Commentary about writing blogs and about my experiences with Keyliner.
Writing and Improving Blogs
Keyliner continues to have world-wide success - averaging 50 to 60 hits per day from all over the world. This blog now averages about 1400 visits per month; Google has nothing on me.
If you were not aware, it takes three minutes to setup your first Blog on BlogSpot (only 30 seconds if you have a Gmail account) and you can literally start publishing 30 seconds after that. By publishing, I mean a "ready-to-go, looks nice, visible to the entire world" site.
You may be asking this one, burning question: "What could I possibly write about that interests other people?" My retired neighbor wrote a pamphlet about house-framing (building) for his friends. Why not publish it on the web so the world can see it? With the blog, he now adds new sections, expands on other ideas, and fixes problems - all without re-printing - plus his friends get to interact and make online comments. Another friend loves photography and loves teaching people new camera techniques. Why not dedicate a blog to that? My own blog deals with computer problems and techniques and while you may laugh at my traffic counts, I consider my blog successful.
In my long, six-month blogging career, I have found several truths that will help you in your endeavors.
Although many bloggers treat their site as a public diary, a majority of my hits are on articles with meat. Case-in-point: two recent articles deal with 'How to Build a RAID-1 Drive array,' and 'How to fix a wireless disconnect bug with LinkSys routers.' Both are technical posts and they capture an amazing amount of my traffic. [Followup: a recent posting about removing the W*in32/C*ryptor virus now manages to pull in about 40 hits a day.]
Other articles, such as a review of my new Laptop or my experiences with backups and restores (both are touchy-feely-reviews) barely register. This does not mean all reviews are bad. An article discussing a "Dell Portable Laptop Power Supply" has been surprisingly popular - probably because the article contains specific details about the product - everything from the size and polarity of the plug to the lengths of the extension cables to re-charging times. As I researched the piece, I found numerous complaints about this product. My review directly addressed each of the problems and showed solutions. Even though the review dealt with an odd and esoteric piece of hardware, it garners two or three hits a day and I can tell people are lingering.
Illustrating with photographs, drawings and artwork draw your readers into the text. Yes, creating graphics is hard work and it takes time, but it is absolutely required. My longer articles often have a dozen illustrations.
When uploading a graphic, keep them small. Postage-stamp-sized illustrations work well for eye-candy. Blogspot helps by offering to upload the graphic as "small, medium or large," regardless of the illustration's original size. I almost always choose "Small" and often wish they had a "Tiny." Even with the sizing help, the real image still uploads and downloads at its original size. This means a 3MB photo can display as a small illustration but still occupy a 3MB download.
Using a photo editing tool to resize the image to the smallest size possible; use JPEG with some compression and set the dots-per–inch to (usually) 72-dpi. To test, exit your blog, delete the browser's Internet Cache, and then re-load the page. This approximates what your readers will see. Some articles may be long, but don't let them die of graphics.
I am no genius when it comes to editing but I try. Even a short article deserves to be written, put aside for a few days and then looked at again. On the second and third edit, I am cutting text and tightening the article. Redundant sentences are killed and I take great joy in chopping unneeded words. Words such as "that", "just" and "simply" can often be removed without harm. Shorten the text as much as possible. Only then is the article worthy of upload. (As you can tell, I write my articles offline, for safe-keeping.)
After publishing, I always come back to the article a few weeks later for a final review and I always find something else to change. I have no qualms about re-editing an already-published piece in order to clarify and tighten ideas. When a posting gets a chance to mellow, the quality improves and readers benefit.
People bolt from stagnant sites in a heartbeat. For this reason, re-fresh your site with new content. For technical articles, I usually post one to two postings per month but if your blog is more personal, consider at least an entry a week. Give people a reason to come back.
Building a readership means targeting the blog. Each post must remain true to the blog's main topic. "Keyliner" is a blog dedicated to computers and that is the only topic I allow. You will not find pictures of my children or commentary about my day. Start a new blog for new topics. This article is perilously close to not belonging here.
Install SiteMeter, Google Analytics or other tracking software. Because readers seldom leave tracks, there is no way to tell which of your postings are popular or how they arrived at your site without some kind of tracking software. These tools are free and easy to install and they tell what your readers were searching for, where they came from and how they left. Seeing their search-strings has been the most interesting.
For example, one popular article I wrote dealt with editing the Vista "Mountain Wallpaper." However, I found most people were really looking for the photographer's name and where the photo was taken. After an hour of research, I found the answers and added the information. Now, Google usually shows my page as the number-one hit and this generates a dozen hits a week. Of course, once they arrive, a small but noticeable fraction of these readers click side-links and they start browsing my other articles. It's enough to make me proud.
Finally, I happen to blog on Google's Blogspot.com (also known as Blogger.com). WordPress is a competing site that is also popular and I recommend either. Both are free.
I hope these ideas inspire you. Good blogging takes time and effort. As you surf the web, consider the blogs you linger at and study the ones you would rather bypass. Ponder your initial reactions. What makes one better than the other? Incorporate what you find into your own writing. I appreciate everyone's comments and visits.
Blogspot and Sitemeter
For Fun: Comics