Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Successful Blogging?

I have no misconception that I am anything other than a beginning blogger when it comes to my online presence. There are, however, little bits of knowledge that I have picked up along the way. Like shiny stones, I can tell that some concepts are like roughly shaped diamonds dancing around in my pocket as I travel the path I have chosen. Some of the stones might be classified as quartz or pyrite, these would be the habits I have developed that don't really aid me or assist my progress. In fact, if anything, they only succeed in weighing me down and slow my progress.

I have come to terms with the fact that I will most likely never become a professional blogger. The tempering of my thought-process has not been one of defeat, but a realization of what this blog means compared to my end goals with writing. But what if you do want to be a successful blogger?

I can tell you right now, HuntingtheMuse.com is not going to be your one-stop information resource, but I do have some tidbits of advice that you may find useful.

Blog promotion starts within.

There are many different ways to get people to visit your blog or website, but one of the most valuable ways of getting someone off the street is from internet search results. There is a lot that can be said for this, and so much that I really have no idea about, but one thing is very clear: do not write for SEO (this is basically a search engine ranking system, in layman's terms). That said, you probably should take a moment to think about your post title and some of the key words you can sprinkle throughout your post to help as breadcrumbs for people searching the internet for information you are trying to share. This obviously has a lot to do with what kind of blog you have, if you are just writing about your tuna fish sandwich and how your boss likes to pick his nose, you may have to rely on social networking to attract the voyeuristic following that will enjoy your blog.

To be honest, I have not done so well with the titles of my posts and key-word saturation would be easy enough if I set my mind to it, but I haven't ever given it a whole lot of thought.

Content is key? A Question of Authority

The content of your blog should be somewhat consistent. Some of the fairly successful blogs I've seen have actually been static content blogs that provide a step-by-step 'how-to' of sorts. If done properly, this model can expand to additional blogs to form a sort of 'How-to Network'. Many blog owners that I have stumbled upon have been multi-blog bloggers. If you have a few blogs that all link to each other, you have theoretically increased your SEO standing as well and provided a way to hold on to visitors who might be interested in the related content that you present.

To pull off this sort of content-centric ring-of-blogs, you really need to be able to demonstrate to your visitors that you have some sort of authority on the matter. This is why HuntingtheMuse has shied away from being an information resource and has more recently veered in the direction of a "this-is-me-and-my-quest-to-becoming-the-writer-I-want-to-be" sort of blog. Without a decent credit to my name, I am not a viable source of trial-tested writing information. I can vocalize what my current methodology and beliefs are, but I can honestly say that if I were you and you were me, I probably wouldn't take your advice either. That is the question you have to ask yourself, can you demonstrate that you have the authority to be an information resource?

If I were showing you how to build a deck I could use a pictorial type of How-To design and you would believe that I knew what I was doing based off the demonstration of my work. The pictures of each step would speak for themselves.

If you have an informational blog on SEO and I search for you and can't find you in the search results, I'm not sure how much stock I'll be able to put into your advice. The bottom line is, what makes your content worth reading, and can you prove you have the credentials to be giving advice?

Promotion and the Blogging Network

Be prepared for the beginning. The first thing you will realize as you begin your adventure in blogging is that you will need to build a network of links to funnel traffic to your blog. If you are part of a few forums you can attach your blog address to your signature in most cases without angering anyone. I highly suggest you do not create an account on a seemingly related (or unrelated) forum for the purpose of site promotion. If I'm on a forum and I see a post-count:1 advertisement ("Hey guys come check out my writing blog at www.idontreallycareaboutyoupeople.com/blog...") I know two things right off the bat. 1: Not only will I not click your link, but most others won't either. 2: You will very likely never even come back to participate in the forum.

So, where are we at now? Other bloggers are a great resource for building a social network around your blog. At first you may trade links, you may even like the content on their blog or website and visit regularly. This stems off into participation in blog networks like Blogrush (not worth beans in my experience), Technorati (while I get very little traffic, I do like the site and what it offers), and Entrecard. (Entrecard is a very good networking resource that allows you to meet other bloggers and see blogs based on content. I have done very well with Entrecard and only got burnt out once I joined the click-fest group where I had a list of blogs to visit every day who I could also expect to have visit my blog. This took a lot of the fun out of the system and soon I found that the traffic this group was providing was dwindling at an alarming rate until it was near non-existent.)

Another way to interact with other bloggers is via the "me-me" which usually takes the form of a sort of chain-blogging activity where you complete the objective post and then pass it on to any number of other blogs, I usually see that number as around 5 or so. The problem with this is that you are just starting out and unless you feel you really know someone, it may be hard to just drop by unannounced and say, "Guess what, I want you to post about this silly 'me-me' and then pass it on!" I don't like chain letters in my email and if you don't either then me-me's probably won't be for you. One good thing to come out of a me-me was a story I wrote and submitted to the Ohio State University writing contest for The Journal. I had to take the story down to submit it, but you can read the post here.

Of course, there are a lot of other tools at your disposal... Digg and StumbleUpon come to mind, but there are so many others out there that I'll just have to leave it to you to find out what will work best for your blog.

Bloggers Need Love Too

Not only will you need to make sure you post regularly, you will also need to give love to your new blogging friends. Ghost browsing isn't enough, you'll need to give out some comment love here and there to let them know you are still hanging around. You may not get out what you put in, but you will seldom get more than you give. Once you develop outside traffic sources and become big, maybe then people will understand. Until then, be mindful of the people who visit your blog and post comments, they are your friends.

