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Blogging Best Practice--A Newbie Guide to Your Blog

Blog_guide_2_1

I was reading Tony Karrer's blog eLearning Technology yesterday and noticed that in his banner, he has a button to a Blog Guide for First Time Visitors

That seems to me a nice addition to anyone's blog, but particularly for a nonprofit blog. You never know how people will find you or how much information they have coming into your blog (generally not much if it's their first time) so guiding readers to those pieces of information that best tell the story of who you are and what you're writing about can be really helpful.

Here's what Tony includes in his guide:

  • A basic description of his blog
  • Some information on his expectations about interactions through his blog (he wants them!)
  • Links to the posts that he think give the best picture of what he writes about and his areas of expertise.

He also invites readers to introduce themselves via comments in the new visitor section.

Pam Ashlund (Nonprofit Eye) has something similar that she calls the Landing Pad that you get to via a link in her sidebar, although I found that a little less visible than Tony's button and I wasn't totally sure what it meant the first time I saw it (Sorry, Pam). In Pam's Landing Pad, she also includes her RSS feed and e-mail subscription button, another nice feature to have in a Newbie Section.

With this inspiration, I've added my own "Newbie Page." You'll see it in the left sidebar--"Wondering What this Blog is All About? Start Here!"  Besides basic information on this blog and what I write about here, I also have:

If you're thinking about putting together your own Guide to New Visitors, start with Problogger Darren Rowse's advice on what to include in an About Page. Then consider these tips:

Create a Back-Dated Post--Probably the simplest thing to do is to create a back-dated post that goes to the beginning of your blog and then just include everything you want to tell your new visitors in that post. You can then link to that post in your side-bar. You could also use or create a catchy graphic and then turn that into a link to that you put into your sidebar or the banner at the top of your blog.

Typepad Landing Pages--If you use Typepad Pro or Plus, another option is to create a landing page using this hack. The landing page becomes the new "front door" into your blog, so that you would have a link to your newbie guide (as created above) as well as to your blog and other areas that you may want, such as a wiki, etc.

You could make it even simpler by  using the same hack to create a separate site that is just used for your  Newbie Guide, replacing the need to do the post as described in the first option. Then you would just link to this new site. One advantage is that if you wanted, you could give it a somewhat different look than your regular blog, although it might be a little overkill if you're not totally comfortable with Typepad.

Side Note--Creating a landing page is a good idea whether or not you do a newbie guide (see what ProBlogger Darren Rowse says about it). It can create a more professional entrance into your blog, particularly if it's your primary web presence, which may be true for many smaller nonprofits. I've also used this hack to create mini websites for customers--most people wouldn't even know that I was using Typepad to create them.

Let me know if you've seen other examples of Blog Visitor Guides because I'd like to find more. I'm also curious to know what other items you think should be included in a guide. And for that matter, do you think a newbie guide is a good idea or a waste of time? Drop me an e-mail or a line in comments.

Comments

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I think I'll have to get back to you on newbie guides (thinking of our own brand spanking new blog). I'm wary of making things too complicated by having too many links, and tend to feel that visitors to our site might be finding their way to the blog through other pages on our site - including the introduction and guide-to pages that we're building... A lot of the time whether I create things like that or not on our website depends on the feedback we get from visitors (like people phoning in to say "where's X on your website?", or my boss giving me a blank look when I talk about "commenting" on blogs or somesuch...)

Anyway! I actually commented to drop you this link (assuming that you haven't come across this before), that a friend pointed out to me when I was discussing with her the unchartered (here, anyway) issues with the personal nature of blogs in a professional environment.

http://freerangelibrarian.com/2006/12/draft_blog_guidelines.php

They seem like very useful guidelines for nonprofits/govt depts/etc when the bloggers themselves aren't entirely sure what they're doing (as opposed to the visitors). Thought you might find it interesting/useful in terms of your setting up these kinds of tools for those kinds of organisations :)

(btw, MPOW = My Place Of Work, nice generic shorthand, there!)

Good point, Emily, about including guides based on feedback and being responsive to that. For me I might still be inclined to include a guide (once I had enough to refer back to and feel that a guide was needed) and then ask readers for feedback. I'd probably also monitor traffic to that area to see if it was used at all.

Thanks for the link, too--looks like a nice basic blogging guide for nonprofit bloggers to use in getting started.

So true, functionality without usability is like having a place to walk but no legs!

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