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The Basics of Starting a Blog

Aug 18, 2007
Blogs are one of the hot ways to start a website right now. They allow visitors to interact with the site owner and to subscribe to a feed so that they can keep up with changes to the site and new information.

Blogs don't just have to be personal journals. While they often do have more of a personal touch than many websites you don't have to share the latest news about your family or your life. You can use your blog as a way to give that personal touch in a professional manner.

But blogging can be intimidating to people new to it. It's a new skill, and making your blog stand out a little isn't always easy. Once you have the blog set up, however, it's incredibly easy to run one.

The Software

WordPress is probably the most popular blogging software. There are very good reasons for this. It's free, pretty easy to use, lots of plugins and themes are available for it (more on these later), easy to make friendly to search engines, and many hosts offer one click installation of it.

The Basics of Optimization

A few basic steps should be taken to make your blog as search engine friendly as possible. One of the simplest is to set up your permalink structure correctly. In WordPress, the way to do this is to go to Permalinks under the Options menu. There are many ways you can set up your permalinks, but my own preference is to set it simply as either /%postname%/ or /%category%/%postname%/. These structures give you more chances to get your keywords into your post URL.

You should work on the title displayed in your blog as well. There are plugins that you can choose to help with this. They make it very simple.

You should have a wide range of categories that you will be posting in. Don't be afraid to add new ones over time. This helps to group your posts even more closely, and the categories can be included in your permalinks.

Choosing a Theme

A good theme does more than make your blog look pretty. It can be a part of your optimization strategy.

One of the first things you should check for in a WordPress theme is what it links to. Most themes will include a link to the designer, which is quite reasonable since they put in the work. But sometimes they add a lot of links. If you don't want those links it's probably not the theme for you. You can remove them, of course, but my own preference is to choose a theme where I don't mind giving the designer their fair reward.

How well the theme is designed will have an impact on how the search engines view your website. A poorly designed one can make it more difficult for the spiders to index your site.

Take Advantage of Feeds

The RSS feed is one of the biggest advantages that blogs have. The feed allows readers to subscribe to keep up with your blog. You don't have to do anything beyond post on your blog and keep them interested.

You should at the very least include a link to the RSS feed someplace prominent on your blog, but you can do more. I like to use Feedburner's service so that I can keep track of subscribers and so that I can easily offer a range of links for easy subscription. Feedburner makes it easy for readers to subscribe by Google, Yahoo and other popular feed readers, or even by email for those who aren't sufficiently comfortable with RSS.

Getting things moving on the technical side of blogging is only the beginning. As you blog you will find yourself getting interested, reading other blogs in relevant areas and discovering new ways to make your blog interesting.
About the Author
Stephanie Foster blogs at http://www.aspectsofhomebusiness.com/blog/ about running a home business. She offers more blogging advice at her site.
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