A Load of Bright
An atheist's views on religion and the supernatural

The Beginners Guide to Starting a Blog

Not one of my most cryptic titles, but there you go. Just a note before I begin. This is not a guide written by an expert, experienced, seasoned blogger. It is written by a beginner. That’s why it’s called “The Beginners Guide…”. I know quite a few seasoned bloggers, and I sincerely hope they will use the comments to add to this guide. This is just a list of a few things that I have come to realise in my first couple of months of blogging. I would have found a guide like this helpful when I started, so I hope that maybe this will help others. I did come across this guide on Atheist Revolution a few weeks after I’d started this blog, and did find it very useful, so I advise readers to check that out as well. Anyway, in no particular order:

  1. Take the plunge! If you are thinking about starting a blog but are apprehensive for any reason, the best thing you can do is just give it a go – you have nothing to lose! You’ll never get to a point where you feel completely confident about it without starting it, confidence only comes with actually doing it. Just write one, short article, sign up somewhere and post it.
  2. Come up with a good title for your blog. Once you’ve done it you’re stuck with it, so put some thought into it. I sometimes think I could have done better, but I’m generally content. To be completely honest, I never thought about this when I came up with “A Load of Bright”, but the fact that my blog title begins with an ‘A’ has helped me slightly. Most blogrolls are listed in alphabetical order, and as a result this blog tends to be at, or very near the top and therefore, probably more likely to get viewed when readers decide to systematically check through a blogroll. Of course, if everyone did that, it would be pointless.
  3. Get ahead. There is quite a lot to consider when maintaining a blog, but actually writing articles is always the priority. Without the content, everything else is academic. Try to always have a few articles ready to post if you get a touch of writer’s block, or have a busy few days doing something else. If I’m completely honest, I rarely do this, but when I do I find it very beneficial.
  4. Variety is the spice of life. Vary your articles. Aim to have a mixture of full length essays, book reviews, press article critiques, discussion points, satires, musings and rants. Try to vary length as well. If your articles are always short, they will invariably end up lacking substance. If they are always long, they will come to seem long-winded and laborious. Also vary your tone between different grades of being serious or humorous, and formal or informal, depending on the topic you’re writing about.
  5. Patience is a virtue! This is one that I learned from Vjack’s guide and it really helped me to hear it. I wanted to establish a reader base over night, but it just doesn’t happen like that. The popularity of this blog, while still humble, has grown a lot since it started, but it has been gradual. Think of it like evolution! It will take long term persistence, not a short burst of energy to start reaching people.
  6. Learn some basic HTML code. While I am a confident computer user, I was completely illiterate in any computing language before I started. It really is worth learning a few basics, like blockquotes, including links and bold, italics etc. It will make writing seem much quicker and easier, and leave you more time and energy to concentrate on the content.
  7. Learn to touch-type. If you’re confident that you type at a reasonable speed, by all means carry on, but if you’re worried that your fingers won’t keep up with your brain, it really is a good investment of your time to learn to touch-type. I learned when I was 18 and have always been grateful that I did. I don’t know if I would keep up now if I hadn’t.
  8. Become a PR officer. I was completely naïve about the PR side of blogging, but it is essential to building up a reader base. Email other bloggers and tell them about your work. Submit articles to blog carnivals. Sign up to blog directories. Comment on other blogs, and be sure that your internet handle links back to your blog. Sign up to blog aggregators. Also, try to post comments on discussion forums (something I’m particularly lazy about) like IIDB and RDF, always leaving a link back to your blog.
  9. Reference other blogs. It’s very unlikely that you will have any readers who just read your blog. By linking to other blogs you get noticed, through ping backs and track backs and other things that I still don’t completely understand. However, make sure that you just link, don’t copy and paste articles into your own blog. Which brings me onto number ten.
  10. Maintain blogging etiquette. Always include links to your sources. If you see an article you like and want to guide your readers to it, do it via a link so that the reader has to visit the original site, and therefore the author gets the traffic. It’s what you would want others to do, after all.
  11. Be original. At least for most of the time. Some points are so important that they can stand to be repeated, but on the whole, try to create your own material. This is one of the biggest challenges of good blogging, and one of the factors that put me off starting a blog for a long time. I was scared of just regurgitating what I’d read else where. So far, I hope, I’ve managed to avoid that.
  12. Have a comment policy. I tried to manage without one, but in the end you will probably need one so you may as well have it from the start. At least that way it’s there in writing for all to see, and you can’t be accused of making the rules up as you go along.
  13. Sign up to news alerts. It’s a great way of keeping tabs on what’s happening quickly and finding material to write about.
  14. Read off paper once in a while. Try to keep reading regular books as well as on the internet. It will provide yet more material to write about, as well as giving your eyes a rest!
  15. If you’ve got nothing to say, say nothing. You should aim to post regularly, but don’t compromise quality. If you post for the sake of posting, it will show in your writing.
  16. Read other blogs. Use a feed reader, it’s much more efficient. You will learn a lot from reading other blogs, and find a lot of ideas for things to write about, not necessarily directly from other people’s articles, but from the trains of thought that they will send you on.
  17. Proof read! I’m not saying I never make mistakes, but some blogs are littered with them, in nearly every article. There’s really no excuse. Before posting any article, read through it slowly, sentence by setence, weeding out errors and making sure that it’s coherent. (By the way, if anyone now points out an error in this article, I will actually cry.)

