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A guide to blogging for the non-technical business person

Step-by-step explanation for creating a blog (using Blogger) and leveraging it for a business objective

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Like any other technical product, almost all the information available for blogging is highly technical in nature right now and difficult to understand by an average non-technical person like me.  Since I wrote about blogging by business leaders, I have been flooded with requests from business professionals who will like to create a blog but are simply overwhelmed and don't know where to start.  Since we have already spent the time in creating the iProceed blog, you can simply learn from our experience.  I am recommending companies that I have used but you are free to use whatever provider you like.  While you do not need any web design experience at basic knowledge of HTML can be very helpful.  (Related article:  How to blog for dollars?)

Step 1:  Register your domain name and hosting company

While you maybe able to use the domain name of a blog provider, it is best to have your own domain name (in case you do not have your own website already).  If you already own a website it is best to host it in a sub-directory as we have done http://www.iproceed.com/blog. It sounds more professional and in case the blogging company changes its policies or goes out of business, you own everything and you have it in your control.  You can register a domain name at Register.com.  Once you have it all done, you must find a hosting company and we have found HostforWeb as an excellent company (Related article:  How to find a website hosting company?).  For about $5 a month you will have enough of everything to run a blog.  Follow the directions from your domain registrar and hosting company to make your website work.

Step 2:  Sign up with a blog software provider

We chose Blogger.  It is easy to use and free (and since it is a Google company, you can even add AdSense to your blog if you wish to make some money from your blog).  You are welcome to use others; not all of them are free but some provide more functionality than others.  You must choose the advanced blog setup option in Blogger so that you can host the blog on your own server space.  Here are some helpful hints for Blogger.  

  • On advanced blog setup screen, type the title of your blog, choose listed, FTP server as ftp.yourwebsite.com, FTP path as public_html/blog/ (if you want to use the format http://www.iproceed.com/blog) or public_html/ (if you want to use the format http://www.iproceed.com).  Let blog file name be as suggested and of course, the blog URL will be based on what you choose as I said in this bullet itself.  One thing to note though is that the FTP path can be different for different hosting companies.  One variation that I know is www/ or www/blog/.  If in doubt, you can find out from the manual that your hosting company will provide you or you can all their customer service.  You will be asked to choose a Blogger template as well for your blog.
  • At this point, Blogger will indicate that you are ready to post your messages, but it is best to wait and first complete a few other settings.  So click on settings and do the following.  If I do no mention an entry, there is nothing to be done.  Also on each tab, save settings every time but do not publish yet.
    Basic:  Title (if not already filled, type the title again), description (a few words describing your blog), and if not already Yes, select it for listing your blog (unless you want to limit your blog to a small group).  Save settings.
    Publishing:  FTP server (should be already populated; if not, enter ftp.yourwebsite.com), blog URL (http://yourwebsite.com/blog or http://yourwebsite.com), FTP path (public_html/blog/ or www or www/blog), blog filename (index.html), FTP username and password (generally the same as the username/password for your hosting account; otherwise consult your hosting company), and finally select YES to ping Weblogs (it tells Weblogs that you have updated your blog so that it can tell the rest of the world about it).  Save settings again.
    Formatting:  Show (1 posts on main page; my preference since if you plan to put Google ads it makes it easy for the robot to display appropriate ads), other settings (leave the defaults but you can choose your own).  Save settings again.
    Comments:  Leave the defaults but you can choose your own.
    Archiving:  Archiving frequency (monthly is best), enable post pages (it is good for search engines too), archive path (public_html/blog/archive/ or www/blog/archive/ or public_html/archive/), and archive filename (archive.html).
    Site feed:  Publish site feed (yes), descriptions (full), site feed server path (public_html/blog/ or www or www/blog), site feed filename (atom.xml), and site feed URL (http://yoursite.com/blog/atom.xml or http://yoursite.com/atom.xml).  Save settings again.
  • I do not recommend that you tamper with the template but editing the template will allow you to do other things, e.g., display ads or put links that are permanently displayed on your blog.  I do not recommend that you do this at time.  You should first get your blog online first, study a little bit about HTML, and only then play with the template.  Before trying to edit the template it is best to copy all the code in a notepad file and save it on your computer so that just in case you screw up, you can simply copy the original file back.  The only time I recommend that you edit the template is to add buttons for subscribing to your blog (explained below) but wait till you feel comfortable.
  • You can now post your very first message by using the create tab.  It is best to type a brief welcome message and publish it.  You can view the blog in the browser and you are basically online at this point.

Step 3:  Enable others to read your blog through a newsreader

Blogs may be read as regular web pages but more commonly, people read them in a newsreader.  To enable others to do so, it is best to sign up with a free service offered by Feed Burner.  Once you register with them and provide them with your site feed URL (which you already finalized above as either http://yoursite.com/blog/atom.xml or http://yoursite.com/atom.xml.  Use the publicize tool at Feed Burner to get an XML button and Add to My Yahoo buttons.  Copy the HTML code for both into two separate notepad files.  Now go into your blogger account and click the template button.  What you will see is a scary looking file with HTML code.  But don't get scared.  Go down and look for the following line of code:

<p id="powered-by"><a href="http://www.blogger.com"><img src="http://buttons.blogger.com/bloggerbutton1.gif" alt="Powered by Blogger" width="88" height="31" /></a></p>

At this point, one line above this code, insert the following code, after inserting the code that you just got from Feed Burner:

<h2 class="sidebar-title">Subscribe to blog</h2>
<li>XML button code here</li>
<li>My Yahoo code here</li>
</ul> 
</MainOrArchivePage>

You must copy the code from here in a notepad file first so that you get totally clean code.  Preview the template again and if everything comes out as you want, you can save it and republish the blog.  Go to your blog and test if all buttons work.

Step 4:  Publicize your blog

Since the vast majority of the visitors come from a handful of search engines (Google, Yahoo, etc.), don't bother with anyone else.  You can add your blog to Google here.  To get into Yahoo is a bit tricky.  What you must do is to subscribe to your own blog in your own My Yahoo account.  That way Yahoo will index your blog immediately.  Here is help on how to subscribe to a blog.  As you surf the web, and if you see a place where you can enter your URL, you must do so, but it is  not going to make a big difference.  

Apart from the usual web directories, there are a totally new set of directories for blogs.  You must tell them that you exist and all you have to do is to go to one place called ping-o-matic.  You can go there every time you post a new message so that all the directories will know that you have an updated blog.  If you get an error message, just follow up as advised in the error message.

The other way to gain some more popularity is to visit other blogs that are of interest to you.  Read the posts and if you have something meaningful to say, you must add a comment, and always include a link to your blog.  If you say something interesting, chances are readers will visit your blog too.

Final Remarks

If you follow the steps here, you will have no problem except maybe when publishing to your own hosting company's server.  Read the manual (generally not very friendly for non-technical people) carefully and if possible you can call their customer service.  But if you sign up with HostforWeb and follow the directions as indicated, it should be a piece of cake.  If you still have problems, it is best to get hold of a computer-savvy high-school kid and ask for her/his help.

Update June 2005:  While most people have had no problem with Blogger, since this article was first written, we have found that Blogger.com not only has many problems, it does not have all the features that a professional blogger needs.  Therefore, you might want to do more research on what platform is right for you.  However, if you already have a blog on Blogger, you may want to switch to something. (Related article:  How to switch from Blogger to WordPress?)

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