So you’ve decided you really need to find out more about this whole blog phenomenon to try and decide if your business really needs a blog or not. (Hint: It does.) But you say learning all that new blogging stuff is a bit overwhelming?
How can you make informed decisions when you don’t even understand what those bloggers are talking about?
Well today is a good day for you because we’re here to help at SuccessCREEations. Welcome to Business Blogging 101 where we’ll try to explain some of the basics about blogging so that you can feel more comfortable entering the conversation.
This series is not meant to be the final word on anything, but like those 101 level courses in college we’ll just be introducing the various topics and point you to some additional resources so you can bring yourself up to speed as quickly and painlessly as possible.
So lets get started with today’s lesson!
Today we are going to look at one of features of blogs that completely separate them from traditional web sites. Many traditional sites have RSS feeds today with more adding them in all the time. I mentioned that I get weather updates via feed in my feed reader fresh all the time.
But the Weather Channel doesn’t have a place where we can comment on the weather. (And that is probably a good thing because I bet 99% of the comments they would get would be complaints about the weather!)
Most blogs you will find have a place at the end of each post where you can comment on what the blog author wrote, or on what a previous commenter said. Usually it is just a few simple boxes on the screen where you can type in your stuff like a display name, your email address, your website (or better yet your blog) address, and of course your comment.
The idea is that you type in your information, hit submit, and your comment is added to the discussion.
Of course some traditional web sites are beginning to “get” the value of interaction that comments bring to the table. An example of one of those traditional sites is the BBC. They now allow comments on some of their stories.
One thing you will note is that if you click on the name of someone where they’ve left a comment it is often a link that take you to their blog. If they left the URL (the web address) of their blog field blank then clicking on their name will start an email addressed to them.
Some blogs even let people leave both of the email and the URL fields blank. If someone leaves out this information and submits their comment the name won’t have a link attached to it. When a person does that we say they left an anonymous comment because there is no way for others to check out the person who left the comment.
I’m not a fan of anonymous comments, so here at SuccessCREEations I have it set up so that a reader has to at least enter in something in the name and email field in order to comment. (And yes folks can put in a bogus email address if they really want to hide. But that’s not the point.) Suffice it to say there are a lot of options a blogger can choose to get much more restrictive than I choose to be if they want to.
The reason you want to be very involved in the comments is simple. You really want to be part of the conversation because it will help your business in the end.
How? I’m glad you asked.
Did you spend a lot of money for a pretty web site that doesn’t get much of any traffic? Well when you first start your blog you will be in the same boat. No one yet knows about your blog so they wont be flocking to it right off the bat.
One way you can raise awareness about your new blog is to subscribe to feeds for other bloggers who are blogging in your niche, or if there’s no one in your specialty yet, subscribe to feeds that you find genuinely interesting.
Then, when you read a post that you connect with in some way, click through on the feed, go to the author’s blog and leave a good comment that adds to the conversation. Eventually over time you will find they will start stopping by to see what else interesting you have to say over on your blog and you are off and running.
Leaving quality comments on other blogs is a good way to start generating interest in your own blog.
Another note about comments – when someone leaves a comment on one of your posts at your blog, invest the time and effort to respond to them and acknowledge them. They felt what you said was important enough to write a comment and hit submit. And that’s a good thing which you really want to encourage on your blog.
So do what’s in your own best interest and respond.
Every good thing seems to have it’s evil counterpart. And the yang to comment’s ying is spam. Spam is the junk mail of the internet. Only that is being way too hard on junk mail.
Spam comments are useless comments that don’t make any sense in the context of the post they are on. And they usually have links to other sights where someone somewhere will probably get some money when people click on them.
Interestingly enough, spam isn’t named after the product SPAM, at least not directly. (The official corporate policy on spam at SPAM is a hoot, though.) It actually got its name because of the Monty Python spam skit way back in 1970 where some of the characters were singing about spam so loud it drowned out the conversation. (The skit is an even bigger hoot.)
