In part one of my interview with Lorelle, she discussed how a new blogger can stay motivated.
Now we move on to another subject I often asked myself. (To avoid redundancy, I asked Lorelle, to include any links to her posts or others she felt would be helpful to the BWAB readers).
2) New bloggers are often confused as to what’s the “right way” to blog. What do you feel are the most common errors bloggers make with their blogs and posts?
Right way to blog? A lot of people charge me with accusations of telling them there is only one way to blog. I never say that. I say that good manners are good manners, whether in person or in the virtual world. What goes in the offline world applies to the online world. We just seem to forget when we cross the Internet line. As my friend, Liz Strauss says, “Play nice.” That goes a long way in both worlds.
As to specific and common errors bloggers make with their blogs and blog posts, I would say they are:
- Failure to Plan: Too many blog because they think it’s fun, everyone is doing it, they have to, and their friends made them do it. They don’t think the process through. A blog is an investment in time, energy, and creativity. It require participation – your participation not just by your readers. If you aren’t planning for the long haul, it shows. We know it. We’ll stop showing up. And so will you.
- Make Copyright Decisions Now – Update Them Later: It’s not a matter of if but when someone will steal your blog content. Stop everything you are doing right now and go read What Do You Do When Someone Steals Your Content, and Jonathan Bailey’s fantastic articles, 5 Content Theft Myths and Why They Are False and The 6 Steps to Stop Content Theft. Make clear decisions about what your copyright policy is and make it public on your blog on your About Page, copyright policy page, policy and legal page, or wherever and include a copyright link to the information in your blog’s footer. It is your responsibility to decide how you want your content used, and not used, but readers and copyright infringers can’t read your mind. If you don’t care who abuses your content, then say so. If you do, then specify how they can use it within your terms for Fair Use. If you don’t understand how copyright works – learn. You could be infringing upon other people’s copyrights. In order to blog, copyright is the most important laws you must learn. After that comes libel and defamation – learn about those, too. After a few months or a year of blogging, revisit your copyright policy and update it to ensure it continues to represent your policy on the use of your content. Remember, ASK FIRST before using other people’s content. They might say yes. And fight for copyright protection and education so we all learn to ask first.
- It’s All About ME ME ME: Too many people treat a blog like a scrapbook or notebook, keeping track of things they find on the web that they want to remember. That’s rubbish. If you are using your blog as a giant notebook, make it private. The Publish button on blog software is there for a reason. It’s about publishing. It’s about being read. It’s about being found. It’s about being quoted. It’s about the readers. It’s about the conversations. Treat the publish button with the respect it deserves. If you treat your blog like a scrapbook, make it one that will appeal to all those with similar interests – and you might learn even more about the notes you make.
- Categories are Your Table of Contents. Tags are the Index Words: I don’t know why categories and tags are so confusing to people. It is based upon book publishing. Categories are the table of contents for your blog. They define your blog’s content and purpose and should be keywords and search terms. Categories are not a place to use creative terminology, just words people use to search for that content on the web.Tags are the index words and they are post specific. A post about a recipe for salad can be in the Cooking, Salad, Vegetarian, or Recipe category and tag words would be cooking, salad, greens, lettuce, carrots, tomatoes, salad dressing, raisins, and the ingredients in the salad. Someone searching for salad recipes may find your blog post, but if they want to dig a little deeper and only find recipes associated with lettuce, a topic you have some posts about but not enough to qualify for a post category, they can click the tag link for lettuce and find related content. You’ve just won a fan by helping them get the information they need.
Tags got special recognition a few years ago as a new concept in categorizing and uncovering related content moving away from the traditional search engine concept. It failed. You don’t get bonus points for having tags on your blogs. Think of them only as navigation tools that increase a blog’s usability.
- Everything You Publish is Forever: Once you hit publish, there is no going back. It’s there. Forever. Within seconds, pings are sent out, search engines come back and cache (save) the content. Your server backs it up. People read it. Aggregators collect it. It’s there. Out there. Forever. You can’t undo what you’ve done, so write accordingly.
- Be Timely or Timeless: There are two types of blog content: timely and timeless. Timely content is news, information that applies to the right now. Timeless content lasts a long time, garnering visitors over the long haul not the short term Timely content blogging means writing fast, to be the first out the door with the news. If you can’t be one of the first out, then think about how you can turn timely content into timeless content so you can add more value to the words than just “here is the latest news.” Think about the subject. Look at it from different angles. Add your voice, your opinion, to the voices of the others to help continue the conversation, not just report it. Anyone can parrot the news, why not be one who expounds upon it? And enjoy the traffic you may get for years to come.
- It’s My Blog, You Can’t Tell Me! Yes, it is your blog. It’s yours to do what you will with it, but don’t break web standards in order to prove to the world that you are right. You aren’t right by trying to throw out the sidebar navigation links. You aren’t right by doing away with the header and putting your blog title and purpose information in the footer. Work within the standards that have been established as to what makes a blog work. Sure, push the envelop. We need new innovative thinkers and designers. However, be prepared to be snapped back in place if it backfires. Learn the rules first before you break them. They are there for good reasons. Usabilities studies prove this out over and over again. Yes, it’s your blog and you can do with it what you want, but remember blogging carries with it a responsibility: Blogs are for the readers, not the bloggers. Put your readers first in all the design decisions you make with your blog.
As you blog, your definition of success will change. At first, it’s about the numbers, the score card of visitors to your blog. In time, it’s about the comments, how many comments, how many posts got comments, or didn’t – counting up the comments. Then it’s about the trackbacks. Who is linking today? What are they saying about what I wrote? How many are linking to my blog post? Then you chase after attention through the social networking and site submission services, getting people to “digg” your blog post and submit it everywhere. None of these are true measures of success but metrics we use to judge our work. Cumulatively, they represent a measure of our success, but individually, they are just things that happen naturally in the flow of a blog’s life.
Later, the joy will come in the writing, the development of the work, and the reward of one person who says they enjoyed it and learned a lot, but it takes time to figure out what your definition of blogging success is. Don’t use other people’s metrics. Find your own joy in your blogging – and don’t let anyone tell you differently
Based on Lorelle’s answer, do you see any mistakes you’re making?
If so, how will you correct them?
Photo Credit: Lorelle’s Logo