It is estimated that there are as many as one hundred million blogs presently online in the Internet, each one an individual expression of a person, group, or company. Adding yourself to this number, going online and expressing yourself through your own blog, is a relatively easy undertaking, made all the more simple by a number of commercial and noncommercial blogging services. For the beginner, this wealth of blogs and the number of different companies offering blog solutions may seem overwhelming at first, but a quick introduction to what is available and how to best utilize what is available clears the ground considerably.
The first consideration a budding blog owner should make is his or her aim. Do you, as a potential writer, wish to merely record your thoughts and impressions for family and friends, or for yourself alone in the form of a diary? Do you wish to capture a niche market with specialized knowledge and experiences, with opinions and information? Are your interests aimed more toward earning money through your blog, either through membership fees or advertising? For many, the pull of the Internet is a perceived opportunity to make money, something which the weblog monitoring and news site Technorati, in their State of the Blogosphere 2010, clearly show to be a pipe dream. Once you have settled your aim, what you wish to achieve with your blog, you should consider where in the marketplace your blog is likely to find its home.
There are as many different categories of blog as there are blogs themselves: each is an individual work with its own characteristics, expressions, and interests. Generally, though, blogs tend to fit into several general categories: general interest, hobbies, lifestyle, fashion, computing, trade or work related, or social. A beginner, nonspecialized blogger may then seek out a subcategory according to his or her more specific interests: women, games, specific hobbies, motherhood, travel, chat. Within these subcategories are also further categories breaking the whole down into even smaller niches and interest groups which, for many bloggers, are initially of little real interest.
Having decided upon which area you wish to write it is now important to ensure that you have enough time available for your blog. The initial set-up time may take several hours—or even days if you decide to go for your own domain—and the writing itself, the all-important contents of your blog require dedicated time at least three to four times a week. Most blogs tend to fail within the first three months due to a lack of time or, in some cases, a lack of further interest. It is important to set your goals on a far lower level than the amount of time that you can expend on writing, especially if these goals include reaching a large audience as quickly as possible. Every single blog begins small and grows, rather like a child, and needs to be nurtured before the world begins to take note of its presence.
The ideal of writing three or four times a week is of paramount importance. Firstly it brings you a certain level of discipline, which you will need to overcome any initial disappointments, such as a lack of readership and comments. For those who visit your blog it is also important to see that your site is active and that there is always fresh information, new entries which make their visit worthwhile and which will, assuming that the content is of interest, convince them to visit again. Secondly it sets you an attainable target. Having set times when you can sit down in peace and quiet to write a post can be much the same as writing to a deadline, but without the stress often associated with writing for someone else. It is worthwhile setting time aside and writing, to test the waters, prior to opening a new blog in order both to ascertain how much time you will be able to dedicate to your blog and to have an initial source of posts, which you can load up to the site within the first few days of its existence. During this initial offline testing period you should also view other blogs within your area of interest to gain tips and tricks for your own later use. Writing for yourself, prior to publication, also gives you a chance to hone your writing skills and learn the best way to express yourself, your interests, and your opinions.
The next consideration is how you wish to enter the world of blogging. Several noncommercial services are available for those who do not wish to purchase their own domain, the most popular of which is WordPress (wordpress.com), closely followed by Blogger (blogger.com) and Tumblr (tumblr.com). These three services allow a great deal of leeway in design and have easy to understand interfaces for uploading text and images. Each also offers a wide range of different templates, many of which are free, as well as different plug-ins and add-ons which can enhance the blogging experience for both writers and readers, allow linking to other sites of interest or links from other services—such as Facebook or Twitter. Setting up a blog on your own domain is slightly more complicated, involving the installation of the necessary software through an FTP connection but, for the dedicated Blogger, with many advantages. Here the blogging software from WordPress (wordpress.org) is highly recommended.
Once you have settled upon your platform, installed or set up your blogging software, chosen and installed your theme, it is time to begin the actual work of expressing yourself. Here, in this new environment, you will see the advantages of having built up a small arsenal of written work to upload to your new blog. The hardest part of writing is not, as some people imagine, finding a theme or subject to write about, it is the act of writing itself. Writer’s block, which can infect even the most professional writers at some stage or another, is the inability to set those first few words down on paper and then follow through with the rest of the text. Having tested your abilities away from your new blog, as much as your limitations, this should be less of a problem. Now you can begin expressing yourself in the public domain.
Ideally you are writing for others to read. One of the reasons why many blogs do not succeed beyond the three-month point, aside from a loss of interest by the writer themselves, is an inability to gain an audience. Setting your sights too high can result in great disappointment. A blog needs a great deal of work, a great deal of original content to become as success along with good links, back links, and entries in directories. Most directories will not accept a new blog which is less than ninety days old, that is, a blog which has next to nothing of note in it and which could simply disappear. Other bloggers are less inclined to link to sparsely written blogs. As a beginner you should concentrate on writing good content and ensuring that this good content is accurate, well written, free of errors, and easy to read and comprehend. This is not as daunting as it may appear, the better software programs have spell-checkers built in and the ability to preview your work prior to publishing it. Initially you should expect little or no reaction from the rest of the blogosphere but, at the same time, you should make yourself known within your own interest groups. Read and comment on other blog posts of interest—the comment form allows a link back to your own blog URL—build up connections and friendships. Write entries connecting to other blogs of similar interests—with links—using your own knowledge and opinions. Express yourself in both your own posts and in comments on other blogs clearly, succinctly, and with care.
Finally, for all new bloggers a personal recommendation: The best ideas for a new post come at the most inconvenient moments, the middle of the night, during a conference, while you’re out and about with no access to a computer. Carry a small notebook around with you, make notes, jot down sentences and ideas, which you can later expand into full posts for your own blog. Above all, though, be true to yourself: express yourself clearly as if you are talking only to yourself, even if the opinions you wish to express are different to every other opinion you have come across. A fresh view, a new opinion is always welcome.