I’ve probably missed some things out, but that’s all I can think of for now. If you’re thinking of starting, or have recently started a blog, I hope you find this helpful.

15 Responses to “The Beginners Guide to Starting a Blog”

  1. I’m changing my name to A Spanish Inquisitor. I’ll still be below you, but not that far down. 🙂

    Oh, and please don’t cry, but I see a spelling error in #17. Oh, the irony! 😦

    John P

  2. Great list. I’d also suggest my blogging tips series… some parts are a little outdated, but there are still a lot of good tips there.

    Oh, and I’ll change Way of the Mind to Aardvark of the Mind. I win! 🙂

  3. @ A Spanish Inquisitor

    God damn it! I’m too angry and embarrassed to cry. What the hell is a “setence”?! I wish I could say I did that deliberately for comic value, but it would be an utter lie. I was going to edit it out, but I think I’ll leave it there and take my medicine! Well, thanks anyway (I suppose!) for pointing it out.

  4. Sorry. I hated to be the first, but you almost invited me to point that out. At first I thought it WAS intentional. Actually, I may try that on mine, just to see if anyone’s actually reading , and not just looking for porn. 😀

    And BTW, great advice. I’ve been looking at HTML tutorials, and aggregators, and what not. Hopefully I’ll be able to figure some of it out and incorporate it into my blog.

    Also, in tracking back through vjacks advice, I saw on Exterminator’s site the discussion about stealing posts. I remember linking to one of your posts on RDF once, and seeing posters crossing over to here, but slightly off topic, which caused a little confusion for the comments. That didn’t pose a problem for you, did it? My intention was to get people over to your post, because it WAS on topic over there.

    And feel free to correct me on my site. I love constructive criticism. What doesn’t kill me makes me better.

    John P

  5. tobe:

    Lots of good advice here. You do yourself an injustice to call yourself a beginner.

    After reading #2, I decided that I should change the name of my blog. Since you and A Spanish Inquisitor now have the “lock” on “A,” I thought maybe I should go to the opposite side of the alphabet. “Z” and “Y” didn’t appeal to me much, though. So from now on my blog will be known as XXX No More Hornets XXX. I hope that adds to my traffic.

  6. @ A Spanish Inquisitor

    I may try that on mine, just to see if anyone’s actually reading , and not just looking for porn.

    Lol. I think it would have to be quite a strange fetish that would lead someone to your site thinking it was porn!

    That didn’t pose a problem for you, did it? My intention was to get people over to your post, because it WAS on topic over there.

    Not at all! I remember that, I was very grateful for the link and the traffic. I just didn’t want a big, messy, off topic debate starting up over here.

    @ XXX The Exterminator XXX

    So from now on my blog will be known as XXX No More Hornets XXX. I hope that adds to my traffic.

