Tag Archives: blogger

Creative Blogging: Better content, more fun

CREATIVE BLOGGING: Better content, more fun

BLOGGING is a creative process by nature, but many bloggers tend to stick to formulas. Content that isn’t fresh and doesn’t look and feel inspired, tends to drag the audience on. This is not good for your blog as this method of blogging is the most definitive way of preventing your blog from growing and evolving. Like SEO, content creativity is critical to content quality and accessibility.

Creative BloggingThe blogging market is partly responsible for the tendency to treat a blog like a day job – going through routine processes. Creative blogging, which was the original basis of blogging, has become somewhat “industrial”, and the result has been a large number of blogs doing the same things simply because they’re the norm. The creative impetus is reduced, and that hasn’t done much for the blogs either – inflicting lower standards.

This very bad habit has done nothing for bloggers generally, and has taken a lot of the fun out of blogging. In marketing and advertising, “product identity” is critical, and the very samey content and presentation of blogs is arguably marketing suicide.

Creative blogging is really the only antidote to this situation. Good content is the core business model of successful blogging, and creativity is its main driver. It is also the major asset of blogs – the ability to develop new materials and new approaches. This is an extremely flexible medium and allows a lot of experimentation – synergistic with the creative process.

Blogs really are the most effective method of expression for a range of content that couldn’t possibly be done by mainstream media. The creative options are almost limitless and form a major part of the value of blogs as a media genre.

Creative options in blogging

The creative options are quite literally limitless. Subject, content and presentation can be developed and evolved into a unique product. These are also extremely valuable to blogs as both intellectual and commercial property. Some creative blog materials have become true classics and have formed part of the global culture.

Creative product can also fund the development of blogs and blog operators. This is one element of the creative process that can produce excellent results across a range of operations, and also pay for new media assets.

The creative options include:

  • Media content: Unique content is particularly valuable – even salable.
  • Opinions: The original basis of blogging. Opinions (particularly expert opinions) are major products and sources for media information.
  • Graphics: Graphic content on blogs are the most likely to go viral. This material translates into everything from T shirts to merchandising.
  • Journalistic content: Blogs are making major inroads into mainstream news media, and this content is becoming useful commercial property.

There is plenty of scope for creativity in blogging. This is “best practice” for blogging and is also the commercial basis of blogging. Your creativity is your greatest asset as a blogger. Develop your ideas and your blog will evolve with them.

Don’t knock it ’till you try it

You can read the first part of this beginners guide here.

A BEGINNERS GUIDE TO BLOGGING – PART 2
I’ve been in possession of a snazzy new phone for about three weeks now. It’s one of those navigator phones that not only helps you out when you get lost, but it’s also a music player, video camera, game console, portable modem, photo editor, and (almost forgotten) a phone.

I have never owned anything as remotely high-tech as this device, and after three weeks, I honestly don’t know how to deal with it all and use it properly. I’m almost afraid of it, and there is often a voice it my head telling me I’ll never grasp how to use such technology.

We all experience techno-fear. Most believe it happens when we reach a certain age and is a defining moment in our lives when we reject the new and clutch onto the old. We feel comfortable with what we know and feel that we simply can’t cope with change or keep up with the rapid advance of technology.

Well I’m here to tell you that techno-fear has nothing to do with age. I have felt it as a twenty-something who embraces technology. It is rather a matter of trying something new and feeling comfortable with it after enough practice.

On that note I wish to assure you that it is the same with blogging if it is new to you. It has been three weeks since I introduced blogging here, which I trust is enough time for those interested to have set up a blog, or to have at least thought about it. Here are some more tips on how to do it.

Blog writing
There are a few things that are unique to writing for the web, which differ from the way one writes for print. While these rules are not cast in stone they have proven to be more effective.

For starters, it is always a good idea to write in the inverted pyramid format – with the most important bits at the top. The first few lines of a blog-post are usually your make-or-break moment, and determine whether people will continue reading.

