Blogging has allowed both businesses and individuals to have an online presence, tell readers about their product or passion, or even just keep friends and family up to date with their day-to-day life.
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According to research by Neilsen/Netratings, more than 23 per cent of online Brits have already posted a blog while 39 per cent have read one... so if you are yet to join them, perhaps now is the time to get started.
Anyone with an internet connection and an email address can set up a blog - the question is why do you want one? Before you get down to the business of setting up your site, consider what it is you want to say.
Are you hoping to promote your business? Then it's important to realise that if your regular posts come across as one, long hard sell, you are likely to lose readers quickly. If you are hoping to share your thoughts on a particular passion, do you have enough to say to consistently fill regular (interesting) posts that readers will keep coming back for?
Ideally you want to decide upon your audience and target them if you are to create an effective and successful blog. Done well and with the right appeal, an interesting and informative blog can draw a wide audience from across the world. For businesses, that can mean driving more traffic to your own website.
To check out what other successful bloggers are writing about, take a look at Technorati's Popular Blogs page.
Once you've decided on your subject matter, you will need to download blog software and get your site up and running.
The good news is that there are plenty of sites where you can download free blog software, which allows you to design and update your site easily. WordPress, Blogger and Typepad are a few of the most commonly used, and these allow you to simply manage your blog.
If an online diary or journal is all you are planning to create, services such as LiveJournal and Tumblr are free, easy to use and can be up and running in a matter of minutes.
When it comes to the name of your blog, you have two choices - choose a hosted blogging platform such as WordPress, Blogger or Typepad, all of which can provide ready-designed templates, a web address and easy-to-use editing for novice bloggers. The downside is that you may not have a great deal of flexibility in terms of design, and your address will include the name of the blog service (ie. www.yourname.wordpress.com).
Alternatively, you may decide to buy your own domain name (check availability at DomainsBot or NameBoy) and then purchase it from one of the many online hosting sites such as GoDaddy or Network Solutions. Once you have set up your blog with WordPress or whoever you have decided to go with, you are able to direct your domain name to the blog.
Doing things this way may prove more expensive (though most online hosting sites charge only a small fee) and you may also need a little more technical expertise - but the plus side is that you will have more flexibility in terms of design and the domain name of your choice.
With your hosted site sorted and your software downloaded, it's time to start writing your blog. Before you put the domain name out into the blogosphere, it's worth having a play around with your blog's content management or editing capabilities. For instance, you will be able to upload images, video and audio as well as text, but ensure you know what you are doing so that your blog looks as professional as possible when the hits start rolling in.
Then it's time to get down to the business of writing your blog. The tone of your online journal should be consistent and appeal to your target audience. If you are writing an online diary or your subject matter is of a light-hearted nature, then the tone of your writing should reflect that. Obviously if your blog is an extension of your business, then keep things professional but interesting and informative, NOT one long sales pitch.
It's also essential to blog regularly. If nothing happens for a month then any initial visitors to the site will quickly lose interest. On the flip side, uploading too many posts with nothing new to say will have much the same effect. Add posts at a regular point during the week or time of the day and your audience will quickly know when to check your site for the next instalment.
Keeping things varied, particularly if your blog is aimed at promoting your business, will also help to hold the attention of your readers. Try adding interviews with relevant industry experts, helpful 'tips of the week' or commentary on the week's related news stories.
After that, the blogosphere is your oyster, so have fun with it.
Are you a keen blogger? What's the secret to your success? Leave your comments below...