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.
Blogher.com has a nice series of posts on attracting visitors to your blog.
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.
I just started one a few days ago. I have another blog that I update more regularly (http://bikemyride.blogspot.com), but I was thinking that I normally write in a journal about my hiking/backpacking trips, so why not blog about it. Adding the pictures to the story are much easier than doing it in my journals and its a heck of a lot easier to share with everyone.
Good post. I learned a few things.
> …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…
I disagree. I switched from WordPress to Blogger a few months ago and I have successfully made my new blog look almost exactly like the rest of my Web site. Granted this required much skill in tweaking the CSS and HTML but that’s part of having a Web site that has both good content as well as good design.
Excellent post with great information, much of it still relevant for me, a newbie blogger (four months on).
I went with WordPress.org on the advice of Tom Chandler, who writes the fantastic Trout Underground blog at http://www.TroutUnderground.com. It’s been a major learning experience, and I still have a long way to go. I’ve finally installed most of the plug-ins I want and figured out how to use Google Analytics.
I still need to learn how to back up my blog (should probably do that soon!) and I want to learn some PHP and CSS so I can do more with my sidebars and overall look.
WordPress may be fairly easy for people with website design experience, but it wasn’t so easy for me. I started learning Dreamweaver CS3 when I created my main site, which helped when I came to WordPress.
Congrats on the 300 visitors per day. I recently had 50 in one day, my highest ever, and it felt like a major accomplishment. I’m blogging more often now, and on a wider range of topics. All are at least peripherally related to hiking, but some focus more on nature, the environment, or even dogs (on the trail).
Tom: As you said yourself, “There’s never been anything remotely newsworthy about the hundred and fifty hikes I returned home safely from.”
That’s my story as well, and I’m sticking to it. So while I have taken quite a few trips that were interesting to me, I’m not so vain as to think they would be interesting to anyone else. So I save my stories about my own exploits for the handful of people who actually are interested in what happens to me.
So I would add to your steps: “Make sure you have something to say.”
FWIW, I built our site on the only blogging system that supported podcasts in 2004. A lot has changed in blogging platforms since then, and the package I’m using hasn’t caught up (I can’t even enable comments without getting hundreds of spams a night). WordPress does support podcasts, but doesn’t support all of the features I would want now if I were to go through the disruptive, time-consuming, expensive pain of migration.
Steve: the greater act of vanity is to presume nobody cares about your adventures.
I see the adventures that people blog about as a resource for generating ideas for my own adventures. And if they are good writers, then it’s entertaining too. And I vote for Two-Heel Drive as the most entertaining blog I’ve seen!
I’ve been thinking about doing a blog for years, but I haven’t done it because I keep thinking it will take more time than I can comfortably spare. Well, considering that having a full time job is the only way I know how to earn a living that is. Projects have a way of expanding. I might still do it though, but it would have to be simple, and may not get updated very often. I wouldn’t want to turn into a creature of home office. I always hate it when I’m talking to someone, and asking them about something, and they say; “oh ……yeah it’s on my blog ………just go to my blog”. I always feel dissed, but I suppose that’s a quaint attitude today. You used to have to hang out with people to know much about them. One day I’ll join the connectedness crowd, but I may have to retire first.
Nobody I know in real life ever reads my blogs so I never have that problem.
Tom wrote: “the greater act of vanity is to presume nobody cares about your adventures.”
Hmmm, That seems like reverse logic to me. Would you care to elaborate?
Keeping your stories to yourself presumes you know others’ interests better than they know them themselves.
Thanks for all the great tips. Not sure if my blog will be that interesting to most people, but I guess a few people find it entertaining. I find that the hardest part is writing something every week. If I don’t go hiking on the weekend, there’s no material!
First, Tom-great tips. I have read your blog over the past two years and you always bring interesting and informative information to the table. You are always a pleasure to read-
This topic actually comes in a timely matter to myself. I am going on my third year of blogging (http://skinnymoose.com/adventurist) at The Adventurist and love every minute of it.
I am currently developing a network of adventure blogs and am looking for a few good people looking to get involved and share their experiences. This is a new project that should be launching in just a few more days. We will be offering free web hosting, free domains, a full technical support team, and a large community atmosphere of like-minded adventure seekers. Hiking isn’t going to be our only focus. We are also looking for climbers, kayakers, cyclists, and anyone else who enjoys the active outdoor lifestyle. If you have ever thought about starting a blog, this would be a great time to jump in and get your feet wet for no cost to you.
If anyone would be interested in more details on this new network, feel free to email me at email@example.com.
I look forward to hearing from you and possibly working with some of you in the future.
Jason A. Hendricks
Hi Tim, thanks for a great article.
Ive recently started my hiking blog and am loving every second of documenting my hikes.
Kind regards, Juanita
Hello from the Canary Islands 🙂
Great site with some very useful information! I am just starting out with my own hiking blog, which will later feature other outdoor activities, here on the island of Lanzarote in the Canary Islands. With working too, all my hikes have to be done and written about at the weekends, but it is a great incentive to get out there each week. 🙂
“But say you live in the middle of Iowa” … Just so happens I DO live just about in the middle of Iowa and my dogs and I hike pretty much every week-end. I’ve been wanting to start a blog about our treks, but as you’ve already noted I am concerned that “vast throngs will show up and spoil their favorite backwoods gems”. Won’t happen, huh? I’m skeptical. On the other hand, there are no “vast throngs” to really be had in Iowa, even if you gathered all of us together. Nor are there any backwoods to be had. Well, anyways, I’m still thinking it over. Thanks for the tutorial. If I get it going, I’ll send you a link.
Very cool blog!
I started my own hiking blog at http://www.ultimatehikingguide.blogspot.com
Check it out! I think you’ll dig it!
Love your blog and started blogging about hiking the woods of connecticut and a few other places. Glad I found yours. Please check mine out hikergal.worpress.com
I love this blog, thanks for sharing! We haven’t started blog yet do to being busy with other projects but we did start a new facebook page. We’ll eventually start one and include it on our website.
I did just what you said – not always easy to keep up with the blogs though but keep on trying and above all keep on hiking.
So I run a woodcarving business in which I sell hiking sticks that I have carved on. I also love being outdoors and hiking the Ozark trails of southern Missouri. Do you think that it would be advantageous to run a blog on my website that I sell my carved walking sticks on, or should I do a separate blog site? http://www.creationcarvings.com David Egesdal
Thanks for sharing information about creation of hiking or trekking blog. Now I feel confident to create my own blog.