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 a few 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 forgot) 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.

Blogging Guide: 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.

Blogging Guide: 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.

Blogging Guide: 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.

Blogging Guide: 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 myScoop and Amatomu.

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!

Related Article: A beginners guide to blogging part 1

** More Online Tips & Tricks **

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BLOGGING GUIDE: One for the newbies

THE terms “blog” and “blogging” are becoming commonplace in today’s cyber-culture. While such words excite some, they also alienate people who missed the rapid emergence of the blogging phenomenon of 2007.

To put it simply, blogging goes alone the lines of “everyone online can be a publisher”. A blog, therefore, is any individual’s own personal website or space on the web. Some people, such as journalists and techno-junkies, blog professionally, while others blog simply as a hobby or for personal interest.

A portion of the former crowd even make some decent money from blogging, while the majority simply gain personal satisfaction. If you have always wanted to try your hand at writing, or simply have original views or interest in a topic that you’re passionate about, blogging may be for you.

The best part about blogging for me is the feedback one receives. Last week I wrote about website statistics and how one is actually able to see how many people are reading which particular articles you write. You may even get commentary on your blog posts. This is what makes writing for an online audience unique.

Starting a blog...
Uncle Sam wants you!If the idea of blogging excites you, there is nothing preventing you from starting one today. There are several ways to go about this, but in the spirit of keeping things simple, there are two blogging sites I would recommend:

www.blogspot.com and www.wordpress.com are two websites I have mentioned before and hold in high regard. They both allow anyone to sign up for free and offer a user-friendly, step-by-step guide to getting started.

If you are completely new to the blogging arena, then I would recommend starting your journey with wordpress.com. In my experience, WordPress is very easy to follow and will accommodate all your blogging needs. It is aesthetically pleasing, simple to use and professional.

How to blog

Now that your blog is set up with your chosen theme and blog name, you’re ready to start writing. The best advice that anyone can give in this regard is to write about your passion. What’s the one thing that excites you and has you talking for hours at a social gathering?

 

A poetic baboon and his monkey friendRemember that the Internet is already littered with blogs on all sorts of topics, so in order to make yours stand out, you need to write about what you know and offer something new in your own unique style.

Another thing to bear in mind is that blogging, and the whole social networking ethos of web 2.0, is all about sharing and interlinking content. If you have researched your article online, link back to the website that you got your information from.

The same applies to websites that either sparked an idea for a blog post or ones that offer further information and resources. Linking to other blogs is the central core of the blogosphere and is what makes it flourish.

Another tip is to make your blog a useful resource. If you have a passion for cooking, for example, post cooking tips and recipes on your blog. This will not only keep people coming back, but also will become a personal resource for yourself, your family, and your friends.

If you’re keen to test your talents at review writing, research the product thoroughly and provide as much information as possible, but keep it short. You never know who might read it and notice your potential.

Blogging for money

An online survey about blogging and the blogosphere conducted last year revealed that less than 10% of bloggers make money from their blogs and most do not wish to. The personal satisfaction gained seemed to outweigh any desire to blog for money.

However, if this is your incentive, online advertising is where the money is. You’ll come across several websites with Google ads plastered all over them. You earn a few U.S. cents for every click on a Google ad and a cheque is mailed to you once you reach a certain threshold.

Idea!
If you run a business from home and don’t currently make use of any online promotion, you are missing an ideal opportunity. Start a blog and write about your product or service. Add photos, prices, product details and create business cards with your blog address on them. It doesn’t get more free than this.

Happy blogging!

Part 2: Don't knock it 'til you try it

For more blogging tips check out:

** More Online Tips & Tricks **

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