Wednesday, June 9, 2010

So You Want to Blog?

John Marine | 6/09/2010 01:59:00 AM | | |
It's time for me to share some things I've learned in making blogs. I've been blogging on Myspace before trying out Blogspot. I still can never remember making this blog (apparently) back in May 2007. I never became interested in blogging until making my first post back in January 2009. Since becoming serious about blogging starting in about late October 2009 or early November 2009, I've devoted a lot more time to blogging than I ever have. Considering that I gave up on college to focus on something I could enjoy more and feel I have control over, I've learned a number of things blogging. I have created this blog entry to share things that have somewhat helped me to get this blog from insignificance to relevance.

All the information in this blog entry is factual and believable. This is not some suspicious advice. I do NOT specialize in spammy or suspicious material. So if you're looking for get-rich-quick material or something, look elsewhere. Now let's get to work!

SPECIAL NOTE: This blog entry is dedicated to a Blogspot friend, ikert24kfan. His blog can be visited here:

--- Why the Dedication? ---
I dedicated this blog entry to a friend of mine on Blogspot because I want to help people who are willing to open themselves to me to allow me to offer kind words and help. Let me tell you a fact about myself- there was a time in my teenage and young adult life where I felt like nobody cared about me and that nobody would ever trust me to accomplish a task to absolute perfection or near perfection. If someone looks to somebody like me for help, I want to make people happy. I feel worthless if I can not help someone with their problems. I feel happy when I know I've made someone's day.

Because of this struggle, I feel there is great importance on my part to help people out. There's so much negativity in the world that I feel obliged to want to make life better for people who need the support... even if they don't need it! I was not cut out to be a hero, but I am willing to fight for positive change if the opportunity presents itself. I don't win all of my battles, but I'll graciously lose fighting.

--- Motivation for Bloggers ---
Why do I blog? The best reason is because blogging, like lots of things in life, is art. Typing in text and posting pictures is as much an art as any style of artwork or music. Bloggers can either be people who casually post material on the Internet, or they can be people who post blogs for major companies and firms. There is no right way to blog. Conversely, there isn't really a wrong way to blog.

There are three types of bloggers to me- the hobbyist, the professional, and the ones in-between hobbyist and professionals.

* I define the hobbyist as the one who blogs because he/she loves sharing his/her mind with the world, and he/she loves to share his/her mind with the world the way only he/she can. The hobbyist may or may not love blogging completely, but does it often enough to where fans and readers keep coming back to visit his/her blog(s).

* The professional blogger is the one who posts as a career, sometimes even for major companies or dedicated blogging firms (like Technorati). The professional considers blogging as something of importance because he/she wants to share material with the world that will get people talking. The professional blogger is sometimes even paid handsomely for his/her work whether by an employer or by some online agent.

* I will refer to the in-betweener as the intermediary blogger. Such a blogger is loves to blog while also offering a degree of professionalism. I fit under this category. I always call myself as an "independent blogger" because while my work is professional, I'm casually professional. So I'm not under any extreme stress to post material that represents whatever company I represent. Since I am independent, it's up to me to post whatever it is I want to post for the online masses. People can suggest, but it's really up to me to post material that will be accepted by people who visit.

So the first thing to take note of is... what kind of blogger do you think of yourself as, and what makes you that way? Once you determine who you are as a blogger, the next step is to think about how to move your blog in a great direction.

--- Starting Your Blog ---
You have the ambition to post material online in a blog. Ambition is one thing, but what about putting it all together? You can not win any sporting event without a gameplan. You need a gameplan and a sense of direction before becoming a star.

What's Your Platform?
Blogger/Blogspot is my platform. Without making it sound like cheap advertisement, I chose Blogger because of its simplicity and its Google support. I wanted to blog now and blog often. For many other people, they choose other platforms like Wordpress and Typepad. Ther's even tumblr. Regardless of whichever one you go with, it all begins with a blog platform, especially if posting your own material. More professional types build their blog from scratch. I say if you have Myspace or Xanga or something, build your blog there and your blogging passion before attempting something like any of the popular blogging platforms. You can always go with Blogger just to keep solidarity with yours truly! :D

What's Your Style?
Do you prefer microblogging, video blogging (or "vlogging"), or "walls of text" like with mine? I don't microblog because I feel the need to be professional in my work. I don't post ANYTHING out of randomness. I feel if people spend their time visiting my blog, it should be well-spent with professional-type content. Lot of people would say that I don't have fun with what I do, but I'm happy and content with what I do.

