For our “Technology of the Blog” discussion, I’ll explain how a blog publishes content; then I’ll explain how a reader (like you or me) finds and keeps up with all of the great personal journalism taking place online.
- Blogging is like writing an article for your own privately published journal on the web. A blog article is called a “post,” and I often interchange “post” and “article” as I talk about blogs.
- You decide the content – text and images. As you blog, you will develop a style and a voice. I often refer to that as “developing your brand.” I see the lightbulb come on for my clients about 4 or 5 posts into the process. Until then, they are blogging on faith – the belief that they’re doing the right thing now for meaning and clarity will come in the future. It does.
- There are several different companies that offer free sites for bloggers (people like you and me). I only talk about WordPress.com because I think it is the very best of the best. Also, I know it intimately. I can offer guidance on how to “work the system” – meaning do the things it was meant to do AND sneaky ways to make it work even better than it was designed.
- These sites that offer blogging, like WordPress.com, are designed to publish your content in a journal format. That means a date is applied to your post. All of the articles can be published on one web page, allowing the user to scroll down and see posts written over a period of time. You can decide how many posts you want to show on a page – from 4 to 20. Older posts are available by clicking “older posts” at the bottom of a blog. Or they can be indexed by date, if the author (you) decides that you’d like to add that function (called a “widget” to your site).
- Blog posts can be indexed by the author (you) – like a series of encyclopedias. The key words in the post are tagged, and, in fact, are called “tags.” Search engines look for tags when crawling the web and organizing content. Someone reading a blog can click on a tag (listed either near the article or in a “tag cloud” on the site) and read more information about the tagged topic. For instance, I have been writing a lot lately about scars on my art quilt blog. I tag the word “scars” on those posts, thus creating a link between all of those articles for my readers.
- Blogs have built-in technology for PR. In WordPress.com, under the “Manage Blogs/Blogs You’re a Member of” function, you can have your blog automatically publish in 4 places: Yahoo Updates, Twitter, Facebook, and Messenger Contact. This is in addition to the tools used by search engines.
- Once you’re putting your heart and effort and time into writing a blog, you want to know people are reading it! So let’s talk about how that happens.
Are you reading blogs? I think that’s a really important part of writing. You start seeing a blogging style that keeps you coming back, and by processing what is working for other people, you will become a better author.
How do you keep up with your blogs? Most people use what is known as a “Reader” to keep track of their blog subscriptions.
The most common way to add a blog to a Reader is via RSS. RSS means “really simple syndication.” Those sites that offer blogging, like WordPress.com, are designed to alert the search engines when new content is added to your blog. That same technology is harnessed via RSS, so when the author hits “publish,” anyone following a blog through RSS will see the new content arrive in their Reader.
This is one of those places where you don’t have to know how the engine works in order to drive the car. Clicking on an RSS button on any blog will allow you to add that site to your Reader.
Three Ways to RSS Posts
Look for the “RSS” button on a blog. It might look like one of these images.
Or…? There are others! Try it and see what you get! They look different but do the same thing.
If you use Firefox for a browser, which I do, look up in the right side of the address bar when you are on a blog (or any page that regularly updates content). You’ll see a blue RSS icon, and when you hover over it, it will say, “subscribe to this page.”
Click on it.
You can add new blogs directly to your Reader. I use Google as my home page; therefore, I have a Google Reader. You may have something else, but it will work approximately the same way.
Go to your Google account, i.e., your iGoogle page. If you don’t see “Reader” on your page, go to the “more” button, and you’ll see Reader in the drop-down menu.
Once you have your Reader open in the browser window, you can click on “add subscription” and type in the URL of the site you want to follow.
Additional Technologies for Blogs
You can subscribe to many blogs via email. Look for a button on the blog’s site that looks like this. This is the standard WordPress.com widget for an email subscription.
A lot of bloggers do a great job managing interaction and gaining reader traction with their comment sections. I admire them, and I will suggest a few here that are far better in this area than I am.
Scott Berkun – http://www.scottberkun.com
Katie Lance – http://mommyhoodandmarketing.wordpress.com
Garance Dore – http://www.garancedore.fr/en
Scott Schuman- http://thesartorialist.blogspot.com
Steve Huff – http://www.stevehuffphoto.com
A Last Word – Tracking Success and Shaping the Future
WordPress.com has a stats dashboard, and the traffic spikes on my site always come the days that I publish my blog and post a link on Facebook or a link on my Constant Contact email. To me, that says readers are more likely to read my posts when I put the information right in front of them. I’m growing to have an average of 4 pages on my site looked at for every time a person reads my blog. That means I’m doing a decent job of cross-promoting the content on the rest of my site.
Thinking about these stats regularly helps me shape my expectations and guides my ideas on what to publish more of.
Tune in next week for the fourth and final chapter, The Reward of the Blog!! I have several PR coups to share with you!