I just came back from a blogger meetup, and am for some (possibly related) reason inspired to offer some blogging tips I’ve accumulated over the nearly three years I’ve been blogging.
0) THE SHORT VERSION FOR IMPATIENT FOLKS
– When in doubt, save-as-draft.
– Write about what you love.
– Publicize smartly.
– Add your blog to directories.
– Write smart blog titles and excerpts.
– Put ads in your blog unapologetically.
– Make sure you’re pinging everyone.
– Use SE-friendly URLs.
– Make your contact info visible.
– Test your blog in different browsers.
– Ask your friends for blunt advice.
– Don’t lose perspective.
– Ask me out (females only, please)
* * *
1) DON’T BE STUPID
This is key point #1, literally. While it’s actually a superb idea to write when you’re really angry or depressed or lovestruck or feeling very emotional in general, it’s not smart to actually publish your entries without a cooling off period. Being first or speedy (e.g., impulsive) is not as valuable as being safe long term. Remember, what you post on your blog will likely last forever, even after you edit or delete it (in the Wayback Machine, Google cache, peoples’ offline aggregators, etc.).
So, in other words, write when you are inspired but take yourself through this quick decision tree first:
Would I feel comfortable having my Mom, my friends, my current or future significant other, and my current and future work colleagues read this?
– [YES]: Are you sure?
– – [YES, DANGIT!]: Okay, hit publish [end]
– – [UM, NOT TOTALLY]: Hit save as draft. Revisit tomorrow [end]
– [NO]: Hit save as draft. Revisit tomorrow. [end]
2) DON’T FAKE IT
If you don’t feel passionate about what you’re blogging, it will show. Just because you figure you can make one MILLION dollars writing about texas hold’em poker doesn’t mean that you’ll be successful in doing so (unless you really, really love texas hold’em, and — really, now — is that whole shebang truly anything more than media hype and blog-comment-spam-insanity anyway? Does anyone REALLY play that game? Ah, but I digress.)
3) DON’T BE SHY
If you’re proud of your blog (and dammit, you should be!), include a link to it in your e-mail signature, print up business cards (Vistaprint is hella cheap and makes good stuff), and mention your blog with your name when post on other blogs, write notes on forums, etc. But (and, obviously, this SHOULD go without saying), don’t be a twit about it. Offer thoughtful or at least entertaining contributions instead of merely hyping your blog, and people WILL go see your blog because they like you and/or your writing, not because you screamed “Look at my blog!!!!!!!1”
And while we’re talking about publicity stuff, let me offer some key (actually specific) tips about how to increase your readership and generally extend the reach of your blog:
– Use Feedburner
This service is free (except for their few Pro features) and really rocks. It’ll help make your RSS feeds flexible, enable you to create an animated GIF with your latest headlines, and much more!
– Add your blog to relevant directories.
(sorry, I haven’t kept a list of these lately, but I’m sure you can google this, and of course, I welcome input here, too!)
– Intelligently and cleverly write both your blog entry titles AND excerpts.
Include relevant keywords, a teaser, AND an honest description all in one whenever possible.
– Make your feeds easy to find!
As an example, look at my autodiscovery meta tags (view | source of my blog), and note how I advertise my feeds right up at the top of every page of my blog.
4) DON’T FEEL GUILTY ABOUT $$$ (or even just $)
Okay, so I’m a sell-out. And frankly, I think I probably have one too many ad blocks in my blog now (the whole blog is due for a redesign, honest-to-God, though I know I’ve been sincerely noting that for like five months now [sigh]). But with that said, I am completely unashamed that I have ads in my blog. I pay for hosting. I spend time offering (IMHO) oft-useful or at least amusing comments to 500-1000 folks each day. Putting Google’s AdSense ads on my site doesn’t make what I have to say any less interesting or valid (and, admittedly, doesn’t make it any MORE interesting, either). Oh, and in case you’re curious, I make about $2 a day. I’m not getting rich, and since I spend at least two hours on my blog a week, this means I make a mere $7/hour or so. But hey, $700 a year is still nothing to sneeze at :-).
Bottom line: Don’t blog for money, but don’t feel guilty about earning a bagel (with schmear) a day for your writing, either.
5) DON’T FORGET THE WHORISH UNDERPINNINGS
– Ping, ping, baby!
Are you pinging everyone you should ping? Here’s my ping list, and I think it’s pretty complete:
– Make your individual blog entry URLs search-engine friendly!
I haven’t yet had a chance to do this with my blog yet, but ideally, your entry about playful albino dolphins should be at http://www.yourblog.com/archives/playful-albino-dolphins
Hyphens are better than underscores.
Don’t just trust me… I read it from GoogleGuy so it must be true (really).
6) DON’T OVERLOOK THE BASICS!
– Make it easy to contact you!
I can’t tell you how many times I wanted to send a note to a blogger (to offer a tip or just congrats, to let them know one of their links is broken, etc.), and I was unable to find any way to reach them via e-mail. That’s just stupid. If you’re worried about spambots (which is understandable!), include a “Contact me” form, or obfuscate your address (e.g., “write me at adam at the domain lasnik.net”).
– Make sure your site works in ALL popular browsers!
If you’re on a PC, you should be using Firefox instead of IE anyway, but look at your blog in both no matter what. I discovered that a friend’s blog, for instance, was completely unreadable in Firefox due to incompatible CSS. Not a very good way to build up readership! On the other hand, quit worrying about Netscape 4.7 folks. Sorry, people, but you’re <1% of visitors now and no one other than masochists or stupid people will bother to specially-optimize / cripple their sites for you. – Ask your friends for honest advice.
For instance, 9 out of 10 AdamFriends have unequivocably complained that my blog is too cluttered and has a lousy color scheme. Frankly, I think they’re all nuts (well, except for the one suck-up who says my site is perfect :D). But clearly I’m outvoted. The only reason I’ve not yet cleaned up my blog is that I’m insanely busy with stuff that actually pays me more than $7/hr, delightfully entertains me, gets me laid, and/or all of the above. Hmm… that was actually more than one reason, I suppose, but oh well.
7) DON’T LOSE PERSPECTIVE!
I keep seeing bloggers apologize for going on hiatus. Heck, even I’ve been guilty of groveling to my readers, begging them to still love me even when I go
weeks months without blogging.
What a crock of bovine excrement. We have no obligations to our readers. I’m serious. Friends are more important than blogging. Family is more important than blogging. Exercise, diet, inner peace, world peace, and steady employment — more important than blogging. Going on a hike somewhere without your laptop or PDA and getting fresh, un-recirculated air — more important than blogging. And here’s a crazy idea: going on a vacation for a week and actually avoiding blogs, online and offline news (including TV, newspapers, etc.), and everything digital — way more important than blogging.
I know, I know, I may sound like a hypocritical smarmy twit about all of this, but I really mean all of it. The week I spent in Port Townsend unplugged and at a camp for swingers made me far happier than any week in which I’ve gotten lots of blog traffic or broke $3/day from blogvertising.
Sometimes we just need to take a step back and put everything in perspective.
For the other 355 days, though, I hope my blog tips are helpful :-D. Please feel free to ask me for any clarifications (“What’s a ping, daddy?”), offer suggestions, or simply tell me I’m full of crap.
Or, if you’re a really cute and artistic female who likes geeks, ask me out. That’s better than blogging, too :-).