Tips on Creating Your Own Blog

I got some simple tips to help anyone who wants to start a blog but don’t know where to start.  I struggled with the same issues for a while trying to figure out the most suitable approach for myself.  The below short post has some of the findings I think are true to some of the blogs I worked on.  Hope you will find them useful to you.

Host your own blog

Whether you are using WordPress (which I highly recommend) or another blog engines, you should host it yourself if possible.  The cost of hosting is very minimal (mine costs me US$10 a month for multiple domains and multiple blogs).  The benefit is you will have full control of how you like to have the blog setup.  Setting up a blog generally involves setting up a domain name, a database, and uploading files to your host.  Most of these can be done with the web control panel software provided by your host.  With WordPress, there is a famous 5 minute setup guide for those of us who understand the basics of uploading files to a host using FTP.

Put photos on photo sharing sites

This has multiple benefits aside from obviously saving your own hosting space and traffic bandwidth.  Most of the online photo sharing site has automatic facilities to help resizing photos you upload on-the-fly.  This makes using the uploaded photos with writing blog post very convenient as you often would use a lower resolution inline picture with your blog writing, but would like your readers to be able to click on a picture and get a higher resolution version to enjoy the details.  Also these online services allow you to network with other users on the site so that you can increase your exposure.  All you have to do is to leave your blog URL with each photo you upload and when others find you photos on these sites, they know where to visit your blog.  Ensure you read the usage agreement of your photo sharing site of choice in case of any restrictions they may impose, or any copyrights you might lose should you use their service.

Be organized

It is great to have lots of ideas to share and you can blog about anything under the sun.  However it is also important that you make use of facilities like categories and tags provided by your blogging software to help others find the information in your blog.  For example, it is a good idea to setup categories for blog entries you like to focus on.  Then use tags to help further enrich the meta data of your post so that it can be located.  Even though search engines these days can help a lot, with consistent categories and tags, you provide your users with another mean to locate your postings.

Be graphical

Did I mention photos?  A picture may not worth a thousand words, but these days the web is totally multimedia enabled.  Your blog will look a lot more attractive if you add carefully selected photos to your blog postings.  If you like to take pictures of your day, then you would already have a large collection of photos you can use.  Don’t think they are ordinary and may not be attractive.  A lot of digital pictures just need a little touch up and they will become a lot more pleasing to the eyes.  If you don’t take photos, you can always find online resources to help.  Just ensure whatever you use from an online source is royalty free and has no restrictions of usage.  It is not worth spending your effort to build a blog and earn a name of “ripping off others’ photos”.  Apart from photos, videos are also a great way to enhance the content on your site.  Embedding YouTube video is as simple as copying and pasting a link into your blog post.

Choose a suitable theme

WordPress and other blogging engines provide a large number of themes for users to get started with their blogs.  There are themes that are designed to show case photos, others are more suitable for rich text based content, yet there are some that are designed to look like a magazine or newspaper.  It is important to choose a theme that allows you to leverage your content and make them attractive.  If you are a programmer type, you can also try to customize a downloaded theme, or better yet, create your own so that you have full control of what renders on your blog post.

Setup Google Analytics or other stats utility

So it is great that you like to start a blog, but how do you know how your blog postings are doing?  As an author, it is important that you keep track of what is being read, and how the world is using your blog.  For example, what is the bounce rate?  Do your readers stay at your blog for your juicy information or do that leave rightaway?  What about how the readers get to your blog in the first place.  Is it from a search engine via a particular search term or is it from a referrer whom you created by linking in other blog sites?  In order to drive higher traffic to your blog, you will need to have a good understanding of your blog usage.

Setup a separate blog for experimentation

I have a separate blog that I use solely for testing purposes.  It is important to know that whatever configuration changes you made to your live blog, it will not be negatively impacted.  Chances are that you don’t want to have to reconstruct your blog because a buggy plugin causes any corruption to your blog.  It is very important that when you experiment with new themes, new widgets or plugins for your blog, you do it in a safe environment.  Again, this is where hosting your own blog makes this convenient.

Link to others

Linking to others will definitely create referrer traffic as mentioned above.  It is also a great way to network with fellow bloggers on similar topics that you are interested in.  If you read blogs, then those are your potential target referrers.  It is as simple as leaving comments in their blog entries, or you can explicitly link to them on your page and let the author know that you are linking to them.  Chances are that they will link back as long as your content is not offensive.

Conclusion

Blogging is fun.  It does not have to take a lot of time as long as your stay organized.  Use lots of multimedia content if you can and pick a theme that works for your content.  Also, ensure you know your audience with the help of some stats usage tools.  And try to have a testing environment for experimentation.  Lastly, network with fellow bloggers to increase the popularity of your blog.

If you have other tips to share, please don’t hesitate to leave your comments, I will find your blog this way, too!

Update 20090925:

Lifehacker has this neat guide to boost your WordPress blog features:

http://lifehacker.com/5365600/the-beginners-guide-to-tricking-out-your-wordpress-blog

8 replies
    • Kam
      Kam says:

      @Yuki-To just timebox it. If you can’t finish the post within the time you allowed yourself, save it as draft and think it over before you work on it again. Chances are your draft got 80% of what you want to say in a post. Try not to create long posts as most readers don’t have that much time anyway.

      Reply
  1. Ian
    Ian says:

    Hey I notice that you are using wordpress.org, and I was wondering if you can answer a few questions. I’m currently using wordpress.com, and I find that the customizability is restricted.

    1. Do wordpress.org allow you to customize your blog?

    2. Does it support jquery?

    Thank you for your time.

    PS. love your photos.

    Reply
    • Kam
      Kam says:

      Hi Ian, thanks for visiting my blog. Basically WordPress.com is a hosted application much like blogspot.com. Because it is hosted by wordpress and it is free, the amount of customization is very limited. If you need better customization support, like using a much wider range of themes and plug-ins, you should host your own wordpress software downloadable from wordpress.org. You will need a PHP and MySQL enabled hosting package. Follow the steps in http://codex.wordpress.org/Installing_WordPress#Famous_5-Minute_Install to get your blog up! For jQuery, there are some jQuery plugins you can try. I am not sure what you are looking for but if you know what you are doing, you can always customize your own theme or create your plug ins to do exactly what you need. Good luck and let me know how it goes.

      Reply
      • Ian
        Ian says:

        Thank you for the quick reply!! I will get right to it once I get my new laptop. Apple Keynote January 27! I can’t wait, hope there’s a price drop, or new macbook pro. Do you know if I can transfer my current wordpress.com blog to my future wordpress.org blog? once again Thank you!
        .-= Ian´s last blog ..New Theme: monochrome =-.

        Reply
        • Kam
          Kam says:

          You should be able to Export your blog posts from WordPress.com to your new blog. The Export/Import function is under the Tools section in WP-Admin. I can’t wait for new MBP, I wish they have some new processors in the line up. The current C2D CPUs are getting a bit dated.

          Reply

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