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The Library Does Blogging

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  • My name is Tasha Ball. I have red hair and blue eyes, I'm five foot four inches tall, my favorite dinosaur is the Stegosaurus; I'm a Libra; I don't own any sexy underwear, and I also run a little hyperlocal blog called TashaDoesTulsa.com. Most of you here today seem to be at least mildly interested in blogging, so that's what we're going to talk about today in this presentation that hopefully, with your help, will not suck. Stay tuned for lots of Q&A sessions and plenty of chances to go potty.
  • Notice I'm not sharing my Foursquare username, mostly because I wouldn't want you guys following my every move or anything. That would be totally inappropriate and egotistical of me to assume you'd want to be so familiar with my thoughts and my whereabouts.
  • Something I still have to explain to people, as a blogger based in a city that's not yet on the major circuits for things like tech and creative conferences, is that a blog is like a pile of dirty laundry in website form. So, picture a webpage. All the new dirty stuff, i.e., content, gets added to the top; All the old, increasingly dirty stuff sort of sinks to the bottom; You wonder if anyone will ever stop to wash it this growing pile of dirty laundry, but nobody does, so eventually what you get is an entire room, or corner of the web, filled with dirty laundry that anyone can access at any time, sometimes to the blogger's shame and chagrin. This definition mercifully reroutes this conversation 99 percent of the time.
  • Needless to say, this definition leaves a lot of room for interpretation.
  • The blogosphere is a place where transparency and originality are not just expected of serious bloggers, but required; don't expect a lot of inbound links or visitor traffic to your blog if you post the same post about your teeth whitening services or your delicious sushi day after day after day. You CAN expect a total waste of your time and money, as well as the very real possibility of Google figuring out what you're doing and removing your company's website listing from their indexes altogether. Why? Because anyone doing this is spamming. Yes, like a robot. This goes for those unwilling to learn and employ the rules of grammar and usage, photography, video or audio, whatever
  • Sometimes the best way to explain what a blog is is to explain a little about each of the main parts...and for this blog anatomy 101 class, I won't even separate the boys from the girls, it's my hope that we can do this together. Successful blogs feature prominently these things:
  • Preferably above the fold, or on the screen before you attack the scroll wheel on your mouse: Content of some kind, whether its text, a photo, video, whatever; Navigation – can users get a sense of what's available on your site just by looking at the “front page?” RSS Feed – this is how readers can subscribe to your content in their feed reader of choice Contact information – every now and again, a reader (or advertiser!) will want to contact you or know a little more about you and where else on the web they can get a piece of you. The quickest way to frustrate people who want to do this is bury your contact information, or neglect to provide it at all. Comments on posts – Part of what made early blogs blogs were comments sections. Still a mainstay of blog anatomy.
  • I'm assuming that most of you are here because you either have a blog or you think you might like to try to start one, whether its to showcase your knitting projects or to help promote your business. BEFORE YOU PROCEED, you must ask yourself one question:
  • And that is, should you? -Could you get fired for content that you'd potentially post on your blog (anonymous bloggers have a tendency of not being able to stay that way – Dooce.com as an example) -Could what you post on your blog hurt others (or yourself) unnecessarily? Divorce blog, etc... -Are you engaging online? If you can't write, do you look good on video or sound good on audio? What do you have to offer an audience? Articulate this before you start. -Are you passionate about what you plan to blog about? Could you talk about it all day? Would you marry your anticipated blog topic if it were a person and it were legal in your state?
  • If this is your idea of a good blog, then you might want to consider outsourcing your blog... -Copious use of Comic Sans font -Header that takes up the entire above-the-fold area of the site -Confused color scheme -Flashing buttons and badges in the sidebar -No attention to grammar or punctuation or thought in the posts themselves. -The blog looks more like a scrapbook than a thoughtfully designed electronic document. That face up there, by the way, is a baby head...please don't put babies in your headers. I've seen it happen, so I had to say it.
  • That said, if all present are willing to proceed... Before you start building your blog, there's a little word with which you should become well-acquainted: Niche. However you say it, thoughtful and thorough consideration of the niche you'll carve and how you'll implement it on your blog are paramount to your success as a blogger.
  • And that something new, relevant and valuable, by the way, had better be more than a sales pitch...we'll talk about this here in a minute.
