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Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Blogging (But Were Afraid to Ask)

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Brought to you by the fine chap at The Mudville Gazette, he confesses, the title is deceptive. You won't find everything here. But this guide will offer ten fundamentals about which anyone wanting to be a blogger should be aware. Whatever your blog might be about, you will find this information useful. This isn't about writing, or site design - it's about the "knobology" of blogging, the nuts and bolts, and that applies to everyone. For links to many of the products mentioned below, visit The Mudville Gazette.

1. Get a Blog
Let's keep this one short. We recommend Blogspot for the purpose. It's easy to set up and get started, and it's free. Test the waters, if blogging is for you then you can move on to other things if you want. But lots of very big bloggers are still using blogspot, and most others maintain their blogspot blogs as backups 'just in case'. You don't even need to know how to write html code - blogger makes everything easy and is getting better all the time.

Done? Good.

2. Hit counters
So you've started a blog, does anybody care? Believe it or not, unless you're already well known your blog will probably not get 5000 hits to that "test 1234" post you did this morning. But you knew that. But one of these days you might post the Big Mac secret sauce recipe and everyone will be beating a path to your door. How many people will visit when Glenn Reynolds links your photo of Kofi giving Saddam food for oil, Kos links your rant about Bush being a chimpymonkey, and Wonkette links your photos from the coed Senate steam bath?

And how much should you charge for blogads once they do?

Get a hit counter - a little string of code you add to your page that allows you to see who's visited. Sitemeter is the blogger's "industry standard". (Hint: get one) We also really like the Onestat hit counter - it can't be beat. Click the onestat link in the sidebar here (the round symbol below the sitemeter visit numbers). Check the features. Test drive. Once you're on the onestat page note the pull down menu in the upper left corner area, and the listed options below it. They're both free.

Don't lock them - leave them open for public view. They tell you how many visits you've had and they also tell other bloggers how many visitors they've sent your way. Don't get obsessed about either number - your visit numbers will likely be small initially. But they are of interest to anyone who's serious about blogging. Let's face it, we're in this to communicate, and these are simply letting us know who we're communicating with. I like to know what works best when I link to someone else - a simple "This is a must read!" or a paragraph sample followed by a "read it all". Lock me out of your site meter and I won't know.

Another option you might try is the on-screen referral log. I have that too, you'll find it farther down the right side bar. I often use the blog list there to find new sites I hadn't seen before.

Last important note: be sure to put the hit counter code on your main page template and all archive templates too. At least 40% of visits here come to individual pages from links from other bloggers. I know a few bloggers who are getting a lot more visits than they think they are, because they don't have hit counters on individual archive pages.

3. Comment
I want to be the guy that 'discovers' your blog and sends thousands of readers (and other bloggers) to you, launching your long and successful career. Why? Because my guess is you'll return the favor some day. But how will I find you? Perhaps via my sitemeter stats, but another way is via comments and trackbacks.

Comments are easy and need no explanation. I began my blogging career by commenting at another blog. When Mudville started I had a handful of regular visitors who knew me from there. If you're a new blogger, or one who wants to draw a bigger crowd, leave comments at those other blogs that have posts about topics on which you write. Etiquette note: don't just say "Great post - I linked it from my blog here!" along with a url. Contribute something to the conversation and people will follow that url linked to your name in the comment back to your site anyway. Do this at enough places and people will soon see your obvious expertise - do it wrong enough times and people will know you're just a pest.

Besides, that "I linked your post" stuff is what trackback is all about.

4. Trackback
I get tons of questions about how to do trackback. The easiest way is to link a blog post to the 'permalink' below, and your blogging software does it automatically. This doesn't work for everybody. If you are using blogspot, for instance, there are no automatic trackbacks. Don't fret! You've still got options.

Blogspot recommends Haloscan's free service. A lot of big bloggers use this option.

But here's a quick fix that's just so cool you'll probably want to try it just to see it work. Wizbang's Standalone Trackback Pinger.

To use it, click here.

That's the one you'll want to enter in the first box on the Trackback Pinger. (Note: it is not the url you link too! The url to link to is the 'permalink' below) The other entries should be self explanatory.

That's it - trackback!

5. Open Posts
Now that you have the power of trackback, use it wisely. Most bloggers are happy to see you linking your post to theirs, whether you agree or disagree with what they say - as long as you're on topic. Some might even include a link to your post in their original post. I've set my blog up so that trackbacks automatically are shown at the bottom of every post.

I also run at least one open post every day, a place where fellow bloggers can trackback any post they want, on any topic. (Well, I'll delete any pure attack pieces or anything I think gets too much inspiration from Jerry Springer...)

