So, you have a blog. Now what? Vol. 1

This is the start of a new series on the JI where I discuss tips on how to blog. These will usually be short, down-and-dirty tips. 

If you’ve just started a blog, you’re probably wondering, “how do I get people to read my blog?”

Sure, you can tell your friends and colleagues about it. You can e-mail prominent bloggers and ask them to mention your new blog or to add you to their blogroll. You can post about your new blog on Twitter and Facebook.

All fine, but if you really want your blog to get noticed (especially if it’s an independent blog), you need to join the community. If you’re blogging about journalism, start mixing it up on other journalism blogs. 

When I first started blogging, I went out and found the top journalism bloggers, read their blogs and started interacting with them. Every time I left a comment, I made sure to leave my real name and my blog address. Most blog commenting systems ask for a user to leave their name, e-mail address and URL, if applicable. 

So, when I leave a comment on Mindy McAdam’s fabulous Teaching Online Journalism blog my name shows up and my name is a link back to my blog. People who find my comments thoughtful or who want to learn more about me will click on my name. This started sending my blog traffic and still does.

This also started getting my name and my blog’s name out there. How are people supposed to find my blog otherwise? Grass roots marketing is the best way to build a following.

If you have a blog and you post under an alias like “longtime journalist,” you’re making a huge mistake. Use your real name every time you post on a blog or other relevant Web site. Link back to your site.

Get that Google juice working. This advice primarily applies to when you are interacting within your own online community, but won’t hurt when you post on other sites either (as long as you don’t leave flame bait all other the Internet). I’m active in the journalism blogging community, and I always use my real name when I post comments in the community.

Keep in mind that some of the best marketing you could ever do for your blog is to go to other blogs and Web sites that are in the community you want to join and start posting under your real name with a link back to your blog. This may seem so simple, but it really is a great way to drive traffic.

When you first start off, I would really try to leave comments on several blogs everyday. Leave thoughtful comments that add to the discussion. Respond to other users, leave links to interesting content you find on the Web and add something to the conversation. 

Just remember, however, that this only applies to those who leave thoughtful comments. Stuff like, “Great post, check out my Web site!” does not fit the bill.

  • http://thesternbergeffect.blogspot.com Josh Sternberg

    Great tips! While there is a plethora of blogs out there (somewhere north of 115 million), it doesn’t mean that your voice will be muted (or that you have to shout to have it heard). I think your strongest argument is that of participation. The blogosphere works very similarly to that of Academia — the more references (or links), the greater the chance of a) exposure/reach and b) influence.

    Josh Sternberg
    http://thesternbergeffect.blogspot.com

  • http://kiyoshimartinez.com Kiyoshi Martinez

    Great point about using your real name, it’s one that I can’t stress enough as a personal philosophy. For one, it cuts down on the seat-of-the-pants, drive-by comments we’ve all become accustomed to online. Good comments are hard to find.

    Another tip I’d give for self-promotion is to not flock to the “big” blogs where comment threads have dozens, if not hundreds, of comments. You’ll be lost in a sea of comments (really, how many times have you clicked through to the next page of comments in a thread?) and odds are good there’s not any conversation worth having there in the first place.

    While going to smaller blogs with smaller audiences might seem like a backward idea, it’s really not. Get noticed on enough small blogs, you’ll establish yourself with a greater amount of net visibility overall. And you’ll increase the likelihood of being noticed by a “big” blog and being linked to.

    Of course, that depends if what you’re blogging about is any good. Content is another big part of what you bring to the table.

    Good series. How many parts do you plan on doing? Or is this just a reoccurring feature?

  • http://www.patthorntonfiles.com pat

    @Josh,

    There is no such thing as too many voices. There will always be plenty of room for more thoughtful ideas.

    @Kiyoshi,

    That’s a good tip. In the journalism blogging community there aren’t any mega blogs, but it would be awfully tough to break into technology blogging by just posting comments on TechCrunch.

    I think this series will be as long as it needs to be. As long as I can think of new topics, I’ll keep writing. Got any suggestions?

  • http://www.revolution21.org The Mighty Favog

    I think this is good advice, but there’s a rub. There always is.

    A lot of bloggers — and I am one of them — use pseudonyms because we run general-interest blogs that sometimes veer off into autoibiographical or confessional-type material that well might prove embarrassing to loved ones or others. Truthful, but just not pretty.

    Thus, a pseudonym gives you some freedom . . . and it provides the “guilty” some protection. There are things I’ve written on Revolution 21’s Blog for the People (http://revolution-21.blogspot.com/) that I just wouldn’t have felt comfortable running with if my still-living family members were instantly identifiable.

    Indeed, it sort of makes my skin crawl when uncloaked “confessional” bloggers let it all hang out, knowing that while they made a conscious choice to air their own dirty laundry, they also are making a decision to unilaterally air other private persons’ dirty laundry as well.

