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A few things I thought about blogs a year ago that may or may not have been true then (& which may or may not be true now)

1. You must blog daily.

True or untrue?

Depends entirely on your blog, its purpose, and your audience.

Steven Roll founder of the Latin American travel blog, Travelojos, recently polled his readers regarding their opinions of his site. One of the questions was how many times a week readers would like to see new posts. My own answer was 6, but the majority of respondents indicated 3 times a week would make them happy. (I’m glad he’s ignoring their opinion in this regard, planning to post 5 times a week).

2. You must include photos.  Preferably engaging, attractive, happy-ish photos with people making direct eye contact with the camera.

No doubt that photos increase many a blog’s visual appeal. Lola’s blog, Uncornered Market, and  Forks and Jets are a few that come to mind immediately. But if your writing is engaging, it can stand on its own… especially if your photos are crappy or you’re just swooping the first image you find on Flickr for the sake of having a photo.

3. You must leave comments on other people’s blogs.

It’s the polite thing to do, but necessary? Nope (particularly if you’re just commenting for the sake of etiquette or the motivation of promoting yourself). Truth is, hundreds of bloggers have a substantial following and they don’t comment on anyone else’s blogs.

4. Ads on personal blogs are cheesy and diminish visual appeal.

For the most part, I still hold this particular belief. While I understand they produce some passive income, I find ads to be annoying almost without exception.  Same for PayPal buttons asking for donations from readers to help fund your travels.

5. Analytics are everything.

This time last year, I was totally addicted to Google Analytics. Admittedly, it’s fascinating to know what keywords bring people to your blog, how many visitors you have, where they’re from, what they read, and how long they stay. And all of those markers are important if you have specific readership goals for your blog or if your blog is your business. Otherwise, analytics are a form of entertainment that will alternately bolster and bruise your ego.

6. Link love is obligatory.

Link love is nice, but again, is there really anything obligatory? It’s your blog. Do what you want with it. Some of my favorite writers with blogs don’t ever link to anyone else. Why do I like that? Because they’re fully engaged in what they’re writing, not thinking about how they must promote someone else. (Don’t misunderstand me: I think linking is polite and important and useful and appropriate for many pieces and blogs. But obligatory? Not necessarily).

Ultimately, whether these things may (or may not) be true depend entirely on the aims of your blog. I read many types of blogs–from those clearly intended to function as a business to those that are digital journals opened up for public consumption– and over the past year have learned to consider advice about the “must-dos” of blogging with a more critical eye.

What about you? What did you think about blogging a year ago and how have your ideas changed since then?

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15 responses »

  1. Good points. It’s funny that my readers said they’d be happy with 3 posts a week. Maybe they’re trying to tell me something!

    But when I look back on it, I’ve subscribed to some blogs such as Problogger or LifeHacker and have been totally overwhelmed by the number of posts waiting for me in my RSS reader.

    My hunch is that the people who took the time to fill out my survey were probably RSS subscribers who don’t like seeing an overflowing folder in their Google Reader.

    I think blogging regularly is important though. You’ve got to show up on a regular basis if you want people to feel they can depend on you.

    I agree that link love is overrated. While my traffic has increased considerably even since the beginning of the year, hardly any of it comes from other websites.

    On the other hand, nearly all my survey takers told me that they liked my blog roll, which is pretty long.

    Like most bloggers, I’m obsessed with my daily traffic etc. But I think that the writing process needs to stay organic. It doesn’t hurt, though, to think about how wildly popular subjects like the iPhone ties into the subject you’re blogging about.

    I only comment on other blogs when I’m genuinely moved to do so.

    Reply
    • Steve- I definitely think many of my beliefs about how a blog “should” be maintained were subjected to a serious reassessment by Google Reader– and I wonder if Hal might agree with me.

      After I finally fed all the blogs I read regularly into Reader, I didn’t have to try to remember to check them all every day, and so I wasn’t disappointed when someone wasn’t posting daily. On the contrary, I was starting to feel like I simply couldn’t keep up with some blogs–especially those that have multiple authors.

      Reply
      • For sure, my blog consumption was completely changed by Reader. I can now sample from a broader pool, and I prefer blogs that aren’t updated as frequently (after all, keeping up with Matador content doesn’t leave much time for anything else!).

