Showing posts with label advice. Show all posts
Showing posts with label advice. Show all posts

So You Wanna Blog? Part 2

In my first blog post in this series, we took a look as some of the ways you might approach blogging.  In this post, we're going to look at some of the more technical features and some things you should do with your post.  Now, I say should and all I really mean by that is if you want to maximize your viewership, there are definitely some things I recommend. 


Blogging Platform

But first, let's talk about platforms.  There are a bajillion blogging platforms out there.  This blog runs on Blogger.  But there's also WordPress and Tumblr and many others.  Platforms matter and while I chose Blogger because I am a heavy Google-product user, if I had a time machine, I would go back and choose WordPress.  Largely I recommend WordPress because it has better SEO (what is "SEO"--search engine optimization, which basically means, it gets better positioning in search results.  You would think Blogger does but apparently, it's WordPress.  I would imagine with its popularity, this is also potentially true of Tumblr.  Still, I did appreciate in the earlier days, the simplicity and ease of Blogger.  I'm a bit bummed that it seems like they are no longer doing much in terms of upgrades to the platform, but it still does the trick for now.  If I were to rank the easy and usability for neophytes, it would be Tumblr, Blogger, WordPress in order of easiest to hardest.  


What Goes Into a Blog Post?

What I'm going to talk about here is certain content to include in your blog posts that will likely improve its visibility on the internet.  Now, I mentioned before that you should blog largely for yourself and not worry about building a readership per se.  That's still true, but figure it this way:  it shouldn't stop you from at least making sure you've created a pathway to your door, just in case people want to stop by your house.  


Titles

You should make sure to include titles for each of yours.  Interesting, titles that include numbers get more readership (e.g. 7 Things You Should Know About Blogging, 99 Problems But My Internet Connection Ain't 1).  Titles should be relevant, indicate if it is part of a series, and be playful.  
Word cloud in the shape of a cat of this blog post.
Add cats, whenever possible!


Images

Including images is a must for your blog if you want to attract attention.  The images bring in people for two reasons.  The first is that it increases search visibility for general searches, but it also increases traffic to your site when people do image searches; your image may show up.  However, the best way to secure or increase image-related traffic is to make sure you do two things.
  1. Be sure to name the file relevant to what it is.  
  2. Be sure to use alt-image tags.
For the first one, by naming the image file something relevant "bookshelf.jpg" if it is a bookshelf is that this can be used as some of the information used to produce the search results.  That is, the file name helps the search engine classify it for when someone searches for it.  Alt-image tags work along the same line but there is another great reason to use alt-image labels: they help people who have visual limitations.  The alt-image text is a description of the image.  Often, folks with visual limitations use screen-readers to read text on the screen.  When the screen-reader encounters an image, it will read the alt-image text.  
In acquiring images, I have two recommendations.  The first is to use Creative Commons to find images that you can legally include on your blog and not potentially violate copyright.  I also recommend using Tagxedo to create a word cloud for your post, which as you can see on this blog, I am a big fan of!

Design

The blog design including the side bar, heading, and text should have a consistent and clear design.  I tend to prefer sans-serif fonts and a strong contrast between font color and background.  Otherwise, even I have trouble reading what I wrote.  Additionally, a consistent design of fonts, spacing, layout makes it easier for readers to determine where to focus attention.  


Headings and Subheadings

Along the lines of consistent and clear design, I encourage using headings and subheadings within the blog.  Besides providing good navigation for the reader, headings also serve another purpose with regards to SEO in that they also become ways of improving rankings of blog posts in search engines. Of course, like so much else within blogging, these should be used but not abused.   


Links


Linking is often the lifeblood of blogs and also contributes to improving a blog's SEO.  Any given post should link to other content such as points of reference, material being discussed, alternative points of view, or even funny asides.  It's also useful to encourage exchanging blog-links with other blogs or responding to and linking to other blog posts.  While some of this is used to create traffic, the other half is equally important:  providing elaboration, details, or supplemental material for your particular post, so that you can focus on your content, and use other resources to reinforce it.  
  

Tags/Labels

Tags and labels are merely a way of classifying your blog posts.  As you can see to the left of this blog post, there is a word-cloud of labels based upon popularity of given tags or labels.  I find this is a useful means to communicate to readers about the content of the blog as well as myself to consider just where my energies are largely focused.  

Ok, so those are some of the basic things to consider with your blog to maximize readership but most of these recommendations also speak to creating a well-designed and well-thought out blog.  

I don't know that I have a third in this series, but if I do, I will let you know!  Thanks for reading!



Creative Commons License

By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

So You Wanna Blog? Part 1

I’ve been blogging here for about six years (here's my very first blog post).  I’ve come to really enjoy it and find it a useful means of exploring different ideas, sharing interesting things, and engaging in occasional dialogue.  I’ve had a variety of ideas about why I blog over the years but have largely settled into blogging as a practice of writing and reflecting for myself and if others join me—hey, that’s great!


