How NOT to start a genealogy blog

I failed miserably.

When I started this blog, all of 5 weeks ago, I had no idea what I was doing.  I started my blog with just one post, and left it that way for a week. This, evidently, was a bad idea.

As far as I know, there is no one place for someone to go to find out how to build a successful genealogy blog from the ground up. I’ve seen webinars on setting up a blog but nothing that gives a good idea of what to do once the blog is set up. If you’re like me and get information overload, then trying to meld together all of the bits and pieces you find on the web into something useable can be frustrating. 31 Weeks to a Better Genealogy Blog (31WBGB) is a great compromise but it still doesn’t help someone brand spankin’ new to blogging to get started.

Then I read this week’s plus version of Dick Eastman’s newsletter (to which I subscribe), which offered an article on how to start a genealogy blog. I won’t give away the details but in this gem of an article was a suggestion to write up a number of posts before going live.

It seems so obvious now – if you go live with only one blog post that says ‘hi it’s me nice to meet you come back soon’ there’s not much to entice your readers to come back. Yet when starting, there are so many intricate details to consider, that this just did not end up being one that I thought about.

Thankfully Geneabloggers listed me shortly after my first post and I had more traffic from that than I did from publicizing on twitter. I have also been faithfully following 31WBGB by Tonia which is helping me to improve my blogging skills on a regular basis.

So, if you’re thinking of starting a new genealogy blog, or recently started one and would like try to avoid my mistake, here’s what I would recommend:

Don’t rush. I went live within 24 hours of deciding I wanted to start my blog. At the time it did not seem like such a bad thing since I had thought about doing it for a long, long time. But in retrospect I would have been better off had I taken a couple of weeks, read the the articles mentioned above, and written a few posts first. The short delay will likely improve your visibility in the long run.

Read Dick Eastman’s article. If you are not a plus subscriber, consider signing up. You’ll have access to the article right away, and you won’t be disappointed with the newsletter. Each week I glean something new that would have taken me hours to figure out on my own (if I ever did figure it out).

Check out week 6 of Tonia’s 31WBGB challenge. Tonia provided a whole host of links that are super useful. It’s taking me a long time to get through them and I still have a long way to go. It can’t hurt to start reading them now, whether you’re writing a blog already or still thinking about it.

Now it’s your turn: If you’re like me and you started within moments of deciding to – let me know how it’s going. Is your blog doing what you want it to? Have you read any suggestions on how to improve visibility? Are there links to other webpages that will help those who have just started or those who are thinking of starting? Let us know in the comments!!

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19 comments on “How NOT to start a genealogy blog

  1. Cheryl Palmer on said:

    I wouldn’t say you failed miserably, you are still here! I, for one, am enjoying your blog and think you have done a wonderful job in your short career of blogging! Keep up the great work, I look forward to reading more!

  2. Christopher Shaw on said:

    I am right there with you. But, my biggest problem is I didn’t think about the time it was going to take and how little of it that I do have to compete my posts. I thought it would be easy – oh how I was wrong. But, I will stick with it because I like to write.

    You are doing great and I enjoy reading your posts. Keep it up and I will also.

    • 1ancestry2littletime on said:

      Thanks Christopher. I too didn’t realize the time commitment. Thanks for pointing that out. Yet another thing that newbies aren’t aware of.

      Leave us your blog address :) I’d love to check it out.

  3. Linda Gartz on said:

    Never said “failed.” You tried — which means you did more than all those talking about starting a blog and never doing it. I started my blog last November. I had a steep learning curve as I’m not techy, but I had help from a techy friend (but paid for the help) and used Apple 1-1 lessons to bolster that. I was up till wee hours of morning figuring stuff out, but got out my oldest missive on the 100th anniversary of the date it was written – my goal.

    Yes! You must get posts ahead — otherwise life gets in way. At times I’ve been 6 weeks ahead; then I get lazy and soon I have to scurry. It would help to lay out a list of all the things you’d like to blog about and figure out when they’ll logically schedule; then write like made to at least get a rough draft of each. SHORT! 300-500 words max. I’ve broken this rule — people don’t have time to read long posts.

