You don’t blog? (2/5)

Thursday 16 February 2012, 5.33am HKT


FROM PART 1

Updated 30 May 2013 (formatting fixes)

BLOGGING is an easy way to get a web presence, to show you CAN think, your communication front to the wider world, and helps build up or even repair your reputation.

Now let’s hit the ground running with actual steps.

This part relates to the lead-up and setting up of your blog. The parts to come later will zero in on the the actual running of the blog.

This part is long, but highly useful for personal and business blogs.

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1. What’s your blog going be?

BEFORE anything else, decide what your blog will be about.

Pointless to continue discussing unless you’ve got this one figured first.

By definition, a blog is not seriously planned or researched. But it isn’t slapshot or lackadaisical either. You still have to decide on the main ‘angle’ for your blog.

Blogging’s biggest plus point is that you get to write what you care, in the way you’d like, to the standard you like. That’s also its biggest minus point too. You are on your own making that balance.

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  • DO:— Focus on one issue instead of covering many topics. This is especially true if you’re going to blog about professional matters. Look around and identify a market niche or niche issue that hasn’t been addressed before or in an efficient way — specialise on it. This is more effective in creating loyalty from your visitors.

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One interesting blog I follow is about booze. It’s a personal hobby blog. That writer concentrates on just one thing (alcohol in the form of wine, beer and liquor) and writes nothing else. He does one thing and one thing only, and does it really well.

Another blog I follow is the International Extradition Blog, written by a practising American lawyer under the aegis of his law firm. It is a professional blog written by professionals for professionals. IEB concentrates only on extradition matters so that it has immense world standing in the field of law.

By contrast, my blog completely goes against the grain of that advice, as you’ve no doubt noticed by now. But it’s safe to generalise that I put out hopefully high-quality, reasonably entertaining, almost humorous articles on a fairly consistent basis. Some of you just wished the stories weren’t so bloody long.

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  • FACT:— A blog indirectly helps the marketing focus of your main website.

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That’s the overall message to you about blogging.

Blogs are by definition not seriously planned or researched, so their ability to convince or persuade visitors to buy is limited.

But not absent.

You’re playing softball, not hardball — a blog is there to persuade and to help drive traffic to your main website.

That being said, a blog isn’t really a marketing too either, even if you treat the article-writing as a marketing tool.

In a sense, that holds true even for a personal blog. Your ‘persona’ that comes through in a blog is very much your personality’s marketing focus. If your personal blog consistently comes across as crappy or mindless, what does that say about you?

From both personal and business standpoints, the best blogs are topical blogs. Service businesses particularly benefit from running a blog. A consultant who counsels small businesses might have a blog that covers only small business. A life coach’s blog includes entries about life-coaching issues. A bankruptcy lawyer only writes about personal bankruptcy issues.

Such topical blogs help boost traffic at their main websites. They also help build credibility for their services. If their blogs are on-topic and have accurate and timely content, then the bloggers might possibly be seen as experts, even if they haven’t gone through the hassle of getting a book published or even professionally licensed.

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  • DON’T:— The only proviso is that you mustn’t be defamatory, hateful, violently obscene or violently biased — otherwise your blog provider will shut you down for BOTOS (breach of terms of service). I don’t think most people are going to be THAT stupid anyway.

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2. Use a blog provider that meets
your abilities and needs

THERE are loads of blog providers, and each to their own. Most are free, but some are paid services.

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  • DO:— USE A FREE BLOGGING SERVICE FIRST. Walk before you run. Some people think a ‘good’ blog must start from the ground up and have to be set up on a custom URL. Unless you have some technical proficiency (and time!) in running domains and blog software, stick to a turnkey blog service until you get better. Otherwise it’s pointless and too much hard work and costly to design, code and whack out your blog on a custom URL.

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I won’t recommend an all-round good service — and can’t.

But I will say WordPress.com (which hosts this blog) is in my experience and general estimation one of the better services around and a good balance between ease of use and features. WordPress has been good for me — and for me. Your mileage may vary. Take that for reference purpose only. Only you know what’s best for your blog.

(WordPress: Do I get a cheque for that plug now? Please?)

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  • DO:— Use a blog provider that fits in with the nature of your audience as much as the GEOGRAPHICAL TARGET AREA of the audience. Check out what kind of bloggers and readers populate the service before signing on.

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For instance (and I make no representations here), Blogger (a.k.a. Blogspot) tends to be blocked in China, so that service might be unsuitable if you’re based in China or aimed at readers there. Tumblr tends to be photo-heavy, so a wordy blog isn’t going to be massive there. Xanga is favoured by teens, so any writing remotely serious in tone won’t gel there.

Of course, all the other blog providers get blocked by and in other countries too, so it all depends. The subject matter of your blog can get you blocked too, obviously.

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  • DON’T:— Don’t run a blog on a custom URL just because you could or it’s for snob appeal. A custom URL is sometimes actually counterproductive. Your blog name or URL clould cause it to be filtered out by search engines.

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Sure, myownblog.blogservice.com doesn’t quite have that ‘je ne sais quoi’ cachet that myownblog.com has.