People’s attention spans on the web are even more shocking than they are offline. With this in mind, it is important to keep articles short and use lots of short paragraphs and sub-heads if possible.

A blog-post can range anywhere between 200 and 2 000 words, but it is important to re-read your writing and cut it down as much as possible. Get your point across quickly or write an enticing introduction depending on the context of your post. It might also be wise to break longer posts into two parts.

Illustrating your blog
The average time that someone spends looking at a blog is probably no more than 10 seconds. This is because most online readers make a judgment about a new website (before reading anything) based on its looks.

Sadly it’s a shallow world online and this is why your posts not only need a catchy (and relevant) headline and enticing first line to rope readers in, but also as many visual aids as possible.

Pictures, graphics, pull-quotes and even videos are useful for breaking up the body of a post. You are able to bold and italicise words, create quotes and upload or embed pictures and videos from your toolbar that appears when you click on “new post” from your blogging dashboard.

Note: in WordPress the “dashboard” button appears in the top-left hand side of the screen and the top-right as “customise” in Blogger. Within this dashboard are further options for adding widgets, editing or changing your blog’s theme, and several others depending on which blogging service you are using.

Have you ever wanted to write a book or have started writing one but given up, thinking that it would never get published? Start a blog dedicated to your book and discover what people actually think. Describe in detail what your blog (i.e. your book) is about and who you are as an aspiring author, then offer either daily or weekly excerpts or chapters. Encourage people to comment on it and see whether you can generate a loyal audience. The two site aggregators (mentioned below) will offer you statistics on how many people are reading what you write and help guide you in the right direction.

Technical bits
The array of options and things called “widgets” are enough to give any new blogger a headache, but you only need to know a few of them at first.

An important one is the option of switching between “visual” and “html” in the top-right of the box in which your write your posts. Each mode offers different tools. However, if you are not familiar with html, this would be rather incomprehensible.

However, if you write your articles using a word processor such as Microsoft Word, ensure that that the html view is open when you copy and paste your text. Word processors are full of invisible text formatting that will look a little pear-shaped if copied directly into a blog.

The other important feature to notice is the “tags” box (found at the bottom of the “new post” box in Blogger and to the right of the box in WordPress). Tags are keywords which describe what your post is about and is what Google uses when people do a search.

Tags are important for ensuring that your blog shows up in Google searches. These words should also appear in your blog post and preferably be used more than once. Bolding keywords (which you add as tags) also improves your blog’s chances of being found when someone searches Google using those keywords.

Promoting your blog
Getting your blog “out there” and getting people to read it has a lot to do with self-promotion. This involves more than just telling your family and friends, but promoting your blog online to an unknown audience.

Once you have written a few posts and are happy with the way your blog looks and functions, you are ready to present it to the world and gather a readership. The first thing to do is register your blog on blog aggregator sites. The two essential ones that I’ve mentioned before are www.amatomu.com and www.afrigator.com.

These will ask you to describe your blog and will notify users when you publish something new. Users also have the option of subscribing or following the blogs they like and sharing articles with others. Blog aggregators also categorise your blog and point potential readers in the right direction.

This is where your new posts will appear, but only your headings and the first few lines or post summary. It is also where your tags come into play. Post headings, summaries and tags are therefore the three most important aspects to familiarise yourself with and eventually master.

Otherwise, promoting your blog in other ways is completely up to your own imagination. Add a link to it on your Facebook profile or any other website you have subscribed to. Comment on other people’s blogs, which will usually link back to your own. Make connections and write consistently. Interact with the blogosphere. Most importantly, don’t knock it ’till you try it!

You can read the first part to this blogging guide here:
A beginners guide to blogging part 1

A beginners guide to blogging

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BLOGGING GUIDE: One for the newbies

THE terms “blog” and “blogging” are becoming commonplace in today’s cyber-culture. While such words excite some, they also alienate people who missed the rapid emergence of the blogging phenomenon of 2007.

To put it simply, blogging goes alone the lines of “everyone online can be a publisher”. A blog, therefore, is any individual’s own personal website or space on the web. Some people, such as journalists and techno-junkies, blog professionally, while others blog simply as a hobby or for personal interest.

