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:
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