Blogging tips

Frequently, I get questions from other bloggers who are just starting out who want tips for how to get their blog name out there and noticed in the blogosphere, and also ask for general blogging advice. I appreciate people asking, but at the same time usually note that my traffic is between 650-800 hits a day and I’m still working on getting my name out there too just like everyone else :) Here’s a list of typical questions and my responses:

“What should I focus on?”

What’s important to you is what you should focus on. A mistake some bloggers make (in my opinion) is trying to be too much like other bloggers and only blogging about what those other bloggers find important. Bottom line: be yourself. Sure, there are bloggers out there whose [typo corrected –ST] styles I admire but I’d like to think I have my own style, while at the same time learning tips on how to be a better blogger by perusing other blogs. It’s also not a bad idea to find a niche and make that your predominant focus: like conservative women’s issues, or immigration, etc. Note: only do this if it’s something you enjoy! Don’t create a niche just to drive traffic to your site unless that’s what you enjoy blogging about. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself struggling to please others while making yourself miserable because you’re not focusing on other issues you feel are important.

“Does blogging take a lot of time?”

Yes. I’d say a good two to three hours a day is the time I spend blogging (between researching sources, trackbacking, updating, etc) – sometimes it can be less and sometimes it’s more. But that’s about average. Some bloggers spend a lot more time on their blog than that. In blogging, just as with anything else, you really have to work at it and devote more than just the bare minimum time to blogging in order to be successful.

“What does a trackback do for you and how do I leave one on someone’s site?”

I’m going to post a link to a Trackback FAQ that will help in case my answer doesn’t ;) HALOSCAN

Ok, basically what a trackback does for you is it increases your visibility on other sites who accept trackbacks – for *free.* I’ll use my blog as an example. I allow trackbacks and I also send trackbacks as well. You’ll usually see the trackback URI where you find the comments section on a blog. What you do is you create a post on something that interests you, and if you see another blogger is posting about it and you want to link up to that blogger’s post, what you do is post something in your blog entry that includes the link to that bloggers post. Once that’s done, you get the URI from that blogger’s post, go to a trackback place like Haloscan (more on that in a bit) and the following will appear – in some version or another – but Haloscan’s is popular so I’ll use that one. You’ll see this (if there is a blank beside it, that means there is info you’ll need to enter):

Your blog name: Sister Toldjah (once you sign up, your blog name will automatically pop up on the blog name spot on that page, so make sure that wherever you register to do trackbacks, that you type in your name when you register exactly how you would like it to appear on other people’s blogs when you do a track back).

Your permalink URL: _______________________

Your post title: _________________________

Your excerpt: _______________________ (this is the snippet that other people on the site you trackbacked to will see – it’s good to usually keep it to around two sentences)

URL’s to ping: ____________________ (this is where you put the blogger’s URI – not the URL, not sure why Haloscan lists it as a URL when the trackback link is actually called a URI)

Once that’s done, you hit the “Ping Now” button, give it a few seconds, and you’ll usually see a message at the top that shows the URI and then the word “Success” to note that it was successfully sent. Occasionally, you’ll get one that’s not successfully sent. Nine times out of ten, that usually means that the blogger you are trying to trackback to has settings in their spam filter that don’t accept certain words, characters, etc. I usually find that if I continue to have that problem with a blogger, I’ll let them know, as oftentimes they aren’t aware why people aren’t sending them trackbacks. And some bloggers – their trackback feature is not working right. But most of the time, your pings should go through.

I recommend if you are interested in doing this (and I highly recommend doing it) – and don’t have the trackback feature on the blogging program you are using – to sign up with Haloscan. You can sign up just for trackbacks or you can sign up for both trackbacks and comments there (it’s free). They’ll generate a special code for you to insert in your blog for trackbacks and/or comments. They make it very easy to use. Again, trackbacks bring other bloggers and readers to your site who read the list of trackbacks on the blogs they post/read. I’ve had a lot of success with this and most bloggers I know highly recommend doing this.

“How do bloggers drive more traffic to their sites? So many people are getting more traffic than I could imagine and it’s a mystery to me how they do it.”

Well, advertising is big but again, trackbacks always help as well. Occasionally commenting (if you have the time) at some of your favorite bloggers sites doesn’t hurt either (most give you the option of including your URL in your comment). Back to the advertising, find some blogs you like that have blogads and who are also in your blog budget and submit some blogads … I can’t tell you how much this helped me!

Another thing you should do is register your blog at the Truth Laid Bear site.

Read this page (scroll down a bit) to find out what the TTLB site does – it’s basically a site that tracks traffic and ranks based on number of links made back to your blog – just about every blogger I know (including some of the biggies) are members of it. Once you register, you’ll be given a code, which you will then put on your site. TTLB also tracks hot stories, and posts what bloggers are blogging those stories, and your site could be listed if you’re blogging about an issue they are tracking. It’s also a good place to find out what other bloggers are blogging about that may interest you.

Also, it might not be a bad idea to register at Technorati. Technorati is similar to TTLB. If you go there, the best thing to do is click around and get familiar with what they offer – you can check who is blogging the latest news story, and they have a ranking system there of their own. You can also find out who is linking up with you there as well. Many big time bloggers use Technorati not just for rankings but to find out what others are saying about an issue and they may link to other blogs they find blogging about an issue they are writing about.

