From the Archive: More Things to Consider When Setting Up a Blog

Blogging

Last fall, I briefly experimented with a separate blog dedicated to writerly things. Within a couple of weeks, I decided I wanted to just included everything over here at Being and Formulating and abandoned that idea. For that short-lived blog, I included a couple of posts about things to consider when setting up a blog. I had forgotten about these posts until recently when a friend and fellow writer started his own blog and had some questions about the process, so I decided to repost them here. I would also recommend checking out his new blog, because SEATravelZombie.

Here’s Part Two:

In my last post, I listed some of the more important things to consider before starting a blog; however, that list is by no mean all inclusive.

Allowing Comments

One of the important aspects of starting a blog is the ability to tap into its social nature. But when you are starting out, you may want to suppress comments until you are comfortable with putting yourself out on the web. Many blogging platforms allow you to turn off comments.

If you are concerned about comments, you also have the option to moderate them so that nothing gets posted without your approval. In WordPress, you can set it up so that once a user is approved, future comments from that user will get automatically approved. One of the drawbacks with approving comments is that it creates lag time between when the person comments and when that comment appears on your blog. But approving comments is a compromise between shutting the discussion down altogether and allowing any and all comments.

Despite decent spam filters, spam comments with slip through, so I recommend moderating, but you do want to be attentive to it so that legitimate comments don’t linger.

There’s some arguments made suggesting that if you post your blog posts to Facebook or Twitter (see below) that you can allow the social interaction happen there and not have comments on your blog.

Although you do have options for restricting comments, I don’t see any reason to not allow moderated comments because you want to be creating a dialog. You can change your preference about comments at anytime, but you may want to decide before starting your blog because you’ll be setting up expectations with your audience.

You also have the option of allowing pingbacks, which means that if another blog quotes your blog, it will show up as a comment on your blog. This can be helpful in creating a link between your blog and an pertinent discussion happening elsewhere, but pingbacks can look a little unsightly because what you often see will be a truncated quote from the other blog.

Helpful links:

Widgets

With WordPress, you can include what are known as widgets in your sidebar and footers on your home page (but not necessarily on individual posts). Depending on the theme you choose, you’ll have a variety of options. One thing to consider is giving your users ways to follow your posts. I include a link to follow the RSS feed and a box to sign up for getting email updates whenever I have a new post. If you connect your blog to Facebook, you can include a “like” button.

Because I write at several blogs, I include the feeds for those as a widget as well. These feeds show the titles of the last three posts for each blog. I am a co-author for the food blog I write for, so I opted to include the author’s name in addition to the title so that I can give proper credit.

I also have a Twitter account associated with this blog, so I include my five most recent tweets.

In order to give readers access to prior posts, I include a calendar for the current month and a drop down box for previous months. One other access point I use is a list of top posts and pages. If you use this feature, be aware that it takes a while for it to populate. You need a healthy flow of traffic before the widget can detect popular posts.

You can also install plugins that will provide 3rd party widgets for even more options.

Linking to Facebook and Twitter

Pushing your blog posts to Facebook and Twitter is easier than ever, at least with WordPress which now has a built in service called Publicize. Using this service, you can automatically send new posts to your Twitter feed or Facebook profile or page. These are things you can consider adding later, but you may want to consider setting these up from the start so that anyone interested in your posts can follow them in whatever format they prefer. I offer readers the option to subscribe to my RSS feed, receive emails, follow my Facebook page or follow my Twitter feed.

One of the useful things about having a Facebook page and Twitter account is that it’s easier to facilitate social interaction. People are often more inclined to comment on one of these services rather than comment on a blog because they are more used to doing so. In addition, you can post more things than just your blog feeds.

If you are using a platform that does not have native support for pushing posts to various social networks, you can use a service like Twitterfeed, which also provides some statistics about your traffic.

Of course, Facebook and Twitter are not the only two social networks out there. Because they are the most popular, they are great places to get started.

Helpful Links:

Including Ads

Including ads on your site is something you want to think about prior to starting your blog. I’m pretty new to using ads on my blogs and still have a lot to learn. I’ve opted to start with Google Adsense since it was relatively easy to set-up. However, I discovered that hosted WordPress sites do not allow the use of ads. So if you think you might want to use ads, you will have to consider having a self-hosted site. Hosted WordPress sites also don’t provide a way to utilize Google Analytics, which is a great way to monitor visitors to your site.

I have briefly covered some of the main things you want to think about before starting a blog. As I continue to work on improving my web presence, I will share what I learn.