Sunday, August 17, 2008

Blogging: Build It So They Will Come

No blog about online publishing would be complete without some posts about blogging.

Reading posts on Google's Blogger Discussion Group, it appears that many still see blogging as their "field of dreams. "Build it and they will come."Post after post asks, "why aren't people visiting my blog" or "I've tried to make it look good, so why doesn't anyone notice?" Visit the site and what you'll usually find is a page full of beautiful graphics and personal ramblings. Back when blogging was complicated and rare, readers enjoyed the novelty of sharing people's lives. Now with sites like Blogger making it so easy that everyone and her sister has not just one but several blogs, unless you're maintaining a year-round Christmas letter for friends and family, you'll need to put in some time and thought.

Blogs need a theme
And not just any theme, but one you are qualified to write about. Like everyone else, I'd love to simply blog my opinions about things. In fact, with my knowledge of history and current affairs, I figure I'm as qualified as any pundit to venture an opinion, but that doesn't equate to other people valuing that opinion. So instead I blog about something I do know. After seven plus years working with zines, starting way back in the early days, I figured I could teach people a thing or two about getting published online.

So what do you know about, other than your day to day life? Do you have a profession you could give tips about? Or maybe a hobby? Do you collect certain things? Do you garden? Are you a chef or a gourmet cook? It's funny how we can over-value our opinions yet under-value things we've learned from our professions or other activities. Or maybe you find writing about those things more boring than readers would. If so, then blog what you like, but don't expect readers to come.

Don't wait for readers, find them
I think of this in terms I learned in Kindergarten: you need to be a friend to have one. Unless you are a master at SEO, your new blog will not receive much traffic from search engines. You'll need to invite people to come. That doesn't mean spamming. You need to set aside a certain amount of time to visit other blogs and comment on posts. When you find blogs with similar themes, link to them and ask the authors if they'd like to guest post on your blog.

Guest posts are a great way to build readers. Most guests will then add a permanent link to your site. Even if they don't, they will link to their post, bringing their readers to your blog, some of whom might become regulars.

Including a link to your blog in your e-mail signature and your signature in any forums you post in is a must. Many people will automatically click on a blog link they are seeing for the first time, and, if they like what they see, they may come back.

Which brings me to the next point,

Update your blog regularly and post useful information
A blogger who just posts when she's in the mood will not attract readers. To work, a blog must be updated at least three times weekly, though everyday is really best. Readers won't check back regularly or even sign up for a feed if there isn't any reason to.

Posting alone won't do it, though. The information also has to be of value. Once you have several posts up and have developed a following, you can indulge from time to time in a bit of a ramble, but generally your information must be useful to readers or else they won't bother with it.

Decide what you want from your blog
Do you want to make money from AdSense or Amazon ads? Will it be a form of self-publishing like l. Lee Lowe? Or are you looking for a bit of fun and diversion?

If your blog is a form of self-publishing or you want to make money from it, then building your readership is much more important, and you should budget your time accordingly. If that's not what you want, then be careful. For me, writing informational articles like this one is much easier than writing fiction and provides me with the break I need, so I don't feel stale. While I don't see the point in writing for no one, I'm not looking for a huge following. I'm satisfied with a few hundred regular readers per month, but I know from experience that watching those numbers can be addictive and giving yourself an excuse to netsurf can take valuable time away from your other writing projects. If you're not in one of the first two categories and find your blogging becoming an end in itself, it may be time to re-examine.

1 comment:

2 Ply Parachutes said...

I just read this post. Stumbled upon it while surfing for some good motivation. I recently began tinkering with some ideas for a blog and was trying to get something rolling.

I have to say i found this really inspiring and motivating.

"While I don't see the point in writing for no one, I'm not looking for a huge following. I'm satisfied with a few hundred regular readers per month..." I agree completely!!

Thanks for the great post.


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