Michael B. Duff

Lubbock's answer to a question no one asked

Duff: Quick tips for better blogging

Quick tips for better blogging, grain of salt not included

Quick tips for better blogging, grain of salt not included

Blogging is more of an art than a science, but good strategy can still give you a leg up. Once you’ve mastered the basics, these tips will help you bump your traffic and keep your sanity.

1. Your best work won’t get the most comments, or the most hits. People tend to comment when they disagree or when they think you’ve missed something. A smart post that everybody agrees with isn’t that exciting. Sharp posts that challenge conventional wisdom and still have the ring of truth – those are the things people pass around.

2. Your biggest fans won’t write comments. The Internet is full of “lurkers” – people who read blogs but are too shy (or too lazy) to comment. I’ve had dozens of loyal readers who only surfaced when I called them out. These quiet regular visitors are the core of your audience. They don’t make a lot of noise, but they’ll be the first to leave when you sensationalize your blog or get bogged down in a flame war.

3. The post you spent hours of work on will be ignored while the stupid video you threw up on a whim will get linked by a top-tier blogger and generate 10,000 hits. Then, next week, when you try to post a stupid video on purpose, it won’t get any hits at all.

4. Don’t be afraid to delete posts and ban troublemakers. Bad commenting crowds out good commenting, so if you let the hecklers thrive unchecked, you’ll drive away the readers you really want.

5. If posting to your blog starts to feel like work, you’re writing about the wrong subject.

6. Be generous with your links and trust the golden rule. If you want people to write smart, detailed critiques of your work and link back to you, go out and provide that service for someone else. Read a wide variety of blogs and write the kind of responses you would want to have written about you. Eventually, this effort will pay off.

7. Be patient. The best way to grow traffic is to stay in one place and post regularly. Don’t change subjects, don’t change addresses, and don’t go too long without posting. Every time you change your Web address, you will lose 20 percent of your audience. Most of these folks will never come back.

8. Sell yourself, but don’t sell yourself cheap. When you start a blog, send out an announcement and put the address of your blog permanently in your e-mail signature. Everybody starts with a social network of family and friends. Send up a flag to let them know you’re out there, but don’t spam them with updates. Share your address and let the people come to you.

9. If a popular blog links to you, enjoy the hit spike but don’t expect people to stay. Most of the new visitors will read the post they came for and vanish.

10. The primary motivators for Web traffic are titillation, controversy and expertise. Write something sexy, make people angry, or teach them something they don’t know. Maybe all in the same week. You can coast for a while by reinforcing prejudices and telling people what they want to hear, but eventually you’ve got to give them something new.

11. You can go wrong appealing to the lowest common denominator. It’s possible to generate traffic with viral videos and Lolcat pics, but the people who visit for those things won’t stay, and there are already dozens of sites that do those better than you. Too much fluff will drive off your regulars, while too much pedantry will wear them out.

12. Give people something unique – personal stories about things you’ve done, obscure bits of trivia that make you an expert or sharp opinions that are just a little off the beaten path. Your opinion can make you special. Don’t be afraid to share it.

13. Blogging is a relationship between you and your audience. Respect your readers, but don’t pander to them. Give them what they want, but don’t give them everything they want.

14. Have fun. If it stops being fun, quit. Then, if you miss it, start again.

15. The author of this column has broken every rule on this list and frequently has trouble following his own advice. Trust your instincts and don’t let the gurus push you around.

Written by Michael B. Duff

February 22, 2008 at 13:35

Posted in Columns

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