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(But were Afraid to Ask)
(Note: reposted in response to numerous "how to" questions received regularly here. Some of the links below may no longer be active. Feel free to leave alternatives in the comments section.)
Okay - I'll tell you right off that the title is deceptive. You won't find everything here. But this guide will offer ten fundamentals about which anyone wanting to be a blogger should be aware. Whatever your blog might be about, I think you'll find this info useful. This isn't about writing, or site design - it's about the knobology of blogging, the nuts and bolts, (hmmm, maybe nuts is the wrong term...) and that applies to everyone.
1. Get a Blog
Lets keep this one short. I recommend Blogspot for the purpose. It's easy to set up and get started, and it's free. Test the waters, if blogging is for you then you can move on to other things if you want. But lots of very big bloggers are still using blogspot, and most others maintain their blogspot blogs as backups 'just in case'. You don't even need to know how to write html code - blogger makes everything easy and is getting better all the time.
Done? Good. If you want to you can stop now and blog happily away.
2. Hit counters
So you've started a blog, does anybody care? Believe it or not, unless you're already well known your blog will probably not get 5000 hits to that "test 1234" post you did this morning. But you knew that. But one of these days you might post the Big Mac secret sauce recipe and everyone will be beating a path to your door. How many people will visit when Glenn Reynolds links your photo of Kofi giving Saddam food for oil, Kos links your rant about Bush being a chimpymonkey, and Wonkette links your photos from the coed Senate steam bath?
And how much should you charge for blogads once they do?
Get a hit counter - a little string of code you add to your page that allows you to see who's visited. Sitemeter is the blogger's "industry standard". (Hint: get one) I also really like the Onestat hit counter - it can't be beat. Click my onestat link in the sidebar (the round symbol below the sitemeter visit numbers). Check the features. Test drive. Once you're on the onestat page note the pull down menu in the upper left corner area, and the listed options below it. They're both free.
Don't lock them - leave them open for public view. They tell you how many visits you've had and they also tell other bloggers how many visitors they've sent your way. Don't get obsessed about either number - your visit numbers will likely be small initially, I know mine were. But they are of interest to anyone who's serious about blogging. Let's face it, we're in this to communicate, and these are simply letting us know who we're communicating with. I like to know what works best when I link to someone else - a simple "This is a must read!" or a paragraph sample followed by a "read it all". Lock me out of your site meter and I won't know.
Another option you might try is the on-screen referral log. I have that too, you'll find it farther down the right side bar. I often use the blog list there to find new sites I hadn't seen before.
Last important note: be sure to put the hit counter code on your main page template and all archive templates too. At least 40% of visits here come to individual pages from links from other bloggers. I know a few bloggers who are getting a lot more visits than they think they are, because they don't have hit counters on individual archive pages.
I want to be the guy that 'discovers' your blog and sends thousands of readers (and other bloggers) to you, launching your long and successful career. Why? Because my guess is you'll return the favor some day. But how will I find you? Perhaps via my sitemeter stats, but another way is via comments and trackbacks.
Comments are easy and need no explanation. I began my blogging career by commenting at another blog. When Mudville started I had a handful of regular visitors who knew me from there. If you're a new blogger, or one who wants to draw a bigger crowd, leave comments at those other blogs that have posts about topics on which you write. Etiquette note: don't just say "Great post - I linked it from my blog here!" along with a url. Contribute something to the conversation and people will follow that url linked to your name in the comment back to your site anyway. Do this at enough places and people will soon see your obvious expertise - do it wrong enough times and people will know you're just a pest.
Besides, that "I linked your post" stuff is what trackback is all about.
I get tons of questions about how to do trackback. The easiest way is to link a blog post to the 'permalink' below, and your blogging software does it automatically. This doesn't work for everybody. If you are using blogspot, for instance, there are no automatic trackbacks. Don't fret! You've still got options.
Blogspot recommends Haloscan's free service. A lot of big bloggers use this option.
