FAQs for Beginning Bloggers

by Melanie Nelson*

I just returned from BlogHer 2008 in San Franciso. I appeared on a panel with four other women called FAQs for Beginning Bloggers. Our panel was flat-out amazing. We met fantastic bloggers and answered many beginner questions. Unfortunately, we didn’t have enough time to answer everyone’s questions. I hope to talk to the BlogHer Three (Lisa, Jory, and Elisa) to discuss having this panel again next year and including a Birds of a Feather Room so we can continue our discussions.

Below you will find my notes from my portion of the panel. After each of the presenters (me, Michele Mitchell of Scribbit, Nelly Yusopova of Webgrrls International, and Shazia Mistry of Adventures in Motherhood) gave a short overview of some basic FAQs, we broke into smaller groups discuss platform-specific questions (i.e., TypePad, Blogger, and WordPress).

We have also compiled a Blogging Resources Document (pdf) for you to download.

In addition, you can find Nelly’s notes at WebGrrrls and Michele’s notes at Scribbit.

How do I find basic html resources to help me remember how to do things like strike-thrus etc.?

When I research information for Blogging Basics 101, I start with a Google search of key words. I also go to each of the three main platforms (Blogger, TypePad, and WordPress) and search their help files with those same key words. More often than not, I find what I’m looking for.

The following five sites are excellent resources for all bloggers to refresh your memory on how to do things like strike-throughs or add a button to your sidebar.

  • Blogging Basics 101: This site starts from the beginning and walks you through everything from choosing your blog host and choosing a blog name to figuring out how to do a strike-through and customize your sidebars.
  • Blogger Buster: Blogger users should have this one in their bookmarks. Everything you want to know and then some about how to manage and customize your Blogger blog.
  • Edublogger: This site is specifically written for people who design, develop, and use educational blogs. However, the information spans niches and is valuable to all bloggers. The author uses many screen captures to make instructions especially easy to follow.
  • BlogWell: This site offers everything from theory and design articles to HTML and CSS instruction for WordPress. It is targeted to small businesses and non-profits.
  • Lorelle on WordPress: As the name suggests, this blog focuses on WordPress.org and WordPress.com blogs and how to take them to the next level. Lorelle provides tips, advice, and techniques for WordPress bloggers.

What are and how do I create permalinks?

A permalink is the link to an individual blog post. These are important because if you ever need to link to an exact blog entry (e.g., for a carnival or an archived post), you use the permalink as your link. It’s poor blog etiquette not to use the permalink.

If you don’t use the permalink, you’ll just be linking to your main blog page. The problem with that is that, as you post new blog entries, the newest entry appears at the top of your main blog page and the other entries are pushed down on the page. The entry your readers are looking for may be down at the bottom of the page or already in the archives; your reader has no idea where to find the entry! If they click over to your site expecting to see a post specific to a carnival and they see a different post, they may not take the time to find the "real" post they’re looking for.

You can find the permalink link under any blog entry. However, not all blog hosts/designs handle permalinks the same way.

  • Typepad: There’s a link that actually says Permalink under the entry.
  • Blogger: The link varies. It’s usually the time stamp of the post or the title.
  • WordPress: Has a link at the bottom of the post named Permalink and/or the title of the post.

What kind of basic sections should I have in my blog?

I take this to mean What should I place in my sidebar? Your sidebar is your list of things you want to keep handy for your readers and for yourself. Your sidebar is offering your readers something in addition to the day’s post. However, too many links in the sidebar can clutter your design and overwhelm your audience. Keep things clean and orderly.

  • Recent Posts/Most popular posts/Archives: You don’t need all three. Just choose one of these.
  • Categories or Search: I find that search works well for my blogs, because I have a long list of categories. The search takes up less space and is an easy-to-install widget from Widgetbox.
  • About Me/E-mail/Contact information: This is your opportunity to explain your blog. E-mail or other contact information should be readily available so your readers (or PR and marketing people) can contact you.
  • RSS subscription button: Blogging Basics 101 has an entire section on RSS and installation and you can review Nelly’s notes at WebGrrrls as well.
  • Blogroll (if you choose to do one)

Hosted vs. Non-Hosted?

