An Introduction to Blogging.
[I invited my brother, Paul, to begin blogging on Dave Enjoys. He is taking me up on this offer – so I figured I’d send him an email with some basic information. This information could be useful to others – whether that be someone else who starts blogging with me or someone who decides to start up their own blog. It may also have some tips and tricks that folks who have established blogs aren’t aware of…So instead of sending an email, I’m writing this blog post. The content will be the same – it will just be public so that others can utilize it as they see fit.]
The Lesson Begins
I’m really excited you are going to be blogging on Dave Enjoys. I changed your account to an administrator account. Of course, don’t change any of the administrative settings – but feel free to explore to see how things are configured. If you want, I have another WordPress instance that is just for testing you can play around with – just let me know and I’ll give you the username and password and url for it.
Here is a bunch of information, of varying importance, which you can use to improve your blogging experience. Let me know if you have any questions.
The first thing you should do is setup a Gravatar. This is a universal avatar – it provides a consistent profile picture for your posts on this site and next to comments you make elsewhere around the web. It also lets you setup a mini-profile.
To login you’ll go to http://www.nameofsite.com/wp-admin/ and enter the username and password you created.
Add a Post
Once you are logged in look for Posts on the left-hand navigation bar. If you rest your mouse over it a drop-down menu will pop out and you can select Add New. The Add New Post page consists of a space for the title of your post. This should be something eye-catching and descriptive, but not too wordy. I’m not very good at this – and don’t spend a lot of time figuring out what will really catch folks’ eye, but a good title can make the difference between whether a post has ten visits or eighty thousand (aka, whether it goes viral). So, don’t follow my example and write good, catchy post titles.
The post title is used to create a “permalink” – a permanent link to the post on the blog. For example, the permalink for this post is: http://daveenjoys.com/2013/03/18/an-introduction-to-blogging/. You can edit these links, but usually whatever WordPress comes up with is fine.
After this you have the main body of your post. This is pretty easy – the interface is WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get). I’ll let you figure out this part for yourself other than to note that if you need to manually tweak the HTML for the page you want to click on the Text tab on the top-right, and then back to Visual when you want to use the WYSIWYG interface. Also, you can use the Add Media button to add pictures, audio, and video to a post and the small icon immediately to the right of that allows you to add a custom form to a post, but you probably won’t be using that.
I run a plugin on WordPress called Zemanta. This plugin “reads” what you are righting and then provides helpful content you can include in your post:
- On the right-hand side it provides pictures that may be related to your post. Usually they are decently relevant, but not always. I find the search functionality to be fairly useless. You also want to see what sort of license the picture/image has – they need to be public domain, fair-use, CC AttributionOnly, or etc. They should not be CC NonCommercial, etc.
- When inserting an image don’t put the cursor at the beginning of the post. Instead move it down a paragraph or two and then insert it. If you put it at the beginning that is what appears in email subscriptions and RSS feeds, oftentimes as a jumble of HTML code – not very appealing. You can play around with positioning the image on the left/right as you wish.
- Below the images you’ll see related articles. You can click on these to add an image and a link to multiple articles at the end of your post. You can add up to ten articles to a post.
- Look at how old a post is, usually relevant posts should be from within the last few weeks to months time span.
- By linking to relevant articles you oftentimes get a link back – its a way of mutually promoting posts. Look for sites that aren’t “the big ones” – as they likely have trackbacks turned off, but smaller sites similar to this one will likely have them on.
- Underneath the post body you’ll see in-text links. This provides you with a number of links to topics Zemanta noticed are in your post – for example, in this post Zemanta has picked up on my utilization of the words, “WordPress”, “WYSIWYG”, “Zemanta”, “blogging”, and so on.
- Zemanta only makes into a link the first usage of the words you choose on the post. Any further instances will just be plain text.
- If you rest your mouse over the word next to in-text links you’ll see a drop-down of options for where you want to send folks who click on the link – for example, to a Wikipedia page or the official product page, etc.
- Don’t add links just b/c Zemanta picks them out. Sometimes you really don’t need to link to a page on the topic. For example, if you are talking about “TV” linking to a Wikipedia article on “TV” is not likely to be highly interesting to your readers.
- At the bottom right you’ll notice tags, we’ll talk more about tags in a bit, but basically Zemanta suggests tags that might be appropriate for this post.
Your next task is to add the post to one or more categories. For example, this post will be added to the “learning”, “productivity”, “technology”, “web”, and “work” categories. We’ll also remove “uncategorized” from the post. In general, each post should fit into a category.
What About Tags?
So a category gives us a big picture of what an article is about – but what if we talk about a lot of other topics tangentially within a post? Then tags come in handy. Tags generally duplicate categories but then expand beyond them. For example, applicable tags to this post might be “Zemanta”, “WordPress”, “Creative Commons”, “WYSIWYG”, and so on. We don’t want to have billions of categories, but having numerous tags is fine.
Zemanta provides you with recommended tags, but you can also click on “Choose from most used tags” to get ideas of what tags to use (this pulls the most-used tags on this site, not from everywhere). You can also manually enter your own tags.
You’ll notice on the right hand side above “Publish” it says “Publicize.” You don’t need to do anything here – just note that it automatically posts to the Dave Enjoys Facebook page and to the Dave Enjoys Twitter page whenever a new post is published.
Now you are ready to make your post visible to the entire world, so click Publish. Once you’ve published a link will appear at the top of the page that will allow you to view your post. Make sure everything looks correct, if anything is messed up, fix it and then update the post.
The creation of a post isn’t the end of the job. How will anyone hear about this post? Yes, its been posted to the Facebook and Twitter pages for Dave Enjoys and an email has been dispatched to subscribers of Dave Enjoys, and further individuals will read it when it appears in their RSS feeds – but there is more that can be done to promote the post:
- Share the post on your own Facebook wall, this way your friends will see the post, not just Dave Enjoys fans.
- Retweet the post on your personal Twitter account for the same reason.
- If the post is relevant, post it to StumbleUpon. This is a simple thumbs up using their toolbar.
- Note at the bottom of the post the options to share to Digg and Reddit – share as appropriate. You can also publicize to other services such as Slashdot if you want.
Care for It.
The final step in publishing a blog post is in continuing to care for it. Folks will read your post and comment on it (you hope). If they do you want to honor their investment of time by responding to each comment personally. If the comments are crazy, spammy, etc. then no need – but each thoughtful comment should receive a thoughtful reply.
Well, that pretty much sums it up. Hopefully this will help you get started. Let me know if you have any questions!
- Believe it or not, I’ve had posts blow up a few times in the past, usually entirely accidentally.↩