How to Blog 101 – The Ultimate Beginner’s Blogging Tutorial

Kent Shaffer —  October 15, 2013
Updated version of an earlier article.

I regularly get asked questions about how to start and maintain a successful blog. Here is my beginner’s blogging tutorial – How to Blog 101.

#1 :: CHOOSE A BLOGGING PLATFORM

I recommend self-hosting your blog and using WordPress. It the most popular platform among Technorati’s top 100 blogs and among Church Relevance’s top church blogs. Tumblr is on a major growth trajectory and is especially popular with teens and 20-somethings.

Self-Hosted Blogging Software:

Blogging Services (hosting provided):

Other options include LiveJournal, Blog.com, Weebly, and Wix (these last two are really websites with blog options).

#2 :: FIND A DOMAIN (if allowed)

As long as it is relevant, the shorter the domain is the better. A short domain is quick and easy to type, which will save you time in the long run and reduce the probability of you and your visitors mistyping it. Some of the tools

#3 :: DESIGN YOUR BLOG

Being a web designer or hiring one is no longer necessity. WordPress has thousands of template designs for sale and for free that are not too complicated to implement. If you are just starting out with blogging, we typically recommend finding an inexpensive theme/template (under $50). If you are just starting out, but do have a design budget, we typically recommend spending it on branding (logo and brand usage guidelines) rather than development.

Free WordPress Themes

Note: Most website themes also have a blog-as-home option.

Premium WordPress Themes

#4 :: USE TOOLS

WordPress is a great platform, but there are tools and plugins that can make it even better. I recommend at least using the following tools:

  • Google Analytics – free stats about where your visitors come from and how they interact with your site
  • Akismet Plugin – tracks spammers and helps keep them off your blog
  • WordPress SEO by Yoast – The first true all-in-one SEO solution for WordPress, including on-page content analysis, XML sitemaps and much more.
  • WWW Redirect – Redirects variations of identical domain requests to a consistent uri (i.e. http://abc.com to http://www.abc.com )
  • Redirection – Manage all your 301 redirects and monitor 404 errors
  • WordPress Database Backup Plugin – easily backup your core WordPress database

Other Tools:

  • ClickTale – provides movies and heatmaps of your visitors’ actual browsing sessions
  • Crazy Egg – supplement your analytics with stunning visuals and actionable data
  • Creative Commons – easily mark your work with copyright freedoms
  • Wufoo – Online form builder with cloud storage database.
  • PollDaddy – create free online surveys and polls for your blog

#5 :: HAVE QUALITY CONTENT

An aesthetically well-designed blog may entice visitors to linger for the first visit, but quality content is what will get those visitors to keep coming back. If you need topics, visit these resources:

  • Google Alerts – Emails from google containing the latest content on keywords of your choice
  • Reddit – users decide the top stories
  • Digg – discover and share content from anywhere on the web
  • Pinterest – A tool used to collect and organizing images of things you love.
  • StumbleUpon – discovers web sites based on your interests
  • Flipboard (iOS and Android)
  • Alltop – an “online magazine rack” of popular topics

#6 :: STUDY BLOGGING

If you want people to read your quality content, study the science of successful blogging and copywriting. Writing for a blog is different than writing for a book or magazine. My advice:

Unless you are blogging for personal reasons, focus on optimizing the reader experience. Offer only quality content. And make it scannable by using short paragraphs, bold text, and bullet points. Use as few words as possible without compromising quality (needless words waste readers’ time). And if possible, post consistently often.

Blogging Tips:

#7 :: MARKET YOURSELF

With blogging, two of your most powerful marketing opportunities are Search Engine Optimization and leveraging social media. Last year, 57% of ChurchRelevance.com’s traffic came from search engines. You should be using these resources:

  • Google Keyword Tool – discover which keywords and phrases are searched for the most. I use this often. In fact, three highly-searched keyphrases are in this post’s title.
  • Facebook – a popular social network likely used by many readers (follow me)
  • LinkedIn – a popular social network for professionals (follow me)
  • Twitter – stay hyperconnected to readers with this microblogging tool (follow me)
  • Google+ – the second largest social network which factors into Google’s search algorithms
  • Pinterest – A tool used to collect and organizing images of things you love.
  • Social Media Posting Guide - For regular people that do not have unlimited resources and time

WHAT ELSE?

Remember this is just the beginner’s blogging tutorial. But if you read all of these links, you will be on your way to becoming a blogging expert.

If you are already blogging, what would you add to this list?
What are your favorite tools?
What is your best advice?

