Blogging Step Four; What And How To Write

This will be the final installment of the blogging series for now, and I hope it’s helped illuminate what blogging can be about. If you have questions or other topics you’d like me to address, leave me a comment and I’ll see what I can do. Here’s the links to parts two and three in this series:

Blogging Step Two; Where To Create Your Blog

Blogging Step Three; How To Create Your Blog

Donald Keene at home: Tokyo, 2002
Aurelio Asiain via Compfight

If you’ve read all the previous installments, then you remember that step one dealt with think about what you want to write about. Now we get a bit further into it. A recommendation I’ll make is, if you’re not sure how to get started on your topic, write down 10 things you believe you can write something on. If you can’t think of at least 10 topics from the beginning then you’re already in trouble, and you didn’t learn anything from step one.

This part should be fairly easy, though. For instance, let’s say your blog is going to be on show dogs. One would assume your first post is going to be about dog shows in general, just to get started. Then you could write about what judges look for in individual dogs, or you can pick specific dogs to talk about, which would be a bunch of topics. You could talk about the history of certain dog shows, or previous winners of the dog shows, both the dogs and the trainers. Heck, you could talk about trainers, and families of winners throughout history. For someone who may be thinking about this as a blog topic, I’ve just given you at least 100 posts.

The “how” is somewhat different. A question I’ve heard asked over and over is how long a blog post should be. The true answer is a blog post should be as long or as short as it needs to be. If you look at the last 10 posts on this blog, for instance, you’ll see that four were long, four were short, and two were somewhere in the middle. A blog post really can be one paragraph; probably shouldn’t be one line, unless you’re highlighting an image, movie, or sound file of some type. A blog post can be long, but just how long is long? If you’re writing a dissertation it’s too long; no one is going to stick around that long reading a blog post. It’s too much like work; blogs aren’t supposed to be that detailed.

That’s why I’ve broken this up into a series, instead of putting it all into one post. But another reason for doing it is that it’s given me four posts instead of just one, which obviously helps me build up my content, but it gives me more opportunities to advertise some stuff; yeah, it’s a little crass, but hey, a guy’s gotta try to make a buck, right? If you can break a very long post up, you still get to say everything you wanted to say, but spread out, you give people a reason to keep coming back for more.

And there you go; we’ve made it through a whole short series on blogging. Now I can chill and maybe post a video of something; yeah, we all need more videos. Enjoy the rest of your weekend.

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Blogging Step Three; How To Create Your Blog

This particular post isn’t going to detail the process of downloading software or how to set up a blog on a blogging site. The “how to” is regarding how you want your blog to look, based on the purpose and your personal style.

As a for instance, when I decided I was going to create this blog, I knew that I wanted to have the middle for the content and sidebars on both sides of it. In other words, I knew coming in I wanted a 3-column template. You can get a blog without any sidebars, one sidebar, or even 3 sidebars, giving yourself four columns.

What are the purposes for all those columns? Let’s look at it in a little better detail, starting with only the one column. Basically this means you just want to write your blog and don’t want anything taking away from what you have to say. You’re not looking to advertise anything. The problem with this is that you probably won’t have many people link to your blog because many people like to at least have the opportunity to receive a link back, and a one column blog wouldn’t have a place to link. Also, blogs will keep archives of past posts, and it will break them into both categories and date ranges, but there won’t be a place for that to display so you can’t even show people that information. What I don’t know is how one would get into a one column blog to sign in, though there’s obviously a way. Overall, you lose a lot with this format.

Looking at a two column blog, usually it means the column where you’re entries are is wider than the other column, which can be on either the right or left side. This is the most common template, as it allows a person to show everything that’s meant to be shown, such as all the things I mentioned above, as well as allowing for some type of advertising if one so chose. The problem with only having one column is that you may end up having too much stuff in the one smaller column that your site looks junky. At the same time, since your content will probably be long, you have a lot of room to get things on there.

A three column blog offers more flexibility if you’re looking to advertise and also want to keep all the other stuff mentioned earlier. You can also add a calendar and many other things, and it offers you the ability to have some balances with your blog; I’m all about balance. What you have to think about, though, is whether you want the sidebars on each side of your main content or both on one side or the other. There’s no negatives to either, so it’s more of a personal choice.

A four column blog allows you to break things down even more, but in my mind, it’s too much and it’ll take away from whatever you’re writing about on your blog. A four column blog allows for the most diverse type of advertising, because you could have all your Adsense in one column, and all your affiliate ads in another.

The final thing to talk about, no matter which style you choose, is deciding on color. Overall, it doesn’t really matter what colors you pick depending on what you like, but you need to think about the readability of your blog for everyone who visits. For instance, picking green and pink for your blog might impede someone who suffers from color blindness from being able to read your blog easily. If you have a dark background with your blog you’ll want lighter print to offset it. Things always work best when there’s enough of a contrast to have either dark print against a light background or light print against a dark one.

Finally, be sure that the title background fits the image you’re trying to project in some fashion. I picked the background image for this blog because it was red and red is my favorite color. I saw some that had nice picture backgrounds, but those didn’t fit my style. I saw some that I thought might look pretty nice, but in the end decided they also didn’t fit my style. If you have the knowledge, you can always change the pictures or colors later on, though, so the most important thing overall is choosing the style you’d like.

And there you go. What’s coming up next about blogs? Stay tuned.

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Blogging Step Two; Where To Create Your Blog

In step one, I talked about the need to think about what you’d like to talk about. Now we’ll talk a little bit about where to create your blog.

