But I've just been given an award by the lovely Brits in Bosnia, and someone called me a "prominent blogger" today. Well, that might have been what he said, there was a bus going past at the time – it's entirely possible he was talking about my secret desire to work for the Forestry Commission (true story).
Anyway, lots of people have been in touch asking how they can get a bigger audience, how they can attract more comments and how they can get their blogs into the top 100 parent blog index.
When I thought about it, I realised that I’ve been blogging in various places for well over five years now, so I’ve probably picked up the odd useful bit of information along the way. So if you’re interested, here’s my *cough* wisdom on blogs. Feel free to add your own advice for blogging newbies in the comments:
- Be true to yourself. Without a doubt, the blogs that I’ve worked on that haven’t succeeded have been those without a real identity, or where I felt uncomfortable about the subject matter or business. I think people respond on quite an instinctive level to writing that’s honest and real – that’s so much more important than perfect grammar.
- Don't be lazy. Some bloggers think you can just throw up some random article you've got lying around in the virtual cupboard and people will magically want to read it. I just don't think it works that way. Blog posts need to be timely (there's a reason you posted about topic X today), they need to be personal (there's a reason why you have a specific perspective on this topic) and they need to invite discussion (it needs to be an issue or challenge other people are likely to have experienced or have an opinion on).
- Read other blogs. I read hundreds of blogs, as well as magazines, papers and books. Everything from Lainey Gossip and D-Listed to technology blogs, news blogs and Mummy blogs. My feed reader is seriously over-stuffed, but I love it.
- Get stuck in. I write blogs for companies, and one of the biggest mistakes they make is asking me to quote for writing X posts per month. I always refuse, because posting is only part of blogging. For me, a blog isn’t just something you write. It’s your gateway into a community – if you don’t read other blogs, comment on those blogs and link to those blogs, you’re not part of the community and why should anyone pay attention to you?
- Don’t forget the pretty. You don’t have to be a designer, but do think about the layout of your pages, the colour of links, the position of pictures, how text will be formatted. Always preview posts before publishing them – how do they look? Is your blog easy to read?
- Make it easy to comment. I’ve lost count of the number of blogs I don’t comment on because it’s too much hassle. I don’t want to join anything to comment on your blog, thanks.
- Manners. If people comment on your blog, always respond and thank them. Even if they’re disagreeing with you, it’s polite to acknowledge the time they’ve spent reading and thinking about your post. I’m always disappointed if I return to a blog where I’ve commented and the author hasn’t acknowledged me.
- Advertise. People sometimes find blogs by serendipity, but putting your blog on your business card, in your email signature, on your website on Technorati, Facebook and Twitter won't hurt either.
- Think SEO. Think about what ‘key words’ describe your blog, and its content. Try to use those key words in opening sentences, in final paragraphs, in Technorati and keyword tags for each post, and in the tags accompanying images on the blog. Make it easier for people to find you.
- Have a passion. Of course, none of this means anything if you forget to have fun – you're blogging because you want to communicate and share ideas. Don't get so caught up in promoting a business venture or chasing traffic that you lose that – because it's easy to see when someone's heart isn't in a blog, and it's no fun to read.