5 Blogging Ups, 5 Blogging Downs, and 10 Blogging Tips
The past few articles have gotten a bit hot and heavy. The blog, and my dear readers, need a break before everyone collapses under the weight of all that Love, Compassion, Loneliness, Depression, and all the other nonsensical ramblings.
All my other prepared material are just as heavy, so lets take a short sabbatical and put a different kind of post. Not all the emails I get are about spirituality and emotions and all that – I get quite a lot who ask me about blogging. Which is strange, because I am not a big blogger by any means, but always happy to share what I know.
This also gives me a chance to have a little rant about my blog journey so far. First, many readers ask about the life of a blogger. Is it worth it? Well – Ill list some of the ups and downs Ive encountered in my short blogging life, and let you decide.>
The Ups of Blogging
1) A boost to your growth. Blogging is one of the biggest passions in my life; it has become inextricable from my own personal growth journey. This is one of the strangest benefits of blogging; it actually boosts your own journey. Having to write about what you learn makes you actually grow faster, and digest material better. If you are thinking about it, do consider a blog, if only to help speed your own journey along. Most platforms are free anyway, so you lose nothing by trying.11
2) Making friends. Along this journey, Ive met a lot of people that Im really proud to call my friends. Youve probably heard me mention many of these throughout my little link love sections at the end of some of my posts, so I wont repeat them here.
3) Getting stuff in the mail. In addition to getting free books and programs for you to possibly review on your blog, readers are also sending me other things and books. It is something I receive very gratefully.
4) Thank you emails and comments. Similar to No.3, these really make my day. As I mention in my mission statement, I started this blog with an intention to make money out of it. But now with all these emails, Im starting to do it just for the sake of contributing what little I can.
5) Donations. On the other hand, I wont lie. While money is no longer top priority, I still have ambitions of making this my full-time career. And it also lifts my heart to find some donations – both as a sign that Ive helped, and it also goes towards the costs of blogging Hosting, the blogging lessons Im paying for, and the books Im buying to read.
The Downs of Blogging
1) Spam Spam Spam! Spam in the email. Email spammers assume that I need help with my penis size. (Whether I do is for me to know and for certain lucky ladies to find out.)
2) Spam in the comments! Almost as bad. Comment spammers assume Im a lonely man looking for dating or porn. So in essence Im a lonely man with a small penis, hah! These get so annoying I almost want to turn comments off, but I dont, because that would block off people who want to leave genuine feedback, which I value highly.
3) To sell out or not to sell out? I recently turned down a few review requests for a nice tidy sum of money. And I am still wondering if I should have. On two levels – some are irrelevant and will detract from the overall blog. And the second level will my readers leave me if I throw in a few reviews in exchange for money once in a while? Please let me know!
4) Feels like a chore sometimes. Like many things, your passion goes through a cycle. I love my blog so much, its like my little baby. But sometimes, especially when Real Life kicks in, I need time away from the computer but I feel the pressure to put up a few posts for fear of losing subscribers. It can get quite stressful.
Which leads me to
A Shameless Request
5) Marketing. This is the biggest part I hate about blogging. I have lots of material on marketing but I hate it so much I dont want to do any of it. Article marketing, comment marketing, blah blah blah. If anyone wants help me out, please let me know. I cant pay or anything, but maybe you could think of it as Karma.
Im not an expert on blogging. The blog went online in February but until the original What your ego is post, nearly in May, it was all practice. That post was the real start of the blog. Before that, I didnt know how to write properly, I didnt even know what RSS was, I didnt know what social bookmarking was.
Even now, I have loads of material on blogging and marketing, but I still havent read most of them yet. But still, Im honored that people ask me for my help, and here are the standard list of tips that I always give out. You can probably get them elsewhere, and explained even better, though:
1) Content. This is so far the only serious marketing Im doing – just putting as much heart and love into my content as I can and letting it speak for itself. Its not enough, I know, but its the biggest part of blogging I enjoy.
2) Social Bookmarking. Digg, Del.icio.us, StumbleUpon, Reddit, and a few more. Each one of these sites has their own niche, so find one that is suitable to yours. Digg, for example, is famous for being a tech-biased site. Stumble Upon is my favourite because it covers a wide range of topics. Some of the rest dont really go well with my niche. This is a fantastic source of traffic, so really Google this and analyse this aspect.
3) Networking. This is vital. Make friends, especially with other bloggers in your niche. Besides the joy of having friends I mentioned, we can help each other out with social bookmarks, and also guest blogging. Which leads us to
4) Guest blogging. This is something that the top bloggers out there recommend heartily. But first you need to network. I havent been doing this at all, mainly because I havent really done No.3 either.
5) Blog Carnivals. In essence, a carnival is a post by another blogger that rounds up some of the relevant posts that you (and others) have written and submitted via this site – blogcarnival.com. Or you can also host one of your own – its a good way to get your name out and start networking.