In fact, it's taken years to figure what my blog is about and how to best use it.  It’s largely about coming up with prompts for myself—which to the general reader is probably a bit eclectic:  what I'm reading, things I'm seeing (wow--now that I think about it, that's pretty boring--oh well, I still enjoy the act of blogging).  

Getting Started...or Not

The hardest part of any blog has been keeping it going.  Most blogs die quick, lonely deaths in the first months of their creation. I stumbled a lot with my blog in the first few years.  I’d post a few things and then not come back for weeks (even months!).  But three things happened that helped me get a focus. 
  • Thing #1:  I took a course where we were required to blog regularly.  So, now I had to post regularly on a topic (what I was learning) and thus, began a series of posts called, “Adventures in Learning." his led to:
  • Thing #2:  Realizing that serial posts are useful and if there are things I do regularly, I can make them into series that I regularly post about.  From this followed:
  • Thing #3: I decided to do year-long projects or my 365 Projects—where I attempt to do something every day for a year. 

 Now, I have an abundance of things to post about, whether it’s short stories, photos, running, or different recommendations.  This means I’m rarely at a loss of what to write about and the bigger challenge is about time. 

What to Blog About

Word cloud of this blog post
However, I recognize that my focus is really an out-of-focus approach.  My blog is a smorgasbord of content and I’m sure that dissuades some readers from subscribing.  That's where I work best but that might not be where every blogger works best.  If interested in blogging, my first recommendation is to brainstorm what you want to write about or what you want to explore through your writing (recognizing that they are two different things--the first creates you as more of an authoritative voice and the second as an explorer and sense-maker).   You might consider blogging on that which is directly tied to what you do in a professional sense (highly recommended for people trying to improve their employment opportunities) or to something completely different (the internet can always use more cat blogs--really, I'm a firm--and biased--believer in this).  

When you have a topic or area you want to explore in hand, you really should brainstorm the hell out of it for numerous different ways you can write about it. Here, I highly recommend Chris Brogan’s blog and his book, Social Media 101.  He has a series of different posts/chapters that help generate topics.  Ultimately, you need to come up with both 1-shot posts and series of posts that you could produce with it.  

For instance, if you were into Canadian comics, you could do any of the following:
  • Themed-posts tied to several classic or modern titles.
  • Compare and contrast of a title from the past and present.
  • Weekly or monthly close-reads of specific titles series or just a random title each month.
  • Top 10 lists (Favorite 10 moments in Canadian comics, 10 best artists in Canadian comics, 15 times I wanted to give a character a hug, 10 Facepalm moments when reading Canadian comics, 10 things you find in every Canandian comic).
  • Reviews of different authors' life-works.
  • Interviews with Canadian artists & authors.
  • Contrasts of Canadian comics with other countries' comic output.


Basically, you want to have a bunch of different ideas for posts and particularly easy-to-repeat posts (e.g. weekly reviews), so that you can spend less time thinking of what to write about and essentially, create a writing schedule of what you want to cover and when.  

Keep Committed, But Don’t Get Committed

My next recommendation is to not go hog-wild.  Don't be overly ambitious in your writing and try to do 5 posts a week.  Start slow with a post a week or every other week.  Ease into the rhythm of posting but make sure you make a commitment to do it regularly and schedule accordingly or it's likely to fall by the wayside.  In truth, most blogging platforms allow you to write and schedule the post to be published at a future date.  Take advantage of this and if you feel like you can write 10 posts in a single day, then write them and schedule maybe 2 a week.  This gives you 5 weeks to produce new content.   For instance, this year, I've already written about 150 of the blog posts that will be published.  By pre-loading them, I know that I have content for much of the year and can focus on other things (like teaching, learning, working, etc).  Spread out the blog posts until you know what kind of consistent rhythm you can have with your blog.    

Another consideration is to not be afraid to recycle or connect to your content elsewhere.  For instance, whenever I have something published on another site, I’ll include a snippet here .  These are easy posts and help you to turn your blog into your ongoing writing portfolio.  It’s also useful because you may have readers interested in checking out other work by you. 

Do It For Johnny!—No, No, Do It For You

Another consideration is to realize that in many cases, you will not have a huge audience.  It will take time to get an audience.  As I've said, I've been doing it for about 6 years and am only now getting about 8,000-10,000 visitors a month.  Many of them come to my blog and leave rather quickly.  So I tend to encourage people to not think about blogging for anyone else but themselves.  If others show up, great, but in the meantime, it's your own thing.  There are definitely ways you can expand your audience but I always recommend you focus on writing and worry less about the audience.  Otherwise, you're constantly hunting for numbers and that game gets old quick.  

So that's my first go round with this topic.  Keep an eye out for my next post, where I covered some of the content you might want to include in your blog posts.  If you don't want to miss it, then mayhaps you should sign up for the newsletter?

Creative Commons License
By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.