I would like to have a Website or Blog. What should I do ?
Because I am only Familiar with WordPress, I will confine my answer to that Blogging Software. From what I can tell, it is the most used, and most user friendly.
There are two branches to WordPress… WordPress.com and WordPress.org
Do I just want to Blog for FREE ?
WordPress.com is the “side of the street” where you get a little less control over your Blog, but you’re not paying for it, so that is the tradeoff ! By going to WordPress.com, and filling out the form there, you can be up and writing your Blog in a few minutes… BUT your Blog address will be something like BobSongs.WordPress.com, which is a little unwieldy, but again… the price is right !
Do I want My OWN Blog (with a unique URL) ?
The other option is to host your own Blog. Often this is a decision determined by “Do I already have my own domain” or “Do I have enough to say, that it is worthwhile for me to have my own Blog ?” This option costs money. Not a LOT, but a couple of lattes a month. For myself, I already had my http://www.BobSongs.com website, so it was not a huge leap for me to envision my Blog as http://Blog.BobSongs.com It costs me about $7.00 a month to host, because I already owned the BobSongs.com domain.
If you want to go this route, and you do not have a website, I would suggest the first step is trying to find a website that will suit your purposes. When I was looking, I found that BobGray.com was taken by someone else, so I had to settle on BobSongs.com. You can find out if Domains are available by using a WHOIS application. There is one available from Network Solutions, http://www.networksolutions.com/whois/index.jsp
Once you find the domain name is available, you need to go to a Hosting Company, and (usually) they will help you purchase the domain, and provide hosting. Costs will vary, as different domain extensions (.ca .com .net) have different costs. You pay a fee, per year, to “hold” that domain, and a monthly hosting fee, to have your site “on the web”
I used Blue Fur Web Hosting for my Blog, and Gary was good enough to install WordPress on there for me… but there are a number of hosting companies that provide similar service.
If you already have a website, talk to your hosting company about adding a blog to your domain. From what I’ve seen, the “norm” is to replace the www with Blog in your URL. (If you don’t understand this, don’t worry, your host company will know.)
Okay, I’ve got a Blog to call my own… Now what ?!?
Even before you’ve got your Blog set up, there are a few things on WordPress that can be confusing, unless you know ahead of time:
THEMES – Are the appearance of your page. The layout, background and colours. There are probably thousands of Themes to choose from (most free) and not that hard to change.
WIDGETS & PLUGINS – These are the options that “add” value to your page. Again, one of the best ways to find out the important ones, are to look at Blogs you like, and see what they do. Reader Comments, Twitter Tracker, SEO Submission, Categories, Recent Blog Listings… all things that you can add to most Themes, and decide where they should go on your page, using PlugIns and Widgets.
Sometimes, when you load a different Theme, some of your Widgets may not work, or work the same… FYI… So find a theme you can live with, for a while.
POSTS – Sometimes, during editing, the Internet hiccups. For most of us this isn’t a problem… but if you are Posting to a Blog, it can be frustrating. I suggest writing your Blog in Word for Windows, or Notebook… and then Cut and Paste to the TEXT screen in WordPress. In this way, you always have a backup of your Posts, just in case “something” happens. Again, I haven’t had any issues, I just think it’s a good habit to get into.
A tip I got from Raul Pacheco-Vega (@Hummingbird604) was to break up blocks of words with a pertinent image… (always giving photo credit, if the image is not your own) … it provides a treat for the eye, and a break in big blocks of text.
WORDS – The rest of the challenge is to create a Blog that challenges and draws readers in. My Blogs are tending to be a bit frenetic, without a central theme. In Beyond Blogging, (a book I bought and read) they say this can make it challenging to develop and keep a following. The other important habit is to try to get into a rhythm, so your readers know whether to expect one post a month, or three a week !!!
HAVE FUN – To me, this is the key ingredient. If the writer enjoys what they are doing, and are having fun with it… the reader can enjoy the experience, alongside. If there is no passion, there will be no pleasure… for the writer, or the reader !!!
Write on !!!