Blogging Guidelines, Part 1: Homework

Alan Belniakguidelines, Social Media11 Comments


I’m helping create a content collection at my workplace so people have some resources when getting started in the social media swimming pool. Part of that is blogging. What it isn’t is throwing two paragraphs on digital paper and hitting ‘post’. Well, it can be that, but you might not get the attention, traction, comments, and following that you desire. If it’s a personal blog, then sure – go for it. But if you’re blogging professionally to help establish a beachhead of thought leadership or want to otherwise promote your brand, there’s a bit more thinking that goes into it.

I’ve taken all of the content I’ve written on this topic and broke it up into five pieces: homework, being mindful when writing, mechanics, promotion, and follow-up. Below is Part 1: Homework.

Keep in mind that this is a guideline, and one person’s opinion. You may have other tips, and if you do, I really encourage you to share them below in the comments. I’d like to make this a dynamic resource .

  1. Where is the blog being set up? Internally? WordPress? Blogger?
    1. Knowing where will affect some of the future decisions, actions, and operation (like plug-ins).
  2. If you haven’t already done so (and you have the ability to do so), look through the available themes/skins of the blog. Much of this is personal preference (colors, fonts, etc.), but pay more attention to layout.
    1. If you are going to be posting word-heavy content, then you might want to consider a format that has one major wide column and a narrow column on the left or right (i.e., not a three-column layout).
    2. If you think you might implement several widgets, or do not need to take advantage of the horizontal real estate of a screen, a three-column layout might be more your style.
    3. There are several layout options, and many let you preview them before you implement them.
  3. Spend 20 minutes or so and go through every setting and menu feature on your blog. I know – it sounds arduous, but you need to know how the blog contents work.
    1. For example: do you want comments automatically approved? Do you want to moderate every comment, or just the first? Can people sign in with OpenID or Facebook Connect or Google Friend Connect? Does your blog permit that/those? Can it with a plug-in/add-on?
  4. Download and install applicable plug-ins / add-ons / widgets / extensions.
    1. Some of these include a widget that pipes in a Twitter feed, a ‘Follow me’ button on Twitter, Share This tools, Facebook Connect, and others.
    2. If this is a for-fee WordPress blog (e.g., you purchased a URL {the blog is not}), spend some time reviewing the several plug-ins to make the blog more social and sticky.
    3. If this is a free WordPress blog (e.g., the URL is like, the custom installation of plug-ins are not permitted, but there are several free widgets that can be installed that make the site more sticky.
    4. At a minimum, implement Google Analytics. For pay WordPress sites, this is a free plug-in. For blogger and blogspot blogs, this should be free (all one needs is a GMail address/Google account to get an analytics account). It may be automatically turned on.
  5. On some blogs, there is an option to display an image in the sidebar or top banner. You can also add an embedded URL to this image. The image can describe something about the product or initiative discussed on the blog, and you can then embed a link that drives that click back to a relevant page on your main site, or somewhere where you have a call to action.
  6. Get your picture and profile loaded up and update. The profile needn’t be elaborate, but it should give a first-time reader some sense of your perspective. Make this a three-dimensional experience, and not just a two-dimensional experience. Do this for each author if you have more than one.
  7. Use Feedburner to burn a feed and track RSS subscriptions. You also get many other insights.
    1. This link explains more about Feedburner:
      1. Why this is important: readers who sign up for RSS indicate an explicit display of interest in content (versus the ‘I don’t know if they are reading my message’ of an e-mail).
    2. Advanced: Feedburner allows the implementation of additional social ‘stickiness’ when reading blogs in an RSS reader. To see an example, subscribe to my RSS feed, and open in an RSS reader; look at the bottom of the post.
  8. If your blog has an e-mail subscription option (some do, some don’t), make sure you add yourself to the e-mail sign-up on the right.
    1. Why this is important: you need to see this as your readers see this, and when they see it.
  9. Conduct a listening exercise (if you haven’t done so already, fast track this). Understand the conversation around your product, brand, competitor, industry, initiative, and trend (the where, the what, the who, and the how).
    1. Consider using some of the content from the listening exercise in the keywords of your about page, your blog description, general category names for blog posts, tags for blog posts, and the like. Take advantage of the work you did so that when others search on the same content, your blog has a better chance of showing up in those search results.
  10. Claim or submit your blog to,, (try
  11. Identify key bloggers who already talk about your product, brand, competitor, industry, and trend. Some of these bloggers may also show up when conducting the listening exercise.
    1. Use sites like,,, and to search for topics and the top bloggers on those topics.
  12. Read through a random sampling (five, maybe?) of posts of some of their content. Post at least three comments.
    1. Why this is important: you’re doing this to establish a rapport with them, so when you want to post a comment at a later date with a link to your blog, they don’t simply delete it. Plus, it may encourage them to comment on your blog.
  13. Join the social networks that you discovered in the listening exercise (the forums, the sites, etc.; note that ‘social networks’ are not just Facebook and LinkedIn).
    1. Become an active member.
    2. Listen.
    3. Answer a question.
    4. Share a link or two.
    5. Once you are a real member (and not just a newbie), then you will feel comfortable when you start promoting your own content.
  14. Add to your e-mail signature a link to your blog’s home page.

Can you think of any other homework assignments that need to get done before starting a blog? If so, please add them below in the comments section. Up next is Part 2: being mindful when writing.

image source: / CC BY 2.0

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