Initially, it seems like such an easy idea.
“I have ideas and I want to share them. I’m going to setup up a blog and everyone will want to read what I have to say. Maybe I’ll even make money!” It’s not that easy.
Here are ten things that every new blogger must know:
Number One: Don’t Check Web Traffic Obsessively
You’ll be disappointed. On the first day that I started this blog, I posted an article on Hillary Clinton called Hillary’s Hypocrisy. I thought that it was clever, informative, and perhaps provocative. Of course, everyone would be reading it soon.
The next day I checked my web statistics. I had great expectations. Maybe 100 people read it. Maybe 1000? My future awaits…
The grand total: 5. Curiously, the same amount of people that I have in my family.
Number Two: No Traffic, Don’t Quit
When you disregard the first piece of advice, which I guarantee you that you will do, don’t quit. Traffic does not come instantly; it comes over time.
If you’ve just started, you are probably not in all of the major search engines…it usually takes about 5-10 days. You probably have not read about social bookmarking sites, blog SEO, keywords, TAG optimization, trackbacks, and much, much more.
If these words scare you, quit now. You don’t have a chance. You have to embrace the technology that you will be using to create and market your blog..
Unless of course, you can hire someone to do it all for you. Then your blog should be called…I’m Rich and Bored So I’m Blogging.
Number Three: One Thing Leads To Another
Every technology that you tackle will lead to new technologies that you have to tackle.
One evening, I read that commenting on other people’s blogs will generate a good discussion and perhaps lead people to your website. I resolved to do this but only if I had read good quality content and I wanted to thank the author and/or ask a question of them.
I knew that many websites would require an email name and, since I did not want my personal email address to be bombarded, I created a new email address and a username that I would use for my blogging commentary and the many other sign-ups that I would need to do. I was even aware that some of the sites would require a password with “complex” characters; so, I created a password to be used with all of these sites that included #’s and a symbol to meet the complexity requirement.
So, what happened? The first website I visited did not accept symbols in a password. The second did not like my username because it was too long. And the third? The third site would not accept an email as validation. They required the use of something called OpenID, which I then had to read up on and implemented.
So, before I was able to make any comments on websites, I was sent on an hours long journey of usernames, passwords, and new technologies.
Number Four: Five Minutes Can Equal Five Days
Having worked in the technical industry for many years, I know that time estimates are often grossly underestimated. When I managed my first technical project, I was told to come up with an anticipated time and budget. I brought this to the powers that be, who looked at it, and said, “Ok, all looks good. Now, just double everything.”
I recalled this story as I decided to set-up my blog. WordPress had an article called Famous 5-Minute Install. I thought, “”well, nice gimmicky title, but it will probably take a bit longer.”
I allocated two full days to get my blog installed and configured, choose a theme, and post one article that I had already written.
And what did I have three days later? Nothing! The WordPress install requires modification of a file called wp-config.php. You simply have to change the value of 4 entries in a text file. Simple stuff. However, one entry called the DB_HOST value did not work for me. On most hosts (“99% chance you won’t need to change this value”), you simply enter “localhost”. This did not work for me. So, I called my my ISP iPower: “what value should I use?” The value that they told me didn’t work.
And I was just stuck. I did chat support, phone support, and opened a ticket with iPower and on WordPress (check it out). Nobody knew the answer to this simple question. iPower just let my support ticket lay there dormant with no responses after 5 days. I literally had no where to go. Am I going to have to switch ISPs?
This was driving me crazy. I decided to take a day off and go have some fun. When I returned, I did, of course, try again. And the database connection suddenly just worked…with no explanation from my ISP.
It was late but I was excited and I decided to go ahead and install WordPress. And, what do you know, after five days, the famous 5-minute installation did in fact take 5 minutes. J
Number Five: Time for a Change
In the beginning, you will need to do many, many modifications to your blog setup. There are endless amounts of customizations and improvements that you will have to make.
Recently, I wrote a blog entitled Barack Obama, Jack Bauer, and Vicky’s Father. I liked this article and thought that people interested in the political world may enjoy it as well. With that in mind, I published it in several places.
After that, I decided that I needed to do some technology work on my blog. I wanted to include a better email and RSS Newsreader Feed to make it easy to subscribe to my blog and easier for me to manage it. I downloaded a plug-in called Feedburner which I had read is best in its breed in this category.
