How to Start and Write a Good Blog

Starting a blog is very fun and easy. Maintaining a blog is very fun and easy. Keeping and finding readers, that is the challenge. And the playing field changes every day, so you've got to keep your ear to the ground, or your eyes on the screen, and keep experimenting with ideas that may work for your blog.

This blog was started by accident. In order to comment on a friend's blog in Blogger, I had to create a Blogger Account. Hers was mouse-themed, and I had just created a fashion mouse toy for cats called a "fashionmista," so I called this blog FashionMista. Then the blog became a publicity arm for my design business, Katie James to announce products and track the movements of an entrepreneur. That got a little slow/boring, as I'm not made of money, so I wasn't churning out products every month, so I started featuring other designers and curious products on the blog as well. And you can't have a blog without some kind of love interest, so my boyfriend gets to be featured (he has no choice in the matter), and of course the stars of the show, the cats Dinah and Oliver, and my dog Gerdy.

I took these questions came from an actual person who could potentially create a great blog, and I'm happy to link to her when she creates her blog. I'll give my take on them. If there are other bloggers reading this, please feel free to comment with your own advice/experience.

Is there a particular host that is better than another? (Blogger? Wordpress? Typepad?)

Depends what you mean by "better." I think this is answered in design templates (for those who do not want a custom design); user-friendly admin area for creating posts and editing the side panel of featured links; and who the company is behind the blogging software. If finance is a factor, Blogger and Wordpress offer free blogs with simple design templates. Typepad does charge a fee, but may have slightly better design templates to chose from.

Template Design
Design is pretty important. Currently, this blog uses a design template. I am a designer, but have not made the time to focus on my own blog to redesign it. Therefore, like non-designers, I am at the mercy of blog templates. Blogger's are pretty lame, to be honest (except for mine, of course). They are basically text and colors, which you can change whenever you like, which is a perk. Wordpress has a greater variety, but you cannot change link or text colors, etc. They are more image based, so they are less flexible to play with.

User Friendly Admin Area
Blogger and Wordpress: I'm partial to Blogger because I've been using it for so long, but it's just so darn easy. The Help is not so helpful, but there are plenty of others out there who can help. I like a lot. I've used Wordpress, and they have made up words for simple things like Link Lists on the side of the blog. Blogger calls a link list a "Link Lists." Wordpress might call them Wrtyesti or something unique to them. Then you have to go into their help section to see what the heck it means. There are also several main areas to go into in order to change components of your site. Blogger has 3, and then has sub areas. For example, Wordpress may have 7 main areas, and then several sub areas within that. It has a section for adding/editing static pages, or a section for dealing with posts, or a section for adding "widgets" to the side panel. It's just easier on Blogger, which offers many of the same thing, except the static pages feature. But even that isn't that big of a deal if you just create a main link for a post in your side bar. Look to the side of this blog and see a link for "Conversations for Emerging Designers." This is just a blog post, but I treat it like a "static page." Blogger just rolled out their new way of editing templates, which involves a lot of easy drag and drop features into the side panel. I love this, and am currently checking to see if the drag and drop features are still available if one uses a custom designed template, vs one of theirs. Bottom line: I was not impressed with the admin area at Wordpress.
Typepad: Typepad is ok...but I have not used the main functions of it. I have only created and edited posts for another blog, so I can't really give a good analysis here. But it is a very clean and crisp place.

Company Behind the Blogging Software
Blogger is owned by Google. As an owner of 2 shares, bought on the day they went public, I'm a little partial. ;) But, being that the service is free, changes are a little slow to happen. Wordpress and Typepad are fee based, so that kind of business model puts a little pressure on the company to grow and increase their features more quickly. That said, Google is Google, and they keep coming out with cool stuff that works with eachother. Many people love Wordpress, especially programmers because it is easy to customize IF you are hosting it yourself (this means you pay a hosting company to host your blog, and your files are kept on your server).

If you're going to host your blog yourself, using the above mentioned blogging platforms, I recommend Dotster. They have friendly customer service you can call over the phone, 24/7.

How do you build readership?

I read this quickly and at first thought it said "How do you build relationships" because that is what you are doing in the blogosphere in order to build readership: you build relationships. You can create a cute little graphic and advertise with it on other blogs or websites, but that requires random people to randomly click on it. A relationship with another blogger means you may be featured on their blog. A relationship with your readers is when they comment and you comment back. This does a few things for you:
A). people are following a conversation and are getting to know you.
B). people see that you are engaged and care about them
C). you are creating more searchable conent on your own blog, and making it appear active to the search engines that are "spidering" your blog. This may or may not be true, but when there are active comments being posted onto a blog, it is my theory that the blog stays active in a Google Blog search, or a list of most recently updated blogs.