  • But the thing about niches is, the smaller the better. There's a blog that sees millions of readers each month, has a book deal with another one reportedly in the works, and it's not a 1,000 page blog with 267 categories hundreds of posts: It's CakeWrecks, and it's about professional cakes gone horribly, terribly wrong. There are also blogs about hungover owls, Five-Finger running shoes and duct tape. Surprisingly, the smaller your niche, the more you'll find to write about. Too broad a focus – i.e., fashion, electronics or public relations – will not only overwhelm you as the blogger, but it will also overwhelm and confuse the reader.
  • Search engines can't see a great blog design, but they can see great writing, and so can human readers. Even if you spend thousands on a sweet website, if your content is stinky, no one's going to be back. After having a very good, working sense of the niche and the focus of your blog, honing your writing skills is going to be next most important key to your success as a blog.
  • I'm not one of those Stylebook nazis. I do keep one by my desk, though, and I refer to it often. But that's why we buy the book – so we don't have to memorize everything in it. Just try to have a current copy, to keep it handy and to flip through it every once in awhile.
  • Even when you're journaling online, you're not writing just for yourself; otherwise, why not just buy a journal at Barnes & Noble or keep your journal on your laptop? Consider the user: What does the user GET when s/he reads what you have to say? Information? Advice? Quirky anecdotes? Whatever it is, it has to have value for your target audience. The bottom line is this: Write content that you'd want to read. If you need a little help doing that, consider taking a creative writing or business writing course. Best of all, read lots and lots of blogs. Read lots and lots of everything. It's what the best writers do – they read a LOT.
  • LISTS: Readers love, love, love lists, and so do search engines, usually because they're easy to make keyword-rich. Build them and they will come. POLLS: Especially if the question at hand is controversial. RANTS: Get mad. Be sure to leave the door open for conversation, and be sure to grow an extra-thick skin in the inevitable case of push-back. INTERVIEWS: The bigger the names, the better. Or, if you're already famous, interview your mother. HOW-TOs. Judging by Ehow.com and Lifehacker.com, readers love a good how-to. And it's perfect for search engines if you have a new topic or method to offer.
  • REVIEWS: Tell your readers about your experience with new restaurants, gadgets, whatever. LINK ROUND-UPs. As local blogger Michael Bates has said, more linkage, less thinkage – an easy way to get some inbound links rolling, too. GUIDES. Readers love guides to things. Perfect way to rack up some in-bound links. MEDIA ON A THEME: Easy to gather, easy to post, fun to watch the comments roll in.
  • SEO, or Search Engine Optimization. OR, putting those conducting searches with engines like Google, Yahoo or Bing together with the content you create. While SEO is both an art and a science, there's no reason to let it take over your life while you're still trying to get the hang of blogging.
  • Blog's title: For SEO purposes, this works best if you can work in one or more keywords into your title: Tulsa Food Blog as a perfect example. Titles of your posts: Picking keyword-rich titles and loading the keywords as close to the title as possible Leads of posts: Using your keywords list again, write the first paragraph or two of your blog post. The higher up in your posts your keywords can be, the better for good search engine placement. URLs of your posts: The more they can resemble the keyword-rich title, the better. Metadata on photos and other media: Get that keyword list out again... Link to yourself: Link relevant posts together. Cultivate inbound links: The more links you can get from influential places on the web, the better; links are still huge currency on the web Post regularly: This is one of the reasons why blogging can be so great for business websites; search engines love frequently updated content much more than static website content.
  • SEO takes time – just like blogging, it's not a get-rich-quick scheme. There's evidence showing that traffic growth for blogs isn't on the search engine side anyway, that it's on the social side with sites like Facebook and Twitter. What your focus needs to be is creating the best quality content you can and letting people know it's there by way of good navigation and deep linking. Manipulating the search engines doesn't really pay off for the effort that's spent on it.
  • Blogger and Wordpress are the major two There's also Tumblr, Posterous, SquareSpace...and lots of other platforms, actually. So, let's make this easy...
  • Pros: It's free. It's easy to use. It converts well should you ever decide to pay someone money to host your blog Lots of plug-ins to customize your blog and your experience on the back end The Wordpress platform is considered the gold standard in the blogging world. Cons: No advertising allowed. You're not getting a fully customizable design and blogging experience that you can get if you host your own blog.
