Dispatches From Blogistan

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the book
Dispatches From Blogistan
by suzanne stefanac
peachpit/new riders
voices that matter series
shipping now
> amazon
> barnes & noble
from the book
> table of contents
 
> chapter 2 history of open discourse
 
> chapter 6 history of journalism
 
> 10 blog design tips
 
> what is this long tail?
 
> trackback demystified
 
> blog ethics primer
 
> glossary
 
> resource hotlinks

interviews

> cory doctorow

> farai chideya

> bruce sterling

> denise caruso

> craig newmark

> jamais cascio

> laura lemay

> christian crumlish

> jon lebkowsky

10 habits for better blogging

05.26.06 @ 01:41:56 pacific

focus, focus, focus
The most successful mid-tier bloggers don’t try to be all things to all people. Their intent is well-defined and intelligently supported throughout their sites. They carefully target a community that shares their interests, tailoring the look-and-feel, writing style, and content of their blogs to that audience. It’s true that the Long Tail distribution of blogs means that only a very few blogs will ever be ultra-popular, but at the same time, an ever-increasing number of blogs along that Long Tail are finding active and faithful communities. The bloggers who stand out within each of the many niches generally do so by consistently satisfying the interests of like-minded others.

craft a clear identity
To avoid getting lost among the millions of other blogs, it’s important to craft an identity that appeals to your targeted audience and reinforces that identity throughout the life of the blog. To begin with, this means choosing a blog name that will mean something to potential readers who come across it on search pages or in links from other websites. It’s best to own your domain name, both as an anchor for your identity, and as a guarantee that your permalinks remain valid, should you ever choose to change blog services. Choose a blog design that is graceful, easy-to-navigate, and that doesn’t compete for attention with your finely honed posts. Include an “about me” page that offers readers a window onto your background and intent. As your blog evolves, continue to cultivate a voice that is plain-spoken, friendly, and clear. Take advantage of the fact that the informal style of most blogs allows you to mimic your conversational tone. If you’re in doubt about a post, try reading it aloud. It’s good to remember that personality distinguishes the best blogs. Don’t be afraid to be yourself.

write explicit headlines
A newspaper or magazine can afford a headline with a clever play on words because the explanatory text lies right below it. As bloggers, we really ought to save the puns and pop culture references for the text of our posts. The reasons are simple: search engines and news aggregators. Potential readers finding your content via either may see only the headline and will make decisions about whether to click through and read the post based on how confident they are that the content is of interest. Also, the more venerable search engines grant higher rank to pages with headlines that contain requested keywords. To get the most oomph from your headlines, set your blog software to create permalinks that contains the text of your headlines.

get to the point
When asked the secret to his enormous popularity as a novelist, Elmore Leonard responded, “I try to leave out the parts that people skip.” We would do well to keep the maxim in mind. No one has enough time these days. If you want to keep readers coming back, stay on topic, make your point, and move on.

tag with a vengeance
Finding blog posts that are of personal interest becomes more and more daunting as the number of blogs skyrocket. One way to ensure that like-minded readers find your own posts is to tag each one with freely chosen descriptors. Quite the opposite of hierarchical taxonomies like the Dewey Decimal System or the Yellow Pages, these tags are not chosen from a preordained master list, but rather are whatever words or phrases you imagine your ideal readers might use to search for content just like your own. These tags, collectively called folksonomy, are proving surprisingly effective in aiding blog discovery, with blog search services like Technorati and IceRocket, as well as the new tag-specific engines like Wink, Tag Central, Tagyu, and Keotag, all tracking tags.

Don’t forget to tag your posts on social bookmarking services like del.icio.us and furl.com, as well. When choosing tags, avoid terms that are too general because your pages will get lost among the many using the same terms. Once again, focus comes to the rescue. Think of tagging a kind of probability engine and choose terms that your targeted audience members will be most likely to try searching on first.

engage the commentariat
One of the driving forces behind blogging is the fact that anyone can respond to just about any blog post. This can be, at once, rewarding and horrible. Lively discussions enrich the value of a blog, even if the verbal exchanges do sometimes get a little rough. Respond promptly and honestly to both friendly and cranky comments. Don’t get too puffed up by praise or too prickled by those who choose to differ. Ignore the trolls if you can. They generally wander away if you do. Visit the blogs of your most faithful readers and leave comments when you have something to add to a conversation going on there. Link to those from whom you learn or by whom you are entertained. No blog is an island.

publish full-text newsfeeds
Many bloggers prefer to publish newsfeeds that contain only summaries or excerpts because they want subscribers to view their posts in the context of their overall blog environment. Also, they hope to foil scammers who republish full-text newsfeeds on their own websites. These are valid concerns, but for many bloggers, publishing newsfeeds that contain entire posts makes even more sense. More and more people are using news aggregators to keep up with the mad world of blogging and full-text is much friendlier toward these readers. Even more convincing, many of the most popular blog search engines index the content of newsfeeds, rather than a blog’s actual pages, and so if you want your content to be indexed and searched by their engines, you must publish full-text feeds.

check logs religiously
Install weblogs that provide an accurate history of those visiting your blog. What links did they use to find you? What search terms? Where do they live? What operating systems and browsers are they using most often? Answers to all of these questions can be found in any decent weblog and will help you to craft content that continues to attract and retain your ideal readers.

evangelize your blog
Don’t be embarrassed to tell the world about your blog. Mention it to friends and associates. Include the web address in your bios and email signature, as well as on business cards—job gods allowing, of course. Link to your blog from any other websites that you control. Engage in conversations on your own blog and in comments on related blogs. Many bloggers allow you to include your own URL as a link at the end of your comments. Hubris is unbecoming, but honest enthusiasm for your own works will help to attract like-minded fans.

never, ever plagiarize
This should go without saying, but with copy-and-paste as easy as it is, many succumb to the temptation to lift a paragraph here, a photo there, a clever thought over there. This was never a good idea, but on the Web, search engines make short work of proving who the true creator really is. This doesn’t mean you can’t show off your ability to recognize great content. Link with abandon. Give others credit in every instance. Be generous in your acknowledgements. Blogdom rewards those who play well with others.




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