Here is a short list of useful reading for those of you just dipping a toe into the blogging waters, or for those of you who are looking for some new tips for bettering your blogging experience. I will possibly be updating this list as new resources emerge.

What Makes a Good Blog/Good Writing

What Makes for a Good Blog? by Merlin Mann (Aug 19 2008) – Merlin’s Blog is a good one to have on hand for your “inspiration” list. Start with this post, which is pretty self-explanatory.

How to Blog: Video - An hour long presentation and accompanying slide deck of a talk given by the aforementioned Merlin Mann in September 2008. (Skip to 00:04:00 to avoid the “housekeeping” junk) Some great stuff about motivations, authentic voice, “niche”, audience, and quality of content) “What is the one thing that only you can do/say?”

Bloggers Beware? (My Post – 7/21/2008) – A post I wrote several months ago about best-practices for citing other websites in your blog posts.

Monetizing Your Blog

Review of Blogging to the Bank 3.0 by Rob Benwell (My Post – 11/4/2008) – A quick read, basic e-book about having a monetized blog.

How to Make Money From Your Blog by Steve Pavlina (5/3/2006) – Though this post is a few years old now, it has some great info. Read it more for the strategy and general tips, rather than as an exhaustive guide to every possible blog income stream.

ProBlogger.Net Darren Rowse’s Website all about blog monetization

Blog SEO, Promotion, etc

How to get your blog posts onto Facebook (My Post – 11/11/2008) – Step-by-step instructions for getting Facebook to pull your blog posts onto your profile.

In support of an article I wrote for my e-zine today, “The Problem with Flash” I have compiled a few sites that show excellent graphical design without being constructed entirely in Flash.

 

Examples of What Can Be Done Without Flash:

http://www.insuranceofcharleston.com/
Shows what can be done graphically with a traditionally conservative business industry.

http://www.keithkent.ie/
Click the links. You probably won’t believe this is done without Flash, but it is. Those effects are created using JavaScript and JQuery.

http://www.ndesign-studio.com/
http://www.webdesignerwall.com/
Gorgeous use of background images by talented illustrator and designer, Nick La.
(in case you can’t get enough - a whole gallery of these full-bleed background designs: http://www.webdesignerwall.com/trends/80-large-background-websites/

http://www.csszengarden.com/
A classic of amazing CSS design. (Click through all the designs in the right-hand menu.)

http://www.dantestyle.se/
Another portfolio that proves Flash isn’t necessary for sexy effects.

http://www.floggedmagazine.com/
Shows the limitless design options of HTML.

 

Galleries of Great Non-Flash website design:

http://www.cssreboot.com/

http://designshack.co.uk/gallery/layout/other/

http://www.cssimport.com/

http://www.cssbeauty.com/gallery/

An Example of a Hybrid Site

Lest you think I detest Flash in all its incarnations, a sensible example of using Flash elements in an otherwise standard website.

http://www.dev.bumpnetworks.com/
Only the top graphic of the logo and lizard is Flash on this site.

umbraco back-end UII love Content Management Systems and now always use them for my clients’ websites – no matter how “small” their site is. 

If you are thinking about moving to a CMS for your website, I say GO FOR IT! The flexibility it offers is totally worth it. There are a lot of options, both free (usually open source) and paid. If you want to research different ones, check out this site: http://cmsmatrix.org (ugly, but useful – though keep in mind that not all the listings are updated frequently, so you should check the CMS’s website for the latest info.)

The CMS I personally use for all my client’s websites is called umbraco (http://www.umbraco.org) My experience is with .Net (Microsoft) programming languages, which is why having an ASP.Net CMS is important for me, as a developer. This would be less an issue from a content producer’s/site owner’s view point.