  2. Great post, Julie. I also find the idea of “must-dos” for blogging pretty ridiculous. If you’re trying to make money, that’s something else altogether, but I don’t feel the majority are on that path.

    Reply
    • Thanks, Hal. So what are we to make of all these “blogging experts” who tell us how we should maintain our blogs? ;)

      Reply
  3. The question of ads on blogs is interesting too.

    I would like to figure out how to make money with my blog. Last year, I did two sponsored posts on my blog and have a few more in the works already for 2010.

    I just finished reading Chris Anderson’s book “Free,” which discusses the different economic factors at play with digital and paper ads.

    It seems like the whole notion of placing ads adjacent to copy is a print-based idea. Even the New York Times, which reportedly gets more traffic than any other website in the world, is struggling to make ends meet with online ads.

    The more effective route might be content marketing —using your blog posts as a way to sell a product you’ve created or a service you offer.

    I know I’ve been increasingly been buying books written by bloggers.

    Blog posts are probably better than ads for selling other people’s stuff too–as long as you disclose what you’re doing.

    One thing I don’t understand is how some blogs, which are apparently generating decent revenues, manage to do it. I find many of them to be too marketing oriented. For example, a blog post about travel insurance with a link to the blogger’s travel insurance sponsor at the end. The juxtaposition of these two things makes me question the blogger and the blog post. Does he really think travel insurance is a good idea or is he just saying that for his sponsor?

    Reply
    • Steve-

      Could you say more about what you mean by sponsored posts?

      I think a blog like yours makes sense to monetize–if done smartly. You’re providing a service, really. Travelojos isn’t a blog with personal musings of the purely navel-gazing variety.

      The question is, how is the monetization done?

      I really wonder how long basic banner ads will exist as a form of blog monetization (my own guess is: Not long). I think we’ll see increasingly creative ways to get ad content in front of readers.

      Reply
  4. Solid tips. First, one must define a solid vision of what it is their blog will do.

    Yes, blogs evolve over time, but when it starts becoming something it wasn’t intended to be in the first place, then the owner invites undue pressure to keep up, stay fresh, and stay relevant on some level.

    My blog remains an online resume, and it wasn’t designed to cater to everyone’s travel needs so in that regard, I’m pretty old school when it comes to blogging.

    Reply
    • Exactly, Lola. I hope I don’t give the impression here that these are universal “conclusions.” It’s more me thinking out loud. ;)

      Reply
      • Oh absolutely! I definitely understood you were thinking out loud, not confirming or concluding anything. Was just adding my two cents as well.

  5. I like this post. As someone whose blog is pretty new to the scene, it’s nice to be reassured that there are no “right and wrongs.”

    One misconception I might add is that the number of comments received back is NOT representative of how thoughtful/provocative a post was…I always have to remind myself that! (I guess this kind of falls under analytics – still thought it was important to mention.)

    Reply
    • Thanks, Alyssa. I agree completely about being cautious in our interpretations about what the number of comments means. There are some blogs I read that are just consistently so good (Sarah Menkedick’s PosaTigres comes to mind) that I don’t leave comments on the majority of pieces because I just don’t have new words to say how incredible I think the writer’s craft is.

      Reply
  6. great post thanks for sharing

    Rebecca

    Reply
  7. I’m going to be the devil’s advocate here and say that this great idea for a blog post would have been even better if you framed it as “These are the immutable laws of blogging.”

    People would disagree. It might even make some people angry. But it would likely have triggered an even more robust discussion.

    One of the biggest surprises for me about the blogosphere is how nice everyone is—sometimes at the cost of not engaging in worthwhile debates.

    At one time or another I’ve disagreed with just about everyone in my life. But most of the time we work things out and end up better off because of it.

    Reply
    • Ha! Point taken. I only like to stir up controversy when I’m really sure that I’m talking about something I definitely believe in. And like I said here… I’m not sure if these things are (or are not!) true. I think that there are no immutable laws of blogging. A blog can be so many different things, so how can anyone bang out a list of recommendations about what a blog “should” be?

      Reply

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