What Is Your Blog About?
What do you blog most about? Do you talk about things in your life? Do you discuss sporting events? Do you simply make a blog to get people to shop? Define the character of your blog and try to stick with it. My blog has no specific area of specialization, so I try to do the best I can with all topics I set my mind to.

How Do You Put it All Together?
That's up to you. How can you make your material YOUR material? How can you express YOURSELF? Have a chemistry that will help you to stand out and feel important.

When One Isn't Enough...
Do you have a series of blogs? The blogs that you've created on Blogspot are all listed in your Blogspot profile. I have this blog and John's Shop Space, a blog exclusively for people who visit my blog to do some shopping. You don't start making other blogs unless you're really serious about making two different blogs about two different things.

--- Rise to Relevance: My (Brief) Story ---
I would be lying if I told you that I became an overnight success. My love of blogging was a long time developing. I joined Myspace in late July 2005. Every Myspace profile has their own blog which can be used to post almost anything. A lot of my blogging material was on personal matters and even some various other chatter. I didn't blog as often because I was still in college. If I felt like I needed to express myself by sharing my problems, I would blog about it. Blogging, then, was a thoroughfare for which I could express myself one keystroke at a time.

At one point (and this is the truth), I even considered blogging for money. So I apparently started this Blogspot blog you're reading right now back in May 2007. Why didn't I blog on Blogspot immediately when I started this blog three years ago? Why did I not post anything in 2007 or 2008? The reason why was... I don't know. I came at a crossroads in my life where I didn't know what to do with my life. I started my YouTube channel, JohnMarineTube, in hopes to express myself in videos and even enjoy my work. I (finally) started posting a blog entry in January 2009 as a means of talking about the Gran Turismo series. The majority of my first posts were on the Gran Turismo series. When I started running out of ideas, I went ahead and started posting other things to my blog. So what was a Gran Turismo blog was now my PERSONAL blog! Sometimes, people, we have a certain calling. My calling was YouTube, then blogging, then YouTube AND blogging. I'm a guy who has only an Associate's in the Arts. I am someone having a mid-life crisis at the age of 25 (in 2008). Now, I'm a 27-year old just taking life as it comes.

What I think helped me become more popular was the fact that I had a lot of friends away from the Internet and on the Internet who enjoy my work. Because I had such a base of support, I feel that I could share things with people that could be accepted or declined. I sometimes suffered the complications hard. For one, I talked about how I don't listen to rock or country music. The end result was that some of my negative comments cost me friends on Myspace and Facebook. Still, the important thing is expressing my views the way I can. I don't expect ANYONE to agree with my points. I just expect and hope people give my online material a chance and respond proper.

--- Pushing a Blog Further ---
The main point of any profession or hobby is in pushing yourself further into the future. What you're going to read here is about things I've done to that I thought helped my blog get to some form of relevance. Links to all of the following resources can be accessed by clicking on each link in each header.

Adsense and Amazon Associates.
The primary mission of my blog is to discuss things to the online masses. I tried to become relevant on YouTube. I have NEVER reached relevance since November 2008. That is, until I posted a video that got 4,000 views in just two days back in September 2009. That was when YouTube shown me a window wanting me to capitalize financially on my videos. At this time, my blog was taking a back seat in popularity to my YouTube channel. I was too scared because I was unsure how to start off with an Adsense account. A month later, I joined Adsense to monetize my blog. I wanted to make money without spending money. I was going nowhere with my life, so it was best to work with something I know I could devote time and energy to. So I chose to stake my claim as my own blogger.

Adsense was going slow for me. I needed to try something different to push my blog in a different direction. So I started looking at Amazon Associates. The reason why I was skeptical joining was because I thought there were some hidden charges to everything. But, no. I went with Amazon Associates because I hope to convince people with my own reviews that they'll want to buy a certain item. So I started reviewing items as well as making various fashion-themed blog entries in hopes of convincing people to order items from Amazon if they loved my work. This was my formula: post a factual and believable personal review of something, post an Amazon link in case someone wants to buy something for themselves based on my blog post, and (hopefully) profit.

The most important thing to me to remember is to be careful going with things. Don't haphazardly accept programs online unless you know what to expect. I chose Adsense and Amazon Associates because I want to profit from my work. I want to profit from my work by helping treat others to items potential shoppers may be interested in. It's always content before enhancement for me. DO NOT consider Amazon and/or Amazon Associates unless you seriously want to profit from your work using these two free services.

