Everyone remembers the three “R’s” from your school days: Reading, ‘Riting, and ‘Rithmetic. These three areas are considered essential to building a good educational foundation. Similarly, there are also some basic essentials to strategic blogging. I would like to present the four “R’s” for successful blogging.
To keep your blog fresh and timely, it is important to stay in touch with what others in your niche are saying. That’s where a technology called RSS is a godsend. RSS, or Really Simple Syndication, is a format for syndicating website content using specialized XML files. RSS created what are known as “feeds”, which can be accessed by RSS readers.
Blogs incorporate RSS technology as part of the platform. If you take a moment to review some of your favorite blogs, including your own, you will often find a small orange button with the letters RSS or XML in it. That is just one way that a feed is represented. For example, Typepad blogs often have a hyperlinked phrase “Subscribe to this Feed” in lieu of the button. By clicking on the button or link you can download that blog’s feed.
While I do not want to get into a detailed discussion of RSS, let me say that using an application knows as an RSS reader you can easily subscribe to other blogger’s RSS feeds and be notified of new content when it is available, as well as having readily available content for you to review. Often times this will help to spark ideas about what to present in your own blog. For more information about RSS check out the section called “About Feed Syndication” at feedburner.com. Bloggers tend to be information junkies, so reading RSS feeds is important whether they come from another blog or from Google News. So get a RSS reader and begin your reading on a regular basis to improve your own blog.
While writing for a blog network called Weblogs, Inc. I was required to post a certain number of times each day. Talk about becoming an information junky! Often, I would find myself writing about matter with which I had little expertise or frame of reference. I would spend considerable amounts of time looking for information to provide fodder for blog posts.
While you may be writing on subject matter with which you have a great familiarity and expertise, after a while you may find that you have reached the limits of your knowledge. Not only are bloggers information junkies, we are also perpetual students, constantly growing in our attempts to climb the proverbial “Tree of Knowledge”. With this in mind it is important to do your research if you are not familiar with a topic, as you want to make sure not to damage your credibility.
I love what blog pioneer Rebecca Blood said a while ago: “If you blog about something long enough you will become an expert at it.”
This is where establishing a posting (or, writing) quota is important and helpful to maintaining a regular schedule. Determine how often you wish to blog– once per week, three times per week, daily, several times a day– and stick with it. Establish a time each week or each day you can devote to it.
My friend Steve Rubel, the famed Micro Persuasion Blogger micropersuasion.com, gets up early to start his blogging for that day. Steve makes a concerted attempt to post several times daily, and his readers have come to expect that degree of productivity. Steve has disciplined himself to meet the challenge and it has paid off in terms of gaining a large body of readers and vaulting him to a level of great popularity in certain circles. He has truly become a blog celebrity! Another good practice is to establish what I refer to as a “content calendar.” This is similar to what those in print media call an editorial calendar. It is simply coming up with a variety of topics about which to write. These topics can become your blog categories. I recommend developing six or eight such topics. When you sit down to write, look those over and determine which one will get your time and attention for that day. Make sure you cover each of the topics routinely, so that you don’t get stuck in just one or two.
You recall the old adage “no man is an island.” That is particularly true of blogging. The medium is truly a communal enterprise. Participation in the blogosphere is a cornerstone principle. Let me encourage you to do three things where this is concerned:
- Build a blogroll – That’s simply a list of links in the sidebar of your blog to other topically-related blogs. When I first started blogging this was one of the first things I did. Other bloggers really appreciate it and will often return the favor.
- Comment on other blogs – By this I mean, use the “comment” feature to write your impressions on what the blogger has said. This is a great way to let other bloggers know you’re reading their stuff, and serves as a way to make your presence in the blogosphere known.
- Use trackbacks – (Also known as “pings”) I love trackbacks and use them with impunity. They are simply a way to let one blogger know that another blogger has talked about them. When you write a post that references something another blogger has said, not only include a link to that post in yours, but copy and paste their “trackback URL” into the field on your posting interface which allows for that. Most platforms have that feature built-in. Google’s platform, Blogger, does not, but you can go to Haloscan.com to download a plug-in which enables it.
I can’t tell you how important it is that you become a good citizen of the blogosphere and work at building relationships. It will pay off in ways you cannot imagine.
For search-engine-optimization purposes, it’s always a good idea to optimize your posts with vital keywords. You’ve done SEO work for your site, right? Perhaps you’ve hired an experienced SEO firm to help develop a list. Keep that list handy and use one of the keywords in each of your blog posts including it in the post title and, depending on the length of your post, once or twice in the body copy.
Just as mastering the three “R’s” of reading, ‘riting and ‘rithmetic in elementary school gave you the foundation upon which you built a rich educational experience, gaining mastery in these four principles will help you grow in your ability to make blogging a significant marketing communications channel for your small business.