After reading part 2, you should be set up and ready to start blogging, whether on your own server or on WordPress.com. Here are some assorted tips to help you get started with your new blog.
- Tell your friends you have a blog. Shoot them an e-mail with a link to it. Note: Good friends, not your entire address book containing everyone who has e-mailed you in the past three years. Only e-mail the link to people who won’t think you’re spamming them.
- Put a link to your blog on social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook. Note: If it’s a personal blog, I’d recommend not linking to it from LinkedIn, which is more of a professional social network.
- Blog OFTEN. More than anything else, this is my secret to success. Many of the best bloggers here in my home town of Memphis post once every 3 or 4 days, so people check for updates and are disappointed to find nothing new. I try to post at least once every day, and sometimes as many as 2-3 times in one day. People get incredibly bored at work and are grateful to have something new to read. This is the main reason my blog gets over 1,000 hits a day and has won awards in the local arts & entertainment paper.
- Carry a digital camera with you everywhere you go. It doesn’t have to be a big, fancy one like a professional journalist would carry, and in fact shouldn’t be because those can’t easily be held in a pocket or purse. It’s best to have a real camera rather than a cell phone cam; cell phone cameras just haven’t caught up in terms of resolution and adjusting for poor lighting conditions. You never know when you’re going to see something worth photographing. Including pictures in your blog posts breaks the monotony and makes people want to come back and visit again. Also, by including yourself in the pics, you make your blog more personal; the reader feels like he or she knows you.
- Carry a way to take notes at all times. You never know when you’re going to hear something blog-worthy, and you don’t want to risk forgetting it the next time you’re in front of the computer. The device you use to take notes is a matter of personal taste. Some people prefer voice recorders. Others like to use their “notes” application on their PDA or cell phone. Personally, I like good ol’ pen and paper. I always put 4 or 5 index cards in my back pocket when I go out, and I carry 2 pens with me (2 in case somebody borrows one and I forget to get it back). Always be prepared, because you never know when that big story or post idea will be staring you right in the face.
- Learn proper spelling and grammar. I can name several excellent bloggers who are on top of their game and who break news stories days and even weeks before the traditional media, but who lose 50% of their credibility because their grammar is so bad.
- Related to the bullet point above: Proofread your posts before you hit Publish. Look for misspelled words and grammar mistakes like their/there/they’re that are easy to make. Again, these kinds of things can kill your credibility and make it look like you don’t care enough about your readers to proofread.
- Want to learn to write? Read. It doesn’t matter if other blogs are what you read. Read whatever appeals to you. I owe much of my writing style to a fake sport. When I was a teenager, I read every issue of Pro Wrestling Illustrated from cover to cover several times. I didn’t realize it at the time, but the writing style of the columns and feature articles really sank in and made me a better writer, even if I wasn’t writing about wrestling. Actually, now that I think about it, I don’t recommend reading other blogs to develop writing style. Read the work of professionals who get paid to write; they have to be good, or else they wouldn’t be earning a paycheck.
- Use Web 2.0 sites to draw readers. Claim your blog on Technorati. Get your friends to Digg your posts. See what other social sites you can use to link to your blog.
- Kind words go a long way. Have you had a recent good experience with a restaurant, business, or person? Praise them on your blog. That business or person’s name is a keyword – their most important keyword – which may come up on Google searches. Your praise is free publicity. Do this and you may find yourself rewarded with links back to your blog or free stuff. The trick is not to do this just to suck up. Give compliments when they are genuinely meant.
Here are a few books which provide more in-depth information on how to write a successful blog.
In Part 4 of the series, we’ll take a look at search engine optimization, or SEO: How to make the search engines love your blog.