By Dan Zak
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, November 4, 2007
For a rookie blogger, there's nothing more disheartening than seeing "0 COMMENTS" at the end of a six-day-old post. Or checking your traffic stats on SiteMeter and finding you've gotten only three page views that day: two from your mother and one from someone who was looking for nude photos of Jennifer Lopez and Googled his way to your post about knitting booties for your infant niece.
"No one cares about your blog." It's a mantra that's been around almost as long as the blogosphere. But it doesn't have to be true. Washington has a thriving, tightly knit blogging community (as evidenced by the 1,000-plus blogs that zip through the feed on the site DC Blogs), so the chance is good that at least some people will care. There are several things you have to do to help make this a reality. Below are 10 tips from local bloggers who started small and steadily found an audience:
1. TELL STORIES RATHER THAN STICKING SOLELY TO LINKS OR PHOTOS."Unless you're Perez Hilton or the peeps at TMZ or the Superficial, [links and photos] won't keep people coming back," says North Bethesda resident Melissa Jordan, 42, of Church of the Big Sky ( http://www.merujo.blogspot.com). Make stories compelling and, most of all, relatable.
2. CREATE A VOICE FOR YOURSELF. Find one and brand it, whether it's through writing about one particular topic (television, city council politics, cooking) or blogging about many topics with a singular tone (writing with concentrated snark, numbering your thoughts in groups of five, delivering posts in haiku). People are more likely to remember your blog if it offers something unique.
3. MAKE EVERYTHING EASY TO READ AND ACCESS. That means keeping your visual aesthetics simple. If someone stumbles upon your blog, have flagship content at the forefront: Put information about the blog on the home page and link to high-quality posts so random viewers don't have to search for the essence of your blog. Consider putting a feature such as "10 most commented posts" on your site, which is available through the blog platform WordPress ( http://www.wordpress.org) and automatically ranks your most-discussed pieces of writing in a sidebar.
4. SIFT THROUGH BLOGROLLS AND CREATE YOUR OWN. Blogrolls -- the list of links to other blogs that appears on someone's home page -- are the simplest form of interconnectivity in the blogosphere. "Blogrolls are invaluable," says D.C. resident Kris Likey, 33, of I'm Not a Girl, Not Yet a Wino ( http://www.mamalikey.blogspot.com). "When you find a blog you love, click on the links on the writer's sidebar. You are bound to find at least another site or two that are interesting to you. Link the sites you love and visit regularly, and they may do the same for you."
5. WIDGET YOUR PAGE. Widgets, or third-party items that can be embedded in your page via HTML code, help direct traffic to and from your site. Learn how to use RSS feeds and Google Reader. Sign up for free at Technorati ( http://www.technorati.com) or BlogRush ( http://www.blogrush.com), both of which provide widget codes that spread links to your posts far and wide.
6. COMMENT EARLY AND OFTEN."Spend about twice as much time commenting on other blogs as you do writing on your own," says Capitol Hill resident Janet Daly, 26, who has blogged at http://www.loveisblonde.com since August 2005 and turned five daily readers into 500. "I'd be lying if I said I didn't love getting a lot of comments. It's great to get so much positive feedback, and I feel like I've made some great friends through blogging. But it also means I spend a lot more time on my computer replying to comments and commenting on other blogs in return."
7. PRAY FOR A LINK FROM THE BIG BOYS."It doesn't hurt to somehow convince a really popular blog to say something nice about your blog and provide a link to it," says Dennis Chong, a 34-year-old D.C. blogger who wants his blog to remain anonymous. "If DC Blogs highlights a blog entry, I get a spike. A few times, Wonkette linked to me, and my numbers for those few days went through the roof."
8. NOMINATE YOURSELF FOR AWARDS. Petworth resident Leon Scott, 29, won Best Humor Blog in the 2006 Black Weblog Awards, which attracted a slew of readers to his site and got him a guest spot on NPR's "News and Notes" program last month. "Definitely enter a blog contest," says Scott, whose four-year-old site, Yeah . . . I Said It ( http://www.listentoleon.net), gets 800 to 1,000 hits per day. "One of my readers nominated me, and it definitely helped me gain a large readership." There is a virtual plague of big- and small-time awards, from national contests voted on by the public ( http://www.bloggies.com) to niche contests voted on by other bloggers. It's a sliding scale of prestige and reputation, but it doesn't hurt to put yourself out there.
9. POST WITH VERVE AND CONSISTENCY."People are only going to read if you are passionate about what you write about," says Dan Silverman, 32, of Prince of Petworth ( http://www.princeofpetworth.com). "Additionally, you have to post every day or people will quickly lose interest. I post Sunday evenings through Thursday evening."
10. JOIN THE CROWD. Join blogging community sites -- such as DC Blogs ( http://www.dcblogs.com), Indie Bloggers ( http://www.indiebloggers.org) and Twenty Something Bloggers ( http://20somethings.ning.com) -- or attend informal blogger get-togethers across the area. For example, the 32-year-old Takoma Park proprietor of the blog Arjewtino, who wants to remain anonymous, and four other bloggers host monthly happy hours at various locales across Washington (their next happy hour is not yet scheduled; visit http://www.arjewtino.com for updates). Surf the D.C. blogosphere for other social opportunities.