Step 1: Lay the groundwork
All right, so step 1 of Becoming a serious blogger in three easy steps is to Lay the groundwork. Included in this step are such tasks as choosing a web host, selecting blogging software, setting up feeds, getting your analytics software ready, and deciding what to do about advertising. Let’s take a look at each of these items in turn.
Web hosts and software
Choosing a web host and selecting blogging software sort of go hand-in-hand. In fact there are many free hosted blogging solutions available such as WordPress.com, Blogger, and LiveJournal that would allow you to “kill two birds with one stone”. However I believe that serious bloggers should have control over their own blogging software on their own domain. Personally I use WordPress because it’s built using PHP and MySQL (which I know very well) and has a thriving ecosystem of themes and plugins. In short, it’s highly customizable. Of course there are other options such as TextPattern and Movable Type that you could consider. I leave that research as an exercise for the reader.
Once you’ve chosen your host and software, you have a few other decisions to make. All blogging software includes some sort of XML feed option such as RSS or Atom for syndicating your blog postings. However I recently decided that serious bloggers really need to use FeedBurner. What the heck is FeedBurner? I’m glad you asked. FeedBurner is a service that will handle all of the building and delivery of your blog’s XML feeds. OK, big deal, you say. My blog software already does that. True, but FeedBurner also lets you insert other content into your feeds (such as del.icio.us bookmarks), compiles stats about your subscribers, and allows you to monetize your feeds through ads (if you so choose). There’s even more to it than that, but the full details are beyond the scope of this article (my college textbooks said that a lot).
Last up is making a decision about ads. We see them everywhere these days and many people have strong opinions one way or another. I used to have a little Google AdSense here and there on this site, but I’ve gotten rid of it for now. Why the change? I read several convincing articles that encouraged bloggers to eschew ads until their blogs are more established. Research has shown that many would-be readers are put off by seeing ads on a site that is obviously not well-trafficked. Once a steady stream of traffic has been established, ads can be introduced slowly. After earning a whopping $25 in eighteen months from my AdSense ads, I definitely agree with this strategy now. Do I plan to monetize my blog in the future? At this point, I’m not sure. I will say that I plan to benefit from blogging at somewhere down the road, but that may be in ways other than advertisements: writing, speaking, consulting, etc. Time will tell.
I hope this information has been helpful to you. As always, leave a comment if you think I’ve forgotten something. And stay tuned for step 2…