Friday, September 26, 2008

Learn from my mistakes: how to start a blog off right

I hereby impart the wisdom of my limited experience, gathered during the five short months I've been blogging. These are things I would do-over if I could:

1. Always try to make your blog name and blog URL coincide as much as possible.
I used "" for "Writing Home" blog because I used to be "beblevins" in all my past email addresses (@aol, etc.) and thought maybe people who knew me could find my primary blog that way.

The other reason I did this is because had already been taken—though it hasn't been updated since 2005; and had also been taken, but it hasn't been updated since 2006.

That leads me to my second do-over:

2. Come up with a name for your blog that hasn't already been used.
I know that's getting to be nearly impossible since so many people are creating blogs now (and they get to keep those blog names even when they're no longer updating them...). Be willing to compromise, if necessary. When I started this blog, "Writing Home" was the name that stuck in my head and I couldn't let go of it; although I still really like the name, I wish I had come up with something that hadn't been used on Blogger before and which also isn't the name of at least one book and several other web pages, as I found out after the fact. (I also wrote about this in my April 8, 2008 posting, Writing Home—Not such a unique name after all). 

3. Create a somewhat generic email address that you can use for signing into all of your Blogger accounts.
This is really important if you're planning to do more than one blog—or if there's any possibility that you'll do more than one blog in the future.

I made the mistake of creating a unique email address for each of the blogs I started so that I had to sign in four different ways at one point—and I sometimes couldn't remember the unique sign-in for each one. Now I have added "thebethblevins -at- gmail" as an administrator to all my active blogs, which is why "B. Blevins" and "Beth Blevins" are both listed as administrators for Writing Home. I don't need B. Blevins anymore, with her unique writinghomeblog -@ -gmail address, but I haven't been able to bring myself to kill her off yet.

4. Decide what you want your blog to do or even achieve.
Do you just want an electronic refuge for your thoughts? To simply try your hand at blogging? To make a visual/photo record of your family life? Then proceed immediately to the nearest free blogging space and blog away, knowing that only your friends may read it (and you may not be able to persuade them to read it, either).

Do you want to reach readers (or even make money)? Then you'll need to think about this for awhile, preferably before even finding a name for your blog. To be a successful/popular blogger, it seems that you need to find a niche that no one else has filled or that you can fill better than anyone else even if others have attempted it.

5. If your aim is to write a popular (and/or money-making) blog, do some research first.
To find your niche you'll need to look at a lot of other blogs, or at least be aware of them. When I've begun to look at blogs, I've been overwhelmed with the variety and number. For lack of time on my part, I've been unable to sit down for hours and scroll and hyperlink through them. There are directories and lists of best blogs that I've looked at, which I found after I already started blogging. But I don't think that I would have been deterred from letting this blog evolve the way it has evolved if I had looked at and studied them first. Mine was the first impulse listed in #4—I just wanted to create something and get it out of my laptop. Now I wonder why my audience hasn't found me even though I've never really gone out looking for my audience.


It should be noted that this blog originally didn't start out as a writers' blog anyway. The original focus wasn't just on writing, but was anything I happened to be thinking of the day I wrote it. Then I went to a blogging workshop and described my then one-month-old blog to the instructor, who said it had no focus. So, I divided up what had been posted on the original blog into three different blogs, keeping Writing Home as a blog about the writing process. (I described my reaction to the workshop in the post, I'm doing this all wrong). 

The other two blogs have since fallen to neglect; in the meantime, I started two other subject-focused blogs—Cooking for Four, my food/cooking blog, and QACW, a databank/blog of quotes about creative women. It's too soon to tell which of these, including Writing Home, will survive in the next few months.

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