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The Online Mom provides internet technology advice and information to help parents protect their kids, encourage responsible behavior and safely harness the power of technology in the new digital world. Social networking, photo sharing, video games, IM & texting, internet security, cyberbullying, educational resources, the latest on tech hardware, gadgets and software for kids 3-8, tweens and teens, and more.

How to start a blog

Despite the popularity of social networking sites, serious Internet commentators still share their thoughts with the world via blogs. Twitter may be fun for a quick chat or to stay on top of daily trends but it’s hard to discuss a topic in-depth using 140 characters or less!

The Web 2.0 revolution brought with it a multitude of sharing and collaboration applications, opening up the world of blogging to anyone with a high-speed Internet connection. You no longer have to worry about things like domain hosts or server capacity. Now, if you can put together a few coherent paragraphs, then you can publish a blog!

Here’s how to get started:

Choose a topic

Before you start a blog, you should have a clear idea of what you’re going to write about. Whether it’s politics, fashion, food or just the occasional get-it-off-your-chest rant, make sure your blog has a consistent theme.

Also, ask yourself whether your chosen topic is going to provide enough material to sustain a blog. If your subject matter is very specific, then you may be better off with an occasional contribution to BlogHer, Tumblr or another communal site.

Select a hosting service

There is a wealth of choice when it comes to hosting your blog. Most of the main hosting sites offer similar tools and customization options. One thing to keep in mind: Make sure the option you choose has good exporting tools should you ever want to move your blog in the future.

Here are some of the more popular choices:

  • WordPress – One of the first open source blogging projects, WordPress is still the market-leader and is the home for tens of thousands of bloggers both big and small.

  • Blogger – Owned by Google, this end-to end blogging service boasts strong tools and the ability to add all Google’s traffic monitoring and site analysis options.

  • Xanga – Part blog, part social network, Xanga offers some extra community-oriented features.

  • LiveJournal – Like Xanga, LiveJournal features some extra social components.

Once you choose your service, you will be asked to register and set up an account. All the above sites are free to join, although some offer additional services if you upgrade to a paid account.

Customize your blog

Once you have set up your blog, take some time to customize the look and feel of your new site. Most providers offer a variety of templates. Choose something that fits your personality or topic of interest.

The blog platform with the most – and, arguably, most creative – templates is WordPress. There are hundreds of websites dedicated to showcasing themes for WordPress blogs, and many of them are free. If you see a blog with a design that you like, scroll down to the bottom and look for a link to the designer responsible.

Next, decide whether your blog is going to be public – and searchable – or private. If you want to go the private route, then most blog sites will give you the option of password-protecting your posts so only those who you approve can see what you’ve written.

Once you're happy with the basic look of your blog, you can choose to trick it out with widgets, social media badges, and guest maps and guest books. Twitter widgets are a popular choice, as are widgets that enable readers to repost your content to their Facebook accounts.

Next steps

Once you are up and running, start blogging away! The trick is to blog consistently, so when people come back to your site there is something new for them to see.

Here are some more tips on content:

  • Get into a blogging routine. You should aim to update your blog at least two or three times a week. Pick out a time of day when it’s most convenient and you will be at your freshest. Make sure that updating your blog is a pleasure and not a chore or it will be reflected in your written text.

  • Pay special attention to what’s going on around you and start looking at things with a reporter’s eye. Everyday events can add color to a blog and allow your readers to relate. However, avoid turning your blog into a ‘Dear Diary’; the fact that you dropped off the kids at school in the morning and then picked them up again in the afternoon might not be so interesting to a mom doing exactly the same thing.

  • Link to other relevant blogs and web sites – and let those blogs know you have used them as a reference. Cross-linking between blogs is one of the quickest ways to get noticed.

  • Make sure you spell check your blog entry before you post. There is nothing more off-putting to a reader than spelling mistakes and bad grammar.

  • Try and use pictures and video whenever you can, but make sure the images are high quality and are relevant to your post.

  • If you are lucky enough to be paid to endorse a service or product, follow the FTC guidelines on disclosure. Always be truthful in what you write and do not intentionally mislead people.

  • Be yourself! Find your own style – don’t try and copy someone else. Your blog will succeed because it’s a reflection of you, not because you are re-writing what someone else has already written.

Spread the word!

People can’t visit your blog if they don’t know about it. Start by sending a link to friends and family and ask them to send it on to their friends. In the beginning, they will be your most loyal readers. Bookmark your blog on social sites like Delicious and StumbleUpon and start talking up your posts on Twitter.

Submit your posts to blog aggregators like BlogHer, Tumblr and LiveJournal, where they will be searchable and grouped with similar submissions.

Visit related sites and include links to your blog in the comments section of relevant articles. Don’t feel discouraged if no-one visits your blog in the first few weeks. The key is to keep producing quality content and people will find you.

Happy blogging!

Do you already have a blog? Share the link with The Online Mom readers!

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