“How much should I focus on leaving comments on other sites and talking to other bloggers? From what I understand this is important, but it also takes time away from working on my own site.”

I would say comment occasionally. I enjoy commenting at my favorite bloggers sites because I enjoy their blogs and it also generates a bit of traffic here. Of the two, the main thing is the trackbacks. I can’t stress enough how important it is to trackback and often – but just remember that in order to trackback to a blogger’s post, it’s important that you have linked up to that blogger’s post in the link you are using to trackback with. I’ve had people do a trackback on my site before but when I’ve visited their site to find where they linked up to my post, it was no where to be found, so what those people were trying to do is get some free advertising without posting the reciprocal link back. But it’s also not a bad idea to post a message or two every once in a while – it gives people at that particular blog an idea of what you’re like on your own blog, and they might be interested enough in clicking the link to your blog for a look-see.

“You seem to keep an eye on people who are commenting on/smearing you and deal with that when necessary. That seems important but I’m not sure where to start.”

The way I keep up with who’s visiting my blog is via Sitemeter. Sitemeter is a counter that tracks the number of visits to your blog. A bonus to Sitemeter is that its basic version allows you to look at the referrals aka where people are coming from who are visiting your site. Not all referrals show up on Sitemeter though with the full info – some people (like me) have their browsers set up to where only certain info about my browser can be seen on someone else’s Sitemeter. Sitemeter is another thing I highly recommend getting and it’s also free but they do also have a paid version if you’re interested. (Update: Technorati also has a feature that shows you what bloggers are linking to your blog.) Also, you should check into some spam programs (like Spam Karma 2) for more heavy duty spam and troll comment blocking. I had some configuring problems with it, but that’s because I’m a novice at it. Others have had quite a bit of success. On a related note, if you have commenters who are only interested in trolling (causing trouble), remember: it’s your blog and you make the rules. I prefer not to waste time with commenters who are not interested in real discussions. You can usually figure this out after a few posts with that commenter. I’ve got a great group of commenters to this blog, and I’d rather focus on them, rather than having to deal with trolls – but that’s just a personal preference. I don’t consider mere disagreement as a sign of trolling. I consider personally attacking me trolling, however, and will respond accordingly.

“If a blogger personally attacks me on his or her blog, should I respond back on my own blog?”

I choose not to do so but there are bloggers who do. That is a matter of personal preference. Just always remember that there is a difference between an attack on you and an attack on your opinions. The two are not necessarily the same.

“Where are the best places to find multiple links to different news stories?”

Lucianne, Drudge Report, Powerlineblog News, Google News, and Newslink should more than help you get started. The more high tech bloggers use RSS news feed sites like Newsgator (of which you can access blog feeds for my blog), but I’m not doing that yet. I may in the future, though. I tried that for a while but found I couldn’t keep up with it everyday.

“Should I get my own domain name?”

I personally prefer my own domain name but it’s not essential to success. There are any number of successful bloggers out there who don’t have their own domain like Ann Althouse, Arthur Chrenkoff, and Betsy Newmark, among others.

“I’m getting frustrated. I blog my face off everyday, trackback, and comment and still I’m not getting a lot of traffic. What gives?”

Give it time. Success doesn’t happen overnight – I’m still plugging away everyday, blogging about what I love to blog about, talking to other bloggers, enjoying the conversations with the people who are regular visitors to this blog, tracking back like crazy, and networking as best I can. My hits are modest, but I don’t mind. I also keep in mind that at one time at this blog I was getting about 40 hits a day … now I’m averaging about 650-800 a day. That means people are interested in what I want to say! Which is pretty cool :) I’m doing what I enjoy doing, and appreciate the feedback I get from people here and in email (unless it’s hateful stuff, which I don’t get too much of yet – thankfully). If you really work hard at maintaining a blog full of good substantive blog entries, eventually you’re going to get noticed. Law of averages says so :) But you can’t start a blog one week, and then wonder the next week why you aren’t getting 20K hits a day. It just doesn’t work that way. You have to “pay your dues” and continue to blog your face off – and even after you start generating lots more traffic, you need to maintain your blogging consistency. That is what readers and bloggers alike enjoy – with a few exceptions, fly by night bloggers who blog about twice a month aren’t going to go anywhere.

Simon at Simon World wrote an excellent post last month with tips on how to make it in the blogosphere. His take was humorous, but on the mark. Please make sure to look at that post as well and scroll down when you’re done to see some links to many other posts from bloggers who have written tips on successful blogging as well. Between my post, his, and those he linked to, you should have all the info you need to get started on the road to being a successful blogger – also remember one thing: success is in the eye of the beholder. Some people would consider 300 hits a day as not a success. I would. Even if you never generate the amount of traffic you want, the main thing is that you stay true to the issues that are important to you. Enjoy what you do. Big traffic or not, you’ll be happier at the end of the day.

I will update this post periodically.

7/11/06: Welcome, Instapundit readers!! Much thanks to Glenn for the link :) This post was originally written in September 2005 and since it was written my traffic has increased to around 1,100 hits a day. I’ve added more blogging tips in this post from yesterday (scroll).

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