Friday, October 07, 2011

Blogging Basics

A blog (a blended word for web log) is a virtual journal.  Starting a blog is very easy.  Maintaining it, not so much.  If you do want to create a blog, I recommend Blogger, which is free, well supported, and part of the Google platform of Web 2.0 tools.  There are lots of tutorials out there to help you and here's one I particularly like from that lets you look at the process before getting into Google.  Once you have a Google account, you can also use their embedded tutorials.

My blog combines my major avocation, quilting, with my vocation, school librarianship.  While it is weighted more on the side of my avocation and life out of school, you will find the occasional post dealing with books, technology, and school librarianship.  That's the primary plus of a blog for me--I get to control the content.

If you've made the decision to create a blog, the implication is that you want others to read it. A recent post on Mashable, Shane Snow provided seven suggestions for making a blog “stickier,” or more engaging to its readers. It provides a nice scaffold for discussing various features of blogging.

  • Tip one suggests making your blog content a combination of original, personal composition and curated links. Last year, I participated in a virtual class discussion for my former IU professor, Dr. Larry Johnson. His Library Media Specialist class asked me questions about being a working school librarian. In this post, I provided a personal introduction for his class that is a mix of stock (personal content) and flow (curated links).

  • Personalizing your blog is the second tip. While Shane is referring more to the type of personalization achieved by with their suggestions of things you might enjoy based on what you have purchased in the past, we smaller scale bloggers can still take this one to heart. This is certainly the feature that keeps me coming back to many of the blogs I read. I'm going to give you examples of two of the blogs I read that fall into my miscellaneous category. Attic 24 not only offers great photographs, but wonderful content about the life of its author, a young mother of three in the North of England. Tales of a Junkaholic is almost entirely a photo-chronicle, with little more than captions for the pictures, but Artemis Russell manages to tell the story of her very interesting life as a collector and young wife.

  • Repackaging your blog on other social media is tip number three. Facebook has an app called Networked Blogs in which you can register your blog to automatically appear in your status each time you publish a new post. I've learned from my Blog Tracker statistics that FB's Networked Blogs is usually one of my top three referrers.

Twitter has a similar feature that creates an automatic tweet with a tiny url  each time one makes a new post. Back in April of 2009, I posted about Twitter.

  • Series posts are Shane's fourth tip. When I blog about my quilting projects, it is often in the form of a series as the work takes weeks or months to complete. Here are a series of posts about making baby quilts and another about making several quilts in the Single Girl pattern. In addition to creating series posts, I often add a small tutorial aspect to these posts that many other quilters find helpful.

  • The fifth tip is emailing your blog out to your subscribers. I must confess to never having tried this. I do occasionally post a link to a blog post on a large listserv in which I participate called QuiltArt and that brings me a ton of visitors. I use it sparingly, though, and try to curate the link so that people will be curious about my post and follow the link.

  • I feel like the poster girl for tip number six which is linking back internally "like mad." This means providing links to older posts you have published in your current post to get readers to look back through your blog. Here's an example.

  • Shane's last tip is suggesting more content. I usually do this with internal linking, too, as you will notice from the examples above.  

I would like to add three suggestions of my own. First, be sure to title your posts because this is the first thing the aggregator picks up. I posted about this here. Labeling or tagging your post is also very important. Blogger provides you with a convenient little box. Labels make your blog more searchable. Secondly, I think tracking your blog is also extremely helpful. To track your blog, there are also several free tools.  I use Blog Tracker by Ice Rocket.  This is a post I did about why tracking is so important.  Finally, answer the people who take the time to leave a comment on your blog.  I have my g-mail account set up to copy me on any comment that's left.  I write an email in response and then copy it to the blog.  Blogger provides various levels of control over comments, too.

As Shane Snow tells us,  people look at blogs to find out information or because they seek entertainment.  Once you have found your voice as a blogger, done a little marketing, and established some consistency of publishing posts, your readers will find you and hopefully stick with you as your blog develops.

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