Where do I start with this whole blogging thing?

I’m a total information junkie and this internet thing is to me as mud to a pig. I have a concern though that I just take, take, take from the internet but do next to nothing to add something useful to the sum total of knowledge available upon it.

I am the type of person that when planning to buy something spends ages researching the possibilities and spreadsheeting what I find out, to get the various possibilities straight in my head. If I build a project (electronic or wood or water rocket or whatever) I do a lot of background research, testing etc. and work out all the possibilities before I go ahead and build. Lately I’ve been fiddling with free GPS tracking software for my smartphone to figure out which does what best. If I go on an expedition somewhere I will take time on planning and mapping and so on.

Maybe some of this information would be some use to someone. Or maybe not, but anyhow…

I have a legal practice and a young family and between them very little available time (even less when you take into account the time taken on perfectionist buying decisions and fiddle-arsing around with silly projects ;)).

What suggestions do you have about:

1/ setting up a website

2/ putting up pages with text and photos and maybe spreadsheets or something about various projects

in a quick, non-time consuming way that isn’t going to become too much of a (further) burden on my time? I’m not concerned about ease-of-use in itself, I’m very comfortable with computers. My greater concern is not to be sucked into yet another highly detailed thing I can’t help but put too much time into. I want this to be a minor adjunct to something I am doing, not a major project in itself.

Finally, I suppose I am wondering if anyone will actually get anything out of this. Do sites comprising random project pages actually get substantial numbers of hits such as will justify my time and make me feel that I am actually contributing something? I don’t want fame or to make money from google ads, but if I spend hours on this and virtually no one looks at the pages, then I should probably have spent my time on something more useful.

I use blogger and average 45 hits a day, but I’m sure there are others here who get more and can advise you better than me.

I chose it for the ease of setting up (not much on coding, spreadsheeting, etc. and use one of their templates). The easier, the better for me. google has some stuff now called Ad Analytics that may be helpful to you as you are comu-savvy, but that stuff is way to complicated for me. You might want to check it out though, Princhester.

But if you’re talking about setting up a website and not a blog you can do some for free (as I am sure you know:)) or pay someone to do exactly what you want.

It’s really a crapshoot (IMO).

The thing I like about google is after a couple of days, you show up on their “radar”.

Good luck!


If your starting a blog use the ones that are set up already like Blogspot etc. The first thing is you have to have readers. So you need to come up with content, and more importantly interesting content. Then you need to update it daily M-F at least.

THEN you can start thinking about hosting packages and having your own site. Once you get the readers it’s easy enough to set up a link to your own site you personally own.

I like 1and1 they are easy (and they give you a free blog or more depending on plan). GoDaddy is fine too, but I think 1and1 is easier.

There are also others but those are the big two.

So when it comes to your blog, first think content. You might want to see what others are doing. If you like the format of a blog look around on that blog and see who’s hosting it. Bloggers love to hear from others, so send them a quick email along the lines of “I love your blog and especially love the design, may I ask who your host is and have you been satisfied with them?”

The bloggers will usually send you a quick thank you with the info.

I used Wordpress after starting with Blogger. It was easy to transfer everything, so just do it!

I don’t blog regularly anymore, but I visited other blogs and commented regularly when I was active. When I found a blog I liked, I visited the folks on their blogrolls and made new friends.

Have fun!

I use Wordpress for a work related blog (hosted on their website). It’s great, and really easy to manage. You can also download the standalone Wordpress source files to run on your own server, if you like.

I have a few domains hosted by 1 and 1, and my site is generated by a simple, free content management system called FuzzyLime, which is notable in that it does not require a back end database - and this makes it very simple indeed to set up.

However, for the sort of content you’re describing, one of the popular blogging solutions would also be a good )maybe better) solution…

Whether it’s worth your while doing depends a lot on the nature of the content and the way in which you present it.

In my experience, popular ‘project’ type pages tend to require one or more of these attributes:

  • Novelty/originality - something few or no other online sites have covered (this is not impossible)
  • **Utility **- if you’re describing how to do something potentially useful, there are probably already people out there looking for it.
  • **Reproducibility **- if people interested in doing the same as you are able to learn from your mistakes, copy your successes and details, etc, this will add to its reputation and popularity.
  • Quality of writing and storytelling - even if it has none of the above - if it’s an unoriginal, useless, one-off project, people will get interested if you’re describing your progress in an engaging, detailed and entertaining fashion.

