|The mobile version of this blog|
So you think you want to start a blog (or your friends say “You should start a blog” to you frequently). But you’re not quite sure where to start. Well, I’ve had this blog for four years. I don’t claim to be an expert or a professional, but I have learned a few things.
So here, humbly submitted, are my tips for setting up a blog. Keep in mind, these mostly apply to Blogger blogs.
First, some general tips:
1. Do try to have a topic in mind. Granted, I didn’t have a topic beyond wanting to post my first “book” in a central place for my friends to read. But once that story ended and another idea had sprouted, it was clear that instead of posting the stories as blog entries, that the blog would be more about my process, my research, my life, and whatever else came to mind.
2. Temper your expectations. I’m an unpublished aspiring author. I don’t expect a ton of views or comments. There are millions of blogs out there, so don’t expect an overwhelming surge of views or comments the second you start to publish. Building an audience takes time.
3. Think about your readers. Do you want complete strangers to read your posts? Do you want to keep your blog to a close circle of friends?
4. Yeah, blogging can take up a lot of time. In my case, my writing life is mostly focused around my book. The blog is my chance to write about other things and, frankly, as a stress reliever. Once you get going, you’ll find that it really won’t take up a huge amount of time.
And now, more specific things:
1. For an accurate statistics report of the visitors to your blog, do set up Google Analytics. It’ll tell you where your visitors are from, whether they followed a link or Googled you, how long they spent on your blog, even what networks they looked at your blog on, so you know if they were a real person or a spammer. Blogger has its own stats, of course, but for deeper information, Analytics is the way to go.
2. Get LinkWithin. You may have noticed that WordPress blogs have a built-in “If you Liked This Post, Read These Posts” thumbnail at the bottom of posts. For Blogger blogs, LinkWithin is that equivalent. An easy widget to edit in to your template, LinkWithin helps readers see related posts and might keep them on your blog longer.
3. Do have share buttons at the bottom of your posts. You can get those at AddThis. AddThis keeps track of your posts being shared, though it doesn’t tell you much beyond where the post was shared to and what country the visitor was from. Still, at least you know where your posts are going.
4. Of the built-in Blogger widgets, I’ve found that the Popular Posts sidebar is really invaluable–for me and the reader. I can see what is popular at any given time and the readers can see the most-read posts on the blog without digging around for them.
5. Label your posts. It makes searching for a particular topic easy.
6. I find that the Blogger commenting system is fine for me, but you may think differently. Disqus is a service I experimented with for a while. It allows a commenter to comment on various participating websites and is supposed to facilitate conversation. I’ve seen it on Tumblr blogs, as Tumblr doesn’t seem to have a built-in commenting system. You can set moderation on your comments and have a Captcha to prevent spam, along with requiring participants to sign in or give an identity. Keep in mind, the more hoops you have, the more a casual reader might not want to comment.
7. Be interactive. When someone leaves a comment, reply to them. Go visit their blog and leave a comment, too. Link to other blogs in your posts, if it’s relevant to what your post is about.