FEEDJIT has been instrumental in knowing who my audience is. Anyone who knows me online knows that I value an international audience more than I do my native American audience. I installed FEEDJIT to my blog to find out who all visits and what for. Because I've posted so many blog entries, I often times want to know what people are looking for on my blog. Reading FEEDJIT data allows me to better my current blog entries by editing my material with new content. That's why I constantly aim to keep my readers/viewers satisfied. Satisfaction is what I believe most in because I am a people person. If people aren't satisfied, then I'm not doing my job. I want people to read and interact with my work. Don't just come onto my blog and leave- stay and let me know how I'm doing! If I have posted material online that you can shop for online, please do some shopping if you're interested! I'm doing all of this to service all of you reading my material. Recent changes to the FEEDJIT infrastructure now allows you to connect with specific users who visit your site via various online media. An important thing to me for FEEDJIT is the ability to keep your visits out of the Live Traffic Feed (or LTF). It's important because I want to see who else visits my blog rather than me. I always use the Preview feature in Blogspot's Design section to view my blog privately.

At 12:00 AM Pacific Time (2:00 AM Central Time here in Houston), I always check who's been viewing what on my blog via MyBlogLog. MyBlogLog is a Yahoo-driven service that provides information as to who visits your site. You can connect with other MyBlogLog members who visit your site. You can even check to see who all visited your blog and what for from the past day. Or, you may sign up for the pro features that allows you to view EVERYTHING in real time.

When you post a lot of material in your blog, you need to find some kind of way to entice your readers and viewers to see more content. Enter LinkWithin. All you need is a blog and a valid Email address. What LinkWithin does is post thumbnail images of other blog entries to keep readers enthused. You can choose from posting as few as three to as many as five thumbnail images. Every image is based on the very first image visible for a blog entry, so make sure you post an image that identifies completely what your blog entry is about. Unfortunately, at least for right now, there is no way to edit thumbnails. LinkWithin says that they are working on something to help you to edit thumbnails, but just be careful what images you post for your blog entries.

Nowadays Google FeedBurner, FeedBurner is perhaps the most popular service for which to post your RSS feed on the web to many people. Set up your blog to be posted on FeedBurner. FeedBurner works with a variety of different services. You can also put on podcasts with your work. Since it's a Google deal, you can even monetize your content with Adsense (if you want to monetize your work).

Quackit (only for editing posts).
Quackit features a variety of HTML coding pieces to help you structure your blog entries effectively. I've used this site to build tables among other things. Please use this website to post any kind of different things to your blog.

RBG to HEX Converter (only for editing).
When you're editing colors, you need a good resource to edit colors. Try this website to quickly convert RGB values to hexadecimal. That's how I was able to accurately post my official colors (blue and gold). It's a resource I recommend if you are often confused on HEX values from RGB values.

These are only a handful of resources to help you push your blog further. Because this is a massive blog entry, I will break this up with a Jump Break. Read on to continue, or disregard this paragraph if you are reading the full blog entry.

--- Why/How I Think My Blog Became a Success ---
There are some reasons why I think my blog has generated so much traffic. I will be free to explain what I think helped me out here.

Believable Content.
Many people specialize in randomness and not so much on providing a lot of quality content. There are blogs where I normally see one or so pictures and not so much of any quality text content. It's perfectly fine to go with pictures, but I've tried to be professional in providing text to go along with great pictures.

Hotlinking Images.
I try to carefully choose images I can use without getting something that would net me a 403 Error or warrant some blocked image. A lot of people find my blog entries because of images they find in searches. That's how my blog entries on long hair, wedding hairstyles, and jeans tucked into boots (among others) are found. The best way to get your blog entries some views is to link to images online. As important finding images are, it's equally important to cite your sources. I ALWAYS site material that isn't from any photo album of mine. I try to avoid using major websites and major blogs for images due to the possibility of copyrighted images.

What I may need to start doing is saving images to my own online album and use them as my own. That's also a suggestion.

For a while, I wanted to stay away from Twitter. The reason why was because Twitter was too much for me. I have to use every resource to try to market my material online. So I had started up a Myspace fan group (now defunct) and a Facebook fan group (now defunct). Now, my primary source of connecting with fans is my Facebook page. So use whatever resources you can and try to get more people to check out your material. Let the Internet be your friend. Use the Internet to gather up support that may hopefully give your blog some attention. I mostly use Twitter and Twitterfeed to post my blog entries as they are created. My Twitter is linked to my Myspace so my Myspace friends can view my blog entries. I used to link my Twitter to Facebook, but I've discontinued that as people thought I was spamming up my Facebook profile with Twitter messages.

