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Gini Dietrich

Tips for Starting a Blog

By: Gini Dietrich | December 14, 2009 | 
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When I speak across the country, I have a lot of people tell me they want to start a blog and they want to know how to get started. I always caution that blogs aren’t for everyone and that, once you get started, you can’t stop. It’s a pretty big time commitment and it takes some effort to not only attract readers, but also engage them and keep them coming back for more.

My friend Rieva Lesonsky has a great article at AllBusiness.com about the pros and cons of having a blog. I also love Gary Vaynerchuk’s philosophy that first comes your passion. Your passion may be monkeys and you think no one will want to visit a blog about monkeys. He argues, in “Crush It!”, that no matter what your passion, if people can tell you really care about it they’ll keep coming back. And you won’t mind the time commitment because it’s what you love more than anything else. He also argues that you don’t necessarily need to write a blog. This is important thought – there also are video blogs (called vlgos) and audio blogs (called podcasts).

If, after reading Rieva’s article and figuring out whether or not you can write/video/speak about your passion, you still want a blog, following are some tips for getting started.

  1. Go to WordPress or Blogger and set up an account. I like WordPress because it’s more professional and it has lots of really great templates for you to choose from so you can create something really nice in a couple of hours. Blogger is really easy to use, but it looks more homemade.
  2. Write a list of 30 topics you can write about – just headlines. For instance, I write about social media, the PR industry, and what it’s like to grow a company. Under those three topics, I have 30 bullet points of different headlines. Under social media, I know tomorrow I’m going to write about how to attract readers to your blog, because it follows today’s topic.
  3. Write (or video or speak) five to 10 posts and save them as drafts in your blog. Do not publish them yet.
  4. Schedule an hour a day on your calendar to write your blog post, answer reader’s comments, and comment on other’s blogs about your topic
  5. Publish your first draft on a Monday.
  6. Send an email to your friends, clients, colleagues, peers, family, vendors, and partners and ask them to read your blog post. Ask them to check back on Wednesday and again on Friday. Ask them, if they like what they read, to send the link to their network.
  7. Make friends with 10-20 people who already have strong social networks and ask them to help you spread the word. People will do this IF it’s a topic they’re also interested in and know their networks also will like to read. If your blog is about monkeys and I’ve been attacked by a chimp, you won’t want to ask me. Know your audience.
  8. Be prepared to publish at least three times each week. And keep your drafts full – have five to 10 ready to publish at any time. This is hard to do, but trust me when I say that it makes life A LOT easier when you’re overly busy and something else has taken over your hour to blog.

I’m always willing to introduce bloggers to my network if they are consistent, have an interesting topic, and make me think. Think about that as you begin to write (or video or speak) and why someone like me would want to help you (other than I’m nice and help everyone). Then ask!  You’ll be surprised at how willing people are to help.

Tomorrow I’ll blog about how to attract readers, beyond your network and your 10-20 friends who already have communities built on the social networks. In the meantime, if you blog, do you have anything to add for people just starting out?

About Gini Dietrich


Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, a Chicago-based integrated marketing communications firm. She is the lead blogger here at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro. She is the co-author of Marketing in the Round and co-host of Inside PR. Her second book, Spin Sucks, is available now.

28 comments
ambreen11
ambreen11

The whole point of having a blog is to make sure that the people who visit you have something interesting or entertaining to read. It’s important to go in with a plan, but you have to be flexible. Thanks

How to Start a Blog
How to Start a Blog

I definitely have to say – a paid, self-hosted blog is the way to go. It is always annoying having to tell your friends “yea, my blog is at …blogspot.com or ….wordpress.com”. It really isn’t that impressive if you can’t OWN your blog.

I have setup well over 30 blogs by now and have gone through the technical setup process so many times I could do it in my sleep : ). If you would like me to set it up for ya, I do it for free at http://www.how-to-start-a-blog.org.

Happy Blogging!

- John

Kyle Griffith
Kyle Griffith

Gini you shared some excellent tips here.
Excellent info..Thanks for sharing. I will pass this on.
Kyle G

Kate
Kate

Thanks so much, Gini. This is the best post I have seen on "How to get started with blogging". Simple, clear and intuitive ... and it's given me the structure that I needed. I really like the way you talk about more than one area of interest while still keeping your blog focused. Your advice has helped me get unstuck and get a plan. Next action is making that list of topics. Thanks again.