  • As a general rule, being on another blogging platform is not going to hinder your success as a blogger. It's much better to bet on the quality of your content rather than spend a lot of time messing with different platforms. Plus, there are lots of blogs that are hugely successful and that are hosted on different platforms like Blogger and Tumblr. If you want more of a briefing on the different platforms that are out there, it'd be worth your time to check out the workshop here at the library.
  • No expensive and unnecessary Flash pages; No scrapbook look-a-likes, unless you're blogging about scrapbooking; Choose color combinations that are inviting and appealing – check out popular blogs for examples; Use simple, easy-to-read fonts (hint: no comic sans), and make sure the background is lighter than the text. Header needs to be clean, classy and sized appropriately. The reader should be able to easily tell the difference between editorial and advertising content. Keep gadgets, buttons and gizmos to an absolute minimum; Make search, navigation, contact info and relevant links easy to find; Justify text left, and if you have quality photos, make them as large as your theme will allow them to be.
  • What we'll talk about in this class is: Word of mouth Your blog itself Social sites like Facebook and Twitter Traditional media
  • Word of mouth is probably the most influential form of advertising there is, and it could be blamed for the rise of social media and blogging in the first place. Develop the dreaded elevator speech for your blog. If you're blogging for your business or organization, your work is basically already done; let people know you're taking your mission a step further by providing can't-miss content relevant to what you're doing on your blog. Attend a social media gathering in your area. Here in Tulsa we have the monthly Tulsa Blogger Meetup, of which you can keep apprised by following me on Facebook, and there's Social Media Tulsa, which can be found on Twitter.
  • Good SEO is always a great way to get the word out about your blog. Guest posting works both ways: It can give you coverage with other audiences, and it can create a high-quality link to your blog; or, you can convince a significant blogger to guest post on your blog, still giving you a high-quality link and using that blogger's fame both for immediate traffic as well as SEO relevance. Promote your RSS feed. Like search engines, the importance of RSS feeds as a traffic source are diminishing, but if you promote it, it's still a way to build a loyal, opt-in audience.
  • These are the major players in the social media scene. At the very least, you should create profile on your blog on each. Signing up for each of these networks is pretty easy and intuitive, and the workshop here at the library can help with the mechanics of that – just be sure that when you're signing up for a Facebook account that you secure a business page, not a personal profile page, for your blog. When someone has more than 500 million users, you play by their rules. Here's what to do before you make any posts: Fill out the Info section, complete with contact info and a link to your blog; Upload a photo; On Facebook, see if you can't get a couple dozen of your pals to like your page so you can sign up for a vanity URL, which you can do after 25 likes at facebook.com/username.
  • Before you start telling dozens of people about the new Facebook page for your blog, try to add a little content first, both in the way of posts as well as photos, video – anything you've got that's useful and relevant to your audience, even if it's not on your own site. Esp. if it's not on your own site. What you're looking to establish on your FB page is a variety of media and a variety of voices. This is your chance to influence the conversation about your blog or your business that happens when you're not around. An open-door atmosphere is key.
  • Even if you're just starting out, and particularly if you're blogging for business or blogging with more than one person, you NEED a social media policy. Set forth policies on how often you'll post to each network, what kind of content you'll post to each network, what your typical quarterly goals will be for your social media presence, and how you'll react when someone posts something negative on your page...or, worse, if your Facebook page gets hacked or data is lost. Deciding how to handle these things now will take any emotion out of the situation down the road. All you'll have to do is go into plan execution mode.
  • Use Facebook when: You want to post links to content (PLEASE use a URL shortener) when you need high impact Host contests and giveaways (be sure you do this through third-party apps – again, you want to play by the rules) Use Twitter when: You want to post links to content (PLEASE use a URL shortener) You want to generate instant conversation and feedback with your users. You want to update more frequently. Both are good for: Adding a human voice to your blog or business Building a loyal audience
  • It's just as important to form relationships with traditional media as it is with other bloggers and your readers and customers on social media. The audience and impact can be huge, and it can go a long way toward legitimizing your blog and you as a blogger. Questions to think about: How can you be of service to reporters looking for sources for a story? Adam Paluka story. How can you pitch your content or news about your blog (read: awards) to reporters in the media for their benefit? Bottom line: It's still about forming relationships, no matter what medium in which you're dealing.
