101 Blog Tips Part I: Things to do before starting a blog

This is the first part of the 101 Ways to Promote your Blog for free, a series about blogging tips and promotion. In this post, we will discuss some things to do and to consider before starting a blog.

I started as a blogger not knowing what I wanted to blog. If you have noticed, my first two posts (October 2009) were K-12 math problems and solutions. I realized, however, that I wanted my blog to be read by many people; I have to write things that many people are interested in.  Writing problems and solutions would only excite math enthusiasts who are fond of problem solving,  and I know that there are relatively few of them. Besides, there are many problem solving sites on the internet.

Later, I started writing conceptual explanations of different K-12 mathematical topics. I thought that it would be beneficial since most of the school textbooks in our country teach procedural mathematics (Euclid would probably rise from the grave if he read some of our geometry textbooks produced by private publishers). My articles drew positive comments, so I started to write more. Writing GeoGebra tutorials made this blog even more popular.

I know that I am not really a good writer.  English is not my first language; I only use it when I teach; and often, I struggle with grammar and punctuations. However, I am happy that despite these shortcomings, my readers — based on their comments and my blog hits — somehow appreciate my articles.

For 18 months, this blog has reached more than 300,000 hits (and increasing rapidly), so it encouraged me to write about tips on popularizing blogs. I have learned quite a lot while growing this blog.  Eighteen months is probably not long enough for many, but my undergraduate course is IT-related (I only studied math in graduate school) , so I had a little problem with the technical part (html codes, widgets, rss feeds, etc.).  Of course, the number of hits is not that impressive (thousands of bloggers have more than 100,000 hits a day), but for a math blog written by an amateur writer, it’s not that bad either.

As I have said before, most of my tips in this series will be practical, and most of them are from personal experiences. We will start first with the general tips (most bloggers will probably tell you these tips), and little by little, we will be more specific.The tips will be numbered from 1 through 101.

Now let us start our tips.

Things to Consider Before Blogging

  • 1Choose your niche. Don’t write about your random thoughts unless you’re a class A writer. If I am a reader who is interested about math, then I would prefer to read a blog that discusses all about math or math-related topics rather than a blog that discusses math, cooking, mountain climbing, and movies.
  • 2Choose a topic that you can write about for a very long time. In short, choose to write things that you are expert at, or at least things that you know quite well. If you write about things that you do not know much, sooner or later, you’ll be forced to do a lot of reading and research. And I bet that you don’t want to do that.
  • 3Choose a topic for a specific audience.  You should choose a topic that is not general, but not too specific. If you want to write about mathematics, then choose a more specific category (e.g. K-12 mathematics, College Math Teaching, Differential Geometry, Grade 6-8 contest problems). If youre topic is too general (say, mathematics), then you will have millions of competitors (all math websites and blogs).
  • 4Choose an appropriate blogging platform. There are three excellent blogging platforms out there: WordPress, Blogger, and Typepad. Try to research about their functionalities and choose one which is appropriate for your blog. If you are going to blog about math, then you will need to integrate Latex, which means, that you better choose WordPress, so you won’t have problems later. In fact, if you are going to blog seriously later, I suggest that you choose WordPress. I have a series of tutorials on WordPress Blogging so you won’t have problems learning it.
  • 5Write about things that people want to read.  If you write an online diary, about your boyfriend,or your cat, you can’t expect a lot of readers (unless you’re Paris Hilton).  You should write about what people want to read.  If you want to write about golf, then you would probably write about Tiger Woods often, or if you want to write about boxing, you would probably write about Manny Pacquiao or Floyd Mayweather.
  • 6WordPress and Blogger are probably the most popular blogging platforms around. Both websites (click here and here) offer free hosting, and they also offer upgrades (you pay) if you want to have your own domain and have extra add-ons.  I am using both WordPress and Blogger, and  somehow I have discovered some of their pros and cons.  I don’t want this post  very long, so I will make a separate post about it.
  • 7Read about blogging basics. You will learn along the way, but it is also important that you familiarize yourself with blogging basics. At the very least, try reading about common blogging terminologies.

In the next post in this series, we are going to discuss what to do in the early stage of blogging.

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