Saturday, March 14

How do I blog? What are the rules? What should I do?

In the last five years I have been doing "social media marketing" (yes, a dreaded marketing term!), I have gone to a number of events where I continue to hear the same questions asked over and over again - specifically, "How do I blog?"

It is a funny question, since answering the question usually corresponds to the real question: why are you look to blog?  Specifically, prior to now, you were not blogging.  Now, you are interested in blogging.  Why?

Usually, the answers fall into a couple of responses.  
  • My company wants to get more people to our website with a blog.One of my favoriate answers here - especially since there is an assumption that by driving people to the website will be a positive action.  My question is always "how does more people to the site improve your business?"  If this has a direct effect on your business in terms of dollars and cents, then blogging may be to your benefit.

  • I want to show I am an expert at .  Blogging will help, won't it?
    Yes - and no.  If you are trying to show your IQ about specific topics, you had better add value to the conversation, or people who come to your site and see your posts (and are not impressed by them), you may turn off.  And you will need to grow into the blogging - you are not Ernest Hemingway in the first three posts.  Or first three months.  But doing something is always better than nothing.

  • I want to engage others on the web.  Blogging does that for me, right?Yes - and no.  Truthfully, this assumption is based on the idea that people will come and speak to you on your blog.  But, if you are not speaking on their blog, why would they want to speak to you?  It is somewhat like opening a store in the middle of a cornfield - if people do not know of it or you have done no marketing, why would anyone know it is there...or care?
But, for all intents and purposes, there are a couple of concepts that you should keep in mind when choosing to blog:

To attract traffic -- blog within a space/theme - focus matters

Blogging is not about one great blog post, it is about building a lot of commentary on topics you care about or want others to know you care about.  Google has become the arbitrator of what means what - think about what you do today to find the "answer".  We used to rely on scholarly editors to publish encyclopedias and books on topics, but know google and its ubiquious PageRank are "calculating" what means what.

If you are going to attract people for a specific "thing" (think black hole), you need to first build a solid "mass" of content.  Google recognizes two things simply - concepts and freshness.  If you continue to publish on specific concepts - frequently - google will begin to notice you.  And when others are looking for "answers" to their questions to google, it might provide your posts as a potential answer.  As people begin to find your post answering their question, then google begins to notice and increase your rank on the organic listing.  

TAKE-AWAY: publish frequently on concepts that you want the blog to be known for - if you are attempting to drive traffic for those concepts.

To drive traffic -- chat on others blogs - be social

I used to get into arguments about why was it called "social media" - as in, isn't all media "social"?  In the strictest sense, yes.  But social media is not about simply publishing and assuming others will consume - it is about engaging in a discussion with others off your blog and on theirs.  Instead of assuming the standard Field of Dreams concept ("Build it and they will come"), the goal is to share in the love - or link love.  

First off, if you want to blog, find articles in the world and comment on them.  Specifically, find the Permalink (usually the link that points directly to the blog post you are commenting on) and use it in your copy.  Specifically, discuss the topic you or the other blogger is posting about (e.g. the cost of living in NYC) and then use the concept (cost of living in NYC) as the words that you link via for the bloggers post.  Add a link to the words (like here) and then discuss the post.  

Why does this matter?  Because google looks at your post and sees that you linked the concept "cost of living in NYC" to someone's post.  Since you are backlinking to the post, google thinks the post corresponds to the concept and you are helping the other blogger.

Second, you need to speak to the other bloggers.  And specifically - comment on their blog about their topics.  Think about the joy you get when someone comments on your blog - doing the same for others, with honesty and integrity, will generate positive "karma".  And, if you have included a link to your blog when you put your name on the comment, more than likely the blogger will check out your blog - and maybe comment about it.  Again - all about being social.

TAKE-AWAY: share in the link love, and the community usually shares it with you too.

To be understood, make sure computers can read it too -- use a solid blogging platform

One thing that people did not understand before the push of CSS (cascading style sheets) was that there is a difference between form/content and style.  In "coding up" the web pages, content would get lost in the style (e.g. italics, bold, font size).  Now, when we read the content, with the style embedded in it, we see what is important and what is not.  Computers do not.  They want things marked off - saying what is a header for a section, what is a blockquote (not important to the thread of the encapsulting paragraph), and so on.

Blogging software like Moveable Type, Wordpress, and Blogger all offer you structured formats/tempaltes to publish your posts that are search engine friendly.  By being structured, google can assess what you are writing about and categorize it for when others are looking for the "answer".

TAKE-AWAY: use structured platforms to help take the programming complexity away.

I will provide more insights later - including how to actually start a blog and publish it beyond your own domain.

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