Creating Great Blogs
A Top 10+1 List
contributed by Katherine Murray;
Katherine Murray is a long-time blogger; the author of many books on hardware, software, and digital lifestyle; and the owner of reVisions Plus, Inc. (www.revisionsplus.com), a publishing services company. Katherine uses blogs for communicating with groups of all kinds (professional and personal) and feels that blogs give us an opportunity to share what we do, who we are, and what we care about.
To help you get started (and get comfortable!) in the world of blogging, Katherine offers the following top 10+1 blogging tips:
Read your favorites. Before you begin blogging, read other bloggers. Notice the layout of blogs, the color, and the tone. Pay attention to how photos are used; make a note of what you do like—and what you don't.
Find a design that fits you. Choosing a template or designing a page that really says something about who you are can help your viewers identify with you more quickly. What are your favorite colors? Which fonts really communicate the tone you want to convey?
Write the way you speak. One of the great things about blogs is that they seem to give us an authentic sense of the person writing. We see into their ideas, their opinions, their loves, their concerns. Don't struggle to write perfectly formed sentences for your blog. Write the way you talk. If you're not sure whether your words sound stilted, read a post aloud, just to be sure.
Choose engaging photos. Blogs are as different as the bloggers who create them; some people make photos the main focus of their page; others blog text and use photos sparingly. Whatever you choose to do with photos, be sure the photos you post are engaging, edited, and compressed to as small a size as possible. You can use a simple photo editor like the Microsoft Picture Manager to fix lighting issues, crop to the most fetching elements, and compress the image for the Web.
Use your own stuff. Copyright is an important issue whether you are posting to your own blog or writing for someone else. Use your own photos, music, video clips, and more on your blog. (Or if you want to use someone else's work, be sure to get their permission and give them credit on your site.)
Link liberally. The blogosphere is one big interrelated conversation. You don't have to go too far to find one blogger linking to another who links to another. Your posts will be more interesting to viewers (and most likely get more traffic) if you're generous in linking to others you refer to. That helps build the web of connections (and may increase your ability to be noticed and picked up on other large-traffic sites).
Use lists. Lists are a quick, fun way to share bits of information your viewers make connect with. Top 10 lists (or Top 10+1, like this one!) provide a simple way for visitors to discover what you value or what you're interested in. Lists are also easy to create, so you can change them regularly and keep your content moving.
Update regularly. Readers who like your blog will likely check back fairly regularly to see whether you've posted anything new, so be sure that once you start to blog, you update regularly (at least weekly is a good rule of thumb). Many bloggers start their blogs, are gung-ho about it for a few weeks, and then abandon the site. You don't have to post everyday, but if building readership is important to you, post often enough that your visitors get used to checking your site for something new.
Use RSS. RSS (or Really Simple Syndication) is a simple way to get your content out to interested readers. This syndication method delivers content from your blog directly to their desktops; they can then click the link to go to your site and add comments or read additional items. Visitors need software known as an RSS reader to view the content (which includes text and images) that is downloaded for their viewing.
Invite feedback. Enabling comments on your site encourages others to participate in your conversation online. Creating a guestbook also encourages others to communicate with you and lets them know you're glad they came by.
Plus 1. Have fun with it! Not everyone is a born blogger—some people are more reticent about sharing ideas, opinions, and experiences than others. And that's okay. Know your own comfort zone, and if you want to keep personal things private, that's cool. Just find something you're passionate about to share on your blog—cooking, art, nature, sports—whatever you spend time thinking about and doing is good material for your blog. Have fun with it! Share what gets you going in the morning and blog the quirky or funny things that happen through your day. Ultimately, blogging is just about telling your stories your way—and connect with others all over the world who are doing the same.