Step-By-Step: Give a Site Blog Appeal

It’s easy to set up and customize a Weblog for your Web site. We walk you through the necessary steps.

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Arin Hailey is a freelance writer and editor based in the San Francisco Bay Area.

You and your Web site used to have a great relationship, but lately you just can’t express yourself online as freely and spontaneously as you want to. Rekindle your site’s immediacy by giving it a Web log, or blog. A blog lets you add new content quickly from almost anywhere. Others can participate via comments to your postings or as full-fledged contributors.

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Google’s Blogger service permits you to create and maintain blogs that are hosted for free on Blogger’s servers. Alternatively, with just a few simple tweaks to your Blogger account, you can use Blogger to add a Web log to an existing Web site and make it look like that site’s other pages. Hosting the blog on your site rather than on Blogger’s servers allows you to integrate your blog with the other components of your site, such as your portfolio and your collection of family photos. It also enables regular visitors to find your blog postings easily.

The ABCs of FTP

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1. Get started: Go to Blogger.com and click Create Your Blog Now. The user name and password you choose will sign you in later to alter your blog. On the ‘Name your blog’ screen, give your blog a title and click Advanced Blog Setup. Reenter the blog’s name and provide the address of your site’s FTP server, FTP protocol, and FTP path (the directory in which you will publish your blog, as shown at left). If you don’t already have this information, ask your Web hosting service for it. Your best bet is to publish your blog in a dedicated directory. For example, if your Web site’s FTP directory were “public_html,” you would set your FTP path to public_html/blog to prevent overwriting existing files in your site’s server directory. Finally, enter a file name (such as index.html) and a URL (for example, http://mywebsite.com/blog). You can upload the HTML and image files destined for your blog to any FTP server. (Some other blog-creation tools, such as Movable Type, require that you set up a separate database on a server, but Blogger has no such requirements.) For more about FTP, visit the Blogger.com home page and click Help, FTP.

Customize Your Blog

2. Find the look you like: After you’ve named your blog, you need to choose a template to pattern its layout on. Remember that you can always switch to another template design later. If you feel comfortable working with HTML code, you can modify Blogger’s standard templates, or you can create a completely original look for your blog. Scott Spanbauer’s “Instant Web Sites” feature (January 2004), includes a sample blog template, as well as instructions for editing templates at Blogger.com.

3. Make your statement: Now you’re ready to begin adding content: Click Start Posting to open the Create page, which is located under the Posting tab. Publish a test post to make sure that everything is working (you can delete the post later if you wish). Enter your FTP user name and password; you’ll need to do this the first time you publish during each Blogger session. You can preview, edit, or save your initial post as a draft before you publish it. When everything is in order, you’re free to post away.

4. Create a profile: Now personalize the placeholder text accompanying the template. First click the Settings tab on the Blogger account home page to enter your blog description. To change your blog’s profile, go to the Blogger Dashboard and click Edit Profile. You can choose not to display your profile at all if you like. On the Dashboard, click your blog’s name. Then click Template, Edit Current, scroll to ‘<!– Sidebar–>’, and delete the following text: <$BlogMemberProfile$> (see above). The wording of options and HTML code in different templates varies, and the template you’re working with may not have all the options described here. To deploy the changes on your site, click Save Template Changes followed by the Republish Index button.

5. Add links before you publish: If your template includes links in a sidebar section, you can personalize them by scrolling in the template window to the section set off with ‘<h6>Links</h6>’. Edit these links so that they match the template’s sample (above). When you’re done, click Save Template Changes and then Republish Index. Later you can add multiple authors and photos to the blog, in addition to enabling e-mail and even mobile-phone posting. As you learn Blogger’s tools you’ll regain mastery of your domain in no time. And who knows–your blog might get you to fall in love with your Web site all over again.

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