How to Start a Blog

From time to time I have people ask me how to start a blog. So, I decided to write it up here so I could just point to a reference rather than making it up fresh each time.

  1. The are several choices in blog software. Normally, I recommend Typepad as the easiest way to create a professional blog. Its a service, so its easy to get set up and going. If you are technically inclined, I'm partial to Movable Type, but you'll need someplace to host it. You can sign up for an account at Blogger for free.
  2. I recommend that you register your own domain and point it at your blog. That way if you ever decide you want to use different blog software or move to another service, you at least stand a chance of keeping things intact. For this to work, your domain has to show up in the permalinks for your blog entries.
  3. I recommend that you not tie your blog too closely to the corporate infrastructure of where you're presently employed since you may go somewhere else and your blog ought to go with you.
  4. Once you've got a blog up and going, I recommend that you pick a topic and kind of stick to it. Decide what it is you're going to say. Themes can be pretty broad (mine's Enterprise Computing, for example which gives me broad leeway but doesn't just include everything). I go outside those boundaries from time to time, but pretty much I stick to the topic.
  5. A good way to get started is by referencing and quoting material from other blogs and Web sites you read and then commenting on them as you see fit. Eventually you will start to mix in longer essays that express a thought that you want to develop.
  6. Write about what interests you, not what you think your readers want. If you just try to guess what people want and write about that, you'll get bored with writing and it will become drudgery.
  7. The way to get people to read your blog is to link to their blog and say interesting things. People notice when you link to their blogs (either through their referer logs or through Technorati) and will follow the link back and read what you have to say. If its interesting enough they might link to you, comment on what you say and, in so doing, drive traffic to you. Read your own blog and follow the links (at first) to prime the pump.
  8. In a similar vein, when you write something interesting that you think someone would enjoy reading, feel free to point it out in an email. I'm not recommending SPAM, just an email to a few people you know that asks them to read what you've written and provide feedback.
  9. At a minimum, make sure that your email address or a comment form is available on your blog for people to send feedback. You may want to experiment with comments on blog entries and see whether you like them. Some people do and some people don't.
  10. If you're using blogging software, it will undoubtedly offer a way to create an RSS (or ATOM) feed. Make sure its enabled and link to it prominantly on your site. You should also make sure your feed is autodiscoerable. To do this ensure that your page template lists your feed in the header as an alternate version of the page.
  11. I favor creating an "About..." page to list biographical data and let people know who the blog's author is. I hate going to blogs and not being able to find out something about the person writing. Being able to know the person, at least a little, is part of the blog experience for me.
  12. If you blog about your work, be sure to read Robert Scobles corporate blogger manifesto (PDF).

Mechanics

Whether your starting or moving a blog, if you're doing it yourself (rather than using a hosted service) these links might be helpful:

  • If you're thinking of using Movabletype (my current choice), you may want to read my tips for moving from Radio to Movabletype. There quite a bit there for people just starting too.
  • Jordy Gunderson moved Paul Allen's blog to a new domain and put together some information about how to do that with minimal loss of search engine traffic.

Other Resources

Last Modified: Friday, 31-Dec-2004 16:15:21 MST