While no one knows every element that each search engine includes in their algorithms, one thing that everyone can agree on is that a site needs to have quality content in order to rank. For many sites, one of the easiest ways to add that quality content on a consistent basis is by starting a blog.
Blogging has grown in popularity for the past several years. According to New Media Lab in Austin, blogging grew by 68 percent in 2008; 356 million people worldwide read blogs; and 77 percent of active Web users read blogs.
In 2008, 184 million people started a blog. If you've been wondering about blogs or planning to start one, then this two-part article is just what you need to learn the basics.
To get an idea who is blogging in the U.S., New Media Lab also provided these numbers:
- 51 percent male
- Age 35+ (58 percent)
- Age 18-34 (42 percent)
- College educated (74 percent)
What is a Blog?
A Weblog, or blog, is essentially a personal (or professional) journal on the Web. Individuals or organizations cover many different topics and express lots of different opinions. Some blogs are very influential and have many readers, while some are merely intended for family and friends.
The main purpose of a blog is to provide commentary or news on a particular subject. Blogs are also a tool to inform, educate, and connect people with you to help them to make a decision about your product, service, or business. And because there's little to no cost to setting up and maintaining a blog (except for your time), many individuals and organizations now have a platform to share their thoughts and opinions.
The Importance of Blogs
Blogs allow millions of people to easily publish their ideas and many more to respond with comments. Blogs should be thought of as a form of two-way communication between a publisher and interested readers.
Get enough people participating in a blog and you're essentially having an online conversation or discussion. Blogs enable us to become active participants in the conversation instead of just passive readers.
How to Set Up a Blog
First, you need to think up a name for your blog. With so many blogs out there, thinking up something unique and relevant to your blogging content will serve you well.
Once you have a name, you should lock in a domain name for your blog. If you already have a domain name, you can choose a domain name like "www.example.com/blog" or maybe "blog.example.com." If you're starting from scratch, you can go to a domain registrar like Network Solutions, GoDaddy, or MyDomain for help. If you can get your main keyword into the URL it will really help with your SEO efforts as well as help readers identify what your blog is about.
Picking a Blogging Platform
The next step is to pick your content management system that provides you the tools to manage your blog. The best part: most of the tools are free.
Some HTML or CSS knowledge is needed to get the design the way you want it. Or you can pick one of the built-in designs provided by your blogging tool.
Make sure the option for readers to leave comments is on. This will help your blog to feel more like a conversation is happening. A combination of positive and negative comments is good because it makes your blog appear to be real and down to earth.
What is RSS and How Does it Work?
RSS stands for real simple syndication. Basically, it's the most common way of promoting your blog online.
Most blogging tools automatically produce an RSS feed for you. This "feed" can be subscribed to just like a news feed or podcast and gives blog subscribers a way to stay up to date on your latest blogs. Your blog feed can also be submitted to sites like Feedburner to allow people to find your blog in much the same way they might find your Web site via search engines. For more on RSS, try this RSS feed tutorial.
Adding Social Media and Links
Add links to all of your social media profile pages, including Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. You should also add links to any other personal or corporate pages you have.
Additionally, link to your blog from all of your social media profile pages. Many social bookmarking plug-ins can help promote your blog, including:
Filling Your Blog With Content
This can be a challenge for most of us, but it doesn't have to be.
Most people write blogs because they're passionate about a topic, and they have knowledge to impart or have an opinion to share. This makes for interesting reading because people enjoy reading authors who are emotionally attached to their subject. This should be a major consideration when deciding on the subject matter of your blog.
Let's look at some tips and best practices for filling your blog with quality content that should attract followers.
Tips and the Top 10
People love to find tips about how to do something better. Thanks to David Letterman, we all love the top 10 lists. These have a way of attracting reader's attention.
Find good tips on your topic and post them to your blog. You don't always have to use 10 either -- you can use any number. Actually, posting something like "Top 6 Twitter SEO Tips" makes it seem more genuine than stuffing in four more items just to make it 10.
Solve Problems, Ask Questions
One of the best ways to approach your blog posts is to put yourself in the shoes of your followers and identify a question they might have. Your assignment is to answer that question with a post.
This makes your post more conversational. It will also help you get more followers, because you're answering a question that's likely already on your readers' minds.
Look for Growing Trends
Staying on top of trends might help you identify a topic that will be of interest to your readers within a specific time period.
Let's say there's a growing buzz on a new iPhone app. If you use a tool like Twitter or hang around blogs or forums related to iPhone apps, you can post it on your blog. You might just be the go-to blog on that topic, if your timing is right.
Take a Poll
A good source for unique content is to poll your followers. Ask a question that solicits a response. Get out on Twitter and invite people to your blog to take the poll. You'll be surprised at the response.
People like to have a platform on which to express their opinions. Once you're done, you can follow up with some rich, relevant content.
Networking and Partnerships
Interact with people outside your blog. Set up a Facebook or Twitter account and interact with people.
Find out what's on their mind. Read their blogs. In addition to finding new readers, you'll find some fresh ideas that you can bring back to your blog.
If you come across a difficult topic, don't feel like you have to do days of research to make sure you cover the topic accurately. Go find other experts who have the answer and refer your readers to them for the specifics. You can build some great relationships and probably get some quality referrals that come your way.
How Often to Blog
Getting a blog started and launched can be really exciting. Once the honeymoon is over, you need to be prepared to stick with it for the long term.
Some people blog every hour, some daily, and some weekly. These are all fine, but you need to pace yourself. If you blog every day and then stop for a week or two, you'll likely lose your momentum and your followers. Just be consistent.
What Lessons Have You Learned About Blogging?
Taking my own medicine, it would be great to hear some of the tips or lessons other bloggers have learned. Feel free to share with us below so we can learn from your experiences.
Meet Your Favorite Search Engine Watch Contributors
Many of SEW's leading expert contributors will be at ClickZ Live, the new online and digital marketing event kicking off in New York (March 31-April 3). Hear from the likes of: Thom Craver, Josh Braaten, Lisa Barone, Simon Heseltine, Josh McCoy, Lisa Raehsler, Greg Jarboe, Dan Cristo, Joseph Kerschbaum, John Gagnon, Eric Enge and more!