But here's a quick fix that's just so cool you'll probably want to try it just to see it work. Wizbang's Standalone Trackback Pinger.
To use it, first click the 'trackback' option below. You'll find this entry number there:
That's the one you'll want to enter in the first box on the Trackback Pinger. (Note: it is not the url you link too! The url to link to is the 'permalink' below) The other entries should be self explanatory.
That's it - trackback!
5. Open Posts
Now that you have the power of trackback, use it wisely. Most bloggers are happy to see you linking your post to theirs, whether you agree or disagree with what they say - as long as you're on topic. Some might even include a link to your post in their original post. I've set my blog up so that trackbacks automatically are shown at the bottom of every post.
I also run at least one open post every day, a place where fellow bloggers can trackback any post they want, on any topic. (Well, I'll delete any pure attack pieces or anything I think gets too much inspiration from Jerry Springer...)
6. Finding your tribe
So - you just finished fisking the latest Maureen Dowd column - you've punched hole after hole in her logic, and now you want to find others who are linking her column too. Here are a couple sites you'll find useful.
Memeorandum - this one tells you what certain big blogs are linking too.
There are other options, but these will give you a start. Find others on your topics, link, trackback, comment or
Another way to communicate with fellow bloggers, but in many cases the least useful. I'm more likely to respond to someone who I find via trackback or sitemeter. From time to time I get emails from someone asking me to link something. I do take the time to read such things, but I usually don't have time to devote a post to them. Especially since they could have automatically had a link just by using an open post, or linking one of my posts on the topic. By all means, send me emails, especially if you're a non-blogger with a great tip on a story, or a blogger with a great post. I want to be the guy who discovers you. But also remember you have an automatic option here.
On the other hand, some bloggers don't have open trackback or comments, and they welcome emails. Most will be quick to tell you they prefer a pointer to a specific post than to an entire blog, but few would post their email on their site unless they wanted people to email them. Of course, smaller bloggers will probably be more likely to respond.
You also will want to email your entry into the
Many moons ago I always submitted an entry to the Carnival of the Vanities - a traveling link-fest used to promote a blogger's personal favorite post of the week. "Traveling" because a different blog would host it every week. The final link at the bottom of each week's carnival tells you where next week's will be. So you go to that blog and find the post that gives you guidelines for submissions, follow those instructions, and presto! Glenn Reynolds and lots of other bloggers link the carnival, so a good bit of traffic can flow your way from that source.
Now back to the future: there are lots of carnivals now, for medical blogs, for recipes, for you name it. My advice to you is to visit the Carnival of the Carnivals - it lists them all. See which ones are on topics you write about, find out where the next one will be, and get your post submitted. (Note the compiler of the Carnival of Carnivals has offered it to a new home, perhaps you would like the task?)
Then watch the numbers rack up on those new sitemeters.
You'll also find bloggers in your area of expertise, and as you do, be sure and add them to your
- those lists of great blogs running down the side of every great blog.
Here are some tips for running a blogroll:
Two methods to create a blogroll. 1. Manual - build the links yourself or 2. Use blogrolling.com. With blogrolling you also have an option of their free service or a paid service with more features.
Greyhawk's advice: Use blogrolling's paid option. It's not that much money and it's money spent in the blogosphere, and that's good.
Now, as to building your blogroll. Do: add as many fine blogs as you can. Do Not: Simply put Instapundit, LGF, Hugh Hewitt, PowerLine, and Michelle Malkin, and The Corner on your blogroll and stop. Do add those sites, but do not stop there. Add several smaller blogs too. Are you using the open post trackback feature here? Go visit some of the other blogs that do. Have you checked out the Carnivals I directed you to? I know there are great blogs there, and many would love to exchange links. Blogroll those you like. Leave a comment at their site telling them that you enjoyed your visit and added them to your blogroll. They'll likely be glad to learn that - I know I am when I find a blog that's just linked to me.
