Ed: This is the second part of a five-part mini-series on the topic of things to think about when starting a business blog.
If and when you decide to take the plunge into the blogosphere — either with a personal or a business blog — step one is initially setting it up. This means choosing a blog platform and determining the look and feel you want your blog to have.
There are a number of blogging platforms available to new bloggers. There are the free versions like WordPress.org and Blogger that are geared towards personal blogs. Three of the most common platforms for business blogs are Typepad, Movable Type, and an installed version of WordPress. For those real estate professionals reading, there are also several platforms targeted specifically at Realtors — several that come to mind are Active Rain, RSS Pieces, Tomato Blogs and Blogging Systems. For more comprehensive list of blogging platforms geared at Real Estate Professionals, check out our wiki page on the topic– it should give you a sense of your options before jumping in. If you know of a blogging platform not listed, please add it!
There are two primary options for hosting a blog on the web. The 1st and (technically) simplest option is paying for a hosted blogging solution. The 2nd is to install a blogging platform on your own hosted server (provided by the likes of GoDaddy or Dreamhost). If you choose a hosted blogging solution, set up is typically a snap and is handled by your service provider. If you pay for your own server space and own a domain name you wish to use, chances are you’ll choose to go the with a self-hosted option and will need to install a blogging platform — which is often just a “one-click install” from your server admin console.
Customizing the way your blog looks is usually done by editing something referred to as a “template.” There are numerous free templates available for the common blog platforms (wordpress, typepad, blogger). For specific template changes, you’ll have to actually modify the code of the specific component you wish to modify — the most commonly edited component being the “sidebar.” Your blog’s sidebar usually displays information that you wish users to see regardless of what individual blog post they are reading. A good sidebar introduces your readers to your other content and to yourself. It typically include links to your blog categories, your contact details, and a link to subscribe to your blog via RSS or e-mail. There is a fantastic “How to Blog” that will walk you through common issues bloggers face, if you are interested. Additionally, WordPress has a great support forum to answer specific questions.
I strongly recommend having a “Search” box on your sidebar somewhere as well (preferably near the top) — the “Go” button to search the Zillow Blog is always one of our most clicked links. When readers find a blog they particularly like, they often search through the archives of that blog for other articles of interest to them. Search is a great way to help your readers find content that is of interest to them.
This is a fairly broad and technical topic, but feel free to ask questions in the comments below. If you have further knowledge you’d like to share with everyone, we created a “Setting up a blog” wiki page to help the realtor community.
This is part 2 of a five-part mini-series on the topic of things to think about when starting a business blog:
- Content is King, but Voice is Queen: Finding Your Voice and Picking Topics
- Setting Up Your Blog: Picking a Blogging Platform & Basic Setup
- Avoiding Legal Pitfalls in Blogging: What to Keep an Eye On
- SEO & Syndication: Maximizing Search Engine Rankings
- Engaging in the Conversation: Commenting Tips