Hosted: A blog that resides on the host’s server (e.g., Blogger or TypePad or WordPress.com).

Non-hosted: A blog that resides on the user’s (yours) server. You pay a third-party to host your blog (e.g., Moveable Type or WordPress.org).

Hosted Pros: Easy to get started because you don’t have to worry about server issues.

Hosted Cons:

  • Blogger blogs can appear to be less professional
  • Platform limitations (e.g., archiving can be less than
    user-friendly; TypePad can have issues with comment spam and trackback
    spam; difficult SEO)
  • Less control over HTML and CSS
  • WordPress.com does not allow advertising.

Non-Hosted Pros:

  • Control over permalinks (articles aren’t randomly named) which can help with SEO
  • Control over how archives are managed
  • Control over CSS/HTML

Non-Hosted Cons:

  • WordPress.org only supports one blog per installation; however, Moveable Type supports multiple blogs per installation.
  • Moveable Type isn’t as malleable as WordPress.org.

How do I make a custom header?

  • Using GIMP (free to download) to make custom blog banner (via Simply A Musing Blog)
  • How to use PhotoShop or PhotoShop Elements to design a custom blog header (via DesignMom)

To those of you who joined us, thank you! It was a pleasure meeting
you. Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have additional questions. For those of you who were unable to attend our panel or BlogHer ’08, please follow the links to our Blogging Resources Document and panel notes. I’d love to hear from you if you have questions!

I am cross-posting this at Blogging Basics 101 and BlogHer.com.



Email Author    |    Website About Melanie Nelson*

Melanie answers your basic blogging questions Monday through Friday at Blogging Basics 101 (http://www.bloggingbasics101.com). If you'd like to submit a question, you can e-mail her at bloggingbasics101@gmail.com.

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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Doll Clothes Gal July 27, 2008 at 5:19 pm

Great tips – thanks. It is so refreshing to come across professional looking blogs.

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2 casual friday everyday July 27, 2008 at 7:02 pm

Very good information that we all can use. Thank you for sharing.

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3 Susan July 27, 2008 at 8:50 pm

Thanks Melanie! This is such a helpful post, we’re so glad you shared it here.

(And it was so fabulous meeting and hanging out with you at BlogHer.)

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4 Christi July 27, 2008 at 9:32 pm

Thanks for the tips, and for the PDF file!

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5 candeelady July 28, 2008 at 12:32 am

Thankyou so much, I have several sites I check for info but they are so ” geek tech savy” heavy I can’t figure it out. The file is my new best friend!!!!

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6 Nodins Nest July 28, 2008 at 9:07 am

Thanks so much for this, I needed some of this info badly!

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7 michelle July 28, 2008 at 1:26 pm

Thanks so much for this post and update from BlogHer08! This information is so helpful, we are grateful to have probloggers like you!

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8 Amy July 28, 2008 at 7:17 pm

Thanks for all the great info! I’ve been needing a simple photo editor and gimp is just what I needed to fill in the gap :)

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9 Jacki July 29, 2008 at 9:40 am

We live on a farm in Vermont. I’ve been told I should have a blog. 7 kids (and then some), 60 goats, 30 cows, pigs, chickens, pigs, bunnies and a llama. Never ending fun?
I’m just not sure where or how to begin. I’ll have to read thru all of your info and figure it all out. Thanks.

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10 Erika -- Chic Shopper Chick July 29, 2008 at 12:18 pm

This is such a helpful article, thank you. I am bookmarking this so that I can keep coming back when I have questions. It’s so daunting to start out as a new blogger, and resources like this make all of the difference!

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11 Lid August 6, 2008 at 8:38 pm

Howdy,

Just wanted to stop by and say thank you for including us here. I love discovering new sites, and what a nice way to explore.

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12 Dee August 31, 2008 at 9:34 pm

This is great information, I just started blogging in July, and I’m certain I’ll be frequently visiting your column…thanks for sharing!

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