When I first got started blogging, I had many problems both in 2002, when I started my initial blog and 2004 when I started this one. In 2002, I didn’t know what I was doing. In 2004, I expressed frustration that despite being a columnist for websites on Google News, I felt like I was writing to no one in particular. His suggestion: start a blog. Through the magic of syndication, you’ll get more readers. Hey, it sounded like a good deal, so I started writing.
A year later in 2005, I’d found the whole blogging biz to have been far from successful. It was rare that I was linked to by anyone. I ranked in the 7000s level of the Truth Laid Bear Ecosystem, with a blog that had few regular readers and was hit with far more spam than real comments.
A year and a half later, we’re doing much better. We stand at #324 on the Truth Laid Bear Ecosystem, ahead of many great and venerable blog. Readership is generally (more or less) 200 readers a day. How did it happen? Well, we might call it a shift in paradigms.
The Beginner’s Paradigm
When you enter the whole blogging thing, there are two different ideas people have about blogging:
“It’s just a place where I can express my opinions.”
“I’m in a battle against corruption, apathy, graft, etc. and it’s me v. the world.”
Thus, blogging begins with the idea that your blog is about you:
1) Your opinions
2) Your thoughts
3) Your crusade
Now, certainly if you just want to blurt out whatever you think in a way that makes no impact, go ahead. If you don’t care who you’re read by, but you’re mad as heck and you’ve got to let the world know, than it’s very simple. But to go beyond venting requires something else.
The Blogosphere is not just you. You have millions of neighors. Depending on where you live, you have thousands of people writing about the same thing you are.
Alone, you’re one lonely website, but in community, the blogosphere becomes a powerful engine. It was that engine of conservative blogs working together that stopped the Harriet Miers nomination. It was that network on the left that powered the Democrats to victory in 2006. So, how do you be a good blogging neighbor. Here are some good rules:
1) Read Blogs:
Read a wide variety of blogs, as I showed you in my RSS lesson, I’m subscribed to a plethora of big and small blogs. If you expect blogs to grow in influence, the first step is to let them influence you, rather than relying on traditional media solely. The blogosphere is a great source of information.
2) Study and Participate in Blogs:
Here’s one I wish I’d done when I started blogging. There are few big books of rules for the Blogosphere. We learn in one of two ways: by expereince or by watching others. Learning by experience is tough (as the old saying goes, “Good judgment comes with experience, which come through bad judgment.”) Simply put, find a blog you like, see what the blogger does and then apply it to your blog. Believe me, it beats the heck out of making things up as you go.
3) Always Link Back:
If you quote someone with attribution, you’ve done your duty as a writer, but to do the right blogging thing, if your source is online link to it. There are several reasons to do this:
1) If it’s a blog post, it’ll allow the blogger to respond.
2) It’ll allow people looking for comments on that story to find your story.
Now, of course, not linking back is a great way to avoid debate in that you get really have a debate if no one knows what you wrote, but if you don’t want debate or to be challenged, you don’t belong in the blogosphere.
4) Be Generous with Linking:
The number of links you get is pretty much proportional to the number of links you give. The less you give, the less you will in turn get. A link is good for your readers because it lets them know about a perspective on a story and it’s good for you because, linking to another blogger (particularly with a Trackback.) is like dropping a business card on their desk. Whenever, I see someone knew linking to me, I pay them a visit and if I like what I read, I subscribe to their feed, and they have a faithful reader on their hand who will link to more of their stuff. Thus, a greater blogging relationship is established. Sometimes, it doesn’t happen, sometimes it does. Just keep linking.
5) Hat Tip:
When you find an interesting blog post or news story that you then post about on your blog, it’s typical to give the blog you found the post through a Hat Tip:
A critical issue can come with who to Hat Tip. If I find a link on Instapundit, that takes me to Michelle Malkin and then refers me to a post at Conservative Outpost that has the original story, who do I link to?
Well, Conservative Outpost is an obvious one. Generally, I’ll hat tip only Instapundit as he’s the one I found the post at, unless Malkin added something significant in her post in which case, I’ll hat tip them both. Use your judgment, but I found this model works pretty well.
6) Round Up:
If you run into a news story that’s compelling, but can’t think of much you have to add to it, you can build some blogging contacts, by doing a blog round up.
For an example of a blog round up, click here. You take the URL of the story and go to either Google Blog Search or Technorati and you will find all the blog reaction to a story. You then choose what you find interesting, quote some blogs, summarize their points and perhaps provide some of your own context, you’ll be amazed at what happens.
7) Praise Other Bloggers:
When you see something good in the blogosphere, praise it. Comment on other blogs. Take those steps to build relationship. During the last two years, though I’ve not been a nominee for the Weblog Awards, I’ve offered extensive coverage on blogs and I’ve been surprised how many came over to my site to comment. In the 2006 Weblog Awards, I established many relationships and alliances that continue to this day. By honoring others, you strengthen relationships and help build a blogging community.
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