Whether you use blogrolling or not, be sure to "ping" blogrolling whenever you put up a new post. This will automatically update other's blogrolls to announce your new post. In some cases "new" will appear by your blog's name (or whatever the site owner has decided) in other's you'll actually move to the top of the list.
Little by little your site visits will begin to creep upwards, and you too will be climbing...
10. The Ecosystem
NZ Bear's Ecosystem is the hub of the blogosphere. This is a comprehensive who's who, a list of the members of the club. This is the community. And if you're a blogger and haven't joined the fun, now is the time. Recent big events in the life of the proprietor had prevented new entries, but it's open again. Enter your blog. You'll find out where you stand and be able to chart your progress in the blogging world. You'll find other blogs - and they'll find you.
NZ also tracks blogs by visits, by the way - if they have an open sitemeter.
There you have it - the power is in your hands. Why would I be so willing to help you out? Because when you become a huge blogger I want you to remember me and link me from time to time, okay? That is how this whole thing works.
1. Get a blog.
2. Get a sitemeter (and a onestat)
3. Leave comments.
4. Use trackback
5. Take advantage of open posts - here, here, and here for example
6. Find your tribe (memeorandum, technorati, etc)
9. Blogroll (and ping it too!)
10. Enter the Ecosystem
(reposted from 2005-04-28 21:12:08)
Newsgator also offers a blogrolling service.Posted by Alan Kellogg at April 24, 2005 05:27 PM
Wow Greyhawk, nice post. Another tip that I have is to develop your own voice. Readers should be able to tell if you are writing at your site or another site without looking at the name...and that will build a "fan base".
I'm not that experienced as a blogger, but that is just my two cents worth :^)Posted by eric at April 25, 2005 01:54 AM
Thanks for that - I'd been meaning to research how to do trackbacks. And I learned a lot from the rest of the post as well. Awesome!Posted by HomefrontSix at April 25, 2005 05:04 AM
As a new blogger there is so much I don't know about yet. You addressed lots of those in this one. Thanks for that. Every bit of G2 helps break the code on this blogging thing.
Since I use Blogspot, I wonder if all the blog programs are as cruddey in terms of entry methods? It is hard to imagine all of them being like that.Posted by NOTR at April 25, 2005 03:24 PM
Great ideas - thanks for the info.
The challenge I face is in running a "business blog" that deals with real estate. Politically I lean right, and read many great blogs...but I don't want to link them because a.) I want people to use the site as an impartial resource and not be turned off of using us as agents because of our politices, and b.) if I blogrolled right-leaning blogs, I'd feel the need to give equal time to left-leaning blogs...and I don't want to do that :-).
But...if those are the blogs I read and respect, and I'm looking for ideas to drive traffic to my site...what's a gal to do??? Inquiring minds want to know....
Very good information. Explained some things I was a bit mystified about, and also placed them in context of their relative importance. One piece of advice: If you are tempted to use Post Nuke for any reason, DON'T. It's not newbie friendly. It doesn't do archive posts worth a flip, and for all of it's vaunted tools, if you really want to make changes to it, you have to know too much PHP. Supposedly, version 8 is going to fix all that. Supposedly, Post Nuke 8 was going to be ready for release about 18 months ago. I know just enough to get myself in trouble with it, and now wish I could undo everything and had never messed with it. When I get time, I'm going to try to replace it with Moveable Type.Posted by ubu at May 2, 2005 03:30 PM
Outstanding! Thanks for the good advice!Posted by Dan Meyer at May 2, 2005 03:51 PM
Thanks for the post, wish you'd had it in Jan. when I was a lost little baby blogger.
Another tool I've found helpful is an aggregator. After you get more than 10 or so blogs that you read daily it helps to have something like bloglines to keep track of new posts all in one place. But that's more on the reading side than the writing side.Posted by Shinobi at May 2, 2005 04:16 PM
I think, Jane N-B, that you have to run a political blog for your own right-wing fun, and the real estate blog for business purposes. We must not unnecessarily confine ourselves to a single blog!Posted by TigerHawk at May 2, 2005 04:54 PM
Great post. I agree with all but the NZ Bear Ecosystem, which I think is broken.
