Blogging Q & A

I get a lot of questions from friends or acquaintances about my blogging and blogging in general. These are usually from people who ask me how to get started or who tell me that they just don’t have the time or don’t feel confident that they could do it. Soooo, I decided to do this little post about blogging, in hopes that it answers a few questions and inspires a few more people to start blogging themselves. I guess this is my take on Blogging 101.

What the heck doe the word BLOG stand for anyway?

A few years back, when the internet was still fairly new, people began keeping and sharing web logs, which were initially just like keeping a public diary of what happened to them that day. From the Answeres.com web site comes this explanations of the origin of the word – The term ‘Blog’ is the evolved term coined by Peter Merholz in 1999. It’s not an acronym,…it’s a colloquialism. It comes from the conjoined terms web and log…as in weblog. Then it evolved into simply blog when Peter Merholz coined the term in 1999.

People keeping web logs discovered that others, sometimes many others would find and read their blogs about current events, such as coups in foreign lands or the doings of celebrities in the U.S. Software was developed to make creating these blogs easier and companies like WordPress and Blogspot began offering to host them for free. They provided what the internet and apparently the world was begging for – content. That really what blogs are – they are content; something for someone else to read. Blogs were added to web site all over as well as a means to provide easily updated content for those sites.

What good is a blog to me or my business?

The web has become the “go to” place for everything, with the latest trend being the movement of users off the desktop and onto mobile devices. People who need information about almost anything these days, just “Google it” and wait to see what comes back. What comes back is often dependent upon what they put into the Google inquiry to begin with. Google yourself and see what comes back. Now Google your business; not your company per se, but, just the line of business in which your company competes. What came back? Did your company show up? Now Google the problem or product category in which your company provides a solution or product. What showed up there? Was your company in the results? All of these example are things in which having a blog may help you gain position in the Google results that come back.

The other thing that posting regularly to a blog might do is to let people get to know you better and let them get comfortable with you as a person and not just a businessman. You can accomplish some of that on Facebook and I advertise all of my blog posts on Facebook, so that the people that I know there will see that I’m posting something that they may want to read. A blog can give you a little more formal setting in which to post things than a Facebook account might and can establish more of a professional reputation for you than most Social Media sites. I used the terms may and might above because your blog won’t do those things for you if you don’t faithfully post to it and make some effort to share it with others.

How do I get started?

You can jump right in by setting up your own blog on WordPress or one of the other free blogging sites and setting up an account. It’s relatively straightforward and the hardest part is probably choosing a theme (look) for your blog. There are lots of themes to choose from; but, start with something simple and don’t spend all of your time and effort on customizing your blog theme right away. You can go back later and change the theme if you want to. The important thing is to fill out your profile and get started with your first post. Another important step is to link yor blog in with your other social media sites – Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn and others, so that anytime that you post to your blog a post will also show up on those site alerting your friends there that there’s something new from you for them to read. After all the point of a blog is to share what you are posting. It’s not a secret diary that you keep locked away from the world. You hope that over time people will “like” what you post and sign up to “follow” your blog.

What should I look for in a blog hosting site?

Some blog sites have better editing tools than others, with ways to add more content, such as graphics and pictures and even video into the content. Some sites have fairly crude or simplistic editing tools. Find one that you feel comfortable using and one that supports the things that you may wish to add to your posts. Also look at the size of the blog hosting site/operation and the things that they do or the tools that they provide to promote the blogs that they host. There are a few larger blog hosting sites, like WordPress, Blogspot and Tumblr and tons of others. Here’s a link to a good read on the DearBlogger site about some of  the top blog hosting sites.

What does it cost to have a blog?

You can have a basic blog for nothing. If you desire to use your blog more like a web site and perhaps conduct business from it, you may need to pay to get some of the more advanced features that the free sites also sell. On the WordPress blog site you can also buy the rights to the domain for your blog (assuming that it is not already taken) for a relatively small annual fee. Owning the domain name makes it much easier for people (and Google) to find your blog. On WordPress my blog started out as https://normsmilfordblog.wordpress.com because it was a sub-domain of the WordPress site. That is a cumbersome URL name and one that Google may not have seen or bothered to index, so I bought the domain name http://normsmilfordblog.com and that is all that anyone has to enter now to get to my inspirational blog.

How long does a blog entry have to be?

It can be as long or as short as you wish it to be. I get a daily feed from a blog called Jack’s Winning Words, which is written by Jack Freed, the retired pastor of my church that is never more than one paragraph long. Jack starts each entry with a quote from someone or somewhere (maybe something he saw in a book, on a sign or on a poster) and adds a couple of sentences of his own thoughts about the quote. He normally challenges his readers at the end with a question about what it means to them. I use Jack’s little quotes all the time as the inspiration for my own blog. I usually write 4-5 paragraphs, sometime more. Which of these is the right length? Both are. There are no rules about length, except maybe not to bore your readers.

How often should I post new entries to my blog and how long will it take?

This is another question with no right or wrong answer. If you have the time and enjoy doing it, there is nothing wrong with posting to your blog every day; however, you can go a week or more between posts. Keep in mind that people may be visiting you blog more often to see if there is something new to read there. If you go too long between posts they may stop visiting. I recommend posting something at least once a week at a minimum. How much time it will take depends upon how long the post is and how fast you can think and write. I spend about 30 – 45 minutes (sometimes an hour) on each post (this one took longer). Some posts require more time because I may have to look up some things or confirm something that I think I know.

What about adding pictures or graphics to my blog?

writer-2Pictures and graphics do add to the appeal of a blog and can be an important part of the content. You should be careful not to use copywrited pictures or graphics without permission. There are sites like FreeDigitalPhotos.net to which you can go for free photos. I also use the clipart graphics out of MS Word or from free clip art web sites. Many people don’t use anything but words and that’s OK; but in our modern, Tweet-oriented world a lengthy blog with no pictures (like this one) will look to many like a “wall of words” and they will avoid them. You must balance off amusing the reader with educating them and I realize that you are not very amused by this post.

I’m not an expert on anything; what can I write about?

Blogs are not necessarily about rendering expert advice on things; although if you do have expertise on a particular subject that will give you lots of blog fodder. Rather blogs are about expressing your opinion on a topic, adding your insight to a subject or sometimes just getting things off your chest (be careful with that). Some bloggers try to act like reporters and post about the events going on in their lives or their areas of the world. Some like to render advice on life situations, sort of like a Web version of a Dear Abby column. Some just post whatever random thoughts they may have that day. The time is well passed when anyone cares what you had for breakfast, so give that approach a rest or move that important information about your life to Twitter or Facebook.

I advise peopled to write about things that interest them and write as if they were carrying upon a conversation with someone about that topic. One way to start is to sit down and think about your life – what you like or don’t like, what you do for a living, what you know about what you do for a living, what your hobbies are and what you know about those, what life experiences you’ve had that you might be able to share with others, places where you’ve been that you might give someone else some insight into or maybe opinions that you hold strongly and want to share with others. All of those things provide potential blog posts for you to explore and share, so make a list and save it as future blog topics.

So, what am I waiting for?

That’s a good final question. What are you waiting for, an invitation from the Pope? Jump in and get started writing. I can’t wait to see what you have to say.

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