    My posts take a LONG time to create because I import lots of old photos and documents (I’m documenting my grandparents love letters and decision to travel to America 100 years ago. I posted some things 100 years to date written — so I knew when they had to go up. It was taking over my life, so I went down to one post per week. That’s manageable.

    Put your URL as a signature to your email so all emails have that link automatically. Visit as many other Family History blogs as possible. It’s hard to do sometimes but critical and a great community — lots to learn from others (e.g..,Tonia) Learn more about social media. I send out an email to all my friends when a new post comes out but add “Please reply DO NOT SEND if you don’t want these updates.” Not many people comment, but many tell me they look regularly and prefer the reminder as it’s easy to click and hard to remember to go there. For my photos I created a folder on desktop and I add the photos I’m going to use for any post so they’re ready to go when the post it. I’m no expert, and I’m trying to get more efficient. My posts take WAY too long to create, but given the scanning, the translating, the putting together, that’s how it is. If you haven’t seen Lynn Palermo’s blog, Armchair Archaeologist, check it out. Always helpful – and SO many are, but I just love her advice on writing family histories and news about publishing. Good luck. Let me know how it goes — send an email or comment at my blog so I’m sure to see it. I don’t get back to everyone’s blogs after commenting.
    Also get Google Reader to keep track of blogs you want to follow.

    • 1ancestry2littletime on said:

      Wow, Linda – this is terrific advice. Thank you. I would love to write ahead but as it is, with the time commitment (as you mention as well) I’m just keeping up right now. I guess I do need to find some extra time to write. It’s also a matter of ‘what do I write about’? I don’t want to be a ‘me too’ genealogy blogger, but then it’s tough to come up with lots of original ideas.

      I hadn’t thought of putting the link in my email!! Great suggestion!!!

      Just to make sure readers go to the right place if they look for Lynn’s blog, I believe you meant Armchair Genealogist. You had me going though. :)
      Here’s the link: http://www.thearmchairgenealogist.com/

      Congrats on making your goal on the anniversary date.

  4. You haven’t failed in the least! Cheryl is right, you’re DOING it, and that is what separates failures from success. Those who fail are those who never try. And I, too, really enjoy reading your blog – I subscribed and look forward to your posts!

    If you’re looking for more advice on beginning blogging, you might look into DearMyrtle’s Blogging For Beginners webinars (available as a bundle at http://www.legacyfamilytreestore.com/ProductDetails.asp?ProductCode=WBLOGbundl but you can buy them separately, too). I never got to watch the second, but I attended the first and it was very useful and interesting. It’s what finally inspired me to take the plunge. In addition to blogging specifically, there’s lots of advice out there that I’ve used to help train me up in WordPress and Atahaulpa, the theme I’m using. I wanted my own site and I had NEVER done one before, so that has been a learning curve as much as the blogging for me. I still despair of making my blog look as snappy as some of the others out there!

    I struggle with the writing aspect, too. I used to run a livejournal for myself back when blogging was reeeeeally new and all my friends had livejournal. I got away from it over the years, but I assume blogging would be exactly the same. NOT! The focus is different, the audience is different and the tone is different. I am still struggling to define the focus of my blog, and that means that my posts are all over the place as far as theme goes. They all center on genealogy, but this one is about my family, another is an irreverent question or thought, another is about my work for the local historical society – just what am I doing? What is my blog about, besides genealogy? Where do I fit in?

    I tell you what, though – one day, if we both stick with it, we’re gonna be able to write blog posts or webinars of our own guiding newbies through those first few weeks of starting their own blog – we just have to get through the painful growing experiences right now!

    Two last tech tips for you: I started using this to schedule my posts so I can see in layout form how they will look in the next few weeks, to keep me consistent. Consistency in blogging is key! http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/editorial-calendar/screenshots/

    Also, your ‘follow me’ button on the top of your blog doesn’t work. Mine didn’t either, and I had to go in and tweak it after learning about feedburner to get it to work. I can retrace my steps and help you with it, if you want at some point.

