Blogging is taking over the mainstream in many ways, but this doesn’t mean that the average blogger is the one taking over the media. The professional bloggers are the ones making the headway and the headlines. But what separates a professional blogger from an average blogger?
Focus on Interesting Content
While average bloggers write about what interests them, professional bloggers write about what interests their target audience. This focus on the reader (instead of the writer) is quite possibly the single most important distinction between a blogger and a professional blogger.
In more or less the same way, and for more or less the same reasons as business professionals not wanting want their clothing to look like a design experiment, you probably don’t want your professional blog to seem like a thought experiment. You know, an outfit made from an eclectic mashing together of seemingly random fashion elements in a bold statement of individual creativity. Or a blog made from an eclectic mashing together of seemingly random thoughts in a bold statement of individual creativity.
While there is certainly a time and a place for expressions of individual creativity, it is not very effective in a professional environment.
So what does this have to do with interesting content? Mostly, it has to do with discipline and discretion. Write about the subjects that your blog covers, and then make sure to keep it interesting within that genre. Don’t be afraid to show your personality, just try to keep it so that your readers notice your content first, and your personality second. Unless your personality IS your blog (ala Perez Hilton), in which case focus on your niche and develop a consistent voice (which Lady Perez does).
Focus on Your Niche
Professional bloggers figure out what niche they are going to write about, and then they more or less stick to it. Sure you can sometimes explore topics that are more tangentially than directly related, but those should be the exceptions rather than the rule.
As an analogy, think of your niche as the city where you live. You live your life in and around that your niche. Most of your time is spent in 2 or 3 small areas where you live, work and hang out. You also frequently go to other places in town (less common aspects of your nice) for a variety of errands. Maybe on the weekends you get out to nearby cities (related subjects) for a getaway, but you never really stray too far from home. Vacation time, ahh vacation time! Once or twice a year you go someplace far away (some off topic post about something you find interesting) for a complete change of scenery.
This is not a bad way think of your professional blog. If you try to keep yourself more or less where people expect you to be, then they’ll be more likely to follow along and see where you’re going.
Consistent Point of View and Identifiable Voice
Within a niche a professional blogger will work to develop a consistent personality and an identifiable persona. The objective is to create an identity that both shows itself through your work and also supports the professional nature and credibility of your work.
In order to develop an identifiable persona, your writing has to be consistent and predictable. If your persona is to be unpredictable, then understand that your unpredictable nature will itself end up being the niche, as any other more serious subject matter will likely end up being lost in the chaos.
Making a Living
A professional blogger intends and expects to make a living as a blogger. This means that you have to be aware of how you are going to make money and that you have to focus on it as a business. Gone are the days of landing a job as a staff writer at a newspaper or a magazine and working a 9-5 for a paycheck. These days, a professional blogger needs to be half writer, half business manager, and half salesman. Three halves? Absolutely, since you’ll be cramming 36 hours of work into 24 hour days.
If you want to be a professional blogger, look to acquire the qualities that exemplify standout newspaper and magazine writers.
Study journalism, writing style, language and all the tools of the craft. Then make sure you also develop the business and sales skills you’ll need to make a living too. But the upside is that as a professional blogger you can be your own boss, work your own schedule, and get paid for doing what you love.
Every once a while you might want to rustle things up on your blog. You might find that breaking out of your blogging routine can revive your own enthusiasm and boost traffic at the same time. Here’s a list of some fun tricks commonly used by bloggers.
Reward your wonderful readers with an occasional giveaway. Pick an event or just make one up. You could announce in a post that you will giveaway something on a specific date and time to any random commenter. You could motivate your readers to retweet about it or use that as a condition of participation. Think about what would appeal to your niche when deciding on what to giveaway. If your post gets viral on social Bookmarking sites, you’ll be amazed at the sudden rise in activity. And all you needed to do was give something away.
What kind of topics do you cover on your blog? Does your niche have a large community? If it does then a community event is a great idea. In community events you basically involve the community of interested readers and participants to participate in an activity that would appeal them. The ideas here are endless. You could probably organize a meet or simply spark an online debate. Try to focus on your target when planning any community activity and while posting about your experiences. Throwing in a freebie or two might help boost participation.
Remember the movie “Julie and Julia”? This is precisely what it’s about. Here you basically set a challenge for yourself and keep readers updated about your progress. You could even invite readers to participate in the challenge and share their experiences. This may sound very exciting, but it has limited applicability. It’s more relevant for blogs that are a little personal in nature. But spin this idea around and figure out a way to incorporate it in your blog. It’s exciting and engaging because of the deadline and people are motivated to return to your blog to see how the challenge turned out for you.
