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The Ins and Outs of Blogs and Blogging Archives

The Ins and Outs of Blogs and Blogging

These are the materials that accompanied our telephone seminar, The Ins and Outs of Blogs and Blogging, held November 10, 2005. An Audio CD is available. The faculty member for this course was Jeff Faria, of Jeff Faria Communications, Hoboken, NJ.

Where the word 'blog' came from.

Why blogs have become important. There are actually two significant, converging trends that have made blogs important.

    (1) Search engines favor blogs. For reasons we won't go into in this session, search engines give priority to web sites that are updated frequently, and have lots of links. The higher-ranking blogs (the top 1,000, say) have more links, and update far more frequently, than all but a handful of web sites. This puts blogs, which cost relatively little to run, on an equal or superior footing with expensive sites created for major corporations, as far as search engines are concerned. Since search engines are the gateway to the web for most users, this is extremely important.

    (2) The public is increasingly dependant on information available online, and blogs are continually online. We have noticed that search inquiries come to us at all times. For example, we get inquiries for Halloween items in July, and election commentary long after the campaigns are over. Before the 'net, an individual writer could not compete with The New York Times or Time Magazine. Today, print media generally puts its material behind a paid firewall a few days after it is published. Most radio and TV broadcasts are not searchable online at all (although that is beginning to change). Book publishers are battling to keep copyrighted material OFF the search engines. What this means is that, when someone is looking for information, blogs today actually have built-in advantages over major media and large corporations. For this reason alone, anyone who wants to get a message out on the web should have a blog.

How to begin blogging. Assuming you're not a tech wizard, we suggest a basic Blogger account. It's the easiest to set-up, and you can always move to a more sophisticated platform once you understand the reasons for it. One big advantage of using Blogger is that is comes with a well-developed help system. Blogger answers every question you'll have about setting-up a basic blog. Then you can begin and see how you feel about it.

Different types of blogs. Different blogs set out to accomplish different things. No blog should try to accomplish everything. Many blogs are political blogs. This is one of the most common types of blogs, and the most highly trafficked. You can work political topics to drive traffic to your site, but this is not a pursuit that will satisfy everyone. We don't expressly recommend it. We recommend sticking with a subject that you know, or are passionate about and want to know. We also recommend writing about your town, or some other personal experience that not everyone will have. Blogs like this are called long-tail blogs. Political blogs deal with issues of the moment. Their posts are soon forgotten. Long-tail posts are of lasting interest. People come back to them for years after they are written. If you write a political blog, you're only as good as your last post. If you write long-tail posts, the issues you write about will get traffic for years, and you will not need to work as hard or as often to drive traffic.

Who reads blogs? Among the stats from this recent survey from blogads: Only 20% of people who read blogs have one of their own. The largest percentage of blog readers are in California, and 80% are men. Most-read magazine among blog readers is The New Yorker. The majority are 31-40 (23%) or 41-50 (23.1%).

What you can accomplish. Some blogs make money. (As a rule, they don't make it without a lot of commitment and hard work, but it can be done. Here is a blog about blogs that make money. Some blogs promote products and drive traffic to commercial sites such as Amazon. Here is an example of such a site, for the book Freakanomics. Here are some more posts about commercial blogs. Blogs can be a launching pad for ideas that eventually make money, or advance a goal. A few bloggers have gone on to become minor media stars who write books and are asked to comment on talk shows. Michele Malkin and Glenn Reynolds are two who come to mind, but there are many more. James Lileks has used his very candid online writings to strengthen his career. He has even written about his periods of unemployment, which are quite uncommon these days.

Businesses that blog. Businesses blog for a number of reasons, and the subject requires a session in itself, so we won't try to cover it here (this is a 'general blogging' piece). IBM, for one, has 15,000 internal bloggers (who are officially encouraged) getting IBM's message out. Many marketing firms and PR agencies are finding increasing interest in seminars and other blogging training. Without going into it here, let's briefly note that corporate blogging is not just another form of advertising or marketing.

Decide what you want to accomplish. We assume you want to do something more than post your kid's pictures for Grandma, or you wouldn't be listening to this lecture. However, if your needs really are that simple, or if you're not really sure why you're publishing a blog, this is about as far as you need to go!

Blog every day. For most blogs, you want to put up one post every day, even if it's only a few words. If this already seems like too much, then blogging may not be for you. The reason for blogging every day is to accommodate the habits of blog readers. If you want to develop a readership (outside of friends and family), you must realize that your readers will look to touch base with you regularly. If they do not see something new from you every time they stop by, they will most likely go elsewhere. Also, writers often say that it is important to simply force yourself to write on a daily basis. Otherwise, writing will get pushed down the priorities list to a point where it may never get done! (Bill Cosby is one writer who recommends daily practice of the craft.)

General blogging advice

Learn to write. Basically, this means learning to re-write. Don't assume, or even try, to get our thoughts in order on the first try. Here is a fine post on how to write effectively for the web. Until you have developed your writing chops, avoid the temptation to "become a humor writer"! There are too many mediocre attempts at humor out there on the web.

Publicizing your blog. Blogs come with built-in tools for publicity. There are also external add-on tools, such as Site Meter. Then there are Carnivals. Publicity means participation. Learn to communicate with other bloggers. Visit them and understand what they are writing. Once you find some blogs you like, comment on their posts. Add them to your blogroll. And treat them the way you want to be treated. (Many blogs today are group blogs. Think of the people you encounter as becoming potential partners one day.) Remember that no blog is an island.

Finding other blogs. One way to find blogs you want to associate with (and be associated with) is to go through the blog roll of a blog you like. Once you've started looking you will have no trouble finding blogs. It's finding "the good ones" that's tricky. Once you find a source that steers you in a direction you wish to go, keep returning to that resource to see what else they have.

Working hard at blogging and attendant publicity can be isolating. It can even be depressing. We won't tell you how hard you should work or when you should take a break. We can only tell you that isolation is a very common theme.

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Copyright 2005 by TheCapitol.Net, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Republished on Hobnob Blog with permission.

November 17, 2005 11:50 AM    Training

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