Getting Savvy With the Blogosphere
“A Meta Blogpost About Blogging”
This article is written for the novice weblog author, however it does not contain the regular, generic tips about finding your niche and being yourself while writing posts. It is intended to further the reader’s knowledge about some of the many concepts he or she is bound to stumble upon delving deeper into the world of blogging, and hopefully serve to straighten out a few of the question-marks that might have already formed, hearing about everything from Content Management Systems to trackbacks, SEO and affiliate networks.
I wish you a pleasant read and would like to mention right off the bat that any and all feedback is most welcome either directly in person (see the information snippet at the bottom of the page) or through the comment fields. Surely there is much more information that might be appended to this post, making it more valuable to future readers.
Definition: What is a blog?
This first item might feel overly elementary to many, but you would be surprised to know how often the question above has been posed, and how many possible authors doubt if the medium is the correct one for their concepts.
Weblogs, or blogs as they are more commonly referred to as, originated as a form of online diaries, but has since grown to incorporate large, niche-centric publications with multiple authors, as well as the grandest of international conglomerates’ online presences.
Simply put, a blog is a simple way of publishing news, opinions and any other kind of content in a more social, personal manner. Thus it is suitable for most anything you feel like pouring your author’s spirit into – ranging from politics and technology to art, cooking and personal experiences.
A blog is an online publication such as described above, but a blog platform tends to have a set of features apart from simply displaying the author’s creations. Providing an easy-to-use frontend for writing content and handling rich media such as images, for example, or enabling social features such as comment fields and references. The products and services below are some of the most widely used in the blogging universe.
This first item differs slightly from the rest, as it is the only one (in this list) that you may download and host on your own webserver. The WordPress platform is a widely spread Content Management System with a strong user base and dedicated developers that is utilized mostly for blogs, but also for regular websites. It is entirerly open source software and is free for everybody to use and modify under certain, but very few, restrictions.
If you want to keep total control over your material, and have the ability either to host a server yourself or perhaps invest in a VPS solution, this is the choice for you. Many webhotels today also offer WordPress as a pre-configured package, along with other Content Management Systems.
WordPress.com is a service that allows you to use the WordPress platform without managing your own hosting. Setting up a free account and starting to blog is easy, and you have access to the same functionality as on a private WordPress installation.
Blogger / BlogSpot
Blogger is the name of Google’s free blogging service. Using your Google-account, you can easily start publishing your material after a few short setup steps. The service provides all the essential functionality expected from a blogging platform, and intergrates nicely with other Google services.
LiveJournal is another widespread publishing platform with a strong community-approach to it’s solution. It differs from the above services by offering more “social network”-like features than it’s competitors.
Blogosphere Lingo and Technologies
Here we arrive at the essence of this article, explaining some of the many terms and technologies frequently used in the blogging world.
Web feeds are the most common form of online content syndication, which basically is a way to distribute content without requiring a reader to load a certain homepage. By publising your blog’s content in a web feed format and allowing your readers to subscribe to it, they can easily stay up-to-date when you publish new content.
A feed must adhere to certain format specifications. The two most used today are the XML-based RSS-feeds and Atom-feeds. Most blogging platforms, including all in the list above, allows for automatically providing readers with compliant feeds.
Pingbacks and trackbacks are two different technologies that help displaying connections between related blogposts. In simple terms, when a blog post with references (links) to content on another blog is published, a notification is automatically sent to the referenced post. With trackbacks, a small excerpt from the referring page can be seen on the referenced page, while with pingbacks only a link is displayed.
Most blogging software provides both technologies simultaneously, and enabling these would be a good way to network when writing about other bloggers’ posts. For more detailed information, the WordPress Codex has more information regarding pingbacks and trackbacks, respectively.
Aggregation and update services
After publishing a new piece of content on your blog, what you really wait for is for readers to flock to it. One simple way to get the word out is to automatically notify sites that amass, or aggregate, a multitude of online content that your blog contains a new post. This way, your content might become visible to visitors of such sites, which often has visitors in the thousands.
The WordPress Codex has a page with more in-depth information, as well as a list of some valuable update services.
A blogroll is a list of links to other blogs that the author enjoys reading or for some other reason wants to refer to. Normally, a blogroll is included on either side of the blog layout.
Being referred to in a popular blog’s blogroll can yield a great boost in traffic, and keeping one is a good way to display the networking aspect of your blog activity.
A permalink (permanent link) is a unique address that points to a specific blog post. It is the link that a reader would want to bookmark or link to when referencing your material. It consists of your domain name (www.domain.tld) followed by the post slug (/games/game-rules/).
You have put down considerable effort into writing your article, and nothing would make you happier than to get some positive feedback from readers out there sharing your opinion. Unfortunately though, many knowledgeable users with ulterior motives know of this mentality, and exploit it in order to gather links for their own websites (more on this in the seo-section below.)
