The one thing I absolutely love about the internet and what gets me just as jazzed up and excited as the first day I ever logged on to Mindspring for the very first time back in 1998 is one person’s ability to connect to the entire world with the push of a button. That concept, that idea drives me. That is my passion. To teach, to connect, to change the world.
Sounds cheesy right? I know, but I honestly can’t think of a better way to say it. Whether your running a powerful, feature packed tech blog with millions of readers or a simple, free WordPress.com blog you have the power to change the world. At the exact moment that the “publish” button is pushed on a blog post the playing field is level. Every single person on the planet with access to a computer has the ability to share their thoughts and ideals, their sorrows and triumphs and their point of view with the rest of world and that is a stone cold fact. It’s a mind blowing concept to actually consider the power we have at our fingertips. Each and every one of you out there has the ability to change the world with the push of a button.
Of course, as with anything else in life there is a learning curve. You’re not going to sit down in front of a computer, sign up for a blog and start reaping the benefits immediately. To be successful, and for our purpose success is not defined by page views and revenues that will come later. Success is defined by the quality of your product and by your ability to connect with your readers. Focus on those two things and everything else will take care of itself. Too many people have a tendency to put the cart in front of the horse so to speak and get frustrated by their lack of results.
Think of your blog as a bonsai tree. Your blog needs your attention, you need to feed it, you need to prune it and you need to make sure it sees the light of day. Of course there’s more tan one way to skin a bonsai (or something like that) and what works for one person may not work for another. You have to find out what works best for you. Just like with basic bonsai care and maintenance however you will need a few simple tools to get started and get you one your way. As your blog grows and evolves and as you became a better caretaker for you blog you may find new and more advanced tools that you want to use to spruce up your garden of knowledge. That will come in time, what we’re going to focus on now are a few, simple tips and tools that will get you on your way to changing the world one click of a button at a time.
What you’ll need to get started:
- Create a mission statement: Before you start researching blogging platforms or trying to decide what your blog should look like, sit down and right a clear, concise mission statement for your site. It sounds incredibly simple but you would be surprised how many people start blogging without any clear idea or understanding of what they want their voice to be and then just fizzle out. This doesn’t mean you have to narrow down what you want to write about or limit yourself in any way, this just gives you an idea of what you’re striving for. If your goal is to change the world then put that in your mission statement. Your mission statement can be something you share or don’t share with your readers, that’s up to you. It’s mainly to make sure that you have a clear idea of what you’re trying to do before you become immersed in maintaining your blog and lose sight of your original goal. And to be clear your mission statement doesn’t have to be written in stone. You may find that after six months or a year your writing and your blog has evolved and your mission statement has totally changed and that’s just fine.
- Free is just the right price: If you’re just starting off there’s no need go nuts and overwhelm yourself with trying to find the right hosting service, learning about ftp and setting up your own blog. There are plenty of free and low-priced alternatives out there. Do some research and find out which is best for you. One of the biggest upsides to being on a hosted blogging platform when you’re first starting out is the built-in community that it gives you to network with. You’re not stranded on an island all by yourself, you’re part of a thriving, keyed in community of fellow bloggers. If you’re looking for the right blogging platform here are three I recommend you check out in no particular order.
- WordPress.com: The largest and most robust blogging community on the web. Cost: free.
- Posterous.com: Incredibly easy to post to and phenomenal at sharing your posts virtually anywhere you’d like. Cost: free.
- Typepad.com: This is the only blogging platform of the three that isn’t free, but the one thing I do like about typepad is that it’s themes look a little more polished and professional than either of the other choices. I personally am not a huge fan of the software that powers typepad but if you can get past that, and you don’t mind paying a few bucks a month then you may want to check out this option. One good thing is that they do have a 30-day free trial so you can give it a shot without putting any money out upfront.
- Stats, stats, stats: This step can be a bit of a Catch-22. On one hand, while you’re laying the foundation of your blog and learning to find your voice, you don’t want to focus too much on how many hits or page views you’re getting. That being said you do want to have a good analytics tool in place so when the time comes you can take a look at what’s working and what’s not. I’m not going to get into too much detail now about the ins and outs of analytics because I want you to focus on the nuts and bolts that’s been brought up so far. There is no shortage of decent analytics tools out there so if you’d like go ahead and do some research, read some reviews and find one you like. Whatever you do, DO NOT pay for any analytics service. Google Analytics is 100% free and about as robust of a solution as you’re going to find. There’s no shortage of analytic companies out there that will try to get you to pay for “premium” stats. This is absolutely not necessary. If you’re looking for something a little simpler than Google Analytics check out SiteMeter. They’ve been around for a long time and have a great free service that gets you plenty of what you’ll eventually need.
While I’ve been writing this and seen just how much information is contained in these three, fairly minor points, I’ve decided to go ahead and make this into a series of posts that will be called Zen and the Art of Blogging. I’m not sure how long it will be or exactly where it will go from here but I know there’s more stuff I’d like to share. The point of this series will be to literally take someone who’s never blogged before and give them the knowledge and tools they need to become successful, world changing bloggers.