Al
Al

Hiya - I stumbled on this oage by mistake. I was looking in Google for Registry software that I had already purchased when I found your site, I must say your website is pretty informative, I just love the theme, its amazing!. I don't have the time this minute to totally read your site but I bookmarked it and also will sign up for your RSS feed. I'll back in a day or two. Thanks again for a cool site.

Gini Dietrich
Gini Dietrich

April - If you go to http://godaddy.com, you can enter the name you like and see if it's taken. If it's not, I'll allow you to buy the .com, .org. .net, .biz...any or all of them. I always suggest buying them (they're not much - $10/year for each of them), even if you never use them. That way, no one can steal them from under you. If you just want the .com, it's pretty affordable.

April Graham
April Graham

I am creating a blog on behalf of my company. Everywhere I read its recommended to create a separate URL domain name for your blog. Does anyone know how to do this?

Gini Dietrich
Gini Dietrich

Mena - Check out the blog post tomorrow. Harry talks about SEO for you!

Bob - Great to see you here! I don't know Dupral, but thanks for the heads up. I'll check it out so I can add it to our list of recommendations for clients and blog readers!

Jeannie - This blog post loves you back! :)

Bob Donohue
Bob Donohue

Hi Gini,
Just found you on twitter thanks to @timjahn. Like Lisa, this is timely for me as I FINALLY got my blog going. I love the idea to have 10 drafts ready to go. I'm not sure about Wordpress or Blogger, but I built my site using Drupal. It allows you to post content without publishing it publicly. You can do all the work to post several blog posts at once. You can then publish them one at a time in a few seconds each.

I have a few clients who are running or starting a blog. I'll be sure to send them to this post. Thanks.
Bob

Nathan Mathews
Nathan Mathews

I agree with the earlier comments on hosting your own blog and Gini gave a link to www.godady.com, I stumbled upon this coupon today on Slickdeals which allows you hosting for a year $1 - http://bit.ly/8ng0ak. Go fast though as I don't know how long it will be good for.

Nathan

Jeannie Walters
Jeannie Walters

I love this post, Gini!

One thing I'm trying to remember is that many blog readers read many blogs. It's important to make it easy for them. Not every post has to be a novella (though it's ok occasionally) and scanning is how we read on the Web. You always do a great job of making the format easy to read, understand and share. I've learned so much from you and as usual we are thinking alike today! My post about holiday newsletters is really about making your content accessible to your readers. http://bit.ly/5U1JBW

Looking forward to your post tomorrow! Thanks.

Mena
Mena

THANK YOU!! I started my blog, and are really seeking out to have wonderful products to review for moms, but it has been extremely diffifult to get superb items. I love wrtiing and talking about fabulous finds, so I am sticking to it! You did give me hope ;-)
You are right it is also to get additional readers, so I am looking forward for your next chapter.
I am wondering, how can I see my SEO on blogspot, would you know?

Mimi Meredith
Mimi Meredith

A few posts back, you mentioned some tips from Seth Godin about writing in your natural voice and recognizing that every blog post need not be an opus. I think both points are really important to remember. For me, writing in the style I converse makes it much simpler for me to think of my blog as a community builder. It becomes an extension of me. And remembering that short, simple posts are powerful is huge! I have spent way too much time on some posts that spoke only to me because I'd gotten myself so wrapped up in them.

One last tip, which I'm sure the SEO master will cover more thoroughly... instructional posts are huge. My "What to say when a friend loses a job"post still gets top hits every week. And how to lists...like Five Ways to End a Relationship (not a post you'd find on my blog) are great ways to get your thoughts organized and appeal to search engines.

Thanks again for great content, Gini!

Jennifer Quinn (@JennyQ)
Jennifer Quinn (@JennyQ)

Gini --

Awesome beginner blogging post! I started mine about a month ago but it's not too late to incorporate what you have here! Thanks so much --

Jennifer

Gini Dietrich
Gini Dietrich

Lisa - I took over this blog in June and I labored over every post. Did a ton of research. Developed my arguments so no one could pick a fight. I quickly learned that if I write some controversy (as you've experienced) and write what I know and am passionate about, it comes MUCH more easily. Today's post took me 30 minutes. I wrote it in the car on the way to the office (Mr. D was driving). I had it posted and linked to our networks by 9:00 this morning.