  • Blogging (and business) was around long before both Facebook and Twitter, but now, just blogging isn't enough. You're expected to have a presence on these social networks and others, too. So, rather than think of them as the source of more work, think of them as tools that will help you to better: Have a conversation with your audience and hear from them in a way not possible before; Reach your users where they are for little to no cost (not free advertising!); Brand your business and/or your blog; To open networking doors that just didn't exist before, basically leveling the playing field; To create a devoted, opt-in audience that you can always bet will be interested in what you have to say.
  • The average life span of a blog is roughly three months. Why? Generating content actually takes quite a bit of work, not to mention when you're generating that content either for free or for minimal returns. But, that's the name of the game for blogging: It's what's called a long lead-time business. You're not going to strike it rich overnight; in fact, most bloggers never make more than what it takes to pay hosting costs. So, to keep yourself going while you're waiting on results, it's important to set goals and create at least a rough version of an editorial calendar.
  • When it's time to brainstorm for content ideas for both your blog and your social media profiles, you already have a wellspring from which to draw: The questions your customers ask every day; Your already-established expertise and knowledge of issues that could use a little virtual ink. Bloggers, when you're brainstorming for content, think in terms of clumping your content rather than one-shot posts. Creating small series enables you to both drive traffic and build your SEO authority; it also attracts inbound links, too.
  • After you've held your brainstorming session and you've recovered from either your caffeine overload or your hangover, whichever way you operate when you're trying to think creatively about things, it's time to whittle down your brainstorming session to the top several very best ideas. Then, plot them on the calendar. Then, plan your deadlines by working backwards. If you can help it, don't post to your blog without drafting. And don't announce any
  • Setting goals for the evolution of your content and your traffic is going to be the great motivator, helping you to put out that extra effort in order to reach pre-determined goals. Advice: Though goals are good, don't set them too high. Having 10 million readers a month like the Pioneer Woman in less than a year is totally unrealistic. At the most, shoot for an increase in traffic of 5-7 percent each month. Your goal should be about the same for your social networks (see Facebook Analytics), with a feedback goal of about three percent.
  • The differences between the two, why you should have both.
  • Notice I'm not sharing my Foursquare username, mostly because I wouldn't want you guys following my every move or anything. That would be totally inappropriate and egotistical of me to assume you'd want to be so familiar with my thoughts and my whereabouts.
  • Transcript

    • 1. The Library Does Blogging with Natasha Ball of TashaDoesTulsa.com
    • 2. Hi.
    • 3.
      • Places to find me:
      • Blog: TashaDoesTulsa.com
      • Facebook: facebook.com/tashadoestulsa
      • Twitter: @tashadoestulsa
      • Email: [email_address]
      • Radio: KRMG Friday mornings on the :10s and : 40s
      • TV: FOX23 Friday mornings at 8:30
    • 4.
      • By the end of the day today you'll know 100 percent everything about things like:
      • What the heck a blog even is
      • Why you should blog (and when you really, really shouldn't)
      • How to properly niche yourself, and niche yourself good
      • Writing for bloggers
      • Why you should stop obsessing about switching to Wordpress
      • How to turn blogging into Benjamins (for you, your organization or your business)
      • How to not be a dirty, dirty blog quitter
    • 5. Lesson 1: “ A blog...now, what is that? That's, like, something on the Internet, right?”
    • 6. Highly technical definition that I found in this really old book at my house that said Dictionary on the cover: A blog ( a shortening of weblog, but please don't ever say weblog, unless it's Halloween and you've dressed up as 1996 ) is a website on which an individual or group of users produces an ongoing narrative.
    • 7. Whether Basic or Complex , Successful blogs follow the same rules: The content is dynamic, and new content is featured prominently and there's an implied invitation for conversation.
    • 8.
      • Why blog?
      • Share personal and family news
      • Promote a business by providing content useful to customers while establishing yourself as an expert, go-to person in your field and your website as more search-engine friendly (NOT to sell stuff; stay tuned for next slide)
      • Promote a cause, raise awareness
      • Create coverage on a worthy, underreported subject
      • Avoid household chores
      • You might get to be on TV
      • You enjoy testing the limits of your personal and professional relationships
    • 9. Blogging (or any other kind of social media) is NOT for: Recycling irrelevant content in an effort to sell a product or service Anyone who doesn't give a rip about quality of content
    • 10. Blog Anatomy 101
    • 11.  
    • 12. So, you want to start a blog?
    • 13. Should you?
    • 14.  