I question the value of the NZ Bear Ecosystem. One of my blogs has been going from 197 inbound links back down to 60 or less and then back up again. What good is that? I think the ecosystem. My blog at http://caveviews.blogs.com has been jumping around even more and I have taken if off that blog.Posted by caveman at May 2, 2005 04:55 PM
The trick to sending email suggesting links is to send links to material you think the bigger blogger will want to write about, rather than to your own postings. "This caught my eye and it looked like something of interest to you." You will get hits off the occasional hat tip, and when you write something that actually is of interest to their readers your chance for a link will have been increased.
A tip of the hat to those thru whom you learn of stuff you write about is not only polite, but can generate extra trackbacks.Posted by triticale at May 2, 2005 05:29 PM
A note on the ecosystem: It's updated once a day. If during that scan blogspot is down no links to your site from blogspot blogs will be recorded. Likewise if one of the big hosts (Hosting Matters, for instance) is briefly down the same thing will happen.
Other things can go wrong too. The real point is if you're worried about your standing in the ecosystem from one day to the next you're probably a little too caught up in the moment. Think long term - and I mean months and years, and don't sweat the daily or weekly ebb and flow.
I suppose I should add this cautionary note: don't let sitemeter, the ecosystem, or technorati drive your blogging. Just keep doing what you're doing and enjoy.
By the way, Pajama's Media looks like a promising source of ad revenue even for smaller blogs - it hadn't been announced as of the time I made this post and it's probably best you determine you're going to stick with blogging before you sign on, but it's definitely a project to watch. (See Roger Simon's post on the topic here)Posted by Greyhawk at May 2, 2005 05:58 PM
This is/was/will continue to be a HUGE help, thanks!Posted by FogCity at May 2, 2005 06:37 PM
Excellent-- I have been blogging for almost a year and still learned a lot from this post. I am posting it on my blog and telling every blogger I know about it. Thanks!Posted by The Hedgehog at May 2, 2005 06:44 PM
Nice highly informative post! I'm taking advantage of your Point # 3 - okay go ahead and "discover" my book blog (www.booklinker.blogspot.com).
I'm still waiting...
Damn Blogosphere...never discovering me when I ask them to! I gonna go mope in the corner.Posted by Dean at May 2, 2005 09:24 PM
I admit it, I happened to be watching CNN this afternoon when they mentioned this post. I figured I would come check it out and you are most helpful. Thanks and if I ever get any readers, I will give you some major props :)
Anyway, I hadn't been here before and plan on checking back frequently. Thanks for the info again.Posted by -E at May 2, 2005 09:42 PM
It goes without saying (although of course that won't stop me from saying it anyway) that the more you write, the more chance you have to be 'discovered,' just because you've got a larger body of work for people to stumble upon via Google. Every once in a while, one of those Googlers may become a regular reader.
As an aside, I ended up taking the sitemeter counter off my archive pages because I thought it was a semi-shady way of inflating my hit count, especially since the vast majority of my hits come from Google. If metering your archive pages is a Best Practice for bloggers, then I guess I'll put them back on!Posted by Chris of Dangerous Logic at May 2, 2005 11:01 PM
NOTR: A personal favourite of mine is to bypass the CMS post screens. w.Bloggar is a simple tool that is almost invaluable in Blogging. It means I can carry .post files around with me, work on them when I have a moment or two free. It's an absolutely gorgeous piece of software.
Thanks Greyhawk, there was a lot of useful info in this post.Posted by tincanman at May 2, 2005 11:55 PM
Thanks for the comment on my site! Hope you had a chance to check out some of the reviews as I do look at military history books on a fairly regular basis. I appreciate the effort to drop by.
Let me know if you have any book recommendations.
A question for anyone reading: Does anyone use moveable type? If so, how is it?Posted by Nathan Lanier at May 3, 2005 02:19 PM
Excellent post! I love the idea behind the "Carnivals" and as a video game blogger, I'd like to start a Carnival of our own. I'll be linking to this when I post this evening and get the ball rolling on our own Carnival.
