Ah, the vagaries of unrecognized blogging brilliance. So you’ve taken Hugh’s advice and started a blog, and nobody’s noticed you? Welcome to the club. Almost all of us start at the bottom, unless we’re already well-established authors or pundits or somesuch.
Being an unremarkable fourth-tier blogger myself, I’ve thought about traffic often. I’m no blogging stud; I average around 250 hits per day, with occasional big spikes of 500-1000 when some big name blogger links to me, or if a flood of search engine queries about a hot news event turns up one of my posts on the results page. I’ve been blogging since March, and though my own writing hasn’t brought me fame and fortune, I’ve picked up a few tips on how to legitimately increase my blog’s visibility in the blogosphere. Most of it’s covered by well-spoken folks like Wizbang and Bad Example, but I’ll add a baker’s dozen of pointers that have served me well so far.
- Have something interesting to say. The web’s already clogged with millions of blogs that do little more than link to what everybody else is talking about, adding nothing more to the conversation than a “hey, check this out.” There’s only one blog that gets away with one-word comments, and you’re not going to replace him. Be an occasional Thinker, not just a Linker, or some blend of both. You don’t need to create bloviating dissertations of 10,000 words, but do write about what you know and what interests you. Find your own way of saying things, and put your own spin on it. In time you’ll find you’ve developed a style all your own, and like-minded readers will find you.
- Link freely to other blogs, especially lesser-known ones and blogs you disagree with. Leave pertinent comments on their posts, and contribute to the discussion. They’ll notice, and might reciprocate if you follow Rule #1 above.
- Learn how to tweak your stylesheet, to make your blog appealing and easy to navigate. More is not always better.
- Be sure your blog is generating an RSS feed. Check your blogging software’s documentation to be sure. If you can’t generate an RSS feed, switch software. Trust me.
- When drafting a new post on your Movable Type blog, you can help search engines like Google find your blog posts by filling in some pertinent terms in the box marked “Keywords” … terms which you might use to search for web pages related to the topic of your post. Be sure that the following HTML code is in the template for your Individual Entry Archive, between the <HEAD> and </HEAD> tags:
<meta name=”robots” content=”index,follow,archive” />
<meta name=”description” content=”<$MTEntryExcerpt$>” />
<meta name=”keywords” content=”<$MTEntryKeywords$>” />
This code uses META tags to talk to search engines and let them know you exist. It won’t bring you lots of traffic, but it’ll put you on an even footing with other entry-level bloggers. It’s like hanging out a sign when you start your business; it’s no guarantee of success, but you’d be a fool not to.
- If you’re using Movable Type to blog, go to the Configuration menu, click on the link marked “preferences”, and scroll down until you see “Publicity / Remote Interfaces / TrackBack” … then check the boxes for blo.gs and weblogs.com, and paste the following text into the “Others” box:
Doing this will ping (notify) several tracking services whenever you update your blog, and they’ll send a spider program to come index your new entry. If you get error messages during the pinging process, it may mean you need to go sign up with one or more of the services. Don’t fret, they’re free.
- Join a blogging alliance (here’s a good one … and another), join a web ring, or start your own (I did). As long as you abide by the membership rules, you’ll usually find yourself on several blogrolls in no time.
- Learn about comment spam and trackback spam. Don’t harbor it.
- Be a polite blogger when you send a trackback.
- Learn some basic shop talk to avoid embarassing yourself.
- Don’t obsess over links and traffic. It’ll suck the joy right out of the whole effort if you’re blogging for fun. If you’re blogging for profit, then you’re seeking advice from the wrong fella. See Rule #12.
- Buy this book.
- Read Rule #1 a couple more times.
Blogging’s fun. Have at it.
UPDATE: Joe Carter has more good advice at Evangelical Outpost, in six parts (I … II … III … IV … V … VI).
UPDATE 2: Some progressive Christians look to be putting a blog alliance together. Here’s their aggregator page. Nice move!