Don’t knock it ’till you try it


You can read the first part of this beginners guide here.

A BEGINNERS GUIDE TO BLOGGING – PART 2
I’ve been in possession of a snazzy new phone for about three weeks now. It’s one of those navigator phones that not only helps you out when you get lost, but it’s also a music player, video camera, game console, portable modem, photo editor, and (almost forgotten) a phone.

I have never owned anything as remotely high-tech as this device, and after three weeks, I honestly don’t know how to deal with it all and use it properly. I’m almost afraid of it, and there is often a voice it my head telling me I’ll never grasp how to use such technology.

We all experience techno-fear. Most believe it happens when we reach a certain age and is a defining moment in our lives when we reject the new and clutch onto the old. We feel comfortable with what we know and feel that we simply can’t cope with change or keep up with the rapid advance of technology.

Well I’m here to tell you that techno-fear has nothing to do with age. I have felt it as a twenty-something who embraces technology. It is rather a matter of trying something new and feeling comfortable with it after enough practice.

On that note I wish to assure you that it is the same with blogging if it is new to you. It has been three weeks since I introduced blogging here, which I trust is enough time for those interested to have set up a blog, or to have at least thought about it. Here are some more tips on how to do it.

Blog writing
There are a few things that are unique to writing for the web, which differ from the way one writes for print. While these rules are not cast in stone they have proven to be more effective.

For starters, it is always a good idea to write in the inverted pyramid format – with the most important bits at the top. The first few lines of a blog-post are usually your make-or-break moment, and determine whether people will continue reading.

People’s attention spans on the web are even more shocking than they are offline. With this in mind, it is important to keep articles short and use lots of short paragraphs and sub-heads if possible.

A blog-post can range anywhere between 200 and 2 000 words, but it is important to re-read your writing and cut it down as much as possible. Get your point across quickly or write an enticing introduction depending on the context of your post. It might also be wise to break longer posts into two parts.

Illustrating your blog
The average time that someone spends looking at a blog is probably no more than 10 seconds. This is because most online readers make a judgment about a new website (before reading anything) based on its looks.

Sadly it’s a shallow world online and this is why your posts not only need a catchy (and relevant) headline and enticing first line to rope readers in, but also as many visual aids as possible.

Pictures, graphics, pull-quotes and even videos are useful for breaking up the body of a post. You are able to bold and italicise words, create quotes and upload or embed pictures and videos from your toolbar that appears when you click on “new post” from your blogging dashboard.

Note: in WordPress the “dashboard” button appears in the top-left hand side of the screen and the top-right as “customise” in Blogger. Within this dashboard are further options for adding widgets, editing or changing your blog’s theme, and several others depending on which blogging service you are using.

Have you ever wanted to write a book or have started writing one but given up, thinking that it would never get published? Start a blog dedicated to your book and discover what people actually think. Describe in detail what your blog (i.e. your book) is about and who you are as an aspiring author, then offer either daily or weekly excerpts or chapters. Encourage people to comment on it and see whether you can generate a loyal audience. The two site aggregators (mentioned below) will offer you statistics on how many people are reading what you write and help guide you in the right direction.

Technical bits
The array of options and things called “widgets” are enough to give any new blogger a headache, but you only need to know a few of them at first.

An important one is the option of switching between “visual” and “html” in the top-right of the box in which your write your posts. Each mode offers different tools. However, if you are not familiar with html, this would be rather incomprehensible.

However, if you write your articles using a word processor such as Microsoft Word, ensure that that the html view is open when you copy and paste your text. Word processors are full of invisible text formatting that will look a little pear-shaped if copied directly into a blog.

The other important feature to notice is the “tags” box (found at the bottom of the “new post” box in Blogger and to the right of the box in WordPress). Tags are keywords which describe what your post is about and is what Google uses when people do a search.

Tags are important for ensuring that your blog shows up in Google searches. These words should also appear in your blog post and preferably be used more than once. Bolding keywords (which you add as tags) also improves your blog’s chances of being found when someone searches Google using those keywords.

Promoting your blog
Getting your blog “out there” and getting people to read it has a lot to do with self-promotion. This involves more than just telling your family and friends, but promoting your blog online to an unknown audience.

Once you have written a few posts and are happy with the way your blog looks and functions, you are ready to present it to the world and gather a readership. The first thing to do is register your blog on blog aggregator sites. The two essential ones that I’ve mentioned before are www.amatomu.com and www.afrigator.com.

These will ask you to describe your blog and will notify users when you publish something new. Users also have the option of subscribing or following the blogs they like and sharing articles with others. Blog aggregators also categorise your blog and point potential readers in the right direction.

This is where your new posts will appear, but only your headings and the first few lines or post summary. It is also where your tags come into play. Post headings, summaries and tags are therefore the three most important aspects to familiarise yourself with and eventually master.

Otherwise, promoting your blog in other ways is completely up to your own imagination. Add a link to it on your Facebook profile or any other website you have subscribed to. Comment on other people’s blogs, which will usually link back to your own. Make connections and write consistently. Interact with the blogosphere. Most importantly, don’t knock it ’till you try it!

You can read the first part to this blogging guide here:
A beginners guide to blogging part 1

4 responses to “Don’t knock it ’till you try it

  1. thecornerseeker

    Thanks for the advice Galen, it has really helped me out. I have registered with both http://www.amatomu.com and http://www.afrigator.com. When registering with amatomu they told me to embed some code into my blog. I do not know how to do this, please can you assist me. Also, how do you add the badges to your sidebar, I am not really sure on this either and would like to promote these sites.

    Thanks again, and check out my blog if you interested.

  2. Cornerseeker 🙂
    I’m glad you found this post useful. Blog aggregators require you to embed some code into your blog in order to track it. Assuming that you’re using wordpress: under “appearance” in your dashboard is a “widgets” button. From the list, add “text” (arbitrary text or html) to your sidebar. Simply copy and paste the Amatomu code into this box and click save. The same can be done for badges. This code remains invisible and will start tracking your blog and providing you with stats instantly!

    Let me know if you’re still battling. (PS: when you comment on other blogs you get an option of adding your blog url. This will make your name a link to your blog so that people can check out who you are. I’d be interested in seeing your blog, so try this out next time you comment).

  3. Hi Galen

    I am having the exact problem that Cornerseeker was experiencing and I’ve followed your advice in the above post, but no luck keeps telling me that my tracking code is either wrong or i haven’t installed one 😦

  4. Once you have signed up with Amatomu and logged in, click on “My Blogs & Stats” then “embed code.” If your blog is a wordpress blog you’ll copy and paste the second blog code, if not, the first code.

    Add an html text box (widget) to your sidebar and copy and paste the appropriate code here and save. Great things should start happening after this is done.

    You do the same as above to display the Amatomu badge. The code for this is under “Badges.”

    Hope that helps!

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