Learn about Blogging from the Pros
After you choose a topic, it’s time to get to work on creating a highly readable blog. Here are some ideas for setting up a blog successfully by cultivating your own talents and observing what others are doing right.
Much of blogging success depends on the quality of your writing and your ability to make a connection with your readers. Work on developing a dialogue with your readers. Life bloggers often create this connection by revealing common, easily identifiable experiences. Businesses can choose to start a blog that gives typically silent members of a company (such as high-level executives or behind-the-scenes mechanics) a connection to customers.
Many blogs are maintained by more than one person; sometimes, contributions by several different people can enliven and enrich the conversation, as well as decrease the workload for any single blogger.
Lurking on other blogs
You can best figure out what will work on your blog by seeing what’s working on other blogs. If you aren’t a regular blog reader, find some blogs and start reading!
The old, old Internet term lurking describes web users who look at blogs, mailing lists, online discussions, and forums, but don’t choose to participate in them. Lurking online doesn’t have any negative connotations, though the word does sound kind of sinister.
In truth, lurking can help you find out about what kinds of communication and interaction are appropriate when you’re new to a web community or when you’re planning to start one yourself. The vast majority of web users are actually lurkers; most people don’t do more than read or look at blogs.
Start your lurking career by finding a few blogs that you like, that you regard as competition, or that you find interesting for some reason. If you want to see a blog that has a very active, vocal audience, find one that has a lot of comments and make sure that you read them all.
If you want to see how a blog evolves, find one that has been around awhile, and look back through the site’s archives to see how it got started. Most of all, pay attention to what you find interesting about the blog.
Here are some issues that you can figure out from lurking on a blog:
- Posts: Watch what the blogger (or bloggers) posts about, how often he or she posts, and what days and times attract readers. See whether you can understand what prompts a blogger to post.
- Interaction: Pay attention to the posts that get a lot of comments and responses, and try to understand what gets people talking.
- Resource use: Look for instances when the blogger chooses to include a link, a quote, or other resource, and what it adds to the conversation.
- Design: Keep an eye out for blog designs and styles that you might want to imitate on your own blog.
- Sidebar use: Look at the blog sidebars for cool technologies and tools that the blogger uses (and that you might be able use on your own blog).
You want interaction with your blog readers, but some comments can cause problems because they’re off topic or offensive. Use this opportunity to see how other bloggers handle bad comments. Pay attention to whether a blog comment policy is in place and how the blogger enforces that policy. When does the blogger choose to remove or edit comments? Do you agree with his or her choices? How do you want to handle problem comments on your own blog?
While you lurk, keep a list of notes and ideas for later reference, especially for items that you think are good ideas but that you aren’t ready to implement quite yet. You can easily lose those first good ideas if you don’t keep track of them somehow.
What works for someone else might not work for you, and it doesn’t have to. The blogosphere is still young, and you have plenty of room and time to try new ideas. Rules and standards that others have adopted give you a good starting point, but you don’t have to use them if they don’t work for you.
Participating by commenting
When you’re comfortable, start participating in your favorite blogs by leaving comments. Comments can be written quickly, and they contribute to the blog by furthering conversation. After you have a blog of your own, you can use commenting on other blogs as a way to introduce new readers to your site.
Many blog comment forms give you the chance to leave a URL when you post a comment, linking to your site or most recent blog post. Commenting with a link to your blog is a bit like leaving a tiny, unobtrusive ad. When the blogger and his readers see your comment, they may click the link and visit your blog.
Just as linking to your blog may bring you readers who liked your comment, it might also get you visitors who didn’t like what you say! You invite disagreement any time you put your opinion out into the world, but don’t let that stop you from doing it.
Some bloggers have made the mistake of abusing this little privilege, leaving off-topic comments simply for the purpose of getting a link back. Don’t make this mistake. Be a genuine member of the blogosphere and leave comments only when you truly have something to say. You don’t want to earn a reputation as a comment spammer!
Leave comments that distinguish you as a thoughtful contributor to the topic. If you can answer a question posed by the blog post or provide information that seems to be missing, you really contribute value with your comment. But you can also just leave your own opinion, even if you completely disagree with what the blogger is saying.