We are knee deep in the basics of blogging!
If you've decided you'd like to blog, or if you just want more information before taking the plunge, there are a few more steps, namely:
Deciding what you'll write about is clearly a highly subjective decision that goes beyond our scope for today (although maybe a good idea for a future feature? Hmm...). But I read a nice piece on this very topic the other day by Sonia Simone on copyblogger. The article was "Steal This Trick: The #1 Secret of Confident Bloggers". When choosing a topic, Sonia advises:
Strong headlines, smart copywriting technique, celebrity gossip, telling stories, making readers laugh, stategic [sic] use of controversy, reviews of the latest technology, reveling in your love of Steve Jobs and all he creates. They each have their advocates, and they can all work. But there's one insider's trick that makes the rest of it easy'�Start by picking a crowded topic [and then] Instead of being a big fish in a small pond,'� Be a small, ridiculously evolved, very rare and weird fish in a great big pond.
Her overarching point: write about a topic lots and lots of people are interested in, but write about it in a way that is uniquely you.
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Once you know what you're going to write about (or if you plan to work through it publicly) the "how" then takes center stage.
To construct a blog you will need two things.
To get the blog-style Web site, pretty much everyone uses some form of blogging software.
Just like any other site you can build your blog from scratch (I don't know a single person who does this) or you can use a Content Management Tool aka Content Management System aka "CMS". The CMS is a piece of software. In the same way that Microsoft Word allows you to create and maintain Word documents, a CMS allows you to create and maintain a Web site.
Pretty much every blogger uses a CMS. Popular CMSs include:
|Related Articles by Maisha:
Blogging's 11 Big Payoffs pt 2
Blogging's 11 Big Payoffs
To Blog or Not to Blog
Building Your Tribe - 6 LinkedIn Success Studies (final/part 3)
the list goes on. With blogging software you can design and create your blog. If you keep it simple you can even do it without needing a developer. The CMS also enables you to add text and images to your blog in the form of posts.
While these tools are very similar, they're not actually the same and they each have variations. This takes us to the second thing you'll need...
As with any Web site that you build, you need a physical home for your site — literally. You need a computer where all the files that make up that site are stored and from where your Web site can be viewed by others. That computer is called a "server". The good news is that to keep things simple, all of the companies we mentioned above (except Expression Engine and Movable Type) in addition to offering the blogging software also will host your blog.
Software as a Service
This model of providing software and hosting that software for you (instead of you having the software installed on your computer) is what's called Software as a Service -- if you always wondered what SaaS stands for, now you know.
The Software as a Service model is very popular in the blogosphere. As I mentioned all of the blogging companies listed above offer you their CMS and most of them will host it for you too. Another bonus, some of them are free.
You can go to WordPress.com, sign up and instantly have your CMS and hosting and be ready to create your first post in about 5 minutes. No joke.
Making a choice
The catch with all of these services is that they have both limitations in terms of how much you can customize their software (design, features etc.) and they have somewhat daunting and controversial Terms of Service that restrict the kind of content you can publish, allow them to shut down your blog, prohibit you from selling ads on your blog (so no revenue generation) and generate questions about whether they in some way have ownership of your content. A bit scary.
I think these tools are a great way to get started with blogging — especially the free ones. They let you dip your toe into the world of blogging to make sure that it's somewhere you really want to be before diving in completely.
If you are going to be a serious blogger however (meaning using it to really build a brand and/or drive traffic and search rankings to your site) I would suggest another option.
Next time we'll cover some of the blogging options that cost money. They are typically not that expensive and will give you total control over your blog setup, design, revenue generation and your content.
Two important notes:
Get Your Blog Featured
I will be highlighting a variety of companies as examples in upcoming posts. If you've had success with your Blog and can describe results/back it up with real data, you can submit your Blogging strategy here.
Get a Free Blog or Web Site!
Even in a bad economy there's a silver lining. I'm giving away a free Web site! If you'd like to be the lucky business owner tell me about your business and why you should win here. I acknowledge I'll be choosing the winner purely based on my own discretion. Heck I may even choose more than one. I look forward to seeing your entry!