There are four choices in deciding where to create your blog. You can decide to join a site that allows you to create your own independent blog. You can join a blogging site that’s more of a community. You can decide to add a blog to your existing website. Or you can decide you want to create a website and turn it into a blog.

Let’s look at each of these separately. On the first one, you can decide to join a site like Blogger, WordPress, Xanga or Typepad; those are the big names, but there are plenty others. Blogger is probably the biggest and best, and from what I understand it’s very easy to set up. You get to choose the colors, you can do advertising with Google Adsense or other affiliate ads, and you can even use it for business purposes if you so choose. It’s a good place to set up a starter blog. One negative of this type of blog is that you can’t optimize the site because it’s on another platform instead of your own site. Another negative is that you can’t control where your visitors might go next. Using Blogger as an example, there’s a choice your visitor can select at the top that allows visitors to go to another blog at random. The problem is that you never know what might come up, and some folks who’ve thought about using it to set up a professional site have worried that their visitor might click on that link and end up at an adult or inappropriate site next.

Most people who set up a blog on a community site are looking for friends, and those blogs tend to be more personal. Another reason they join is because of the promise of having an opportunity to share in the profits with the blog creator by having a Google Adsense number and, if you write good content, figuring that people will click on the ads next to your post and you’ll split the money with the creator. If it happens I’ve never seen it, as I’ve had a few blogs on these sites. What they allow you to do is create anonymous names so you can write whatever you want to write about, and many people use it as a diary of some sort. And, in putting your life out there, if you’re somewhat interesting or controversial you’ll get people who will comment on your blog, and we all love it when we have readers and commenters. But it’s doubtful that people who are there all the time will take the time to click on your Adsense blocks, and there’s no way to set up anything to track it, as all you get to do is plug in your advertiser number. So, these sites are more for vanity than anything else; you would never set up your business on one of these. But they can be a lot of fun.

You can decide to set your blog up attached to your current website. If it’s for your business, it will bring automatic prominence to your website, as long as you write often enough, because blogs are visited often by search engines, and they love seeing new content. Having a blog associated with your business can help you gain great credibility, or it can make you look incompetent and uncaring, so it’s a dicey proposition. Some businesses are afraid to offer what could be seen as an opinion or review of products, clients, services, etc because they worry about the negative press. But others believe that any press is good as long as it brings people to them. Either way, it’s still a tough decision to make, and one of my blogs is associated with one of my businesses.

The final way is to make an entire domain a blog, which is what I’ve done here. I tried to think of just what I wanted to write about, and what I wanted to call it, and then decided I wanted to share whatever I wanted to share, while advertising my affiliates and such. This is the best way to have independent control without having to worry about how it affects your other businesses or life, because, if you wish, you can still maintain some bit of anonymity. Of course, you have to worry about paying for another domain, as well as hosting, but it’s not such a bad thing because the benefits of linking to other content, including some of your other sites, isn’t a bad thing.

And there you go. Next time, we’ll talk about the hows of creating a blog.

Blogging Step One; What To Write About

A blog is an online journal of either personal or business ideas that people want to share with other people online. Some people write to get things off their chest. Some people write to journal their day. Some people write to give their opinion on things such as politics or religion. Some people write to show off their expertise in a particular field. And some people blog to make money; nothing wrong with that.

blog topics

Before even starting a blog, you should take some time to decide what you want to write about. Many people come up with a quick idea, think it’s cool, and decide that’s where they want to go. But if you’re going to blog a long time, or if you have a purpose other than just ranting, you shouldn’t skip this step.

At the same time you’re thinking about what you want to write about, you also have to decide if you’re going to try to make any money off it by adding things such as Google’s Adsense, Clickbank, or any other affiliate or PPC (pay per click) types of ads. It’s an important decision because it helps you to determine whether you’re looking to write a fun blog, a business blog of some type, or a personal blog. If you’re going to use a blog more as a diary and you’re hoping to make money off it, the ads that come up probably won’t help you much.

So, say you want to write a business blog, and you’re a financial counselor; I’m going to use this one because I’ve seen this topic fail a lot. Think about how much you could write on a consistent basis on just that topic if it’s your business. Think about who you might be aiming your posts at. If you’re only looking to talk to people who might use your services and you’re trying to highlight your expertise, you might find yourself starting to struggle for something new to say pretty quickly.

However, let’s say that you want to do that, and talk about financial matters in general. If you’re ready to give your opinion on the status of the stock market, the price of oil, the trading of commodities, CEO compensation, or whatever the latest bit of news is that’s out there, now you’ve given yourself a chance to succeed for a long time because every day there’s something going on that’s fodder for your commentary. Broadening the area of the topic you want to focus on is a key to longevity.

I met a guy a few weeks ago who said he wanted to write a blog, but didn’t want to give opinions because he didn’t want to lead people one way or another. Blogs are either for opinions or dissemination of news; everything else ends up as articles, white papers or tech manuals.

If you want people to consistently come to your blog, you have to not only give them information, but there has to be a level of entertainment. You have to be interesting; think about which teachers were your favorite in school. In history class, did you want a teacher who just gave you what came straight out of the book, or the teacher who would intersperse stories that helped bring situations and people to life (having fun memories of one particular history teacher right now)?

So, in review, decide what you want to write about, pick a topic that’s broad enough to give you enough to talk about for a long time, and be interesting. Oh yeah, one more thing; have fun with it, and think of it as fun, because if you think of it as work or as a necessity, you’ll crash and burn quickly. Even with business blogs, you’re allowed to be irreverent every once in awhile; I know I certainly am.