Exercise Patience.
Blogging is a commitment. Don't expect instant results right away (unless you come up with something that's the blogging equivalent of a viral video).

Look for Ways to Connect Better With Your Audience.
This is something I REALLY need to concentrate on. You may do things like polls, allow people to add images to your collection to be featured online, and things like that. A disadvantage to Blogger (as opposed to Wordpress) is that of a "Contact Me" page. A "Contact Me" page is almost instantly a chance for people to connect with you.

Search for Newer Templates and Add Widgets/Gadgets.
I stuck with Blogspot templates that didn't allow me to post a lot of wide images. From the start, I limited image sizes to 450 so that they'd fit properly in my blog. Then, I went with larger templates because I wanted to expand my horizons. If you want to post some wider images, look for Blogger templates that support some wide material. I use the "Stretch Denim" one to be able to use material to embed widescreen YouTube videos and post images no larger than 600 pixels wide. If you do work with images larger than 600, learn the HTML code to trim down images to acceptable levels by visiting the Quackit resource I've provided.

Also of note is widgets and gadgets. They give your blog some extra spice. Don't overbear your blog with widgets, though. You still want to make a blog that can be properly viewed on almost any computer without needing a powerful computer or a super-fast connection. As an example, when I started out on Myspace, I intentionally made my profile look plain because I wanted to view my Myspace page on my dial-up connection (back then). Then, I felt the need to make my own unique profile. I kept my images and Flash/Shockwave media to an absolute minimum so my site can remain viewable on almost any connection. Some Myspace profiles have at least 20 images and any number of Flash media. My material is very minimalistic. So don't overpower your blog with gagdets. Use them, but don't overpower your blog with widgets.

Experiment New Ways to Make Posts.
I use Blogger in Draft to experiment new ways to make posts. I try new features to make my blogs a bit more interesting. I even sample different pieces of HTML code to make more interesting-looking blog entries. One way to experiment is to make a blog entry about something. But here's the important advice- DON'T publish the blog entry! Use experimentation to try new ways to make blog entries and sample new pieces of HTML code. Blogger will automatically save your draft after a few seconds. When you're done experimenting, go to "Edit Pages" and delete that practice blog entry you did.

Try to Blog About Interesting Topics.
Attempt to blog about topics that could generate lots of traffic. Try to find something that may tap into a niche market or something that many people can relate to. Try to make a blog entry with your best effort to make something enjoyable. If you can get a lot of traffic to a topic, you'll feel like a star.

Try to Reach Out to an International Audience.
I think it's better when you can connect with an international audience than with a native audience. Even sometimes on Facebook, I announce countries that have hit my blog for the first time. I can say with confidence that as many as 35, 40, maybe 50 countries have visited my blog for some sort of reason (all according to FEEDJIT). I usually announce new countries that have visited my blog for the first time on Facebook. About the most recent new country to visit my blog was Zimbabwe. I often get visitors from many countries including Peru, Columbia, Ecuador, Brazil, Trinidad and Tobago, the United Kingdom, Sweden, Finland, Estonia, Poland, Ukraine, Moldova, Malta, the Republic of Georgia, Morocco, Kenya, Mozambique, South Africa, Kuwait, Qatar, Israel, Saudi Arabia, India, Pakistan, Thailand, Vietnam, the Philippines, Japan, South Korea, (sometimes) Mongolia, Fiji, Guam, Australia, and New Zealand among MANY others. Make a blog and make something that may be viewed by almost anybody. You sometimes surprise yourself wondering who all visits your blog!

Edit Past Blog Entries With New Content.
The longevity of a blog is in making material and then updating it with more material. Make the best-possible blog right away, then try to post something in the future to keep it fresh. You especially want to do this with your most-visited blog entries. Always aim to better service everyone.

Use Jump Breaks for Longer Blog Entries.
The reason why I put this into my blog entry is because there are some long blog entries I have done with lots of content. If someone looks at your blog from the main page and if it's full of embedded material, it can take a hit on the performance of getting the blog entry fully loaded. So if there are sections that may directly affect the performance of a connection, add a Jump Break to prevent your main page from viewing something that may cause a strain on your connection. It's a performance measure that can go a long way to making your blog enjoyable.

