So you were inspired by The Case for Starting Your Own Hiking Blog and now you want a blog of your very own. Here’s how to get the blog rolling:
1. Get a topic
You could just name it “John Q.’s Hiking Blog” but you’d be doing your fellow hikers the best service by being more specific (and sticking to the topic). The obvious choice is to blog about the trails you hike on most of the time, but it’s not the only way to go. You could blog about backpacking, shoes, socks, poles, fitness or fatalities. Main thing: It has to be about your experience, because yours will be unlike anybody else’s. Nobody else has your central nervous system and its ability to generate observations unique to your life. Tell your own story and it will be original. Having a topic just links your experiences to those of all the hikers who’ll stumble upon your blog in their Web travels.
Don’t be a copycat: make sure somebody else isn’t already covering your topic.
Give it a straightforward title: You’re better off being clear and direct, though the temptation to attempt to be clever is strong. “Two-Heel Drive” doesn’t tell people what the site is about in three words or less.
2. Build a list of links
Links connect your blog to the rest of the Web. They do send people away from your blog but they always bring them back.
Also, your links list will inspire ideas on what to blog about. Ideally, your links list would be other blogs. Once you link to them, they generally return the favor and link back to you. But say you live in the middle of Iowa, you want to blog on the trails nearby, and there are no other central Iowa hiking blogs (hard to imagine, I know) to share the wealth. Well, use your imagination: there will still be hiking clubs, state parks, and places to buy gear and such. All hikers need the same stuff: shoes, socks, hats, etc.
3. Chose a blogging platform
The easiest choice is Blogger, but there are tons more options. I recommend this post at ProBlogger.net, which outlines all the decisions you’ll face. Don’t be intimidated by the gazillion choices; you can always shift gears later on. I use WordPress hosted under my own domain; costs less than $10 a month, which is reasonable. If you go with a free site like Blogger, you give up a lot of the freedom of formatting it just the way you want, but much of that freedom is unnecessary for the average hiking blogger.
4. Learn some HTML
Here’s a handy HTML tutorial. At the very least you need to know how to create links and imbed images. If you want to tweak your blog’s design, you’ll need to learn about Cascading Style Sheets (CSS for short), which tell Web browsers (Firefox, Internet Explorer) how to display your blog. Here’s a CSS intro. You don’t absolutely need to know any HTML (beyond posting a link) but it’s good to know the basics of how this stuff works. I taught myself CSS by tweaking the settings in my Blogger templates and seeing what each change did to my page. I learned a lot by trial and error (mostly error).
5. Start posting.
Write about your hikes, or the tents you build in your basement, or the sleeping bags your mom sews for you, etc. Take your time, cut out unnecessary words, have a friend scan for errors.
6. Tell the world
Before spam took over the world, you could post links to your site at bulletin boards devoted to your topic and this would bring folks to your site. Today this is a serious breach of bulletin board protocol that could get you banned from the board. The only way around it is to join the board, engage in conversations and post a link to your site in the signature area of your board profile.
The best way to get other bloggers to read your site is to post links to their blogs. They read their traffic stats programs, which tell them who is linking to them, and they link back to yours.
You can try to attract search engine traffic but you’re better off just writing about what you know and letting the chips fall. If your content is original enough, you’ll set yourself apart from the crowd and folks will find it.
7: Keep at it.
I’ve been at it for three years; so far I’ve had almost 1,900 posts, which goes to show there’s always something to blog about, even when it’s just walking on dirt. You don’t have go post every day or even every week, but once you get going, you might as well stick to it.