Kent Shaffer

Posts Twitter Facebook

I live in an RV with my wife and 2 kids and work with OpenChurch.com to help Christians collaborate and build a global Church library of free, open content.

33 responses to How to Blog 101 – The Ultimate Beginner’s Blogging Tutorial

  1. That is a powerful list of resources! This list of setup information will help so many get their sites launched more effectively. And, I picked up a few new things for SEO work. Thanks!

  2. Another easy-top-setup platform is Tumblr (http://tumblr.com).

    Otherwise, a fantastic list!

  3. I’d add posterous to the list of simple platforms to start on. http://posterous.com/

    Nice work.

  4. I think this is an excellent post, as you have chosen the right resources. The fact that you intend to do this for beginners, I am glad you did not yet include the topic concerning making money from a blog.

    Making money from blogging is one thing I don’t discuss to beginners simply because they suddenly stick to their minds that there is really fast money from blogging.

    Actually, there is which is why most of us here. But I think one thing that beginners should realize that they need a lot to learn, analyze, and experiment before they can really make money from their blogs.

    Most beginners don’t realize that making money from blogging is entering a business that needs investment, time, focus, and dedication. The investment may require money in most cases, but one should know when to spend and when he should not.

    So my best advice for beginners so far – relax, learn, and enjoy. Don’t think about making money from your blog this early. The more you think about it, the more you will not get it. But if you are able to understand all the things that you should learn, then perform experiments. But note that what works for A may not work for B. Most of the times, failure will occur. But in those failures that we will learn more and before you know it, you are already making money from your blog.

    But the main thing is – Always be useful to others. After all, this is what GOD wants us to be.

  5. for me, wordpress is best of the best blog engine and all in one seo plugin is best of the best seo tool for wordpress…it is smart tool to optimize wordpress blog

  6. You can find really easy to install and widget ready themes at DailyWPTheme. They have been providing the most quality and simple to use Premium WordPress themes.

  7. especially if we want to make a business blog wordpress is the best cms to use thanks for sharing :)

  8. thanks . the post are very useful .

  9. I would just like to know how to PARTICIPATE in a discussion on a blog. How do you post, how do you re-access your post later. How do you get a comment about a specific post that someone else has made associated with that post. how to you find comments about a specific topic. Blogging is very intimidating to me and i have no idea how to actually use them.

  10. I might add–what is a retweat? and how does it differ from a share?

  11. @April You’ll be pleased to know that you’ve just participated in a blog discussion. If you Google search for “blog tutorials” you’ll find great answers to your questions and more!

  12. Is there anyplace to get tutorial/instruction that assumes NO KNOWLEDGE WHATEVER???
    I use computer for word processing books, heavily into internet research, but so help me I CAN’T seem to get anywhere with blogging. I should have a blog. I should have that or go on Facebook. But it is all TOO MUCH!! I think I’m smart, no dementia I know of, 90 but very active and live alone and read, read, etc. Should I give up on self-teaching and sign up for a community college hands-on course? I have taught myself over my retirement years everything from how to typeset books for others, to how to self-publish and write books of my own — one of which was picked up by major publisher and i edited two editions for them. Blogging has me totally frustrated.

    I’m an old lady with a new book I want to promote — not SELL the book directly, but publicize so that people go to my website where there is a link to POD author page. I WANT to blog, think I have the ease of writing/typing skills to respond and initiate. But the problem is the overwhelming amount of material and jargon. I printed out a New Blogger Tutorial at Master Point Press last night. Haven’t digested it yet but SEEMS TO BE very step-by-step for Word Press, and in jargon-free English.

    Yours seems like a great RESOURCE — i.e., for first time I understand what the devil Declicious is!!!!

    Does ANYBODY ever tell y ou how to keep track of what you’re doing???? Example. I responded to a Huffington Post article on pros and cons of social drinking (I’d like to have my signature of Aurora1920 become my trademark on HP plus Daily Beast, plus topical blogging in areas of playing bridge, lifestyles of seniors and boomers, food history (my book is a combination of pop culture of sociable bridge, retro lifestyles, food history 20s-60s).

    Today I tried to FIND what I successfully posted — where is it?????? I need HELP or directions to other people like me who really need step-by-step.

    maggy (aurora1920)

    I

  13. @Maggy

    Probably the easiest place to get the one-on-one guidance you are looking for is the community college course you mention. Having someone who can personally walk you through it would probably get you to where you want to be.

