Social Monday: Secrets of powerful blogging

By Christian Piatt

It seems like everyone’s blogging lately, and those who aren’t often feel left out of the loop and bewildered about the whole “blogging thing.”

Well, if it makes you feel any better, lots of people who are blogging are pretty close to clueless too. So here are a handful of tips to help you make more out of your blogging experience.

Know your purpose: Sometimes people blog simply as a glorified diary to jot down personal thoughts to share with friends and family. Others, however, are expecting the world to flock to their blog once it’s set up, and then wonder why they’re getting little or no traffic. So before you even start, try to define why you’re doing this. Is it to educate people about something on which you’re an expert? Is it to get them to visit your website, or maybe purchase something? Maybe you’re using it to build community. Whatever it is, know this from the outset and let this guide your content.

Know your audience: This is another one where people can often get tripped up. Just getting lots of traffic on your blog doesn’t mean it’s effective. You need to make sure you have in mind who you’re writing for, and where they can be found. Once you know this, your blog work will become more effective.

Select a blog host: Once you’ve done your initial homework, it’s time to pick where you’re going to host your blog. There are plenty of free hosting sites, but make sure the one you choose allows for keyword search (described more below), and has the capability to be integrated into your website if you have one (also explained more below). The most common hosts are WordPress, Blogger, Blogspot, LiveJournal and others. But more important than its popularity is whether or not the blog host can do what you need it to do.

If all you want is to create something for a select group, such as a church group, family or specific circle of friends, you’re pretty well set. However, if your goal is to draw in new readers, growing traffic from people you may not even know, read on…

Blog Search Engines: Sites such as Technorati, Blogsearch, Digg and Google Blog Search can help raise the “searchability” of your blog posts. This means that people searching online for the kind of content you are generating may stumble across you. There are plenty more search tools like this, but you want to make sure you’re in the big ones so the most people have the best chance of finding you.

Keywords or Tags: Any blog host worth using will offer the ability for you to add tags to each post. These are the key words people should use to find your post. For me, I always include my first and last name as well since, as an author, I want my name to be high in all search engines when they look for me. Make sure your tags are fairly common words, and avoid using words you think may grab some attention, but that actually have nothing to do with your content.

Active Links: Like in this post, you’ll want to offer direct links to things online to which you refer so readers can jump right to them. Folks get annoyed in the blogosphere if you talk about a resource, and then don’t give them the link right to it. Become a sort of portal of information, and readers will return to find out what else you have to say. This also doesn’t hurt your searchability, or Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Integrate into your website: This is where I’m a bit of a hypocrite, because although I recommend adding your blog to your website so people can directly read it from your main page, I have yet to do this myself! This can greatly enhance SEO for your site, and it also make for more of a one-stop shop for people to find all they want to know about you or your organization in one place. As an alternative, at least make sure you have direct links to your blog from your website, or even RSS feeds (Real Simple Subscription) so people can track your post activity.

Feeds: If you’re on Facebook or other social networking sites, look into the ability to add a feed to your page. This just means that you tell the site where to find your blog. Once you set up a feed, each new post will automatically show up on your Facebook page. For you authors, you can also add a feed to any book page on Amazon by you. Check out Amazon’s profile features for more on this.

Regular, reliable content: Last but not least, make sure you’re giving readers what they want and expect, when they expect it. Think about if you got your newspaper at different times every day, or if you opened it to find a new layout every time you tried to read it. Familiarity and predictability help lead to faithful readers, so keep this in mind when asking yourself, “is this blog-worthy?”

Christian Piatt is the author of MySpace to Sacred Space: God for a New Generation, and Lost: A Search for Meaning, and he is a columnist for various newspapers, magazines and websites on the topics of theology and popular culture. He is the co-founder of Milagro Christian Church in Pueblo, Colorado with his wife, Amy. For more information about Christian, visit www.christianpiatt.com.

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