How to best position/market the blog to drive traffic to my e-commerce website?

The blog can actually help your e-commerce website get found two ways: in search engines and in clicks from your site. So the approach here is a bit of the reverse. Gaining higher rankings in the search engines depends a lot on how many quality links point to the pages you want to come up. For example: I want my jewelry bags to appear in the search engines for searches for "jewelry bag." I wouldn't mind it also coming up for "travel jewelry pouch." So, I can polightly hound other bloggers for links and reviews, and I can create my own links on my blog. See, I've already done it twice here - one for "jewelry bag" and one for "travel jewelry pouch." There, I did it again. These are just a few more links in the world that are pointing directly to my jewelry bag page and helping it rank. If you google "cute jewelry pouch" it's no accident that my site came up. It took hard work of link building (but dang, it looks like someone from ebay is beating me...because ebay is so huge that it inherently has big linking power as a website)! And I have a lot of link building to go.

So that covered how to just help your ecommerce website get traffic without even going to your blog. From your blog, you can feature things on your site using your side panel, like I have. You can create internal links, like I just did in the above paragraph. These let you refer to something on your site in "conversation" so that people are already curious and might click to see what you are talking about.

How do you sell ad space on your blog?

You get readership and then you develop a line sheet that gives the numbers of how many unique visitors you get a day or month, and you scour your site stats for other demographic information to make your blog look good. You can sell ad space in your side column, or maybe by post. You'll see that I do not sell ads on this blog, but if I did, I would put them on the side column. Part of why I do not sell ad space is because I feel limited by the template design. I want a 3 column design, which is a column on the left, the main content in the center, and a column on the right.

Featuring pages inside of my blog is as important to me as selling that space. Why? Because it generates clicks. People see the side column and click on a page, thereby reading more FashionMista than just the front page. I could also sell ad space on relevant posts. One of my more popular pages is my landing page for my journey in laser hair removal, thanks in part to a link from American Laser Centers on their News page, which then boosted that page in the search engines, which then gets the page in front of more eyeballs, and I get more clicks. Now hopefully you see the importance of links from other websites. Links to your own pages from your own website are important as well for the same reasons.

Quick and easy ways include Google's Asense. You can put the text ads on the side, or in a specific post. I have them in specific post because that is where I get clicks. The ads are generated based on what content is on the page. FashionMista as a whole covers a lot of topics on the front page. The current page has a deep thought on rats in garbage bags, cheap makeup tips, how to write a good blog, etc. By having the google ads in each post, I get very targeted ads, which people are more likely to click on.

You can also try Amazon's Affiliate program, or any affiliate program. I do Amazon, where I recommend a book or camera and include a special link URL that lets Amazon know that FashionMista was the referral, and I get a small percentage if someone buys what I recommended. They can actually buy anything. I believe it's a 30 minute window of the user shopping, and FashionMista would get the credit for commission.

General dos and don’ts or other words of advice?

Blogger Do's
  • Do use a good site stat program. I use and Google Analytics. StatCounter gives me live results, and formats it in such away that I can see the referral link and location in the same place. So I can see if I got someone searching for "do I have to be a good drawer to be a fashion designer"? (yes, someone actually typed that) and they maybe were in Miami, FL. To create/draw traffic, I wrote a blog post on it, hoping that others asked the same question. And they did, so that page sees some traffic. How do I know? Because I check my stats for popular pages in Google Analytics, and for a play by play, check in for hints. is free and only keeps 100 at a time. They have paid versions, but I don't do that. Google Analytics is also free, but you have to sign up and they may have a waiting list.
  • Do enable your comments for a post, but in your overall comment options, make it so you get to authorize each comment. Blogger and Typepad have this, and I'm sure Wordpress does to. It's a simple feature in a Settings area. Otherwise, you will have Comment Spam (see below)
  • Do pay close attention to the keywords people are using to get to your blog. It will give you ideas of what to write about.
  • Do collaborate with others on types of articles. It generates good will and ads more dimension to your blog.
  • Do link to someone if you say you will. I am a bad example of this at the moment, because I get swamped and forget. So know your limitations when you say you are going to do something.

Blogger Don'ts
  • Don't suggest people go to your blog for a certain page via forum or emails without letting them know what will be on there. It's like a tease but without the tease. True blogging is all about being helpful to the world.
  • Don't comment drop aka Comment Spam. This is when you go on someone's blog and randomly comment in their comment area with a "Love your blog! Keep up the good work! For juicy poker tips, visit!"
  • Don't buy links at link farms or directory sites. These links are worthless. You want quality links pointing to you.
I'm going to stop here because I have to work on other things. There could be more on how to start and write a good blog later, so keep your eyes here. Go ahead, bookmark the page. :) Oh, but most importantly, just start the blog!!

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