Lisa Gerber
Lisa Gerber

Hi Gini,
What a timely post for me as I (finally) launched my blog just a week ago. The time commitment is a pretty big facotr for anyone considering doing this. I am curious to know how much time you and others spend on one blog post.
I assume I'll get better at it in terms of time, but right now it is an enormous labor of love! I over think it.
Finding your niche and audience is the next challenge. As Jeff points out above, there are TOO many blogs out there, and we have to give everyone a compelling reason to come back to ours. I spent a lot of time working that out prior to going public.
Thanks for the helpful advice. as always. : )
Lisa

Gini Dietrich
Gini Dietrich

Jeff - thanks for the additional tips! I've been sending this link to many of the friends I meet on the road and these tips help without being too overwhelming.

Doug - I'm not sure I agree that you can have a blog without posting regularly. The idea is to get people coming back (lead generation), commenting (lead cultivation), and finally finding a way to work with you (lead conversion). That won't happen if you post irregularly. I do agree, however, that if you don't want to commit to being a blogger, you can use a blog to have a non-static Web site that is updated weekly or monthly so you can drive prospects there occasionally.

Amy - Google rocks! Harry, you see I'm doing my own SEO because that's how Amy found me. Woo hoo!

And Harry, thanks for volunteering to blog about SEO later this week.

Harry Brumleve
Harry Brumleve

Great post!

I'd like to point out that in addition to _everything_ Gini wrote, you should really spend a small bit of time setting up your blog's infrastructure.

Wire up Google Analytics, make sure that you have it setup to be SEO friendly, cheat and use Google Adwords tools to find the hot topics and the keywords that will get you noticed. Use Su.Pr to know your conversion rate.

These are easy to do and often overlooked; but the killer part is that they are easy!

You can't manage what you can't measure, and if no one can find you ...

:-)
Harry

Amy
Amy

Hiya!. Thanks for the info. I've been digging around for info, but there is so much out there. Google lead me here - good for you i suppose! Keep up the good work. I will be coming back over here in a few days to see if there is updated posts.

Jeff Lipschultz
Jeff Lipschultz

I'm going to be a little brash in my comment and throw in the concept of Quality. There is only so much time in the day to read blogs. People quickly tune out (and certainly never return to) blogs that are not well-written and thought out.

Make sure that your blog is well presented and has a key message for each post. What do you want the reader to take away from the experience? Make sure your message isn't lost in a bunch of non-related thoughts and musings. And please, don't forget to spellcheck your post. Remember, like a resume, this is the first impression you are giving people of your intellect.

This might seem like common sense to many, but there are a lot of blogs out there and only the high-quality ones stand out in my book(-marks).

Oh, and don't be afraid to mix up the media a little. You can add video blog posts every fifth or so for some variety in your blog (if you mainly write). And people get to see your personality first hand.

To engage your audience, ask them questions. And request they reply in the comments section to your post. The more interesting the question, the more replies you'll get. Sometimes, these turn into discussions of their own (example: http://tinyurl.com/ydlos54 ). I like using polls, too.

Doug Davidoff
Doug Davidoff

Gini,

As usual great insight. I'd like to add one comment that may broaden blogs to more people.

I think it's important that we designate between "having a blog" and "being a blogger." You're rule about 3 posts per week applies more to being a blogger than to having a blog. There are several businesses and/or executives that can absolutely benefit from having a blog - even if they don't/can't post 3x/week. Having a blog is a great place to build content and resources. It doesn't have the benefit of being as widely distributed as "being a blogger," does; but it still can create a lot of value over having a static website.

Of course all the other rules that you regularly talk about apply. It's still about engagement and not about advertising. And you want to regularly update and put new material up there or it quickly loses its attractiveness.

Gini Dietrich
Gini Dietrich

Nick - THANK YOU! Yes, go to http://godaddy.com and buy your URL name. Do it now. That's a great addition!

Donna - I'm glad you stumbled on us, too! The engagement thing is the hardest part for everyone. This isn't about selling. It's about creating content that is not self-serving and keeps people coming back for more. (P.S. I also am a shoe fiend)

Donna L. Johnson
Donna L. Johnson

Very insightful and practical info for the blogger who's just starting out, Gini. I came across your post on twitter and am glad I did!

Reader engagement is something that newbies can easily overlook. Blogs should be viewed as a means of two-way communication between the author and community. Ask good questions, interact, and give your audience more than they bargained for.

Thanks for sharing.

Donna J
The Unemployed Entrepreneur™
@iHiredMe on twitter

Nick
Nick

Good for starting a blog. One thing that was left out though is the importance of your blog URL. Is it wise to put all the work and effort into blogname.wordpress.com? I can't express how important it is for people to spend the 5 dollars a month and host their blog with their own domain name. Then you are free and not held within a blogging site.

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