I’m sorry I’ve been away for a very long while. I caught a fever. The blogging series continued. In my last article we discussed some blogging basics I’m sure everyone who has been blogging for long knows. In this article I’ll be highlighting some blogging rules most bloggers don’t follow, as well as the advantages and problems associated with blogging.
Blogging Rules (Most of which I got off Jakob Nielsen’s Blog Usability Rules).
- About Me and Photo
Except you want to be anonymous, it’s usually a good idea to provide some information about yourself. People want to know who they’re dealing with. In the case of anonymous blogging, cooking up an obviously fictional biography is useful. People want to associate something with your online persona.
Remember some people are going to be accessing your blog from a feed. If your titles are nondescript, there’s a chance that you’ll give the wrong impression. “You might like this” is not as informative as “Computer programmer joke.”
- Links, links
Sometimes you make posts in a series or publish something you’d want visitors in the next four months to see. Your archives list all your posts, but you’d hardly expect someone who’s visiting your blog for the first time to hunt through your archives. Putting links to them in your sidebar make them more accessible. Examples would be Londonbuki‘s Mummy Monday Series and Uzo‘s Soundbyte!.
- Categorizing / Labelling / Tagging
Like titles, these have to reflect your content. Don’t try to label your posts with as many tags as possible. Use short, concise descriptions. When none of your categories closely matches your content, don’t be afraid to create a new one. For this blogging series, I had to create an articles category.
- Publishing Frequency
Almost every non-professional blogger breaks this rule. If you stick to a publishing schedule, your readers know what to expect. Although you might not publish all your content according to a schedule, you can make your readers expect certain posts at a certain time. Every Monday, I know to expect a post from Londonbuki‘s ‘Mummy Monday’ series. People like predictability.
On the other hand, don’t make ten posts in a day and wait three months before making another ten. If you have a lot of posts to make, it’s a good idea to save them as drafts and publish them when you’re out of ideas.
- Be discreet
Even when you’re an anonymous blogger, respect people’s privacy — at the very least, use false names. Remember your content is readable by who has an internet connection. Potential employers can find stuff about you that could make them rethink hiring you.
People want to read your content, not admire your site. If there’s anything obtrusive like popups, music and distracting animation (clocks seem to be the rave now), you might want to consider removing them. Music is my pet peeve — it’s very annoying to visit a site and be assailed by music. If you must put anything on your page, your visitor should be the one to decide to start or stop it. Embedded Youtube videos don’t automatically play for that reason.
- Join the community
Don’t be selfish. The blogosphere is an ‘I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine’ universe. If you want visitors, you should visit other blogs sharing the same interests and leave comments. If you want people to link to you, link back to them. If people link to you, try to reciprocate. I’ll talk about why this is important when I discuss pinging in the next post. Popular bloggers like Keshi know the importance of reciprocating comments.
- Specialize / know your audience
I’ve been breaking this rule for so long. Don’t mix topics. Try to focus on one topic in a post if not in your entire blog. Juventus, Linux and Politics don’t go together — split a post into two topics if it contains two, three if it contains three. Knowing your audience enables you to know what to write, and specializing keeps you focused.
An example would be my blog. Most of my readers are female, in the 18-35 age bracket and aren’t computer-inclined. Every time I make a post discussing code, I risk alienating everyone and have to quickly make a post discussing something else. I’ll be moving the code section to my development site and the writing section to my writing site.
- Watch your formatting
Fancy fonts and different colors might look cool in the editor you use when making a post, but what happens on your blog? If your template has a dark background, changing the color may not be in your readers’ best interests. Speaking from experience, people like me who’re visually challenged tend to develop an aversion to blogs with annoying formatting. I can’t read Taureanminx‘s sidebar, but I can read her posts, which isn’t too bad.
Try to restrict your formatting to bold, italic,
deland other basic tags. If you change your template from say, a white-backgrounded theme to a darker one, your dark blue formatting is going to throw readers off.
There are many more rules than this, but these are pretty basic. Follow the rules of netiquette and you should be good to go.
Advantages of Blogging
- Unlike a forum, you own all the content on a blog. You have the right to decide what or what not to post. No moderators telling you what to do, no pesky admins (that doesn’t stop you from being one!).
- It’s an art form — people get to know the real you from your blog. As you blog more, you’ll tend to attract people who think the way you do.
- If you care about meeting people online, bloggers are generally more polite than people you’ll meet in chat rooms and on forums, although I’ve met a few nut jobs. Last month, I celebrated my birthday on the blogosphere and I got a lot more comments than I normally would on a normal day. Some people even sent me gifts from my Amazon wishlist.
- You can actually generate traffic to another website of yours. Before I put up my blog, very few people contacted me to work on a website for them. Since I put one up, people frequently visit my web development and my writing sites.
Before you imagine blogging is a bed of roses, I’d like to point out a few problems you’re likely to encounter while blogging.
- Comment spam
This is perhaps the biggest problem bloggers face. According to Akismet, the top blog spam filtering service, statistics show that 93% of all blog comments is spam — unwanted messages, similar to e-mail spam. Spam is typically posted by automated software called bots run by advertising companies. It can get quite annoying to visit your blog and find you have 93 comments all advertising Viagra or diet pills.
The most popular solution to this is to use an authentication image like the one I have on my blog.Visitors find it annoying to have to fill in additional stuff but it works. If you’re running WordPress, you can use a spam filter like Akismet
If you’re a parent, you might want to check out people your child meets with online. On the internet, emotions can be faked and anyone can pretend to be different. Some stalkers typically read blogs to find people they understand, then attempt to social engineer them — that is, impersonate someone they know, or get close to them by playing on their likes and dislikes. The New York Times has an article about the increasing number of rapes occurring as a result of people meeting online and agreeing to meet in real life. Basically, be careful about what you reveal about yourself online.
Again, there are a lot of problems you’re likely to meet, but I’ve put only the common ones here. This article is already too long, as it is. I hope everyone has learned a thing or two. In the next post in the series, we’ll explore advanced(?) stuff. I hope to do some consulting with my SEO expert, Afropinay before then.
Gosh, I’m tired!