    Best of luck – I’m in the same boat with you! Seen any oars? :)

    • 1ancestry2littletime on said:

      Hi Dana, Thanks so much for the comments and compliments. I read your blog and you’re doing a great job. There is definitely a learning curve involved with any new endeavor, and blogging is no different especially with the technology involved. I can relate to your feeling like you’re blogging is all over the place, I feel the same way too, but I keep hoping that as long as my central theme remains intact (genealogy) then it’s okay. It really will be what you make it out to be, and half of the fun is watching new blogs develop! Thanks for the great tips – for both me and anyone else who happens upon this post and these comments. I’ll definitely check out the plug in – it sounds like a great help. I wonder about the follow me – interesting. I’ll probably have to contact you to figure it out. :)

  5. Karen Grossman on said:

    You are off to a good start. I, too am new to all of this. I am using Amy Coffin’s 52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy and History to keep me going. With the goal at the end of the year to have 52 memories I can share with my children. One of my frustrations was in using WordPress. There were things I knew I should be able to do but couldn’t see how. So I did take an online class concentrating on using WordPress. The one I took was Introduction to Creating WordPress Web Sites. The instructor was excellent and very patient. Even though I had already started, the class helped me refine my site. He explained terms, how to add pictures and videos, selling your site, and so many other things.
    You have not failed your writing is fun to read. Looking forward to reading more from you. Keep up the good work.

    • 1ancestry2littletime on said:

      Hi Karen, Thanks! I saw Amy’s 52 Weeks and it is a great idea, I just hadn’t started from the beginning so I didn’t think of jumping in late. I guess I could anyway. It’s a terrific idea to use it for memories to share with your kids. Can you let us know which class you found that concentrated on WordPress? I definitely want to check it out. I did a google for the title you mentioned but it seems there are more than one by that title. Thanks again!!

  6. Diane B on said:

    Thanks so much for this great and encouraging post and all the helpful comments. When I read it I thought, oh YEA, writing ahead BEFORE starting the blog … well that would have been a nice thought. I’m 3 or 4 weeks into this, having fun. Love your blog; I’ll keep reading! thanks
    Diane B

    • 1ancestry2littletime on said:

      Diane, thanks for visiting! You blog looks great too– only 3-4 weeks and it looks good already! I’m impressed with the depth of you posts. I’ll definitely stop by again too. PS we are practically neighbors. I need to get to the NEGHS soon too.

  7. Kathryn Doyle on said:

    Lisa,
    Miriam created a fantastic nine-part series for bloggers “Tuesday Tips: Getting More Traffic to Your Blog.” It’s about much more than marketing and is loaded with tips to help anyone starting a genealogy blog. Enjoy!

    http://ancestories1.blogspot.com/2009/01/tuesdays-tip-getting-more-traffic-to.html

  8. Pingback: Follow me…. no don’t….. okay, follow me — wait, don’t. | 1 Ancestry 2 Little Time

  9. Sheri Fenley on said:

    Lisa,
    In a perfect genealogy blogging world, one would have an editorial calendar filled in with at least 1 month worth of posts. One would have decided on a theme or genre for one’s blog and stick faithfully to it.

    I am totally the opposite. I write whatever happens to strike my fancy at that particular time. The downside to this is when I am asked what my blog is all about I have a hard time coming up with a description. I don’t really have a “theme” or genre. One day I may write about an interesting client project and the research I have done on it and the next I am posting Jibjab videos.

    You need to decide why you created the blog and what it is you want others to know about you.

    • 1ancestry2littletime on said:

      Hi Sherry,
      Thanks for the comments. I have come to the conclusion that this is not a perfect world. :) For now I am writing the way you are, for the most part, as it strikes me. Someday maybe we’ll all have our feet firmly planted on the ground with a well-prepared elevator speech. For now I’m just having fun and I hope you are too.

  10. You’re doing fine. Here’s the problem: When you start there are so many things you can’t learn except by doing and that just takes time. When I started I knew absolutely nothing about having a website. I only knew that I wanted to try. So, over the past six years, I’ve made big messes in public, embarrassed myself repeatedly, alienated some people no doubt, made other people wonder why such an idiot came online (no doubt) and so on. Some people have left, some people have been forgiving and stuck with me, new people have come on board. I’m still a little teeny baby blogger wondering what it’s all about. The learning never ends.

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