How to Start a Blog, and Drive Traffic to It

Although blogging has become ubiquitous, many of my clients still find the world of blogs a mystery. I like to introduce them to blogs and show them how easy it is to do. Nonetheless, there is more to running a blog than opening an account, so I’ve come up with the following checklists as a brief introduction to blogging.

In this overview, we’ll review what is a blog, why it’s important to blog and/or read other blogs, what you should know before you start, how to create one, and how to drive traffic to it. I’ve also provided a handy list of resources to delve deeper on any particular topic.

What is a Blog?

  • A blog is an online journal that is usually arranged in reverse chronological order from the most recent ‘post’ at the top of the main page to the older entries towards the bottom. An interactive feature allows guests to leave comments.
  • The word BLOG is a shortened version of WEBLOG.
  • The activity of updating a blog is “blogging” and someone who keeps a blog is a “blogger.”
  • Blogs are updated frequently using software that allows people with little or no technical background to update and maintain it.
  • Some blogs may provide commentary or news on a particular subject while others serve as personal online diaries.
  • This definition from newhome.weblogs.com gets at the interactive element of blogging: “A weblog is kind of a continual tour, with a human guide who you get to know. There are many guides to choose from, each develops an audience, and there’s also comraderie and politics between the people who run weblogs, they point to each other, in all kinds of structures, graphs, loops, etc.”

Why Blog?

  • These days, many professionals in the media, marketing, technology and public relations industries get much of their information from blogs
  • Companies are strategizing about how to incorporate blogging into their marketing mix.
  • A blog keeps you in closer touch with your constituency
  • Whether or not you run a blog, you should be reading the ones in your industry to keep up-to-date with what your competitors are doing and saying.

Before You Start

  • Know what goals you want to accomplish by blogging
  • What will your blog be about? Focus on what you know best, but find a niche: Look at other blogs in your industry. Are there too many on the same theme? Can you find a slant that makes yours more unique?
  • Choose a domain name carefully for your blog
    • If you are hosting on the blogging service, try to buy a domain name and have it redirect there. It will look more professional than with the addendum automatically attached (i.e., myblog.blogspot.com).
    • Think about keywords, future expansion of content, source of traffic
  • For larger companies, choose the right corporate blogger(s)
  • Get ready to have an honest and transparent dialog with your visitors

How to Create a Blog

  • Select a blogging software platform.
  • Some are hosted services great for beginners (wordpress, blogger, livejournal)
  • Others allow more flexibility for the more advanced user (typepad, moveabletype)
  • While all blogging platforms will be different, here are some common procedures you can expect.
    • Create an account
    • Choose a domain name
    • Choose a template
    • Set up your preferences
    • Start blogging!
  • For advanced users, add analytics code to the html to add blog traffic to your tracking statistics.

How to Drive Traffic to Your Site

To drive traffic to your blog, you should follow most of the submission methods suggested for a regular website such as submitting your blog to search engines and directories and announcing it to trade publications and memberships. (See my article on Marketing Strategies to Promote Your Website.) However, there are a few more techniques open to bloggers you should consider:

  • Spend time reading and commenting on other blogs
    • Other bloggers and commenters will notice you
    • Brings you into those communities
    • Link to your blog from the comment
    • Get new ideas to write about
  • Submit to social media sites such as digg.com, stumbleupon.com, delicious.com
  • Submit to blog networks or blog catalogs sites such BlogCarnival.com, BlogCatalog.com, topsites.blogflux.com, feedburner.com
  • Opt-in to any RSS feeds from your blogging service
  • Include your blog URL in e-mail signatures, e-mail newsletter, printed publications, etc.
  • Post often to keep your readers returning
  • Include links in your blog articles to other Web sites and blogs.
  • Avoid link exchanges

RESOURCES

Articles

The Blogger’s Primer
Explores the concept of blogging, how to attract and retain a targeted readership, and what platforms to use.

Guide to Business Blogging
Peter, The Blog Studio

Choose your blog name carefully

10 blogging tips from 10 bloggers
Some great ideas covering the gamut of blogging, written by Joe Kutchera, my former colleague at Time Inc.

16 Ways to Drive Traffic to Your Blog
Good article with specific steps and links to resources. Some may be too technical for beginners, but approach the ones you understand

How to Drive Traffic to Your Blog
56 things you can do to increase readership. Contains some contradictory information, but at times humourous and worth a quick read.

How To Drive Traffic to Your Blog – The Advice of a 12 Year Old
This author discusses methods that he uses to drive traffic to his blog without spending any money (important for a 12-year-old!).

Increasing Traffic to your Blog
Ideas to attract readership, including a link list of engines and sites where you can submit your blog.

Marketing Strategies to Promote Your Web Site
A summary of the most important techniques to help you create an overall Web marketing strategy and drive traffic to your site.

Blog Monitors
These services aggregate news articles and blog posts as they develop across the Web. Some also let you list your blog and send update notices (pings).

Lists of Blog Directories
You can find many more blog directories here. You don’t have to spend hours submitting to every site. Find the ones you think are useful for your business. You can also use these lists to find blogs you should be reading.

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