subscribers mean repeat customers.

This leads us to the number of subscribers.  A healthy blog has a large number of active subscribers.  This means that it really doesn't matter if a blog has 1,000 people subscribed to it.  If none of the subscribers bother to read the posts or comment, the blog might as well have no subscribers.  So yes it's fine to watch how many followers you have.  But they need to be followers that are actually interacting with your blog.

The lesson here: engage your subscribers.

Monday, September 19, 2011

What Are Blog Labels/Tags?

When I first started blogging, I assumed that the labels/tags you added to your blog were like keywords.  So I would pile on every single keyword I could think of that might have been related to the post in an effort to have Google make my blog come up as a number one hit.

It actually took me a really long time before I started to figure out what they were really for.  Now I'm not saying that the labels don't affect internet searches.  The Google algorithms for relevant material on searches are extremely complex I'm sure that labels probably factor somewhere in there.  But they're really not for the searches.  The labels are actually for your blog.

When you get people to your blog, you ideally want them to read more than just your newest post.  Number of views does affect search engines.  Every time someone views a post, the post becomes more relevant.  So if someone types in "apple pie recipes," a post that has had 10,000 views and 50 comments will rank higher than  a post that has had 1 view and no comments.

So you want to try and get the most out of all of your posts, not just the newest ones.  This is where the labels come in.  Think of the labels as file folders more than keywords.  If you write a blog post that is part of a series, you would want to give it a label/tag.  So if you write your apple pie post, maybe add the label "pies."  Then when you write another post the next week about key lime pie, you can add it to the "pies" label as well.  What this does is allow the reader to click on "pies" and then see every single post you've ever made about pie.

So only add labels that you know you'll probably have multiple posts for in the same category.  Labels can make searching your blog very easy but they can also be a distraction if you have too many labels.  A blog post with fifteen labels at the bottom and all the labels only having one post each in them is not going to help readers find your other work.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

How To Get Blog Traffic: Finding a niche

I think one of the biggest pitfalls most bloggers run into is not having a focus for their blog.  They like the idea of starting a blog.  They think of a cool name, get all excited about the layout and then... now what?

Pretty much every person I've come across with the complaint "my blog gets no traffic" has one thing in common: there is no focus to their blog.  There will only be a smattering of posts.  One talking about the weather, one talking about how dinner didn't taste right and one about a comic book.  And then it comes as a shock that no one has thought to type in "Fred Alistar III's blog" on the internet to read about those three things.  That was a very exaggerated example, but you get the idea.

Someone gave me some good blogging advice once and so, to quote Oscar Wilde, I'm going to pass on the good advice since it's the only sensible thing to do with it:

Your blog should provide a service.

Yes, it's that simple.  I say provide a service.  But the idea of "service" can be broadly interpreted.  Basically you need to figure out what you have to offer people.  Are you there to entertain?  Are you there to inform?  Are you there to sell?

You must find a niche.  Unless you're already famous, nobody but your family members will type your name in on the internet.  So how will the general public find your blog?  You need to blog about things that people might type in on the internet.  So if you like food, title your blog post "Delicious Apple Pie Recipe" instead of "My Recipe."  You are providing a service by providing subject material (apple pie recipe) that people will probably type in on the internet.

A focused blog allows for word of mouth to kick in.  As my go-to reality check, I always think about how I react to things.  If I was talking to a friend and the subject of food came up, there's almost no chance I would say "Hey if you like food you should check out this guy's blog where he talked about his dinner once."  However, there is a really good chance that I would say "Hey you should check out this blog I saw where they posted a fun new recipe every week."

Find a niche.  Provide a service.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

What IS a Blog?

The word "blog" is a hybrid word for the term "web log."  Think of it like an online, public journal.  The author writes journal entries and other people can read it.  A blog differs from a website in that it revolves around continuous posting vs. static information.  To continue the metaphor, if a blog is like a journal then a website is like a pamphlet.

Some people/businesses use a blog instead of a website.  Much depends on what the site needs to be used for and how much the person wants to spend.  In order to have a website, you must pay for a domain name (it's like your personal street address).  A blog can be free if you use a blog host (so it's like an apartment, you use it but it's technically not yours).  As with living situations, the potential of the blog will be somewhat limited if you use a free host vs. owning your own domain name.  In the "house" you can remodel all you like but in the "apartment" you can only really add furniture.

Starting a Blog

Starting a blog is simple enough.  For now, let's talk about starting a free blog.  A free blog means you are posting with a blog host.  You must work within the limits of the blog host as opposed to having your own site where you could essentially have complete freedom and control over how your site looks.

To find free blog host options, you can type in "free blog hosting" on your internet browser and scroll through.  As of right now, there are two main blog hosts that most people seem to use: and  There are lots of opinions floating around as to which blog host is better but basically it boils down to this:

Wordpress allows for more customization.  Blogspot (Blogger) is easier to use.  Blogger is also owned by Google which some people prefer if they already use other Google programs.

Once you decide which free blog host to use, you're going to have to sign up by choosing a blog title and web address.  My advice is to pick something catchy, try and include a key word in the title that will relate to the focus of your blog (like if it's a food blog try and use the word food or eating in the title) and try to pick words that are easy for people to spell/remember.  You want to make your site easy to find and talk about.

After you set that up, you're going to have to do some legwork and spend time familiarizing yourself with the the layout.  A lot of this is just getting used to where buttons are.  If you've ever used Word or Power Point, you'll find a lot of the workings are self-explanatory.  YouTube is a great resource if you find yourself confused.  Just type in "how to use blogger" (or whatever you're using) and you'll get hundreds of introductory videos.


I work in the field of music but I've always enjoyed writing.  I actually considered studying creative writing in college but then decided that deadlines might suck some of the fun out of it for me.  After college I started getting into writing short stories as a hobby and publishing them as ebooks.  Long story short,  I got into blogging February 2011 as a way to create an "author webpage."

This story is really exciting, I know.  The only reason why I'm telling it is to give you an idea about my background.  I never studied marketing.  I'm proficient at working a computer but by no means could I build one from scratch or program one.  I've never had a job working in sales (not even retail).   The only reason why I originally started an author blog instead of a website is because a blog seemed easier to customize and was free.

So the only thing I really have going for me is a willingness to learn and experiment.  In the process of figuring out how to blog I discovered that I really enjoy blogging itself.  The purpose of this blog is to share what I've learned and what I'm currently learning.  Hopefully it will turn out to be helpful to those of you that are interested in starting your own blog.