Make a habit of manually examining every comment that contains links, and only approve those that seem legit. Remember that the links can be placed not only in the message section, but also in the author name / URL part. Common identifiers are short lines of generic, positive comments, as well as links to sites selling viagra and similar products.
Blogging platform plugins such as Akismet maintains databases of known spam, and can filter your comments free of charge.
A step in order to prevent comment spam is the “Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart.” You have surely encountered them across the internet – images of more or less difficult to interpret texts that you need to enter to prove that you are made of flesh and blood.
In order to use the million of work hours that sums up from people solving these challenges is reCAPTCHA, which aids in digitalizing old books that cannot easily be read by a computer. The service is owned and maintained by Google.
Back in mid-2009, I wrote a post on the topic of CAPTCHAs and alternative solutions.
Search Engine Optimization is a term that has grown increasingly popular over the last couple of years. Basically, it’s the process of increasing your online content exposure in Search Engine Result Pages, or SERPs as they are called. The relevance between a search term and by the engines indexed content is decided by the content and it’s quality, and references from other sites add to your credibility and authority.
As a blogger, there is a few essential things you should know about SEO.
First off, by adhering to guidelines and recommendations your content will be easier to index and categorize, and thus it will have a higher chance of being selected as a relevant result. Write descriptive titles for your posts and add alternative texts for your images. Sometimes, doing a bit of research on popular terms within a certain field that you then use in your writings has both the benefits of giving you more and broader relevance, and keeping your text dynamic and pleasant to read.
Second, be aware that others work hard and sometimes shadily to gain these rankings. Comment spam for example, mentioned earlier in this article, is performed primarily with SEO in mind.
- Title text
Make sure that your post has a descriptive title which will attract visitors who knows what they look for. Keep under 65 characters to make sure it is not truncated in search results. This is the most prominent part shown in the SERP.
Although the meta description does not weight in when it comes to rankings, a well-written description can be what convinces a searcher to click your result.
- SEO-friendly URLs
The words in the address weight heavily as a descriptor, and a link that is easy to read and remember is more attractive to visitors than nonsense id garble. The “slug” is what you want to add/change.
Example: http://myblog.com/blog.php?cat=18&id=13288 vs. http://myblog.com/baking/cinnamon-roll-recipe/
- NoFollow links
Links equipped with the nofollow directive will work as normal links, however they will be excluded from the search engines’ ranking calculations. This should be used when publishing paid links etc.
By increasing the ammount of links to your blog you will be more prominent in search results. Participate in comment conversations on other blogs and be active, and it will grow naturally with time. Stay clear of spammy tactics.
Flamewars and Trolls
Everybody is entitled to his or her own opinion, but sometimes people leave their manners behind the comfort of the anonymous screen and write angry, unconstructive and throughoutly bad comments, to which others tend to respond in a similar fashion. Stay clear of these scenarios, as you will always end up in bad light in the long run. Respond to occasional critique in a mature fashion and keep your interactions pleasant.
A troll is a person who intentionally writes comments to aggrevate and stir up flames. Do yourself and your readers a favor – never feed a troll.
Plugins is software developed for the blogging platform you use, which adds in extra functionalities. As an example, there exists plugins for CAPTCHAs, spam filtering and even SEO, as well as many other interesting features such as social sharing (Facebook, Twitter, etcetera.) and so on. Locate the official plugin directory of your blogging platform and start browsing – surely you will find something that suits your blog.
“What cannot be measured cannot be improved.”, a famous quote states. Luckily, there are not many things in the online world that cannot be measured one way or another. You should definitely install software such as Google Analytics on your blog. Doing so will give you excellent overview over page visits, reading statistics, where your visitors are from, how they found your blog, and much more.
Studying visitor graphs after certain events can be both extremely valuable and much fun at the same time, and no blogger should be without this kind of tool.
Monetizing your blog
Quite often, there is a dream about making money from the blog. When you find that the time is right, you can start looking into ad networks such as Google AdSense as well as affiliate marketing networks like ClickBank. Famous bloggers also from time to time get the opportunity to write reviews and such in exchange for goods.
Hopefully, this article has provided you with one or two fresh bits of knowledge to incorporate in your blogging endeavors. Perhaps your curiosity has also been piqued into looking further into a certain concept – perhaps SEO, or affiliate marketing.
I hope you enjoyed your read, thank you and happy blogging!
About the author
Fredrik Karlstrom is a 21-year old computer addict from Sweden, currently studying Computer Science in Ensenada, BC, Mexico. He is a mentor at the V7N Forums, and tends to spend his time in the forum’s coding section, on the lookout for interesting problems.
Although not himself a vivid prescence in the blogosphere, he has had the fortunate oportunity to study it’s workings, along with many other related topics, during his time as an internet marketer at a Swedish company. On his infrequently updated blog, you will find mostly coding-related posts and snippets, but also some mixed political rants etc.