I installed it and it didn’t work. It didn’t work because I use Word as my editor which puts all sorts of hidden, funky characters into your documents. So, I tried to find and delete all of these funky characters. They existed in practically all of my posts.
So, what happened? One of my changes, not sure which, completely destroyed my blog site by changing the font size to one so small that bionic vision could not have deciphered it.
Argghhhhh. Now I had to quickly undo all my changes because I had just published an article that was being read. Anybody who hit the site when the microscopic fonts were there will surely never return.
Moral of the story: Make profound changes at non-peak times…and always have good backups!
Number Six: Rome Was Not Built In A Day
Cliché’s abound about achieving something great..
Rome wasn’t built in a day is one we have all heard, but there are many.
You have to learn how to walk before you can run. A house is built one brick at time. A mountain is climbed one step after the other.
Creating a successful blog is no different. You are fighting a battle on many fronts. First and foremost, you have the content that you want to share. Secondly, you have all the technology involved in creating the site. Then, you have to figure out how to attract visitors to your site.
Each of these pursuits could be (and is) a full time job. And, unless you have the luxury of blogging full time, you probably have a full time job already. So, you now have your regular job, everything else in your life, and an endless amount to do each day on your blog.
So, each night as you’re drifting off, instead of thinking I wasn’t able to do this, I wasn’t able to do that. I wasn’t able to…”
Think about all of the things that you did accomplish. I did write one article. I did figure out how to submit my site to search engines. I did figure out what social bookmarking is.
After you realize all that you did do, you’ll feel pretty good!
Number Seven: Controlled-Obsession
When I take on a project that I enjoy, I become obsessed and often forget to do the basic things in life…like eat J
If you really enjoy creating a blog, you will likely become obsessed. So far today, Saturday morning, I have researched or implemented the following things:
- The Best Time to Publish a Blog
- The Best Way to Promote Social Bookmarking
- PayPerPost Blog Writing
- RSS and Email subscriptions
- Is it best to split long posts into two pages, like this
- Best Text Editor To Use With WordPress…I’m still using Word which is everyone says is the worst.
And that’s just a start. On top of all that, I wrote an article that is near completion and will be posted soon.
Becoming obsessed is healthy and unhealthy at the same time.
It’s important to remember, given all of the things that will be on your blogging plate, to structure your days. Have a plan and execute that plan.
The Internet provides so much information that it is easy to take endless detours.
Remember what you are trying to do…and remember to eat!
Number Eight: You Are Not An Island
You don’t have to be Tom Hanks in Castaway running around trying to solve every little problem yourself. The Internet is a vast reservoir of people who are willing to help you. So, allow them to help. And, in turn, make sure you help them. This will generate good Karma for all involved J
For example, I was having this CGI problem with my WordPress pages when I first started my blog. It was one of those strange programming errors that would be extremely difficult resolving without any help. I found the answer on the WordPress.org forums, which you need to make your best friend.
But, in seeking help, make sure you follow these three golden rules.
And one more thing…before doing it manual, see if there is a plug-in that can do it for you automatically. By now, you are probably aware of the world of WordPress plug-ins. These are little pre-written programs that can often save you immense amounts of time. For example, if you want to place social networking bookmarks on your site, you can do each site manually or use the ShareThis WordPress plug-in. I love this one!
Here are three sites that list all of the WordPress plug-ins that you will want to use:
Number Nine: Do Nothing
Seriously. Do Nothing.
Stop looking for an answer.
After you have searched for your solution on Google/Internet for about 2 to 3 hours, then post your problem on the adequate forum (refer to #8), do nothing.
Stop your research. You did it and it bore no fruit. If you are still searching for a solution, you’re wasting your time and probably getting frustrated. Wait until someone on the forum responds and then get re-involved. Until then, do nothing on this topic and then realize…
Number Ten: There’s Never Nothing
When you are beginning a new blog, there is always something to do: Write an article, add a WordPress feature, implement techniques to get more subscribers. Always. There’s always something.
I maintain a list using the Task feature in Microsoft Outlook. It currently contains a prioritized list of over 150 tasks separated into 3 categories: content, technology, and readership. Here’s a sample:
Keep a list like this and you will never sit down and think:
I simply have nothing to do.
Get your copy of his latest book entitled Obvious Conclusions, stories of a Midwestern emigrant influenced and corrupted by many years living in San Francisco and abroad. It just received its first outstanding review "...reminiscent of David Sedaris or Augusten Burroughs" on Amazon UK.
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