what we've learned from blogging

Friday, December 19, 2008

1. Topics
I thought it'd be difficult to come up with grammar/syntax/writing topics to blog, but, fortunately, that hasn't been too hard. Most ideas I get are common errors I see when I edit. A distant second is from conversations with others--either they have a question, I have a question, or I notice an odd mannerism in their speech.

However, I recently signed up for Google Web Tools, which is a fascinating resource for tracking external links to your blog, diagnostics to check the "health" of your blog and ensure that you find your niche in the Google rankings, and--my favorite--top search queries. These tell you the Google searches in which your blog appears as well as the position. (So say you get a stat that says "ellipsis in julius caesar 7" -- that means that in the search "ellipsis in julius caesar" your site was the seventh one on the list of results.)

Anywho, I signed up for Google Web Tools and have been going through search queries for ideas. I figure since people are already searching for these topics, I may as well write on them.

Outside of those three sources, I also recycle some posts from another journal I keep. These don't necessary have to deal with English or grammar or language, but they're there, and I like to vary the content up once in a while.

2. Getting the Blog Noticed

At first I gauged traffic by the number of comments, which have been very, very, very, very few. But recently I discovered Google Analytics, which has been a great help monitoring my traffic. I only have a few days' worth of stats, so I can't really talk at length about how much it's helped my site, but so far, I'm very excited with the possibilities. At least I now know that some people read this thing!

Another useful tool has been the AddThis button. Again, I only discovered it recently, but already I like it. Instead of adding six trillion digg/delicious/technorati/etc. buttons, you just add one handy little bar that includes all of them and more.

Finally, I use Ping-o-matic to notify search engines when I update the blog. Google Analytics show an increase in traffic when I do this, so I can only assume it helps.

2.5. Writing a blog.
This sort of goes with 2 because content is probably the number-one thing that draws people to your blog. At least it is for the blogs I read.

Mostly, I've tried to copy the format of the blogs I enjoy, particularly Marginal Revolution, which, aside from being one of the (if not the most) popular econ blogs out there, also makes a really good read.

The posts are short, the topics varied and interesting, and--most importantly--it's updated frequently. If not hourly, then at least daily. Another thing I've noticed is that the post titles are pretty direct. That's useful for a number of reasons--not only does it give the reader a quick idea of what the post's about, it also helps Google identify the content and make sure it's listed under the appropriate search query.

Finally, I've learned (or at least am in the process of learning) not to be clever. This is a great point Gretchen Rubin made in a post on her blog Happiness Project, and it applies not just to blogs but to all writing. The best writing, especially for blogs, is brief and direct. Make your point, explain it if you have to, back it up, and move on.

3. Future ideas
I don't make any money from this blog, but I plan to keep doing it. It helps my writing and is enjoyable, but I'd really like more feedback. If you're reading this, please leave a post with any suggestions you have or topics you'd like to see covered.