Advice for new bloggers

Now that I’m apparently a blogger of status, occasionally I get emails from bloggers just starting out, asking how they can be as rich and famous as me. Short answer: get a part-time job at McDonalds. You’ll make more, work less, and be recognizable to more people. In case that’s not satisfying, here’s what I told a recent emailer, a newly graduated English major:

What is the best way to get exposure and hits to my site?

Your first line of attack will be your friends — send emails, let them know what’s up. Next, find similar blogs. Go to technorati.com and search for keywords that interest you. If you’re doing English-y things, allow me to recommend metaxucafe as another good place to start. When you find a blog you like, start commenting, posting your blog’s url in the form (make sure to get it right!). Notice the blogs that blog links to, and explore them as well. The idea is to start making friends in the blogosphere. Eventually, others will begin to notice your blog, and start linking back to you.

But most importantly, develop your own style. If you’ve got a personality blog, you need to express your personality well. Give intimate details about your life (as intimate as you’re comfortable with) and figure out ways to connect them to the larger world. Having a hook can be good (e.g. writing as if you were Charles Darwin transported into the year 2300, or frequent use of sexual innuendo [though that one’s getting overdone]), but good writing is even more important.

Then, if you write an especially good post, just send a quick email to one or two of the blogs you frequent, letting them know about what you’ve written. Maybe they’ll link to it, and maybe not, but in either case, it only took you ten seconds to do, so it’s no skin off your back.

When building the blog, what things should I include, and what is the most beneficial?

Most people include blogrolls — lists of links to their favorite blogs. I like to include “recent comments,” but you might want to hold off on that until you’re regularly getting lots of comments. Even on wordmunger that’s a little pointless right about now. The “about” page is good. You might even want to include a picture. I like the little calendar thingy, but others feel that’s redundant. I’d definitely get rid of “recent posts.” That’s definitely redundant, since all readers have to do is scroll down to see them. I’d suggest changing the image on your blog header — if you use a standard wordpress image, for example, it will mark you pretty quickly as an amateur. I’d also recommend removing the blog stats from the front page. If you want to know your stats for your own purposes, sign up for sitemeter.

If I am attempting to approach newspapers, magazines, or television networks with this blog, what sort of things are they looking for?

They are looking for a story, something that will interest their readers. Honestly, you don’t have that yet. If you get dozens of comments every day, then you might have a story. For now, see if you can get freelance wrtiting gigs and ask them to post your blog address at the end of articles you write. That will help you get hits — and eventually you’ll have a compelling story that you might be able to leverage into good P.R. My advice for now is to focus on content. Even with CogDaily now being the 8th ranked science blog, I’m only just beginning to think about approaching the media with the concept.

Most importantly, don’t expect anything to happen overnight. Blogs are a long-term proposition, and very few people are able to use them as their sole means of support. If people make money off their blogs, it’s usually because they turn them into a book, or use them as vehicles to market books (see whatever). With a very popular blog (I’m talking 10,000-plus visits a day), you can effectively market a book based just on your own readership.

Hope this is helpful. If you have any more specific questions, be sure to let me know. Good luck!

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