A portion of the former crowd even make some decent money from blogging, while the majority simply gain personal satisfaction. If you have always wanted to try your hand at writing, or simply have original views or interest in a topic that you’re passionate about, blogging may be for you.

The best part about blogging for me is the feedback one receives. Last week I wrote about website statistics and how one is actually able to see how many people are reading which particular articles you write. You may even get commentary on your blog posts. This is what makes writing for an online audience unique.

Starting a blog
Uncle Sam wants you!If the idea of blogging excites you, there is nothing preventing you from starting one today. There are several ways to go about this, but in the spirit of keeping things simple, there are two blogging sites I would recommend:

www.blogspot.com and www.wordpress.com are two websites I have mentioned before and hold in high regard. They both allow anyone to sign up for free and offer a user-friendly, step-by-step guide to getting started.

However, if you are completely new to the blogging arena, then I would recommend starting your journey with blogger.com. In my experience, this website is easier to follow and will accommodate all your blogging needs.

If, on the other hand, you feel confident with basic website design and html, then wordpress is the way to go. It is far more aesthetically pleasing in my opinion and simply feels more professional.

How to blog
Now that your blog is set up with your chosen theme and blog name, you’re ready to start writing. The best advice that anyone can give in this regard is to write about your passion. What’s the one thing that excites you and has you talking for hours at a social gathering?

A poetic baboon and his monkey friend

A poetic baboon and his monkey friend

Remember that the Internet is already littered with blogs on all sorts of topics, so in order to make yours stand out, you need to write about what you know and offer something new in your own unique style.

Another thing to bear in mind is that blogging, and the whole social networking ethos of web 2.0, is all about sharing and interlinking content. If you have researched your article online, link back to the website that you got your information from.

The same applies to websites that either sparked an idea for a blog post or ones that offer further information and resources. Linking to other blogs is the central core of the blogosphere and is what makes it flourish.

Another tip is to make your blog a useful resource. If you have a passion for cooking, for example, post cooking tips and recipes on your blog. This will not only keep people coming back, but also will become a personal resource for yourself, your family, and your friends.

If you’re keen to test your talents at review writing, research the product thoroughly and provide as much information as possible, but keep it short. You never know who might read it and notice your potential.

Blogging for money
An online survey about blogging and the blogosphere conducted last year revealed that less than 10% of bloggers make money from their blogs and most do not wish to. The personal satisfaction gained seemed to outweigh any desire to blog for money.

However, if this is your incentive, online advertising is where the money is. You’ll come across several websites with Google ads plastered all over them. You earn a few U.S. cents for every click on a Google ad and a cheque is mailed to you when you earn $10 or more.

Yet believe me when I say that this is not suited for South African blogs, at least not yet. I defaced my blog with Google ads as an experiment and made about $3 in five months. There are a few blogs that make a small killing from Google ads but note that their blogs are very popular and took time to get there.

Idea!
If you run a business from home and don’t currently make use of any online promotion, you are missing an ideal opportunity. Start a blog and write about your product or service. Add photos, prices, product details and create business cards with your blog address on them. It doesn’t get more free than this.

The good news is that the South African blogosphere and the web-savvy minds behind it are creating advertising prospects for SA bloggers. This involved the birth of Adgator last year, which is a child of www.afrigator.co.za.

Once you have signed up with them and embedded some code into your blog, the Adgator team assesses what you blog about and sends this information to prospective advertisers. If your blog cracks the nod with them, you get advertising options and the chance to enjoy a 50/50 cut of the profits.

The service is still brand new, but several South African companies have been approached and things are looking promising. To put things into perspective, I earned R25 in a single day with Adgator, which I consider as easy money for doing what I love.

Early retirement awaits!

For more blogging tips check out:
www.bloggingtips.com
Nerdmag: They why & how of blogging

You can read the second part to this beginners’ guide here:
A Beginners’ guide to blogging – part 2