    • 15. Any questions?
    • 16. There are 150 million blogs on the Internet. What is your plan for standing out? Niche. Niche, baby, niche.
    • 17.
      • How to tell if your niche doesn't suck:
      • There's continually news within your niche that you can discuss and cover on your blog
      • There's not continually news within your niche and there's a real need to change that (read: unsung political and social issues)
      • Does your intended topic fall naturally into the spheres of your interests?
      • Is there a lot of competition within your chosen niche? (ex: technology, photography, mommyblogging)
      • Do you have something new, relevant and valuable to the audience that'd consume information about your intended niche?
    • 18. As with other things in life, when it comes to niches, size matters.
    • 19. Homework: -Using a series simple, strong keywords, begin writing down thoughts about how you can define your niche -Write a hypothetical About page for your blog. Attempt to do it in three sentences or less. -Identify 3-5 blogs based on your target niche. Check them every day. Begin to identify holes in coverage and how you can contribute to the space without creating redundancy and unnecessary competiton.
    • 20. Any questions?
    • 21. Blog writing. Be thee not afraid.
    • 22. Step one: Buy a copy of the Associated Press Stylebook. Then, try to follow it...most of the time.
    • 23. Never write alone.
    • 24. (Sometimes) gimmicky blog posts that will help you get started: Lists. Polls. Rants. Interviews. How-tos.
    • 25. Reviews. Link round-ups. Guides. Photos, video or audio on a theme.
    • 26.
      • Basic checklist for blog post writing
      • List 3-5 keywords that outline in a very basic way what you want to talk about in your blog post
      • Draft the post, using headings, subheadings and bulleted lists to make your content as clear and concise as possible
      • Say what you need to say in as few words as possible
      • Upload relevant media: Photos, video, audio
      • Let the post sit; then, edit
      • Add a title for the post
      • Preview the post
      • Hit submit
    • 27. SEO. Or, writing for robots.
    • 28. Your blog's title Titles of your posts Lead of your posts URLs of your posts Metadata on photos and other media Link to yourself Cultivate inbound links Post regularly Where to concentrate your SEO efforts:
    • 29. SEO: Don't lose any sleep over it.
    • 30. Any questions?
    • 31. Beauty Pageants and Blogging: Picking Your Platform
    • 32. Simple: Head to Wordpress.com and press the big, orange Get started button.
    • 33. BUT, here's the deal: If you're not on Wordpress, stop freaking out that you're not on Wordpress.
    • 34. Blog design basics: Keep it clear, keep it simple. Let the content be the focus.
    • 35. Any questions?
    • 36. Insert compelling words about your blog here. Or, blog marketing.
    • 37. Get mouthy.
    • 38. Your blog: A sexy, marketing machine.
    • 39.
      • Before we talk about your blog and social media: Two things.
      • Content is still the name of the game.
      • The number of followers you have is less important than having a tightly focused, highly devoted following.
    • 40. The major players: Facebook Twitter
    • 41. Build it, and they will come.
    • 42. The social media policy: required.
    • 43. Winning friends, influencing people. NOT happening if: You post the same thing/same kind of content to your Facebook and/or Twitter feed every day; You have your Facebook and Twitter feeds linked together; You post about your blog, business or Facebook page on others' Facebook pages without permission (SPAM alert!); You only post links to your own real estate on the web.
    • 44. Facebook and Twitter: Some guidelines.
    • 45. Traditional media: It's not just for dinosaurs.
    • 46. Why isn't blogging enough?
    • 47. Quitting: Don't be that guy.
    • 48. Business owners/nonprofit folks: You're the lucky ones.
    • 49. The editorial calendar: Your best friend for consistent content creation. And, potentially, cash flow.
    • 50. Setting goals.
    • 51. Tasha's favorite analytics managers: Google Analytics Statcounter.com
    • 52. More Blogging Resources Mashable.com Problogger.com Copyblogger.net BloggingBasics101.com (local!) Other good bloggers Tulsa Blogger Meetup Social Media Tulsa
    • 53.
      • Places to find me:
      • Blog: TashaDoesTulsa.com
      • Facebook: facebook.com/tashadoestulsa
      • Twitter: @tashadoestulsa
      • Email: [email_address]
      • Radio: KRMG Friday mornings on the :10s and : 40s
      • TV: FOX23 Friday mornings at 8:30
    • 54. Any questions?