On the topic of counters, I know Sitemeter is popular but I've really liked StatCounter (statcounter.com). Even though the free version only maintains a log of 100 hits (I'm not sure how many Sitemeter maintains) I really like the interface, the look, and the ease of use.Posted by Tony at May 3, 2005 04:42 PM
Great explanation of what I always call the additional tweaks and bells and whistles when I help someone start a blog. The only thing I would add is that when using a trackback ping, I, for one, am irritated when people ping the post, but don't actually link to the post--especially if you happen to get an Instalanche, etc.Posted by Adam at May 3, 2005 06:33 PM
This is good stuff. I have already started using some of your suggestions.
I actually started a blog before I knew what a blog was. My wife gave birth to our second child and I was using my web site to keep family and friends updated on his condition since he had a long hospital stay. I found out later that my chronological listing of facts was in a sloppy BLOG. I have been slowly converting postings from my original history page to Blog entries. I have been inspired to convert my blog into a book. It should be available at Amazon.com in a few months. Here is the blog:
After reading the advice, I hope I did the trackback right. I will definitely be referring to this post in the future.Posted by Beth at May 3, 2005 09:55 PM
Thanks for the advice. Am printing it off now...then will be off to find by tribe (other than you, of course)!Posted by PJ at May 4, 2005 06:08 AM
I am a person who has recently started blogging. And I have found your article really interesting. And you can be sure that I would try to use some of the ideas you have noted above.
That's a good how-to guide. I found this via a link from a blogger who was entirely too pissy about the whole thing. Obviously this is a beginner's guide not a set of ironclad rules - things that most new bloggers want to know. Once you get started you can do anything you want. Most blogs have comments but there are a lot that don't. I don't have trackback. I don't need one more thing for spammers to abuse. It's all a matter of personal preference but these things are still good to know.Posted by Lynn S at May 5, 2005 06:50 PM
(1) How does a blog differ from a chat room?
(2) What does "URL" mean?
(3) What's the difference between Yes and No at the question "Remember personal info?" above?
Excellent information. I arrived at your site from an article in Business Week and am very grateful that I did because you spelled it all out so well. I recently started a blog and basically followed your site step by step. It worked.Posted by Jonathan at May 10, 2005 05:07 AM
I have two personal and one commercial blog launched, but this is by far the best quick set of start up advice I've seen on free or commercial sites that purport to know. If you have a chance, check out http://christianclassics.blogspot.com. I think you'll find it totally unique among blogs.
I will be adding this ammo to my own writings about blogging on http://advertisingspecialty.blogspot.com also and will link you there and at ideaplace.blogspot.com
Finally. A big hat tip to John Gillmartin at
http://www.sheepcrib.blogspot.com/ for suggesting I visit here.
Good reference here for incorporating other services into your blog like technorati tags and translation:
Another good tip is to get yourself a valid feed for your site, advertise it with a subscription button and then use a service like KingPing to advertise when you update your blog.Posted by SL at September 26, 2005 02:41 PM
This got me to try blogging again. But for some reason I can't get the trackback to work. It keeps rejecting the trackback address from this post.Posted by alecthemad at September 26, 2005 04:48 PM
http://www.deepwaterweb.com/wwwboard/messages/28335.html archinghigherlosePosted by smashing at September 27, 2005 02:56 AM
http://freepanty.xp2001.org/8094318/ hatslikessweatshirtsPosted by smacked at September 29, 2005 11:42 AM
I don't know if I am the only one but to my knowledge there is no way to get this right now. If I am wrong please let me know how to get the on-screen referral log, as I have been trying to get it for months now!
"Another option you might try is the on-screen referral log."Posted by veronika at October 10, 2005 09:05 AM Hide Comments | Show/Add Comments in Popup Window(35) | (Note: You must refresh main page to view newly posted comments here)