Good luck and happy blogging!

Creative Writing Exercise:


Jim Murdoch said...

So, you're a beginner blogger. You've learned the most important lesson, that you need to go out into the big bad world a do something to attract readers' attentions. All my regular readers have come from me visiting their sites and making quality comments. You need to make them stop in their tracks and say, "Who is this guy?" Then they'll click on your link and there's your second chance – and this is where the whole 'quality is king' comes in although presentation comes a close second.

The other thing is that you don't need to blog every day. I have seen some decent blogs die a death because their authors couldn't produce a quality product on a daily basis. As long as you post regularly – I post twice a week – then that's enough: give your readers time to digest your last entry so that, when your next one comes they're looking forward to it.

My experiences of BlogRush and Entrecard have been the same as yours. Both sites have introduced me to a few decent blogs but basically now that I know them and they're in my RSS feedreader I never need to worry. The thing about sites like these is not to get caught up in the hype. Frankly I don't think there are any magic solutions or quick fixes certainly not when it comes to literary blogs.

I've also tried the hard slog and for weeks on end clicked on every link on every site I came across and what I discovered is that there are a few really good blogs out there that sooner-or-later end up on most people's lists and there's a lot of sites not worth bothering about because all they want to talk about are incidentals, what happened on campus this week and how to make pumpkin pie.

If I could offer one comment on your own blog, if you could put in spaces between your paragraphs it would make it easier to read. Long blocks of text are off-putting. You need to increase the amount of white space. It does make a difference.

Good article.

Jena Isle said...

Very well written Brady...I'm not too keen on meme's too. The meme usually stops with me.

And you were right about having content that you are at least familiar with; ( Will I go on with my writing blog???? You guys are all good! I will still have to learn.)and topics which you can discuss fairly well.

Blogging is also a learning journey. You learn while you blog.

Thanks for sharing Happy blogging.

Unknown said...

@Jim Thanks for the tip! I made the changes and you're right, it looks much better. Your insight is invaluable! You're right about the collection of blogs... it doesn't really matter how you come across them, as long as you hold onto the good ones.

@Jena I have enjoyed reading your blog so don't think you don't have something to offer. Keep up the good work. I appreciate the compliment though. :)

Ken Armstrong said...

I would just echo Jim (Jim.. jim.. ji...) that considered comments on blog posts you can relate to is key to getting people to come by, stop, and look around. Content is what makes them come back again

You know I greatly enjoy your blog and admire the way you are constantly pushing yourself to find your best. So long as you continue to post-what-you-feel, I'll be conming around using up bandwidth. :)

I do have to name check Entrecard - it moved me from a place called 'nobody ever calls by' to a place where people do. I think the beauty was/is that it gave me a little networking tool that I could work with at my own pace and which didn't cost anything but time.

Finally, if we're all doing tips - I found (a little late) that replying to the comments on my own posts was not a sin and that it increased the sense of discussion, community or.. something on the blog.

Unknown said...

Thanks Ken!

This is actually turning out way better than I expected. With you guys adding tips from your own experience, this post is actually transforming from my whimsical musings into something more along the lines of a starting resource for beginning bloggers. While none of us are pulling in the cash like John Chow, our combined experience has got to be worth months of struggle and lessons hard-learned. Don't they say that time is the most valuable thing? If they don't then they should, whoever this infamous they are...

Karen, author of "My Funny Dad, Harry" said...

I enjoyed your article here. It was helpful to me because I am new at this blogging thing. I learn something new every day!

Anonymous said...

These are all great tidbits of blogging knowledge and it's great that you've shared it with others.

While I don't have paragraphs to write as your previous commentors have, I think you're doing a great job and I find your blog quite enjoyable.

Thanks for stopping by and leaving me a comment. It's nice to "meet" a husband of a fellow seamstress who acknowledges the quality of her sewing. :-D

Unknown said...

@ Karen I'm glad you found this post helpful! I was surprised how much more goes into blogging than just writing posts and attracting easy traffic. Of course, I never thought it would be easy, but I never expected the depth of effort a blog would take. I'm glad I've kept at it though, I've met a lot of great friends.

@ Lynne

I don't just appreciate the quality of her sewing, I can honestly say that my wife is my best friend. She's very, very talented. My only gripe is that she doesn't see how wonderful she is, but then again if she did she might not have settled for someone like me. :)

Here is a link to a thread she created on Craftster: Click me!

Pok Dell said...

I'm a new blogger too.
And this articles are very important thing to me.
Thanks mate :)
Happy father's day

Emily said...

I really like this post. I'm glad you made the effort to collect all of your observations about successful blogging. I think my problem is that I don't really know what my blog is supposed to be about. If it's just to update relatives about Lincoln, then I can't expect any other traffic to have a real interest. If it's about parenting in general, then I've got a LOT of competition! I am not consistently creative enough to have a crafty blog like the others that I follow. Ho-hum. What to do?

Unknown said...

Emily - Thanks for the comment! :) I know what you mean about your blog. I actually started this whole project to give writing advice, but it didn't take long for me to realize that I didn't have a whole lot to offer in that area. So, I guess it just turned into a chronicle of my writing experiences and if someone can learn from my struggles, great!

I suppose from an outsider's perspective, you blog might highlight some of the issues of being a new mom. You might think about including review posts for items that you use regularly or ones you may have been disappointed in. You have far more resources than you give yourself credit for. :)