So you’re thinking about starting a BLOG?! – Part 2
If you missed part one, you will find it here.
BEFORE YOU START POSTING…
Don’t be in a rush to start posting. Just get into the admin back room section of your blog and push buttons! It may seem a little strange to start with, but keep plugging away and you’ll figure it out. Learn what goes where. Discover what’s in your back room box of tricks. It’s okay to have a play before writing your first post and going public. You may wish to adjust your settings to private first, just in case you accidentally push that ‘publish’ button. :o
WordPress offer a free spam filter. I have found it good policy to never allow anyone to comment without your approval, otherwise your posts will be chocked up with hundreds of sneaky (and not so sneaky) spam in no time. If WordPress earmark it as spam, they are pretty smart. Check it carefully. They are probably right.
BLOG FOR A CAUSE?
Think you might want to blog for your favourite cause? No problem. Fantastic idea.
WELCOME TO YOUR NEW VOCABULARY
Blogs, banners, widgets, dashboards, sticky posts, tags, plug-ins, pingbacks… welcome to your new vocabulary. It all sounds a bit confusing at first, but don’t worry, you’ll get used to it eventually.
A dashboard is the back room of your blog and is where you will learn to do magical things. It’s like your control tower.
A banner is like a tiny advert for something you are passionate about.
A widget is like a frame and a piece of sticky tape holding it in place on your blog home page. Or like a magnet with a frame holding your photos on the fridge.
What you reading now is called a post. Posts are like a piece of paper or diary entries, filled with your wonderful thoughts. Each time you write a post, you put it on the top of the stack. You will end up with a virtual stack of paper on your desk. Your very first post will end up at the bottom of the pile. Your most recent post is on the top of the pile and it’s the first thing your visitors will see when they come to your blog.
Pages are like the important bits of paper on your desk that you don’t want to lose, so you make sure they are kept separately, in a separate and immediately accessible pile, usually at the top of your blog. On this blog and at the time of writing, I only have one page – ‘about’. Whenever you go to a new blog, that is usually the quickest way to get a run down on the person behind the blog.
- STICKY POST
Ticking ‘sticky post’ shoots that particular post straight to the top of the blog and holds it there until you untick it again or you post something new. Think of it as digging out a piece of paper a little way down the stack on your desk and making sure it goes on top. It also reminds me of those guys swinging the axe at the showgrounds and it hits that little bell at the top. Ticking it and making it ‘sticky’ leaves it there.
WINDOWS LIVE WRITER
Optional: Download ‘Windows Live Writer’ (it’s free) or similar program to your computer, so you can blog offline and then just press ‘publish’ when you are ready, as if you are sending an email. It’s a little bit similar to MS Word and don’t worry, you’ll have it figured out in no time. It may be a LOT more user friendly than writing sitting hunched up in the back room of your blog. I’m still sorting out a few bugs with my theme. Uploading text is fine, but WLW wants to upload all my photos twice! Yoiks! Not a good look. (Update: WordPress have since expanded the screen size of our back room dashboard, so I now write directly in here; or in a MS Word document that I copy and paste).
FREE CLOUD STORAGE
Store your high resolution documents and photos in a separate online cloud storage site and direct your followers there to download them, and put a smaller sample on your web site. It saves clogging up your blog cache storage. Think of it like an extra storeroom just out the back. If you are mainly writing and only using pictures to decorate your blog, you probably won’t need it. And that reminds me…
Copyright: This is very serious stuff. Content theft is basically when someone is using your content without your permission and/or not giving you attribution. I’m still working out ‘blog etiquette’ (there are quite a few unwritten rules) but the safest approach is this:
- Everything you put on your blog must be your own original work, unless stated otherwise AND you have permission to use it.
- Basic rule of thumb: Use your own original stuff.
Quotes: If you quote someone else’s work, use “block quotes” and provide a link back to where you found it. And there is a limit as to how much you can quote. Opinions seem to differ (even between lawyers) and it seems to be something that may need to be discussed within a legal court setting, so it is best to be cautious with that one.
Images: If you use someone else’s photos or graphics, make sure it’s okay with them, otherwise don’t even think about it (even on Pinterest). There are now big companies out there using image recognition technology to find out where people are using their images. And they’re not happy about it. I use images from pixabay as they are free and they only ask you to give them a general link back to their web site home page (like I’ve just done). They also have links to paid images at the top of each page, so watch out for that. But this is only one of many sites with suggestions of images you can use legitimately.
CATEGORIES AND TAGS
Things to do later: Get the skinny on categories and tags.
- CATEGORIES are BROAD – like which drawer in your filing cabinet do you want to put this.
- TAGS are NARROW AND SPECIFIC – which file inside that drawer you want to put this in.
They are keywords and try to use as few of them as possible to accurately describe what your post is about, so that a potential reader will have a fair idea of what your post is about. That’s something I’m still tussling over and trying to get right. Here are the current most popular tags on WordPress.
OTHER THINGS TO PONDER
Decide what you want to blog about and how often you want to post. Some bloggers post every day. Some post every few months. It’s up to you. Only publish your best. And remember, less can sometimes be more.
Before you hit that publish button, save your draft and click ‘preview post’ to make sure it all looks okay. Also, make sure you test all links to external sites (very important).
Go and meet other bloggers, but don’t worry if it takes you a while before you feel safe enough to start venturing out of your own blog. But remember, starting up a new blog is like setting up a great shop in the middle of the woods. You have to go and find people to come visit.
If someone comments or leaves a ‘like’ on your blog… and after you have stopped partying because they are a real person, not a spammer… RESPOND! It’s only polite and part of the unwritten rules of blogging etiquette. And when you do, a great tip I learned (thanks Sue) is to thank them for their visit, then comment on something on their blog (if they are a blogger) and provide a link for your readers, back to one of their posts. It’s like showing their business card to your own readers. An extra act of courtesy.
LEARN AS YOU GO
Now get out there. Write and publish your first blog. And don’t worry if you suddenly panic (like I did) and think, “ARGHHHHHH! What did I do that for? What on earth made me think I had anything to say or could ever run a blog?! Who are you? You have nothing to say that will be of the slightest help to anyone else?” a dark voice may whisper. Recognise the owner of this voice and immediately turn to the Lord. God promises that if we seek first HIS Kingdom and HIS righteousness, then He will sweat our small stuff.
Then just go and have fun!
Remember, starting a blog is like learning to play a violin in public. A few squeaks and bad notes along the way, but it’s so much fun! And hey! Look… Now I can play ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’.
Squeak, squeak, squeak… :)
HELPFUL RESOURCES ABOUT BLOGGING AT WORDPRESS
WordPress forum this is where you will find the heads-up and any bugs with your theme and help when you need it.
wpbtips.wordpress.com is no longer updated, but has lots of great tips and advice about WordPress blogs.
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