Other sites offering open posts include Wizbang and Outside the Beltway.

6. Finding your tribe
So - you just finished fisking the latest Maureen Dowd column - you've punched hole after hole in her logic, and now you want to find others who are linking her column too. Here are a couple sites you'll find useful.

Technorati - enter any url or keyword into the search window and you'll get a list of sites who are linking that url or using the keyword. Here's the list for Maureen Dowd.

Memeorandum - this one tells you what certain big blogs are linking too.

There are other options, but these will give you a start. Find others on your topics, link, trackback, comment or

7. email
Another way to communicate with fellow bloggers, but in many cases the least useful. I'm more likely to respond to someone who I find via trackback or sitemeter. From time to time I get emails from someone asking me to link something. I do take the time to read such things, but I usually don't have time to devote a post to them. Especially since they could have automatically had a link just by using an open post, or linking one of my posts on the topic. By all means, send me emails, especially if you're a non-blogger with a great tip on a story, or a blogger with a great post. I want to be the guy who discovers you. But also remember you have an automatic option here.

On the other hand, some bloggers don't have open trackback or comments, and they welcome emails. Most will be quick to tell you they prefer a pointer to a specific post than to an entire blog, but few would post their email on their site unless they wanted people to email them. Of course, smaller bloggers will probably be more likely to respond.

8. Carnivals
Many moons ago I always submitted an entry to the Carnival of the Vanities - a traveling link-fest used to promote a blogger's personal favorite post of the week. "Traveling" because a different blog would host it every week. The final link at the bottom of each week's carnival tells you where next week's will be. So you go to that blog and find the post that gives you guidelines for submissions, follow those instructions, and presto! Glenn Reynolds and lots of other bloggers link the carnival, so a good bit of traffic can flow your way from that source.

Now back to the future: there are lots of carnivals now, for medical blogs, for recipes, for you name it. My advice to you is to visit the Carnival of the Carnivals - it lists them all. See which ones are on topics you write about, find out where the next one will be, and get your post submitted. (Note the compiler of the Carnival of Carnivals has offered it to a new home, perhaps you would like the task?)

Then watch the numbers rack up on those new sitemeters.

You'll also find bloggers in your area of expertise, and as you do, be sure and add them to your

9. Blogroll
- those lists of great blogs running down the side of every great blog.

Here are some tips for running a blogroll:

Two methods to create a blogroll. 1. Manual - build the links yourself or 2. Use blogrolling.com. With blogrolling you also have an option of their free service or a paid service with more features.

Greyhawk's advice: Use blogrolling's paid option. It's not that much money and it's money spent in the blogosphere, and that's good.

Now, as to building your blogroll. Do: add as many fine blogs as you can. Do Not: Simply put Instapundit, LGF, Hugh Hewitt, PowerLine, and Michelle Malkin, and The Corner on your blogroll and stop. Do add those sites, but do not stop there. Add several smaller blogs too. Are you using the open post trackback feature here? Go visit some of the other blogs that do. Have you checked out the Carnivals I directed you to? I know there are great blogs there, and many would love to exchange links. Blogroll those you like. Leave a comment at their site telling them that you enjoyed your visit and added them to your blogroll. They'll likely be glad to learn that - I know I am when I find a blog that's just linked to me.

Whether you use blogrolling or not, be sure to "ping" blogrolling whenever you put up a new post. This will automatically update other's blogrolls to announce your new post. In some cases "new" will appear by your blog's name (or whatever the site owner has decided) in other's you'll actually move to the top of the list.

Little by little your site visits will begin to creep upwards, and you too will be climbing...

10. The Ecosystem
NZ Bear's Ecosystem is the hub of the blogosphere. This is a comprehensive who's who, a list of the members of the club. This is the community. And if you're a blogger and haven't joined the fun, now is the time. Recent big events in the life of the proprietor had prevented new entries, but it's open again. Enter your blog. You'll find out where you stand and be able to chart your progress in the blogging world. You'll find other blogs - and they'll find you.

NZ also tracks blogs by visits, by the way - if they have an open sitemeter.

There you have it - the power is in your hands. Why would I be so willing to help you out? Because when you become a huge blogger I want you to remember me and link me from time to time, okay? That is how this whole thing works.


1. Get a blog.
2. Get a sitemeter (and a onestat)
3. Leave comments.
4. Use trackback
5. Take advantage of open posts - here, here, and here for example
6. Find your tribe (memeorandum, technorati, etc)
7. Email
8. Carnivals
9. Blogroll (and ping it too!)
10. Enter the Ecosystem

Published online May 7, 2005 at The Mudville Gazette
(reposted from 2005-04-28 21:12:08)

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