    So, I guess it comes down to — apart from any legal issues — how many friends, associates or loved ones are you willing to hurt for the sake of your craft? For the sake of the truth? For the sake of information that does not fall into the realm of must-know for society at large?

    Even under a pseudonym, there’s stuff I consider powerful material about which I dare not write — not now, not if I want to avoid hurting people who wouldn’t . . . couldn’t understand why I’d done it. No pseudonym is that airtight, and I haven’t exactly gone to extreme measures to hide my real identity.

    For what it’s worth. . . .

  • http://www.patrickyen.com Patrick Yen

    Adding to what Mighty Favog said,
    you might also want to consider the artistic relevance of pseudonyms..

    I for example do improvisational character acting and performance art,
    so I personally have developed many characters that I perform in.

    Kind of like Amy Sedaris.

    A lot of artists do that and so do many many writers.
    There’s a long tradition of it actually..

    Mark Twain, Raul Duke, Henry Chinaski, et cetera.
    All pseudonyms.

    Think of it as a literary tool. For expression.

    I know many people like Howard Owens
    are all about real names (judging by his tirades on Wired Journalists),
    and while real names may hold relevant for some
    it’s certainly not a universal for all.

    Kind of like marriage.

    If you do art and journalism
    then you may not want to have your art
    being confused with your journalism.

    One way to do that is to use different names for different projects.

  • http://blog.angelaconnor.com Angela Connor

    I would like to underscore the importance of “thoughtful” comments even more. My rule is if I don’t have anything thoughtful, provocative or remotely interesting to post, I don’t post. That doesn’t mean I didn’t get anything out of what I just read, but that I simply don’t have much to add or a strong opinion. Now, if I see a blog about comments on news stories, I tend to write a book. Find your passion, and be yourself. And most importantly, treat your blog and the blogs of others as conversations.

  • http://atthealligator.wordpress.com/ Hilary Lehman

    I always attach my name and blog link to comments, not only because I want people to find my blog, but because I think it’s important to have the accountability.

    For instance, when the comments get really nasty, I find it disturbing how many journalists will comment anonymously and without any links to themselves on a journalism blog. It goes against everything journalism stands for.

  • http://www.patthorntonfiles.com pat

    @Angela,

    I’d like to bold you comment. Thoughtful is the operative word here. The only way to get into the community is to become a part of the large conversation. This means leaving comments that get people to think. This means leaving comments that are worth reading.

    @Hilary,

    I totally agree on the accountability. Nothing gets under my skin more than seeing journalists leave anonymous comments on the Web. We’re journalists! We should be transparent in all our dealings.

    Now, I don’t care that much if someone leaves an anonymous, innocuous comment, but what really grinds my gears is when someone leaves a nasty, anonymous comment, especially attacking new media and younger journalists.

    If you’re going to be a curmudgeon (and help speed up the destruction of the newspaper industry) at least have the balls to leave your real name.

  • http://www.patthorntonfiles.com pat

    @The Might Favog,

    Well, if you’re going to blog about your persona life, and if what you blog about may not always be advantageous professionally, than I would probably encourage using pseudonyms. I think that’s the pragmatic thing to do.

    Now, if you were a journalist and you wanted to blog about the state of journalism, you would be a fool not to use your real name. If this blog were under a pseudonym, who knows where my career would be right now. I can tell you it would be much different and not in a good way.

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  • http://themediamind.blogspot.com/ Joseph King

    Your advice is quite timely for me as I recently started a new blog about the media industry. Yesterday, I posted a conversation similar to your recent post “Candid thoughts on journalism.” I am trying to spark conversation among journalists – lively debate – as to what is wrong with journalism now, what we can and should do to fix it and how we can prevent this from happening in the future. I feel like there is a lot of finger pointing and yelling but no one seems to have an answer. I freely admit – I don’t either. But I’m hoping as we have invested our lives in this industry we can work together to save it. I welcome your comments http://themediamind.blogspot.com/.

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  • http://www.hypercrit.net Michael Becker

    Good advice. I’ve always been a bit… hesitant about asking other people point-blank to link to my blog. That always seemed to me a bit impolite for some reason. But the suggestion about getting your real name out there (and your URL) is invaluable, and commenting on other blogs, encouraging the conversation there, is a great way to establish yourself as a person with something important to say.

    We just have to remember, it’s not (or shouldn’t be) about driving eyeballs to your site; it should be about having a vibrant and informative conversation with the other users you encounter online and learning from those exchanges.

  • http://www.donfry.wordpress.com Don Fry

    Using your real name is like NOT using anonymous sources. Readers judge the validity of information by knowing where it came from, and they distrust anonymous information. So I use my real name to create trust, not just for my blog, but also for my comments.

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