How to Blog, Part Duh: 13 Steps for Establishing a Popular Writing Blog

Last week I wrote about how to set up a blog and got some great responses—like from this guy. So here’s some more of the stuff I wish I’d known before I started blogging:

  1. If somebody comments, respond in the thread. I did not know this for, like, months when I started out. If any of you who commented early are still reading in spite of my cluelessness—I apologize. Some bloggers respond via email, which is kind, but responses in the thread stimulate discussion and generate further comments.
  1. Don’t be a voice crying in the wilderness. To have a friend, you gotta be one. Follow and comment on other blogs. It’s called social networking. Go out and be sociable! Looking for stuff to post about? Respond to other people’s blogs on your own. Instead of leaving a long comment in that anti-prologue thread, write your own post on the pros of prologues and leave a link
  1. Blog on the same day(s) each week, so people will know when to visit. FYI, I recently read Wednesday and Thursday are the biggest blog traffic days. (Worst days: Saturday and Sunday. So I have a Sunday blog. I might change that.)
  1. Stay on message. It’s OK to post the occasional personal stuff if it’s interesting—like your cat winning the “ugliest pet” award, or the fact you have the world’s most evil, draconian health insurance policy, but keep the majority of your posts focused on your niche topic(s).
  1. Use headers that describe your content. Titles like “It’s Wednesday” and “So Sorry I Haven’t Been Blogging” won’t snag a lot of readers. 
  1. Be sparing with posts of your creative work. If you want critique, you’ll do better visiting writers’ forums like Absolute Write or AgentQueryConnect. People don’t tend to read fiction posted on blogs (even by famous published authors.) Save the fiction for the occasional blogfest or contest, but otherwise, keep your WIP to yourself, especially if you’re a newbie. You don’t want that sucky first draft hanging out there in cyberspace. Trust me on this.
  1. Join in blogfests and contests or conduct your own. A blogfest is a non-competitive mass sharing of work. One blogger will announce a topic, say “first kiss scenes,” and anybody who wants to join in signs up. On the given day, everybody reads each other’s posts and makes comments. It’s a fun way to meet new writers and get acquainted with their work. A blog contest can be anything from a random name draw from a list of commenters to a competition for the best steampunk haiku. Prizes are usually a book or maybe a critique from the blogger. Rewards for the host blogger are an increase in traffic and more followers.
  1. Make sure your “tags” are search-engine friendly. List as many topics as possible, including names of people you’ve mentioned. Those tags are what attract Google’s attention. (This is what geeks mean when they talk about SEO.)
  1. Link to other blogs. This is friendly and it also gets the attention of search engines. In fact, a weekly round-up with links to some of your favorite blogposts of the week is a great way to get readers and notice from the Google spiders.
  1. Post an announcement when you go on hiatus. If you have to skip a few posts, leave a message letting readers know when you’ll be back. A blog that hasn’t been updated since your rant about the totally lame conclusion of Lost is worse than no blog at all. You’re trying to impress people with your professionalism, remember? NB—if you do lapse for a while, don’t post a long list of excuses when you get back. Bo-ring.
  1. Don’t let your best posts fade into cyberspace. Link to them in a sidebar. Blogger has a gadget that makes a list of your most popular posts. If you want to know which ones those are, Blogger also has a “stats” feature, or you can download Google Analytics.
  1. Ignore the rule-makers who tell you to “monetize.” If you’re a creative writer, you’re in this for platform-building and networking, not the ten bucks or so a week you could get for letting Google post annoying stuff in the margins. Many of the ads in Google’s writing category are for predatory self-publishing outfits and bogus literary agencies. You do NOT want your name associated with those people.
  1. Remember the #1 rule of blogging is the Golden one. Offer the kind of post you like to read. Not too much about you. No huge, indigestible hunks of text. Save the negativity for your private journal. Keep it short, sweet, informative and reader-friendly, and pretty soon you’ll have a bunch of friendly readers.
How about you, fellow bloggers out there? Any tips to add?

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