Most spam is easy to spot because it is hawking pornography, pills, or it is just a list of links with something like “Good post! I agree!” or some such nonsense at the top.
To give you an idea how bad the spam problem is I have a button in the left side bar under “Useful Tools” that gives a running total of spam comments here at SuccessCREEations. As of writing this the number is 479. Since the first post here was less than 90 days ago that means we’re averaging over 5 spam comments a day. And that’s nothing compared to what some blogs are dealing with!
There are a lot of different things bloggers do to combat spam. One is using something called a “captcha”. Basically with a captcha you will see a picture and a box below it to where you type in the characters you see before you hit submit. Some examples of captcha graphics are to the right
The idea is that computers can’t see the characters in the graphic files so it must be a person making the comment. And the theory goes that a person is less likely to be a spammer.
Sometimes you might hit submit and get a notice that comments are “moderated”. That means that they won’t be displayed until the blog owner has looked at it and approved it. Some bloggers moderate all their comments. Sometimes they will just moderate each new commenter the first time they make a comment.
I like to try to make it as easy as possible for folks to comment while still keeping the porn and the pills off my blog. It can be a tough balance sometimes. I use a program called Askimet which was designed especially to combat spam (and it’s free!).
There are pros and cons to whatever method a blogger decides to go with to combat spam. Probably the worst method is to ignore it. Ignored spam will totally take over your blog and it will run your traffic away.
At this point you really just need to know that it is a problem and that some of the weird things you have to go through to leave a comment are probably there because the blogger got burned by spam in the past.
Your first temptation when you are just getting started blogging will be to run over to a bunch of other blogs, find the first post you can get at and leave a comment that screams, “COME ON BACK TO MY PLACE!”
You don’t want to actually do this. Trust me.
Think back to your dating days. Blogging is a little like the singles scene back then. You are looking to build some relationships. And you are hoping there will be some sort of spark of interest.
But you didn’t just rush up to someone and say, “let’s go back to my place” did you?
No, you probably started a bit of a conversation. It may have been a little awkward at first because you didn’t know each other at all. But over time you got more comfortable with each other.
Blogging is similar. Only instead of meeting at some neutral place like a bar you are meeting them for the first time at their place.
Think about it this way. You wouldn’t want some stranger to come crashing into your party and try to drag everyone back to their house, would you?
Don’t do it in the blogging world.
Instead join the party and add value to what is already there. Over time you will build a reputation as someone who knows what you are talking about in your areas of interest. And you will find that people will start showing up at your party.
You entered your blog’s URL (web address) when you left your comment. Folks can find their way back to your site if they are interested, which is another reason you want to be leaving quality comments around. If folks like what you have to say, they will be clicking through back to your place on their own.
Probably they will filter in by ones and twos at first. But if you are chronically considerate and add value to the discussion, they will show up in larger numbers over time.
On the consideration side, my rule of thumb is that I try not to leave any comment that I wouldn’t want my mom or my grandmother to read. I figure I may be looking to work for someone one day and (if they’re smart) they will search on my name. I don’t want to leave embarrassing stuff all around the net.
Here is a really great post explaining Lifehacker’s Guide to Weblog Comments from last year. It all still applies. You will not go very wrong if you follow those guidelines.
One last note on etiquette – you loose a lot of what you are trying to communicate when you are restricted to the written word. There is no inflection or body language on the computer screen. Misunderstandings can happen very easily.
I remember a while back I made a comment over at Successful-Blog that was taken to mean something completely different than I intended. Fortunately Liz Strauss is a tremendous person. She emailed me on the side for clarification. I was horrified at what they thought I meant. But we got the whole thing straightened out very quickly via email in private.
The point being there are some things that would be much better conveyed in a private email not in the very public comment section of a blog.
Who was it that said, “Common sense is not so common”? But I think that since you have enough social skills to be successful in your business, you will do just fine if you remember that you are interacting with real people and not just some computer screen.
Have fun! Go add to the conversation!