    ROFL 🙂

  7. This sort of answers a question I had in the back of my mind: Do bloggers fear competition?
    Apparently not! I didn’t take the blogroll as an indicator since that just keeps everyone in the same loop, but encouraging the creation of MORE blogs, shows that there’s a cooperative attitude in contrast to a competitive one.
    I don’t have a blog and if I had to look at a bunch of “0 comments” I think I’d want to cry. (Being a manly man, I’d most likely just get a little misty-eyed)

    #17: No, I’m not going to add to your pain. One of my favorite blogs (unrelated topic) ALWAYS has typos! And it’s not due to language difficulties, either. Doesn’t stop me from reading it of course, but I do hate typod. 😉

  8. I have three more suggestions:

    1) Decide before starting your blog what you want to write about. If you want to write about your personal life – just keeping an online journal, basically – that’s fine, but don’t expect many people beyond your immediate friends and relatives to be interested. If you write about every random thing that enters your head, it may be difficult to build up a stable reader base, since most people won’t have exactly the same interests as you. In my experience, the best blogs have a fairly narrowly defined topic or set of topics, which gives the author a chance to build up experience and appeals reliably to the subset of people who share an interest in those topics.

    2) As you said, original, relevant content is king. To that end, I suggest making writing for your blog an established part of your schedule. Make it a habit. The best thing you can do is to write something each day (with occasional days off to recharge). Failing that, you should try to write at least several days a week. When you get regular practice, writing becomes easier and you become more productive, and it and avoids the dreaded “sorry I’m not writing more new posts” post.

    3) Keep a pad handy at all times. I can’t count how many times I’ve seen or read something that gave me a sudden idea for a good post topic. Recording these ideas as soon as they come to you ensures that they’re not lost before you have time to write about them.

  9. @ Polly

    Thanks for the kind words. I definitely don’t fear competition. For me, the collective goal of making a difference in the world is more important, and the more blogs there are the more chance we have of achieving that. If we’re all competitive in a friendly, sporting way within that goal, then it just raises the general standard of writing.

    @ Ebonmuse

    Thank you for the additions. I deliberately kept it general enough not to just be a “how to start an atheist blog”, so the first point is really worth making. I completely agree with the second as well, I’ve definitely found that the more I’ve written, the more easily it’s flowed. The third one is new for me and I’m adopting it, starting today. I can already think of occasions when that would have helped 🙂

  10. @ Tobe

    Lol. I think it would have to be quite a strange fetish that would lead someone to your site thinking it was porn!

    Ha. You’d be surprised. Look at my post here, and you’ll see what I mean. Of almost 5000 hits to my site since I started, over 3700 of them have been to that other post (I won’t use the words here, for fear that the search engines will find your site, too).
    Actually, it might be a good idea to add to your list. Do not use words in a post likely to be misconstrued as porn, because it seems that all those repressed Christians are on the net looking for just that, and if you are sloppy with your phraseology, you will increase your readership, but not the type of readership you want.

    A John P

  11. Great advice Tobe. Unfortunely my blog suffers from lack of attention. I hope to rectify that as soon as I have some more time on my hand, though that idea of having several articles in reserve is a great idea that I will most definitely (maybe) adopt. Oh and agreed with The Exterminator, you’re blog isn’t at all the blog of a beginner, otherwise I wouldn’t read it as often. Keep up the good work!

  12. Great article, thanks. I have grabbed a few interesting tips from your post. I have a Blog about Search Engine Optimization and Marketing. I wrote a post about blogging that might be helpful to you and your readers, it is actually a guide to the best blogging resources on the internet:

    Topics on the article:
    -Where to get your blog
    -How to start your blog
    -Search Engine Optimization for blogs
    -Finding and writing content
    -Promoting your blog
    -Useful tools for blogs
    -Social Networks for blogs

  13. thanks for the tips!

  14. Do you know how to set my favorite blogs listed on my site to show they have been updated? Instead of always just checking them? I thought there was a way to do this but can’t remember.
    My email is http://www.yellowvlkswgn@hotmail.com
    Thanks a bunch!

  15. […] The Beginners Guide to Starting a Blog […]

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