Saturday, March 26, 2011

Rules of Blogging You Should Ignore (At Least At First)

 A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. - Ralph Waldo Emerson

When contemplating a project of any kind, it's smart to do research. Research now will contain at least a portion of "asking around on social media platforms." These networks exist, after all, to be places where we can get and share advice with our friends and peers.

Wherever you ask around, some of the advice you're bound to get will be well-intentioned, but will start to make you feel claustrophobic. Will picking the wrong name for your blog kill it before it even gets out of the starting block? Will choosing the wrong platform make you the laughingstock of your industry?

To some extent even ignorable advice is good advice. You may not choose to follow it for reasons of your own, but understand *why* people suggest it and know what sacrifices you're making, so you know what next steps to take as you move forward with your blog.

Pick a Name that's Easy to Type and Remember

This rule is clearly a no-brainer. Of course you want your blog to be easy to remember and type! This way, when people are looking for it on a Search Engine, they can find it simply.

When You Can Ignore This: Think about your audience - how are they going to be finding out about your blog? Will they be standing in your store, and you'll be telling them about it? Or will they be on your website, looking for your keywords on a Search Engine or checking out another social profile of yours?

When your *primary* means of getting word out to your audience is online, a more complex, obscure name is not the barrier it might be if your primary means of communicating with the potential market is print or by word of mouth. Online audiences will be clicking links to your blog from the spaces where you mention it.  Keeping the name short will make it easier for people to type in the name, but having a strange acronym or odd name will not make or break you.

Pick Your Platform for SEO

Is WordPress better than Blogger or TypePad for SEO? This question comes up very often on professional social networks. There are some people that insist that only one platform is appropriate for professional blogs and to some extent advance capabilities are going to be important to you down the road, when you've built up a following.

When You Can Ignore This: Right now, before you even have a solid blogging strategy, *where* you blog is, is much less important than *what* you are blogging and *why.* SEO comes from having strong keyword- and  key phrase- rich content, it comes from building up your reading audience with strong promotional strategies and writing unique, compelling content. The amount of SEO you can get from choosing one platform over another is incremental, and completely unimportant as compared with the content itself.

Here's one rule that cannot be ignored:

Formatting is Everything

Some people think in text, some people think in images. Others love video,  and for others, audio tracks pass the time during a long commute. A really good blog will be able to capture audiences from all these areas. But even if you're not jumping into the blogging world with podcasts or videos, it's important to remember that confusing format and navigation can really kill a blog.

Before you decide on a blog design, hand it off to someone who is not you. Can they find their way around it? Is there too *much* going on? Are you trying to do too many things at once? Is there consistent navigation across the blog, or are you bouncing from one format to another?

Find a designer you trust and go with your gut - if the first thing is absolutely not working for you, feel free to move to a different template. Don't get locked into something you hate. And if your readers say it's confusing, then trust them, it's confusing! Even if you love it, it might need to change.

Don't get caught up in what you shouldn't do. Start simple with your blogging. Don't try to do too much, have a clear idea of what you want to say - and to whom - then go, start blogging. You can always change the look, the name, the platform, but all of those take second place to the content.
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