THIS blog is at thenakedlistener.wordpress.com — I could very well buy an upgrade and turn it into thenakedlistener.com. So why didn’t I? Because anti-porn filters would have blocked it. Catch my drift now?

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3. Invent a good blog name

YOU don’t have to, but it would be nice to have a good blog name.

It all depends. A good blog name doesn’t have to be ‘flash’ or ‘glam’ or cutsie or ‘wow-wee!’ It is a name that’s good for you. You might be self-effacing and be content with a nondescript name like ‘xiisoid’ or ‘Mary Lamb’s Blog’ — that’s 100% fine.

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  • DO:— Use a short, easy-to-remember name. Best if it’s written the same as it’s pronounced. Use a name that’s easy to say because that’s how the mind reads it too. If people could know what your blog is about just by its the name, the more visits you’ll get. An attractive name will spark more curiosity to visit it.

.It’s one reason I chose “The Naked Listener’s Weblog” instead of “Small Fried Fry.”

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  • DON’T:— Avoid using hyphens, apostrophes and other punctuation marks. Definitely avoid special characters or symbols. They cause problems for visitors trying to locate your blog.

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  • DO:— Use keywords in your blog name to help search-engine indexing. If your blog is about cars, the title should refer to cars.

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A good name shows who or what you are — the image or idea that visitors will have before entering the blog.

Originality of your blog name is important, although it might be difficult to be both original and have the keyword in the name.

Learn from others. Look at other successful blogs — many of them have an easy and generic subject theme, and are strong and profitable.

The name “The Naked Listener’s Weblog” originally started as a posting category on bobbylee.spaces.live.com when Microshaft was still in the blogging business. When transfer time came, my two favourite category labels have been “The Naked Listener” and “small fried fry.” I went with The Naked Listener, but I could’ve just named my newly hosted blog F@#ker’s Paradise for all I cared.

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  • DO:— Get the opinions of others before finalising on your blog name. Once decided, stick with it (and buy the domain name ASAP if yours is a self-hosted blog).

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  • DO:— Equalise your domain name to the blog name if yours is a self-hosted blog. We expect to see “Joe’s Stupid Blog” at joesstupidblog.com rather than at icannotfigurethisout.com. This rule is often ignored for various technical reasons because some domain names just aren’t available. A domain name unmatched to the blog name might lose you readers along the way.

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  • DO:— Register all possible variations of the blog name (.com, .net, .org, .es, etc) if yours is a self-hosted blog on a custom URL. This frustrates plagiarism of your content and helps avoid future conflicts with other pages.

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  • DON’T:— Don’t constantly change your domains. That causes you to lose page rank and sink down in search positions. This might be important if you’re into that maddening craze called search engine optimisation (SEO) — in which case, why do you even need my input here?

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* * *

4. Start as a ‘private’ blog with a no-frills blog design

Activate your blog as private access only immediately after registering it.

That way, it remains invisible to the public until you make it ‘public.’

Design is a lot like a girlfriend. (Sorry, ladies, just making a point here.) The good-looking ones are usually a bitch to handle: lots of features equal lots of ‘drama’, plus constant servicing to stay in tiptop form. The ‘ordinaries’ are steady, have predictable drama, and pretty much self-servicing.

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  • DON’T:— Newbies (and old hands too) frequently make this key mistake: using an ambitious blog design (theme) at the outset. Mucking around with an ambitious blog design — on top of the writing, going to work, having sex (or being denied sex), paying the bills, etc — will grind you down like sandpaper.

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  • DO:— Operate on a basic design at the outset. Write up the static pages (About, Contact, etc) on that basic theme first during the ‘private’ stage. Do a trial run to see if posts come out right. If good enough, run some real posts after going public also on that basic design. Run the blog for a few months and build up some experience.

Be sensible — you’ve not even started making your first public post (or even run a blog at all before) and already you’re messing around with complicated web design elements. Prime recipe for failing.

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  • DON’T:— Don’t spend too much time tweaking. Try to ‘go public’ as soon as things are good enough. Refine as you go along. Yours is a blog, not TV. Things don’t have to be perfect the first time — you’ll only eat up time and your blog never gets released.

For example, my blog runs on Ambiru theme. When I first registered with WordPress, I opted for the default theme (Kubrick) and straight away worked on the ‘About’ and other pages, ran some test posts, etc. A few days in, I felt WordPress was right for me and went public. About a month in, I switched to Ambiru. Appreciate that I did all this even when I’ve had previous experience in mainstream publishing and also running a blog.

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Up next in Part 3, refining your set-up

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© The Naked Listener’s Weblog, 2012. Updated 30 May 2013 (formatting fixes).

Images: Blog platforms chart by Vad Bars at FireflyStream ♦ Distraction via Lost In Technology ♦| Blog stickers in hand via Titanas ♦ Don’t give a f@#k via someecards ♦ Drama girl via Cyclone Cindy.

3 Responses to “You don’t blog? (2/5)”

  1. Ed Hurst said

    Breaking your own rules simply shows the need to be mentally flexible. Another issue is some of us write regardless of audience, but it somehow manages to click. I have no way of estimating how rare that might be.

    Like

  2. Ed Hurst said

    Was it supposed to make sense? Would it help if I started yelling the name of that old rock theme, “Stop Making Sense!”

    Like

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