“Captain’s Blog, Star-date 45678…” – This is how an episode of Star Trek might kick off if it was invented today. Captain Kirk/Picard/Janeway/ other-Kirk would be regularly posting about how the price of food in the Enterprise canteen keeps going up and how that ensign in Engineering gave them ‘a funny look ‘.
Blogs have been around, in some form or other, since the invention of the internet but they really came into their own in the late-90s when new web-publishing tools took a little bit control of the web away from the programmers and pasty teenagers in their dark bedrooms and gave it back to John and Jane Everyman.
Of course, the fact that anyone can blog means that ANYONE can blog, the result being a superfluity of rashly conceived, badly-designed, poorly-maintained and set-up-on-whim-and-then-forgotten-about blogs, all now cluttering up our clean-and-tidy internet.
I better stick my hand up and admit that, yes, I do have a somewhat underused blog that once was the home of all my writing-related musings. But, as technology moved on and new other shinier toys came into view, it has been overtaken by Twitter (love that 140-character limit), Facebook and, of course, my occasional contributions to writing.ie. So my blog sits there unappreciated and unloved and growing a large chip on its shoulder.
One of the causes of bad-blog-syndrome is, in fact, lack of knowledge. Knowledge of how to create a blog that looks and reads well, what makes an interesting subject, how to get followers to it and how to keep them there (bribes and blackmail don’t work, believe me). Thankfully, in addition to our own great resources here on writing.ie, there’s plenty of help out there for bloggers with L-plates on the back window.
PC Magazine has been one of the computer magazines of record since 1982 and, in its 31 years, has offered straight-forward and invaluable advice on all-things-IT-related. Its beginners’ guide to blogging is no different and, in fact, suggests that writing a blog is a great way of breaking into professional writing. It offers a no-frill definition of a blog – “a regularly updated website consisting of posts shown in reverse-chronological order, so the newest entry is seen first”.
The DailyBlogTips website also has no shortage of guidance for the starter-blogger and aptly bundles their guide into 17 key points. These cover the basics on blog-content, suggesting that it should have clearly defined purpose and niche. It also touches on the more intricate aspects, such as strategy, monetisation and traffic generation, ensuring that, in the long term, we get the most out of our blog.
Speaking of content, if you see blogging as the first rung on the writing-for-a-living ladder, as PC Mag suggests, but you’re still drawing a blank as to what to talk about, allow me to polish off the old chestnut – ‘Write what you know’ (or even better – ‘Write what you love’). The Pro-Blogger offers some great advice on choosing your blog-topic and, although it agrees with the chestnut, it also suggests that we analyse our topic and make sure it meets certain considerations. Questions like ‘Is the Topic Popular?’, ‘What competition is there?’ and ‘Will you have enough content?‘ should be asked and, if we can answer ‘Yes’ to all of them, then it’s full-steam-ahead.
Quality of content, strategy and attracting followers is all very well, I hear you say, but where do I go to actually set up my blog? Well, as with everything these days, there is choice. And, better yet, most of them are free (blogging is not something that we should be paying for).
If you want your blog to have the style of a professionally-designed website, WordPress is hard to beat. As PCMag.com’s Eric Griffith tells us, WordPress is currently hosting over 61 million blogs and, from the ease with which it works and how well our blog looks, it doesn’t take a pasty-teenager-in-a-darkened-room to see why it’s so popular.
Now swallowed up by the behemoth that is Google, blogger.com is a more grass-roots blogging facility. Quick and easy to get going on, it will allow us to be blogging about <insert niche-topic-of-choice here> in minutes. For absolute beginners who want to get into blogging without too much hastle or commitment, Blogger is ideal, and we can graduate to the slightly more complex hosts like WordPress later on, once we’ve hit our comfort zone.
WordPress and Blogger would be the two of most popular blogging websites around at the moment but, as mentioned though, there’s no shortage of choice. SaveDelete.com gives us their run-down of their top ten blogging sites.
When we become established as bloggers, have a popular niche topic and are attracting an avid following, it might be time to think about monetising our blog (or, if we’re Mark Zuckerberg, get a hedge fund to invest a few billion). There are a variety of ways we can derive some revenue from our blog and Pro-Blogger is on tap to tell us how. Suggestion include the simple banner-ad, selling our own products, recommending others products. We should also think about generating speaking fees for lectures on our blog topic, especially if we have successfully shown that we are an authority on the subject.
Lastly, you might want to have a look at some other writers who are successfully blogging. Cork-based writer and guru-of-self-publishing Catherine Ryan Howard blogs regularly blogs about her writing, publishing and travelling adventures over on catherineryanhoward.com
On her Heartsong blog, Nicola Morgan regularly posts about what’s happening in her writing.
And here on writing.ie, crime writer Louise Phillips runs the Crime Scene blog, keeping us up-to-date on everything happening in the crime writing world. There are also other blogs on writing.ie from Cathal Póirtéir, Alison Wells, Kate Dempsey, Derek Flynn, Hazel Gaynor, Emma Tobin and Elizabeth Murray.
How Very PC.
PC Magazine offers us their brand of advice on blogging.
“Doonesbury may joke, but blogging is now a job in and of itself.”
All About Branding
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Seventeen Is The Magic Number.
DailyBlogTips tells us what we need to know before start blogging.
“It doesn’t matter if you haven’t started a blog yet, or if you’re a veteran, because just one of these tips can make a big difference in your blogging.”
What’s My Blog About?
The ProBlogger’s advice on making sure we pick the right subject for our blog.
“I regularly am asked about how I choose my niche topics to blog about.”
The Hosts With The Mosts.
SaveDelete gives us their top-ten blog-hosting sites.
“For blogging enthusiasts the options are many.”
…And The Beautiful.
Show Me The Money!
Pro-Blogger show how we might make some foldin’-money from our blog.
“More and more bloggers are finding that blogging is a profitable medium.”