The term “weblog” was first coined by America’s first blogger, Jorn Barger, in 1997. It was then shortened to “blog” and was used as both a noun and verb, by Evan Williams at Pyra Labs in 1999. This writing format evolved from online diaries, where people would keep a running account of their personal lives.
Today, blogs can be written on any conceivable topic, from insects to photography, to a popular new trend like “car lashes.” Blogs are as varied as the imagination.
Here are five tips for those who have just jumped into the blogging waters or people who need a little motivation to dip their toe in.
1. Headlines matter
Since blogging is a shorter, more informal form of journalism, and since the blogosphere grows exponentially every day, it’s important that you do everything possible to attract an audience of readers.
One way is to come up with catchy headlines. For instance, I could have named this article “5 Blogging Tips …,” but I didn’t for a reason. “Blogospheric” is a term that’s not commonly seen, so it catches the reader’s eye and draws it in.
This title is also short enough to be shared out to wider audiences on Twitter because the title, plus the URL link will most definitely come in below the 140 characters tweet requirement.
2. Newbies need a thick skin
Because blogs are part of Web 2.0, they attract user-generated comments from readers. And some folks are not the most kind with their criticism. The best thing to do with negative feedback is to respond to the commenter in a very civil manner that either debates their point rationally or agreeing that there is some merit to their critique.
Always bear in mind that disgruntled people are a lot more motivated to leave a comment than people who enjoy your stuff. Over time, you will find that feedback typically improves as you hone your writing craft.
3. Cite your sources
It’s extremely important always to cite your sources for information you relay. Never add data or quotes without providing the appropriate attribution and link.
When adding photos to your blog, ask the photographer or publication site for permission to use that photo, and again, link the photo to its origin. Flickr has a great Advanced Search feature that allows you to find Creative Commons licensed photos (including those licensed for commercial use!).
4. Don’t blog something that’s already blogged
Like my example of the “Car Lashes” above, this is a specialized topic for auto enthusiasts that is already online. By covering it again, you run the risk of lower readership because the bloggers behind that particular site have been writing on the product for a while and probably covered the majority of the potential angles.
5. The message is more important than the fine tuning
Blogging differs from journalism in that it can be fired off in a matter of minutes without a lot of rethinking. The immediacy attracts people’s initial attention, not necessarily the prose.
This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t edit, polish, and/or write in a poetic style; it just means less attention should be applied to the mechanics than the message. Be more concerned about relating thought or content that is clear, concise, and makes your point.
Fancy footwork with analogies and plays-on-words are fine as long as they don’t distract the reader from the focus of a topic that is of interest to many people.
The tips above should get you started and headed in the right (or “write”) direction as a new blogger. Once you feel comfortable with the basics, reach out to Google and some of the other search engines to find more advanced tips to take your blogging skills to the next level.