Thursday, July 12, 2007

Top 20 Tips for Beginner Bloggers

1. Choose a topic that you know, like, and are passionate about. This way you will never get bored and will keep your audience always interested and asking for more.

2. Pick a topic where there is not a lot of competition. If your topic is too common, try addressing it from a particular angle or focus on a specific niche. For example, there are many sites that talk about cars, but few that specialize in only one brand, and even fewer that focus on only one model. The key to be successful is to find a specific enough topic with a large enough audience.

3. Open a Blogger account. It is free and easy to use. That way, you won�t have to invest in costlier platforms like MovableType or TypePad before you have the chance of finding out if blogging is for you.

4. Use a minimalist template, preferably one with a white background. This format is easier to read and pleasant to the eye when you combine it with color pictures.

5. Use pictures to dress up your blog entries and give your blog a more professional appearance. You can find excellent pictures at a very low cost in istockphoto.com, or even free in Flickr (don�t forget to ask the owner of the picture for permission before you use it).

6. In one of your blog�s side columns, list six or seven links to authoritative sites related to your topic. When the search engine robots visit your blog, they will find these links and your blog will benefit by association.

7. Write in simple language, short paragraphs and using bullet points. These are essential guidelines for writing on the web, and will make your posts easier to read and understand.

8. Always link out to the sources you use to document your posts. This is not only good etiquette but also a way to promote your blog and get links: when the people you link to find out that they�ve been linked to, they will most likely link to your post from their site or blog.

9. Check your posts for spelling and grammatical errors. This will make your blog look more professional and will increase the probability of other people linking to it.

10. Use labels to categorize your posts and keep your blog neatly organized. Blogger recently modified its software to allow the use of labels.

11. Participate actively in forums and discussion groups related to your topic. Find what are the most common questions and provide the answers in your blog. Then, direct forum readers to your blog. Try to also direct forum readers to other resources, or answer without necessarily linking to your blog, sometimes. If not, you may be perceived as self serving and only interested in promoting your blog.

12. Use HitTail to research topics to write about. HitTail gives you a list of the search terms used by those who came to your blog through a search engine. This search term list will give you ideas for future blog posts.

13. Allow your blog readers to email your posts to other people. Also, give them the option to bookmark your posts using del.icio.us, furl, or any other social bookmarking service. You can go to AddThis to download a smart button that makes it easy to bookmark your posts. You can find instructions on how to add the button to Blogger here. The easier you make it to share your blog posts, the more relevant traffic your blog will get.

14. Use Technorati tags at the end of your blog posts. Technorati tags are a way of classifying your blog posts by topic and have them added to Technorati�s index (Technorati is the most important search engine for blogs). Use this automatic Technorati tag generator to avoid having to create the HTML code manually.

15. Syndicate your blog allowing your visitors to subscribe to your feeds through their favorite aggregator. This way, they will be automatically notified every time you update your blog. You can use this tool to generate attractive syndication buttons, which you can then place in a side column of your blog.

16. Post frequently. It is the only way to keep your audience interested and coming back. Two or three times a week is ideal. Once a week is the borderline minimum that I recommend to keep your audience engaged and maintain adequate visibility in the search engines.

17. Keep a large number of posts in the main page of your blog. Search engine robots usually won�t crawl and index all your blog pages, however they will visit your main page frequently. The more content you keep in your main page, the bigger the chance of it popping up in the search engine results pages.

18. Use Google Adsense to monetize your blog. Blogger lets you add Google Adsense easily and seamlessly in several locations within a page. The best locations are within the content, and on top of the page simulating a navigation bar.

19. Don�t use Google Adsense excessively, at least at the beginning. Your initial focus should be not to monetize your blog, but to build your audience and establishing your blog's reputation as an authority within your topical community. A blog that is deep on content and lean on ads is more likely to attract the kind of links needed to become relevant to users and search engines.

20. Once your blog is established and generates abundant, relevant traffic, you can monetize more aggressively, not only with Adsense but also with affiliate links and, why not, maybe even by selling your own products.

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