There are things you can do to make sure your web pages get the traffic they deserve (lots of webmasters take this further and try to get traffic *way beyond *what they deserve - usually to try to boost ad revenue):
-Creating and submitting a google sitemap
-Submitting your individual project pages to interested social networks (Stumbleupon, Digg, Facebook maybe) and sites (instructables, for example)
-Exchanging links with webmasters running similar or compatible sites

Finally, popularity can have a sting in its tail - one of my project pages enjoyed sudden and significant popularity (a hundred thousand pages in less than a month, continuing without tailing off significantly for another few months) - because the page included a fair number of photos, this traffic shot me way past my bandwidth quota and the hosting company sent me a bill for the extra.

1 and 1 have since switched to ‘unlimited’ bandwidth on all of their packages, which I understand doesn’t really mean unlimited, but in my case, it should be enough to cover the kind of scenario described above, should it occur again.

Thanks very much for the input: something for me to start on next year.

Definitely choose a content management system (such as TypePad or WordPress) and don’t bother trying to roll your own hand-tweaked web site.

I was pondering the same questions when I considered starting a blog at the beginning of this year.
As soon as I saw the quality of modern free blogging software, I decided that I had better things to do than to worry about stylesheets and html and such.

I installed WordPress on a clean Ubuntu server I had set up on an ancient Pentium 3 machine. After playing around with it safely in the confines of my home network, I finally took the plunge and went to Go Daddy for my domain name and for hosting.

You might consider looking at a few of the Blogging for Dummies kind of books at the local Borders or B&N. I did this and found lots of good tips there.

My thoughts on this:
[ul][li]Get your own domain name. It’s so much cooler. (and dirt cheap)[/li][li]Don’t even think of hosting it on your own machines. Hosting is dirt cheap.[/li][li]You can blog for free on the services like blogger.com, if you wish to test the waters with no investment whatsoever.[/li][li]WordPress is awesome. There are loads of free plugins and themes available.[/li][li]Make sure your blog has clear focus: can you describe what it is about in a single tagline or sentence?[/li][li]I disagree that one needs to blog daily. If yours is a news blog, then it is important to do so, but if you simply like posting cool ideas you have and such, a weekly post should do fine. My blog falls in the latter: I post two or three times a month on topics that are fairly closely related to my main blog topic.[/li][li]Make a list of potential blog topics, to see how things will be looking in a month or two. At first I was blogging every few days, then I finally settled on this once-every-fortnight rhythm, posting most how-to docs and reviews.[/li][li]It takes awhile for Google to find your blog.[/li][li]Make sure you go to Google Webmaster Tools and register your blog, using their special file or meta tag to claim ownership. This way you can monitor what Google knows about you.[/li][li]Have fun! It’s your own Web presence and you can do whatever you want.[/li][/ul]
The Google Webmaster Tools are very cool. You can see exactly what searches are hitting your website most.
It was through this utility that I found that my humble blog ranked number 3 or 4 for the single word search “cruft” a while back. What an odd thing to find out. I just checked and apparently I have slipped onto the second page.
Anyway, the stats you get are quite useful.

My suggestions:

**Start with Blogger
**—It’s free, extremely simple to use and customize, and offers quite a bit of functionality. Once you learn the ropes then move onto others.

Purchase your own .com domain
—For under $10 a year, you can purchase a .com domain. This isn’t necessary, but highly recommended and shows your users you are serious, especially as a new blogger. It also makes your search engine rankings better and easier for your users to remember. Don’t bother with .net, .info and the others.

Focus on your content, then your design
—Work on building content and consistent users, then worry about design. There are several free templates which can be installed with a matter of a few clicks. Avoid using a default template, for the most part.

Avoid advertisement in the beginning
—Nothing is more off-putting than a new site with limited content that is loaded with ads. When you have a lot of users, then worry about monetizing.

Don’t be afraid to tell others about your blog and receive criticism
—One of the hardest things to overcome in blogging is confidence. If you’re always worried what people think or may say, it will be hard for you to move forward. Also realize there are a lot of jackasses on the internet that will leave rude feedback and comments - don’t take these to heart.

Always back-up your blog posts/comments and file directories (if you’re hosted)
—If you don’t have back-ups you risk losing everything. I suggest backing up as frequently as you post. It takes a couple of seconds and helps you sleep at night knowing hours of work can’t be flushed down the toilet by some prick who wants to shut down your site or blog.

Be open and responsive to your visitors
—This really helps to build strong relationships with your visitors. Being quick about responses is a huge plus, also.