The best part about guest posting is that your blog gets publicized on other blogs. This means that you are introduced to a new set of readers many of whom might want to follow you. You could accept an invitation for a guest post or simply invite another blogger to post on your blog. Either way, you generate a flurry of activity on your blog.
Blogging tricks, little detours from your normal routine, can create big waves on your blog if done properly. So don’t be afraid to use them occasionally. You need not be restricted to these common ideas. Spin around a few ideas and see what tricks you can dream up to promote your blog.
@zjh90 asks via Twitter: What are some great ways to really get my blog out there and noticed?
I offered to put this one out for discussion, so how about it everyone?
Let’s get some suggestions and start a discussion.
First, zjh, tell us a little about your blog. What is it about? How long have you been writing it? Who do you think is your target market?
Anticipation only sells ketchup on TV. The rest of us don’t want to wait once we ask for what we want. If the wait is unbearable, we will probably walk out and find another place to go.
It’s the same story with your blog. If the pages of your blog don’t load fast enough, there’s a good chance that new readers would walk out on your blog too. These tips should help you speed up page loading on your blog.
Images: size matters
Resize your images before uploading. I repeat: Resize your images before uploading.
Don’t make me say it again because I will if I have to!
This is the number one killer of website performance. Uploading full size images and letting them resize in the browser is the biggest no no in the entire online publishing business. Well, after stealing content, so OK, maybe it’s the second biggest no no in the business.
While you don’t want poor quality images on your blog; extremely large sized, high res images, saved at high JPG quality severely slow down page loading. Resize your images first, and then upload them already sized and scaled to how you want them to display. Further, use smaller sized images and opt for a medium size layout for images on your blog post.
Also, save at lower JPG quality… of your image software supports JPG quality from 1 to 10, 3 is usually more than good enough for a blog, and you seldom need better than 4.
You might want to opt for the save for the web feature when saving images. Alternatively you could use an image optimization web service to help with optimization. Putting up images on an external storage site like Flickr or Picassa saves bandwidth and really helps speed loading.
CSS is your friend
You want to rely more on CSS rather than images for depicting simple things on your blog. For instance, using simple CSS you could create a code for an image for a simple icon rather than linking fancy images as icons. You might also want to clean up your CSS code to help optimize your template and load pages faster. You might want to try using Clean CSS to do this for you.
Widgets are fun, useful, and awfully cute but you really should try to stick to the useful ones. There are a million widgets out there, each one more tempting than the next. But you’ve got to be mature about this! Do you really need that widget that tells you the exact location of your recent visitors? Each widget sends a request to an external website and seriously slows down page loading, especially server side ones. Think about it, would you rather show off or have subscribers? We will have a follow up post on the effective use of widgets… be sure to subscribe so you don’t miss it.
Think about it, why would anyone want to visit a blog that takes its own sweet time to load? The longer the loading time, the more followers skim and run.
When someone steals your content it totally sucks. You juggle multiple jobs and pull all-nighters to come up with great content for your blog and some lazy, parasitic scumbag simply copy-pastes all your stuff.
Although you might not be able to stop it completely, you can prevent it to some extent. Here’s how:
Watermark All Images
Yes, watermarks really do help. When you watermark, you basically put a visible stamp on the image that shows it came from your site. Generally use a watermark that spans the image, but isn’t destructive to the image itself. There’s a possibility that your watermark may be difficult too crop out and if copied, you would easily be able to spot it.
Reject External Referrers for Images and Media
If possible, configure your blogging tool to serve a “copied content” image when called from another site. This way people can’t reuse your images and media directly on their site. Cut and paste sites often leave the content unedited, which means they are not only stealing your copy, they are also stealing your bandwidth to host the media. But making the media itself refuse to present, you have put a great big “this site is stolen” message on any site that refers back to your media files. We will have a follow up post on how to do this.
Express your thoughts on plagiarism
Of course people know it’s wrong to steal but sometimes they might be unaware of your stand on the issue. Express your views on plagiarism on your blog. Talk about how much you despise it and what kind of action you would take if your content were to be plagiarized. Even most mildly conscientious people would be deterred by that.
CopyScape is a free web service that allows you to place a banner on your template to deter any potential plagiarists. In simple English: It’s something that’s supposed to scare copy cats. You might want to place your banner in an obvious place so that your readers know that you don’t want stuff to be copied from your blog. The downside of this is that your regular readers might be a bit offended that you think they might copy content. We will have a follow up post on the steps to take to implement copyscape on your site.
Creative Commons License
This is by far the most commonly seen license on blogs. It basically adds an explicit license stating on how you want your content to be used. You get a “some rights reserved” label, and it takes less than a minute to set up. In case you ever find that your content has been plagiarized, you can get legal protection since you used a license. Even if you don’t care much for plagiarism, get a creative commons license anyway. You never know when you might need it.
When you find stolen copies of your content, send a strongly worded letter to the ISP and hosting provider. No small publisher actually owns their own IP address, rather they pay for hosting from a much larger organization. Luckily, the DMCA provisions attach liability to those larger organizations, so you don’t have to get the scum sucking maggot to take your material off his site directly. Rather you can get his hosting provider to take it down for you. And these days, reputable hosting providers generally are not taking any risks, and will often take down entire sites over a single copyright claim. Find a sample DMCA take down letter that clearly states your claim of ownership, or use the form the ISP provides, and send it out every time without fail. EACH AND EVERY time you find an illegal copy, go to the effort to send out the emails. We will have a follow up post on the hows and whys of this.
Basically, you start out in this business trusting people. If they violate your trust, you have every right to confront them and get your content off their pages. While traditionally, most cases of plagiarism have been tackled through community support, increasingly you can call their daddy (hosting providers) to spank them for you.
OK so maybe these aren’t exactly fail proof measures to stop people from stealing your content, but a little vigilance goes a long way.
There will be several upcoming posts with more details and specific instructions, so be sure to subscribe to our feed or mailing list so you don’t miss them!
If you are planning to be any kind of a professional blogger, you should take a few moments and write down your editorial policies and a style guide.
What are Editorial Guidelines?
Editorial guidelines are a set of general rules you intend to follow with your blog. They include not only your general subject matter, but also the main sub themes you want to concentrate on. They include your general point of view and approach to particular issues. They include your intended use of guest bloggers, and the degree to which you want them to conform with or challenge your general editorial guidelines.
Why Would You Even Want Editorial Guidelines?
The main reason you need editorial guidelines is that they will help keep your writing on track, your blog on topic, and most importantly, they will serve as the foundation of your brand identity. That’s right, your blog’s brand identity will be formed around your editorial policies…. Whether you intend it to or not!
So you had better figure out what your editorial point of view is, and you had better stick to it. It’s the best way to determine and direct your brand identity. And it’s best planned in advance, rather than waking up after your brand has accidentally become associated with something you don’t want.
How Do You Develop Your Editorial Guidelines?
To develop your editorial policy, first enumerate your general theme or subject matter. For example, this blog is about Blogging Tips.
Next, identify the primary sub themes that you will be focusing on. For example this blog focuses on blog writing tips, inspiration and motivation, ideas for blog posts, and blog marketing, with some coverage of monetization, community building, and blogging tools and platforms.
What is implied by the list of what is covered is the list of what is not included, which is everything else not listed explicitly. For example, this blog does not focus on social networking, blogging platform modifications, hard core seo, template development, themes and graphics, domain names, hosting, and a raft of other things.
Next, identify any religious, political, ethical, or personal points of view that your blog should conform with or avoid. Examples might include Christianity, conservative or liberal politics, and other personal points of view such as drug use in professional athletics, free agency in athletics, legalized gambling and so on.
One useful guideline that successful print media editors traditionally implemented was a requirement that articles expressing some opinion must always be balanced either by including a reference to an opposing opinion, or with a separate article expressing the opposite opinion. With the proliferation today of blogs that exist almost wholly as ego bodies for their authors, this standard has sadly been cast aside. However, by implementing this guideline (assuming it is appropriate for your blog) you can not only raise the authoritative value and quality of your blog, but you can also make it interesting and engaging even for readers who actively disagree with your point of view.
For example, this blog has the following policies: It avoids black hat and manipulative marketing methods. It generally expects that the recommendations being made are also being followed by the blog itself, within what’s possible. It focuses on a high quality, craftsman like approach to blogging, as opposed to a high volume marketing approach to blogging.
Notice how these simple statements of general rules can give an overall cohesive wholeness to your blog.
Finally, rewrite your guidelines as a series of bullet points, each beginning with either “must”… or “should”… Things you write as must are not negotiable. Every post and every page must comply with all of these rules. These are principles on which you as the editor will not waver. Things you write as should are general rules on which you will compromise occasionally.
So restating the editorial policy of this blog as a series of “musts” and “shoulds,” we get the following:
- MUST be about blogging tips
- SHOULD generally be about one of the enumerated blog categories
- MUST not recommend black hat or shady marketing methods
- SHOULD generally recommend practices that this blog follows
- SHOULD generally focus on a high quality, craftsman like approach to blogging
- SHOULD not devalue other approaches even if it doesn’t recommend them
See how this short and simple editorial policy helps to guide the production of content for the blog? It gives clarity not only for the editor, but also for every contributing writer.
What is a Style Guide?
A style guide is a set of general rules as to the writing style you would like to maintain across your blog as whole. It includes things like grammar, the use of slang, speaking voice, the use of active vs. passive language, the use of first, second, or third person, and more.
There are a few handy style guides available for general writing and publication. Pick one that is appropriate for your blog, and do your best to learn it and implement it. The best popular current example for newspapers is the Chicago Manual of Style.
Should you adopt a newspaper style guide? Well. Only if you intend to look, act, and be perceived as a professional journalist or authoritative source of information.
If your blog is about fiction, or a genre or subculture with its own dialect, like video gaming, or a special interest group, then adjust your style accordingly.
You can also adopt a “conversational” style if you prefer. If that’s your preferred style, that’s fine, but once again, be as consistent as possible so your readers will have an identifiable brand image to bond with.
Whatever editorial and style guidelines you choose, you should attempt to follow them as much as possible. Of course, you can break your own rules, but the key is to only ever break them consciously, and with a clear understanding of what rule you are breaking, what the cost is, and what the benefit is.
Armed with these simple rules, your blog will take on a professional image that will differentiate it from the competition. And that’s how you build a following of regular readers.
What do you think? Feel free to comment with your own personal experience. What kind of blog do you have, and do you think a strong style guide is good or bad for your blog?
While you may have thought about what to post on your blog, have you ever thought about when to post? Your first instinct is probably to just post when it’s convenient to you, but should also consider your target audience. You want to be able to reach out to them at the best time and in the best manner. There are several factors that may influence when you should post.
Content and Target
Surprisingly, the content of your blog may determine what frequency in posting you need to maintain. What kinds of readers appreciate your content? When would it be a good time to get through to them? For instance if your blog analyzes the conditions at the stock market, your target audience might consist of investors who want to read your blog during the trading day. Similarly, if your blog talks about recording artists, your readers might prefer reading it over the weekend.
If your matter is likely to get dated soon, then you need to post frequently. For instance if your blog talks about celebrity gossip, you’ve got to keep posting new content since it doesn’t have a long life. You might need to post multiple times over a week because once the life of your article elapses; it’s just an archive without much value.
You might want to take a while to think about this one. What is the target audience that you want to reach out to? Where are they located and when would be a good time for them? Say for instance you live in Japan, and your blog teaches basic Japanese in American English. Your target audience lives in America, so you need think about when they would find it convenient to read your blog.
The consumer is King, of course. Check how often your readers want you to post. You can ask them outright or gauge this from their comments. Also, experiment a little with posting and see on what days you get more comments. This of course depends on your content; but you can figure this out if you do this over a period of time.
While a blog is a time independent record, posts are released to aggregators and search engines and they have a concept of time. So when your reader is ready to check his feeds for the day, you want your post to be right at the top in their feed reader. You want to be above all the Techorati top blogs on his feed reader.
So before you decide to post whenever you want, think about the factors that affect your blogs success. You don’t just need to appeal to your target; you also have to reach them when they’re most likely to be looking.
If you want to make money from blogging, you’re going to have to put up advertisements eventually. But let’s face it; nobody really likes to be bombarded with advertising. To be fair you wouldn’t enjoy that either. Luckily we’ve got a list of types of advertising that people don’t love too much. Steer clear of these and you can put up advertisements without annoying your readers (too much).
Pop up advertising is probably the most annoying kind of advertising created by man and thankfully people realized that a long time ago. That’s precisely why every decent web browser has a pop up block feature.
Avoid pop-ups like the plague. If you’re not running some shady spamfest, e-pharmacy or pornutopia, these will only make it look like you are. It’s best to stay clear away from such nastiness. Besides, if the advertising pays by clicks, it’s pretty useless for you since you won’t get many views; clicks are a distant possibility.
Video/ flash ads
I wouldn’t say completely avoid these, but use them with a bit of caution. What you find a lot these days are embedded videos that start playing as soon as the page opens. Although it is engaging, be aware of then cons of this kind of advertising before you use it. Think about the kind of blog and audience you have. For instance, if your blog casually talks about hot music artists of today, then you could use this kind of advertising since it fits with the entertainment theme of your blog in some ways. On the other hand, if your blog talks about philosophy, this kind of advertising would probably kill the mood.
Moving Panel Ads.
While banner ads seem almost dignified these days, the moving panel that runs around the screen is its uncouth sibling. Banner ads are absolutely fine as long as they stay right there. The ones that float over the page and block what the visitor is reading are really aggravating. You feel pursued and forced and mostly annoyed. The reader can’t focus on the content and feels pressured. Worse still if the close button is tiny and they click the ad by mistake while trying to close it. You may have made your $.13, but they will likely never come back. Feel free to use other kinds of banners though.
And what’s the number one no-no in advertising land?
Anything that makes noise!
Imagine one of your loyal readers is watching porn on one screen and browsing your latest blog post on the other… last thing the poor guy wants is for your blog to start making a racket and drawing attention. Not that YOUR readers would be, ahem, so disposed.
So while you may need to put advertisements on you blog, you also need to think about how much advertising the reader would be ready to take. Let the advertising be subtle and dignified. Losing a subscriber is more detrimental to the long term success of your blog than is not earning money in the short run.
How much do you think people want to hear what someone has to say without knowing that person at all? Not so much.
While protecting your private identity is a thing of concern, connecting with your followers is essential too. Although you may not want to share very personal information; you should at least have a short “about me” for your followers. Need more reasons? Read on.
An about me puts a face to the blog
You may never get to meet all your blog followers and they may never get to know how you really are. That’s where an “about me” helps. Readers can put a face to your blog. You may not even put up a bio image if you don’t want to. Even a text only write up about yourself can help your readers imagine what you are like and how your personality reflects in your blog.
An about me motivates people to follow you
A lot of first time readers might read a few posts and if they like your style, they might look for an “about me” page. Without an “about me” page you are just another blogger among millions. A new reader would like to know what you are like and what makes you so unique. It’s quite likely that your “about me” page would be associated with your blog in the readers’ memory.
An about me helps readers feel more connected with your blog
Obviously, people feel more connected with your blog if they know you better. Your followers might share similar interests and preference and neither of you would find out unless there’s an “about me”. You want come across as an approachable person to your readers and an “about me” helps you do just that. So it’s quite likely that your readers might refer to you blog like this “Oh that blog about literature! I remember now. Wasn’t it that guy who liked Pringles with cool whip?”
An about me helps in networking and community building
The whole idea of social networking revolves around the term “about me”. If you want to network and build a community you are going to have to share a little information about yourself. Your community will feel connected with you only if they know you. Your “about me” is almost like an impersonal business card.
It really is all about you!
Apart from all that, an about me is the best chance you get to be an egotist! I mean think about it, you finally get to talk as much as you want about yourself and people actually want to read it. Finally it really can be all about you.
You follow blogs because you like their content, style, tone etc, etc. But in your life as a blogger, you are certain to encounter 5 blogs that you just have to follow. Whose blogs are these anyway? Read on.
You don’t like his posts. You don’t like his style. You can’t stand his template. In short you hate his blog. It might even bug you when he gets more comments on posts which are so similar to what you wrote. You’re still going to need to follow him. Remember that old proverb about keeping friends close and enemies closer? It’s very relevant in the blogosphere. Following your competitors is the best way to keep a track on their activities. And nobody questions you about anything, you can follow anyone. After all it’s a free blogosphere right?
This blogger loves your blog. In fact he loves your blog so much, that he graciously links your blog in the “blogs I love” section on his blog. Come on now, don’t be rude. You’ve got to follow this guy…it’s a mandatory social convention!
You idolize this blogger. He gets a three digit number of comments, has a five digit number on his subscriber count and probably makes an even larger figure from his blog. He’s been around the blogging business for a while and currently rules your niche. You need to follow him to learn everything that you should know about your niche. He talks with authority and experience and you can take his word for most everything he says. You couldn’t ignore him even if you tried.
He isn’t any ordinary reader. He means much more to you. Ever since you started your blog, he’s been the first one to comment. He honestly tells you when your posts stink and praises you when they are exemplary. Although his words are now lost in the sea of comments that your blog receives, you can’t forget him. You follow him to keep in contact.
They talk in an anonymous tone and simply tell you what you should know. They won’t comment on your blog or read your posts. They may not have anything in common with your blog. But you need to follow them to help sharpen your skills or learn about essential facts. Your platform’s administration blog would be a good example. FYI we also fall in this category! (You just can’t escape us, so you may as well subscribe now.)
You can’t run away from these bloggers. What’s really interesting about this is that every blogger will encounter each one of them sometime or the other. But this thought shouldn’t really bother you; all you need to do is follow!