  14. This is an excellent resource for anyone just starting out like myself.
    I know a good deal about traditional marketing and promotions and so I am eager to share it with everyone out there.
    I can post blogs, set up pages etc. but I am stuck on things like tags, categories, archiving and so on.
    How do you set up your home page so that just the first 10 lines or so of a new blog appear on that page and then set up a Read More link to take them directly to the rest of that blog entry AND ONLY that entry?
    Right now my Read More links merely take readers to another blog page on there which is filled with blog entries in no particular order. I have no doubt readers find that annoying, which does me more harm than good.
    Excellent work by the way.
    Wayne

  15. @Wayne

    Good questions! The answers may vary depending on what blogging platform you use. I recommend Googling “WordPress tutorials” or “Blogspot tutorials” or whatever platform you might be using. There are thousands of informative blogging how-to articles that should answer those questions plus teach you many more valuable tricks.

  16. As far as I’m concerned, the thing to remember about blogging is why. The answer to that question will differ between people. The “personal blogger” isn’t going to be interested nor willing to shell out the money for self-hosting (and, trust me, hosting it from your PC is the ultimate BIG MISTAKE unless you have the time, knowledge, and money to set up your own server … in which case you’re not in this category).

    Blogs used to be simple platforms for individuals to share their lives. Yeah, we’ve got Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace for that now. Blogs, though, can still be personal. Don’t worry about a lack of followers. Forget about “monetizing” your blog, at least for now. Just do it.

  17. I wrote a desperate sounding comment here back on May 29th. This is a progress report.

    Here, it is December and I’m about to launch–not exac tly a blog, but a totally new website the essence of which will be an e-zine Bridge Table Chronicles. Will have four categories of comment and LOOK like an an e-zine, but part 4 (Nonagenarian Notions) will be something like a blog. Also will be a weekly, more reminiscent of a blog.

    I did do a lot of reading after that May post and came to conclusion that combining my drifty, unfocused nature with the no-end-in-sight nature of blogging was a poor fit. Psychologic ally that is. Decided I NEEDED structure of a regularly-scheduled e-zine with a format, that could be archived far more likely I could achieve. One section of the e-zine (4) may come to be blog-like — if that’s the way it turns out, fine with me.

    Didn’t commit until November. Then came question — but how can I do this? Finally dec ided WordPress best. Then I lucked into Googling up Delta Oaks Design offering just that WordPress sites. [I was almost believing some stuff I read that even I could set up WordPress myself–then my good sense intervened. I DID KNOW more now, had more perspec tive, but doing the technical aspects would have taken months and aborted all enthusiasm for the project. Delta Oaks was affordable and turned out to be right on my wavelength.

    If all goes well I will have a new website as of January 1st. Going from zero to a weekly scares me a bit, but since my topic is about sociable bridge as popular culture, an extension of book Bridge Table or What’s Trump Anyway? and there are 52 cards in a deck, 52 weeks in the year, decided God meant this to be a weekly. Besides I’m more likely to succeed than with a monthly — too much time to drift off, become unfocused.

    Have you ever had a life situation where you wrote to someone everyday, before you ever had time to wait for an answer to a letter? My experience is it’s somehow easier than a spaced out correspondence. May have to keep it short at first till I get hang of actually in-putting content myself BUT I still think a short-time span schedule for ME is better.

    So stop by sometime after January 1 and see how I’m doing. I will con tinue watching this website. If I get through Blogging 101′s list beyond III above before I die, I do not know. Will keep me busy and happy anyway.

  18. @Maggy

    Congrats on progress!

  19. two part question, if I may:

    1 – i own a domain but do not use it much … other than from a marketing perspective, are tehre any technical/operational reasons to attach a blog to your own domain vs using provided for free by the blog platform you chose?

    2 -would like to create a blog, at minimal cost, that will have selected news stories aggregated based on criteria and key words I select. What do you recommend as a nice free or very low cost plug in/interface that will automatically gather up news stories based on my search criteria and display them in my blog in a ncie, magazine-like manner?

    Thank you. let me add that I am tech savvy but skill poor when it comes to this. i can follow instructions but have no experiecne as yet with blogs, i have built websites using WYSIWYG tools but do nto really code in HTML nor any other language. Thanks!

  20. @tru beginner ja

    Given your situation, I recommend going with the free blog platform url. I am not familiar with any plugins that do what you are asking, but I would imagine that something like that exists.

  21. Thanks for the reply Kent. Will do more research. Happy New Year!

  22. Do you mind if I quote a couple of your posts as long as I provide credit and sources back to your website? My website is in the very same area of interest as yours and my visitors would genuinely benefit from a lot of the information you present here. Please let me know if this ok with you. Regards!

  23. @Jamar

    Yes, you may quote.

  24. Great article. I picked up quite a few new tips from it. Keep up the great work.

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