The things I like the best about umbraco:

  • free and open-source
  • allows for ANY visual design (including those using JavaScript and Flash)
  • extremely flexible and easy to develop for
  • it’s very simple to build a site using search engine optimization best practices
  • adding Google Analytics and other services is super easy
  • can integrate any other .Net system in one way or another (most useful for more advanced applications)
  • friendly and responsive community and core developer team
  • attractive and “modern” looking backend (what the content producer and developer sees and works with)
  • basically ANYTHING can be done with an umbraco site with some more advanced programming

The things that would be important to a content producer are somewhat different. Take a look here: http://umbraco.org/tour and click the big life vest (“For end users”) for some examples.

The only thing I would caution about umbraco, is that due to its flexible and customizable nature, setting up a website in it is somewhat more complex than some other “just install it” systems (and if you are not that technically inclined or want an exact conversion of a current website to umbraco, some professional developer assistance is required), but once your site is set up, it’s very easy for the content producers to use.

If you have a current website and plan to keep the same visual design and content layout, you will need to select your CMS carefully, since some of them have limited design options (frequently using a concept of “modules”, which is essentially little boxes of content), or insisting on 2 or 3 column design, or forcing you to use a certain “template” design which has limited customization options. So keep that in mind.

This is one of the big things I like about umbraco, since it doesn’t limit your design in any way and can produce web standards compliant code. (Which helps your site look similar in different browsers, and allows for better SEO indexing, etc.)

If you’d like to get an idea of the variety of sites that can be designed using umbraco, you can see sites I’ve done in it:

Generous Orthodoxy – a content-rich site I implemented for a minister

The Heart and Soul Fund – a non-profit website

Booker T Washington Learning Center – another non-profit organization website

Floyd Innovations - my consulting website

Whole Web Impact – my online marketing for independent professionals website

And also there is an international portfolio of umbraco sites by different designers.

kick it on DotNetKicks.com

So, I just figured out how to get the new version of Facebook to “import” my blog posts. The key will be to see if it will automatically update when I post a new one.
UPDATE: 11/25/2008: I have been watching this, and though there might be a slight delay, the posts do automatically show up on my Facebook “Wall” – with a nice little excerpt and a link to the whole post.

In case you want to know how to accomplish this with your own blog and your Facebook profile, here are the steps:

 

  1. You need to know the RSS Feed URL for your blog. If you don’t know this, go to your blog and look for an RSS icon:
    image 
    The link associated with this would be your RSS feed URL.
  2. Log into your FaceBook profile.
  3. On your main profile page, click on the “Settings” link above your “Wall”:
     image
  4. Click on “other services”:
    image
  5. Click on “Blog/RSS”:
    image
  6. Put your RSS Feed URL in the box and click “Import”:
    image
  7. Click on the “Wall” tab to see the results:
    image
  8. You should see a list of your imported posts:
    image

 

Blogging to the Bank 3.0 If you plan on having a business based solely online, Blogging to the Bank 3.0 is a good, quick way to get started with a proven business plan. At only 58 pages, it is a quick read, but everything is presented in a step-by-step manner which even a technology novice should be able to follow easily.

If your business is only partially based on blogging (as a marketing supplement to your website, etc), some of the additional monetization strategies Benwell outlines might not be completely appropriate, unless you can add them subtly to your blog, but all of the other content is relevant for any type of blogging.

One strong point of this e-book is the simple WordPress installation instructions, which detail getting a hosting account setup and WordPress loaded. (Benwell believes as I do that it is essential for you to fully control your own domain and web space.)

For those who might already have a blog, or are not using WordPress, the chapters on “Content” and “Web 2.0 Strategies” will be useful.

For those of you who are just getting into search engine optimization (SEO), the chapters on “Market Research & Keyphrase Lists” and “Advanced SEO Techniques” will get you up to speed quickly.

Many of the techniques I advocate, including building backlinks through article syndication and forum participation are mentioned.

Overall I reccommend this to anyone interested in using a blog for business.

You can get your copy here: Purchase Blogging to the Bank 3.0 online