6) Memes. In essence, posts that “tag” other bloggers and requests them to do something – usually write about a certain theme. I did one before, the Blog Apocalypse. The theme of that was to have people write their imaginary last post for their blog. The good thing about memes is that we link to them, they link to us, and hopefully they will tag a few other people. This gets exposure and traffic for all involved, but most of it goes towards the originator of the meme. However, I made a mistake with that meme at that time, my blog was young and had not much material, so I should have waited until I had more content before I started it. A recent explosion in this niche was Priscilla Palmers Personal Development Master List.
7) Tagging. And let me explain what tagging means – I used to think it was some strange, esoteric function or program exclusive to blogs. But its just a standard text link to the blog you have tagged, and then you drop them an email or comment to let them know theyve been tagged. So it sounds fancy, but its just plain old email.
8 ) RSS. RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication. I have an article in detail here. How many subscribers you have is a good measure (but not the only one) of how successful your blog is. So you want to learn about RSS, and get as many subscribers as you can. For best results, put both a standard button and an email form for those who prefer emails. The website I use to handle all this is free and relatively easy to use, its called Feedburner.
9) Getting the right blogging platform. In my humble opinion, WordPress is the best blogging platform in terms of flexibility, add-ons, power, and so on. Be sure that you go to WordPress.org, which is different from WordPress.com. WordPress.com is a free but limited version. WordPress.org is also free, but you have to host and install it yourself, which might be a bit scary for those who are not techy. But it is definitely worth it, and there are many hosting companies who install it for free so you dont have to do a thing. After years of jumping around, I finally settled on Lunarpages (affiliate link).
10) Plugins. And one of the reasons why WordPress is so popular is the sheer power and flexibility provided by plugins. There are thousands of them, so you can really customise and perfect your blog to fit yourself. And there are also lots of gorgeous looking skins, also called themes, available for free.
Here is the list of plugins I use. You can find them in the central WordPress Plugin Codex, or on the rare chance it is not in there, you can Google them.
Akismet: One of the best for combating comment spam.
All in One SEO Pack: Geeky stuff, all done in one nice package.
AntiLeech: Stops people stealing your content, I think, but I dont know how well it works.
Chunk URLs: Some people leave really long URLs in the comments section and it sticks out of the box. This one makes long URLs nice and short. Vital.
Comment Relish: Sorry to burst your bubble, but if you thought I personally sent emails to those who comment to me, it isnt me its an automatic program. However, I reply personally to all comments in the comments section.
Disclosure Policy Plugin: Sticks text or code of your choice at the end of each post automatically. I use it for the big “Subscribe for free!” text.
Dofollow: Geeky stuff. Encourages comments by letting the link juice flow, vital for Google, but too much to explain here.
Enforce WWW Preference: More geeky stuff, when someone types in urbanmonk.net, it redirects them to www.urbanmonk.net or the other way around. Its important for Google.
Exec-PHP: Allows you to put PHP code in the posts. Helpful for some extra bits and pieces, if you use them.
Feedburner Replacement: A must if you handle your RSS via Feedburner.com, one of the best RSS services out there.
Fuzzy Recent Posts: Puts a list of my most recent posts on the front page.
Google XML Sitemaps: More geeky stuff, but vital for Google. Trust me, and just install it.
Highlight Author Comments: Gives my comments a nice faint background color to distinguish it.
No Self Pings: Stops WordPress from leaving annoying trackbacks when I link to my older posts.
Notify Unconfirmed Subscribers: In Feedburner, some people subscribe via email, but they dont reply to the confirmation email. This culls a list of the unconfirmed automatically and sends them a reminder email. Brilliant.
Optimal title: More geeky stuff, but good for Google Search Results. Install it!
Paged Comments: Some posts get a lot of comments, and that it makes a page too big to be comfortable. This breaks comments up to more manageable sections.
Sociable: Its the little row of buttons at the end of each post that lets my readers submit the post to social bookmarking sites, which is a great source of traffic.
SRG Clean Archives: The plugin that creates my all posts archives page.
Sticky Menu: Allows me to make little menus such as the “about” menu in the sidebar.
Subscribe to Comments: Vital, in my opinion. Its the little checkbox that sends an email every time someone replies to a thread a reader has subscribed to.
The Feature: The plugin that creates the “Best of Urban Monk” section in the sidebar.
What Would Seth Godin do: Seth is one of the most popular marketers right now, and this plugin gives a custom message to new readers, based on one of his theories (I think).
WordPress PDA: Makes your blog readable to those using accessing it using a PDA.
WP-Ads: Handles the text links I sell, which you can see under Featured Sites. Anyone wants to buy a text link for their own site?
WP-DB Manager: Another vital plugin, it backs up all your blog posts, pages, etc. Install it!
WP 2.3 Related Posts: Makes the list of related posts at the end of each post. Another vital one.