Blogging for Dummies
A dear friend recently remarked (wryly) that he saw a lot of “for dummies” books on my shelves. One of those books is a sort of bible of blogging: Blogging All-in-One for Dummies.
Why blog? I answered that question a year ago, shortly after starting Words on the Word, and again six months in. More than a year later, I’ve had the chance to spend some time with Susan Gunelius’s massive work.
It consists of “8 Books in 1,” or “minibooks,” as Gunelius describes them inside. Each minibook (and each chapter therein) is meant to stand alone. (It’s easy to read and use the book this way.) The minibooks range from 65 to 136 pages each. A basic glossary and carefully compiled index round out the 700+ pages in the book. It carries like a phone book, but with thicker paper, still of the newsprint variety.
The work aims to be (and is) “a complete guide to blogging, all in one place.” The author writes “primarily for a beginner audience–people who have never blogged,” but as noted below, there is plenty of advanced information for even the “skilled bloggers” she also has in mind.
Here are the eight overarching topics that Gunelius treats:
- Book I: Joining the Blogosphere
Blogging 101–from the history of blogs to the types of blogs, including motivations behind different blogs and how to make them successful. This is a sort of quick start guide. Particularly helpful for beginners here are the screenshots showing the various parts of a blog (comments, trackbacks, home page, etc.). The “Blogging Rules and Ethics” section is essential reading.
- Book II: Niche Blogging
Niche blogs “usually fill a void that other, larger blogs are missing but audiences want.” There are some drawbacks to niche blogging, Gunelius notes, like a smaller audience and less traffic, but there are still unique opportunities for monetization (which she treats more at length later in Book VII) and building relationships with others who have a similar area of interest.
- Book III: Corporate and Business Blogging
Using examples of business blogs (“Companies That Do It Right”) like Southwest Airlines, Zappos, and Wine Library TV, the author shows how to build an online brand through blogging. She notes a “fine line… between publishing promotional content on your business blog that is useful and valued by readers and publishing so much promotional content that your blog is viewed as all marketing and no substance.” There are practical, simple pieces of advice, too: have a giveaway contest, include social media links for sharing your blog posts, responding to comments. The content here is not exceedingly advanced, but addresses appropriately the target audience of … well… dummies (i.e., beginners).
- Book IV: Choosing a Blogging Application
This is one of the most useful minibooks. Even if a would-be blogger is ready with good content, topics, and publicity, knowing what medium to use can be a challenge. Here Gunelius offers a guided tour (again, complete with screenshots) of WordPress, Google Blogger, TypePad, and Tumblr. She includes both free and paid options in her analysis. I’ve been using WordPress for a year, and had no idea about all the free themes available at the WordPress Themes site she mentioned.
- Book V: Blogging Tools
Once you’ve got a blog, this minibook looks at SEO (search engine optimization), measuring blog traffic, using images, blog feeds, and more. This is probably the most advanced material in the book, that even non-beginners will find useful. Her almost pastoral admonition to “try to refrain from checking your blog’s statistics every day” (i.e., “worrying about daily traffic fluctuations”) is a needed one for many bloggers.
- Book VI: Promoting and Growing Your Blog
More advanced material here. She covers contests, guest blogging (whether you do it elsewhere or host it on your blog), “social bookmarking,” and other ways to increase site traffic.
- Book VII: Making Money from Your Blog
Most bloggers (hopefully) realize blogging is not a terribly lucrative business, especially not in its initial stages (i.e., first couple years). But there are still ways to make money from blogging–whether that is through ad placement, merchandising, or participation in affiliate programs. Gunelius begins this minibook as she so often does, with the big picture: “[Y]ou need to determine what your blogging goals are and then decide whether publishing ads on your blog in an attempt to make some money matches those goals or runs counter to them.” Especially helpful is the short section on the Federal Trade Commission’s guidelines for any “material connection” a blogger has with a company or product they are reviewing or advertising.
- Book VIII: Microblogging with Twitter
Ah, Twitter. I wrongly predicted its demise just months after its inception. “Microblogging” might be too strong a word for how some people use the site (“wordbutchering” could be more appropriate?). I’m not sure Gunelius’s “Everyone is tweeting!” assessment is completely on target, but she is right, I think, that Twitter and other “microblogging” services go beyond what just 140 characters of text can offer. And because microblogging is “convenient, far-reaching, and free,” bloggers ought to pay attention to it. Gunelius takes the reader deep into the world of tweeting, URL shorteners, hashtags, and third-party Twitter applications.
Blogging All-in-One for Dummies is engaging and easy to read. Gunelius is clearly an expert on this topic, and this encyclopedic work bears that out. Copious screenshots and diagrams give visual reinforcement to the text throughout. The index and clearly delineated chapters make it a highly useable reference work–one which I know I’ll turn to often as I continue to blog! It’s a great one-stop shop for bloggers or those who would be bloggers. Yes, even still in 2013.
You can see more about Blogging-All-in-One for Dummies at Amazon here (affiliate link) or here (Wiley’s product page, including an excerpt and the full table of contents). The book’s “cheat sheet” is available here. Many thanks to Wiley for the gratis review copy for the purposes of my writing an objective review.