Make Blog Entries Various Audiences Can Enjoy.
It's best to make material everyone can enjoy. The only exception is if you post a blog and blog entries catered to a certain group. This is especially true for blogs with lots of Mature content. With a Mature set, you risk having a smaller audience. If you want to aim towards major audiences, it's best to go with an audience you can work around. It also helps to post blog entries on material many audiences can relate to and enjoy.

Something I do is that if a blog entry may not be suitable for work or for younger audiences, I include a disclaimer and a Jump Break. Consider everyone.

Capitalize on Your Niche or Field of Specialization.
Make blog entries that focus entirely on something you are comfortable with, and never make a blog entry about something you are not comfortable doing blog entries on. For example, I am uncomfortable doing blog entries about government, society, economics, and religion; so I try to avoid these topics as best as I can.

Try to Link as Much of Your Content as Possible With Your Blog.
If you have lots of content online, try to link your content together to make your own network of material. Pretend someone has deviantArt, YouTube, and Twitter material in addition to a blog. That person can add material from each of the websites he/she has an account with to use for his/her blog. Embed your videos. Hotlink your images. And in addition, make sure to link the material in your blog back to your accounts on other websites. It may even help to add a link to your blog so more people can read your blog.

Try to Connect With Blogging Networks.
Material like NetworkedBlogs, Technorati, Bloglines, and others can help you to push your blog to the masses. Try to connect with these services. Do remember than most of them have strict guidelines and don't just immediately accept any blog. My blog, for example, was NOT accepted by Technorati when I applied my blog on Technorati. Follow the guidelines and hope your blog makes it!

One last IMPORTANT thing to remember:

Proofread Your Blog Before Releasing!
Especially if you type in clear English, make sure your blog entry is devoid of any spelling errors. Make sure your HTML coding is exact and complete. I recommend saving blog entries (especially longer ones) in a file. Maybe a Microsoft Word document. But if you don't want to work with Word, I use Wordpad and save the file as a Rich Text Format (RTF file) with Text. I use this for the lowest-possible space in saving my blog entries, and also, it means I can just freely use Wordpad without having to wait through Microsoft Word.

On the HTML front, tour blog cannot be released unless it is free of HTML errors. Proofread carefully to make sure everything is working and is ready to be released for all to see. It's this kind of credibility and dedication that can lead to people considering your material as quality content. A little goes a long way, people.

Those are only a few things to do as a blogger. Now for things to AVOID...

--- Things to Avoid as a Blogger ---
Here are things you DON'T want to do:

DON'T Copy Someone Else's Blog!
In hip-hop culture, we call stealing someone else's material as your own as "biting." So don't bite someone else's hard work! That's even if you're desperate for attention and traffic. BE ORIGINAL!

DON'T Make Spam Blogs!
Would you want to visit a suspicious site that could harm your computer? Well, do you want to make a blog that has all kinds of malware? Do you want to make a blog linking to spammy material? If you answered "No" to all three, then congratulations- you know better. Spam blogs are strongly discouraged.

DON'T be Shy or Passive!
If there's something on your mind that you want to express in a blog, don't be shy or passive. Express your content in a tasteful way. Which leads to this don't...

DON'T Blog About Offensive Content!
You know better. While there isn't much that constitutes acceptable blogging, absolutely avoid making any offensive blogs or blog entries. That is... unless you want to get into trouble with higher powers.

If Your Blog Consists of Mature Content, DON'T Make it Available for Everyone!
Blogger has an option to where you can offer screening for mature content. You can make a mature blog entry, just make sure that it isn't made available for everyone to see. Read mature blogs at your own discretion.

All of these items are items that I would recommend for bloggers. Blogging should be fun and expressive. Feel free to start a blog and share your mind with the world. Or feel free to blog right here on Blogspot with me and many others who use Blogspot like me! Enjoy blogging. Enjoy the experience and the fun and challenge of making great content often. I've enjoyed blogging since Myspace and especially since being serious about blogging.
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ikert24kfan said...

Thank you for the dedication! I deeply appreciate it. My adsense earnings are still low. I tried submitting by post to blog carnival and have joined twitter to get more traffic. I know that google adsense is not enough to live by let alone get rich. I right now I only want to earn and maintain a decent amount to make ends meet. I'm going over your blogging recommendations and give them a try. Wish me luck!


John B. Marine said...

No problem. You have my best wishes, but remember... don't expect any overnight success. Even I need some help myself to bring my own blog to relevance. So... we all can learn something.

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