Cite your resources
—If you’re using an image that doesn’t belong to you, it may very well be copywritten. Always provide a ‘source’ link back to any content you use which isn’t yours.

Posting more frequently in the beginning provides a better chance for a good first impression
—When some say ‘don’t post too often’ this is usually more important once you have an established blog. When you begin blogging, posting more frequently provides a better chance that someone will see you as a ‘blogger’ and not a ‘ghost blogger’. Ghost blogging (as I call it) is when a blog has 1-5 posts and is has little to no content or activity. This is a huge turn off for people you haven’t established a relationship with yet.

Know your market and know your limits
—You may very well think that your blog is capable of gaining the attention of millions, but without any research you don’t know. Look for blogs similar to your own and see if you’re going to be satisfied with the amount of traction they have gained.

Brand your blog
—If you want to get anywhere, your blog has to have uniqueness. Giving your blog a title like ‘This is how I spend my weekends’ won’t get you anywhere, but something like ‘The Weekender’ will not only make you stand out from the crowd, but it makes it easier for people to memorize your name. Creating a logo really helps as well.

Color schemes
—I know I mentioned above that custom design isn’t important at first, but whether or not you’re using a free template or your own custom design, colors schemes are super important. If your website isn’t easy on the eyes, it makes you look amateur, and worst of all, people won’t be comfortable spending lengthy amounts of time reading your content.

Stay on track
—If you start out blogging about a certain topic, stay on that topic. If you want to start blogging about something else, start a new blog.

Use social networking sites to offer more ways to communicate with others and gain exposure
—Sites like Twitter and Facebook are excellent for business oriented accounts.

Take advantage of social bookmarking
—If you ready to show your content to the world, be sure to set up social bookmarking links for each of your posts. There are several tutorials for this out there. I recommend AddThis when you start out, then try other things if that doesn’t work well for you. And yes, it’s simple and free.

That covers most of the basics, I beleive.

I suppose, as I mentioned in the OP, that I have no real interest in traffic for its own sake or of creating a “Good Blog” if that means anything.

It’s more just that I want to be useful to people. I want someone to be looking for some info about, say, GPS software for a Palm Treo Pro and google and find my page and for it to be some use to them. And then somone else to want to do the walk to the top of White’s Peak near Ipswich and google for it and find my page with maps and so on and find it useful. And then someone else be looking at a simple design for a kid’s water rocket and find my page and for it to be useful for them.

In other words, I don’t want it to be famous or high traffic but just useful. And my interests are so disparate that the blog won’t have a common theme. Is this likely to make it less visible to search traffic?

Well, branding your blog is going to be really important for you then. When people think of your blog, you want to communicate ‘quality’, and nothing more, as your blog isn’t going in any specific direction in terms of content type. That way, when people see a link to something that is published from you, whatever it may be, they know it will be good stuff.

Since you won’t have a speciic market to cater to, you won’t have to worry about networking. Just do your thing, and your reputation of ‘quality’ will spread via word of mouth. ‘If you build it, they will come.’ as they say… As you grow more popular, your site will have better search rankings.

Your main challenge, in my opinion, is going to be organizing your content. If you can manage that, you should be fine.

This blog seems to be something along the lines of what you are trying to accomplish, no?

I’m not sure you’re quite getting the flavour: my aim doesn’t involve caring if anyone thinks of the site, as a coherent thing, at all. I just want someone googling a very specific thing to find a page which is of some utility to them. If they never come back to the site or never look at any other pages I guess I didn’t have it in mind for that to be something I would care about. Is that likely to diminish the probability that people will find the relevant page when it covers something they are googling for?

If your site isn’t popular, your page is less likely to discovered by someone, and someone elses site that is more popular will show up ahead of you. You’re going to have to rely on word of mouth, or networking, to get your stuff discovered by anyone, and improve your ranking in the search engines…

I guess it really depends on how specific you’re talking about though… If your page happens to have all of the keywords associated with a persons search, and it is the only page indexed within the search engine that has all of those keywords, you’ll likely be first up. If not, it’s likely that your page will never be discovered (as others will show up before you), and you’ll have worked your tail off in creating a ton of useful information that no one will ever known had existed.

So ISTM that this might be a self solving problem: if there are lots of great webpages out there about what I want to know about I probably won’t have had to do a lot of research myself (so I won’t have any original material for my own page anyway) and another page on the same topic by me would be redundant. But if I’ve had to do the reseach because I can’t find anything on it, then that might mean its worth putting my research up.

That’s about right. :slight_smile: