There’s no point having a blog if you aren’t going to write it yourself. If the original content doesn’t come straight from your mind, unedited, then it isn’t your blog. Deception goes down particularly badly in the blogosphere.
The whole point of blogging is to start or participate in a conversation. If you’re blogging well, people will want to respond to what you say, and talk to you about your thoughts. A comments section is a pre-requisite for any blog.
You need to think about how you will manage the conversation – will you moderate comments? Will you get someone else to moderate on your behalf? Or will you let discussion happen without moderation? There are pluses and minuses to each approach.
One the web, nothing ever really gets deleted. Once you post to blog, you create what is essentially a permanent record of your thoughts. Even if you delete your own blog, others will have read it, and often, will quote you on their own blogs and in their other social spaces. You can’t control this. Think carefully before you press “publish” on your blog.
The obvious benefit is awareness. Awareness for your business, reach for your brand, traffic for your website, Google-juice to boost your search rankings.
The only way a blog ever becomes successful, is if the person is writing it is genuinely enthusiastic about the subject and understands the target audience.
The Best Reasons for Blogging
Time to Think
We all suffer from information overload; we sign-up to numerous ‘weekly tips’ newsletters which we often never read. Often the most successful blogs aren’t introducing new information, they are just identifying and commenting on topical information. Taking time out to read and digest information impacting your business will make creating one or two blog weekly posts a lot easier.
Publishing articles or links that are interesting to you and that you think may be interesting to your followers is a great way of sharing information. People can view your posts when it suits them, rather than it appear as another email which could well be deleted before reading.
Connecting to your network
When you start posting things you find interesting, and thoughts about what you’ve been doing or reading online, people will begin to find you. These will be people who share the same interests; people in your industry and brand advocates.
People will leave comments, some include a link to something you have written or said on their blog. You will also be linking to other people’s websites and blogs. At this point you have literally become part of your online network. This process adds value to your network in Google’s eyes and should improve your search engine optimisation.
Web entrepreneur Loic Le Meur once said “If the news is important it will find me.” What he meant was that as a “hyper-connected” individual, who blogs, Twitters, reads his news through an RSS reader, he can count on his network to effectively flag when something important is happening.
Blogging helps you to be more connected to what is happening around you; it can fill the gaps not covered by your other information sources.
How to Approach Blogging
Blogging is time-consuming. The best approach it is to try and integrate it in your weekly routine.
Think of blog writing as a four-stage process. Sometimes you will be able to do them all at once – especially if there is something you want to post quickly – but otherwise you can spend a little time here and there on each of the stages:
The best bloggers read a lot – it’s where they find the material to inspire their own posts. The quickest way to access a variety of information sources is to set up a newsfeed.
Once you’ve found something that you think may be good to write about you need to save it somewhere. This might be a real world notebook or an electronic word document.
If you are blogging in a corporate or official capacity, most of your blog posts should be concise: somewhere between 50 and 150 words. If you feel your thoughts on a subject can’t be contained to that, think about drafting an article for the website or for one of your other corporate publications, and then you can link to it with some further thoughts on your blog when it is published.
Editing and publishing
Once you’ve written your post it makes good sense to proof read it. If you’re unsure, or need a sanity-check, show it to someone else whose opinion you trust before you publish. Double-check that you’ve included links to other websites from words in your text where appropriate.
What to Blog about?
Here are a number of different types of blog posts that might help you to think of something to blog about:
Short advice pieces
A quick tip or guide to something can be very useful to your readers: if you have specialist knowledge that they don’t, give them a digestible summary of a topic which will generate interest.
Top 10 Lists
These are easy to digest and well received. E.g.
If you find a website or an article you think is interesting, simply post this with a quick note.
One of our favourite sources of information is www.readwriteweb.com. Although they do a daily broadcast we prefer their weekly-wrap-up.
It’s great to simply voice your opinion on things. This will often spark conversations, thus creating content, valuable for SEO. A good example was a very ethical smoothie/juice business who sold a share of its business to Coca-Cola.
You have to be prepared to take criticism and spend the time responding to individual comments in a timely manner.
Opinion is divided on whether you should moderate your readers’ comments. There are those who feel that in a social space like a blog, anything goes – that freedom of speech is paramount. For others, especially those who are publishing a “corporate blog”, or who represent the views of an organisation or of a group of people, moderation is an essential part of blogging.
If you don’t have some form of moderation on your blog, all such messages will be published directly to your blog without you (or your blog editor) seeing them first. It’s very easy to remove unwanted messages from a blog’s comment stream – but if you feel that you or your organisation’s reputation might be damaged by unwanted comments being published (however briefly) on your blog, then you should seriously consider some form of moderation.
There are some important issues to think through when choosing a blog platform:
- Which should you use?
- Should you use a free blog, or host your own blog on your own domain?
- The advantages and disadvantages of each blogging platform?
- Should you start out on a free blogging platform and upgrade later?
Blogger is a free, hosted blogging tool. It’s one of the oldest blogging services around and today has millions of users.
- Fast set-up
- Impressive array of features
- Makes it possible to have a personal domain name, rather than the generic Blogger URL ‘XXXX.blogspot.com’
- The biggest hole in Blogger’s platform is the lack of post categorisation.
- You need to know HTML to make custom changes to the templates provided.
- Unlike some of the more complex hosted services, Blogger doesn’t make customisation easy.
Very few professional Bloggers stick with Blogger for very long, if they even start there. Because it is so simple, and perhaps because it is free, most professional bloggers choose to use blogging software that has more “prestige”. However, it is an ideal tool to use when first beginning, especially for running a test blog for a couple of weeks before devoting any serious time or money to it.
Typepad is a hosted blog platform. Its pricing scheme and features are divided into three levels:
Design customisation is extremely limited at the Basic level, and only fully accessible at the Pro level. If you want to run a group blog, or give different users different levels of access, you must go with the Pro account.
Typepad is a good option for users who want to get started quickly but still want all the more advanced features. Customisation is possible, but complicated, so it’s also a good option for those who just want a blog that works without fussing too much over how it looks. However, Typepad Plus and Pro do a better job than most blog software at allowing you to choose layout options without having to fiddle about with the templates.
WordPress first launched in 2003 and has grown to be the largest blogging tool in the world, used on hundreds of thousands of sites and seen by tens of millions of people every day. It’s available free from www.wordpress.org as software for self-hosted blogs, or from www. wordpress.com as a free, hosted package.
- You can manage static pages. This allows content pages to be created and managed outside the normal blog chronology – a step away from being simple blog management software towards becoming a full content management system.
- A simple template/theme system, which allows users to easily activate and deactivate “skins” for their sites.
- Straightforward editing and image uploading, fast posting, and a reliable auto-save (handy when you lose your internet connection on the move – a problem also tackled by a new feature called Gears)
- Anew wiki-like ‘version history’ feature, that allows you to track changes made to any page and restore previous versions if required.
- Easy use of widgets and RSS feeds, to move streams of content around your site and allows others to subscribe to your content easily.
- You’re responsible for dealing with spam.
- Limited customisation of themes (though more are being added)
- You can’t hack the code behind your blog
Blogreaders/News Readers It is important to build up a strong reading list of blogs and news sources. The fastest way to do this is with a blog reader (sometimes called a news reader), which is a tool that allows you to subscribe to and organise RSS feeds – whether they’re from a blog, a news source or anywhere else.
Popular aggregation tools are Netvibes and Bloglines. You can even use the latest version of Microsoft Outlook, which allows you to read posts when you’re not connected to the web.
Is very popular, and has a highly convenient mobile version. When you are using the browser on your mobile device enter the address. The mobile version will display the stories in the order of the most recently received. As you find any that may be of interest for your blog or that you want to save for future reference you can click the “Add Star” link. When you return to your Google Reader desktop version you’ll be able to see these in your “Starred Items” folder.
Make sure you have either the latest version of Microsoft Windows Explorer, or better still, Firefox. These both allow ‘tabbed browsing’, without the need to open multiple windows, which saves time when you’re reviewing news and blog posts across more than one site. Firefox also has a few add-ons which are very helpful to bloggers.
Technorati – the Blogging Search Engine
Technorati is a blog search engine – an easy way of finding blogs that are useful to you. This can help you find others who are blogging about the same topics, and provide a source of inspiration when you’re considering a new subject.
When you find a useful-looking blog, you can view that blog’s profile on Technorati to find out how many other blogs links to it. This is used to give the blog a measure of its “authority” in the blogosphere.
Once your blog is live, it’s very simple to register it with Technorati. Keep an eye on Technorati references to your blog and you’ll see who’s writing about you.
You can also create “Watchlists” on Technorati, based on a topic, website address or “tag” that you want to monitor – very helpful if you’re researching a blog post on a particular topic.
Is the premier online bookmarking service. At its simplest, it can replace and improve upon your “favourites” folder in your browser – but more than this, it can also help you share your finds with other people, and discover what others have found.
Wikipedia is incredibly helpful as a research and reference tool for bloggers.
The joy of hyperlinking is that you can easily help your readers find out more about certain ideas and terms without having to either dumb-down or over-complicate your blog posts. For many terms (particularly those that are technical or new) Wikipedia has the best and most accessible explanation.
For more information on blogging, call or email us: firstname.lastname@example.org