Monday, March 13, 2006

What Makes a Good Blog

You've got a blog but Sarona, Wisconsin--population 7--gets more traffic. Why aren't people visiting? Why aren't they commenting?

Here are some blog dos and don'ts to help you boost your blogrisma.

  1. Content is King. It's what brings people back. It's what draws new readers through search engines. If you share important information, experience, and wisdom, you'll build a readership. Confessions of an Idiosyncratic Mind is great one-stop-shopping for everything happening in the mystery world, and it is wildly popular as a result.
  2. Lists, Tests, and Bullet Points. A text-heavy blog is a turn of. Pay attention to negative space. People like to absorb information in bite-size pieces. The easier it is to digest and read, the more return visits you'll have.
  3. Stay Focused. Stick to one topic per entry, and make sure this topic is different from previous topics so your readership doesn't get bored. What is the reason for your blog? Do you have a reason? Tess Gerritsen blogs about the ups and downs of being a bestselling thriller author. She doesn't water down her content with opinions about last night's episode of the Sopranos, lists of her favorite foods, meme tags, or life stories unrelated to publishing.
  4. Ask Questions. A blog isn't a monologue. The best ones ask questions to provoke feedback. First Offenders is very good at this. Solicit opinions, ask for input and advice, and people will offer it.
  5. Be Friendly. This is the community watering hole, and you are the bartender. Be welcoming, friendly, and accommodating. Answer questions, be polite, and be genuinely glad people have shown up.
  6. Be Controversial. Arguing is good. Disagreement is good. As long as everyone remains civil, encourage debate. Lee Goldberg walks the line between entertaining, informative, and controversial, and his traffic shows it.
  7. Link to Other Blogs. Go to www.sitemeter.com and sign up for free. It will let you see where your traffic is coming from. This is often an eye-opening experience. The more sites that link to you, the more hits you'll get. If you want to see who is alreayd linking to you, visit www.technorati.com.
  8. Free Stuff. Periodically hold contests or give away free things. Everyone loves free things.
  9. Keep Yourself Out of It. Unless the focus of your blog is your personal life, your personal life doesn't have much of a place in a blog. My focus is about the publishing business. As such, I don't blog about my children. In contrast, Melanie Lynne Hauser writes books about a single mother who becomes a super hero after a horrible Swiffer accident. Melanie is constantly blogging about her family because her books are all about family.
  10. Strive for Perfection. An occasional typo is harmless. Every other word spelled wrong is annoying. Most blogs have Spellcheck. Use it.
  11. Limit Self-Promotion. Sure, I hope everyone who reads my blog runs out and buys a copy of Whiskey Sour (or clicks on the Four Pack of Jack link to the right--four stories for only 49 cents!) But if you do this all the time you've become a commercial, not a blog. MJ Rose's blog is about self promotion, so she occasionally uses her own books as examples. But she also uses many other examples. Which brings me to the last point.
  12. No Blog is an Island. Besides linking to other blogs, you should reference other blogs in your blog entries. We're all in the same writing community boat, and giving shout-outs to your peers is classy and helpful. I encourage everyone reading this to check out the blogs I've mentioned in this article. And if you find them to be helpful, informative, or entertaining, consider buying their books.