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Friday, March 16, 2007

How To Grow Your Own Blog: Nine Tips For Would-Be Bloggers

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How can you become an effective, impactful and followed blog when you are yet no-one and when it appears that all other bloggers out there are already writing about the very things you are interested into?

Photo credit: Stephen Coburn

How can you grow your blog to make it uniquely interesting, engaging and followed by many avid readers?

How can it be true that if you were to start blogging someone would pay attention to your very own writing?

The answer does not lie so much in having better or more sophisticated publishing software, or in using different fonts or bigger images, but rather in understanding deeply what are the key factors that differentiate average blogs from great ones.

In my recent presentation "Be Your Own Boss" I have outlined what I personally believe are the key factors that you need to address if you want to leverage the personal publishing potential of blogs and make a living out of your know-how and communication talent. But being commercially successful is not the only road.

Joshua Porter of Bokardo, inspired by the passionate sessions at the SXSW conference, took the time to draft a valuable micro-manual of blogging principles, action tasks and best practices that any blogger should understand and adopt if serious enough in wanting to make a dent in the information noise that grows all around us.

9 Lessons For Would-Be Bloggers

1. It's only an initial fear


The problem with blogging isn't just the writing part. It's also the putting-myself-on-public-display part. Many would-be bloggers that I've met don't blog because they're not comfortable with throwing themselves to the wolves...putting their ideas out into the world for all to see. Once you do that, of course, you open yourself up for criticism, and goodness knows that you'll get some!

But you'll also get encouragement, and some people will really groove on what you say. Once you get a little practice under your belt, you'll find that it's only an initial gets easier as you go along to share your ideas.

2. You have something valuable to say


One of the biggest problems is that some people don't think they have anything useful to say. They think: look at all the incredible amount of writing out there already...what can I add to it? Ironically, its those people who probably have the most to say, but they're concerned that they won't say it well or in the right way. Those are the people who care about what they say and know that words have tremendous power. They consider the act of writing as an act of conversation, as opposed to others who see it as a way to make money or a way to promote something. We need those people to recognize that they do have something valuable to say, and that the blogosphere would be better, not worse, with them contributing.

I remember meeting Paul Rademacher, creator of HousingMaps (before Google had an API!) and hearing this story from him. He didn't think he had anything to add.

I couldn't believe it! Here's a guy who created an amazingly-cool web application in his spare time while working as an animation engineer for Dreamworks!, and he didn't think that anybody would want to hear what he had to say. Well, it's that sort of different thinking that we need! After I met him, I kept wondering how many other folks are like him that are silent in the blogosphere.

3. When in doubt, post.


I keep telling the same story to would-be bloggers. A couple weeks ago I was working on a post for Bokardo and it wasn't going well...I couldn't get to what I wanted to say. So I looked around, realized that I hadn't posted the 5 Principles to Design By from my about page, and just posted that. It has now become the post that many people recognize my blog from, because in some way one of the five principles touched a nerve with them. I did not predict this, and don't think I could have. So when it You can always un-publish it if you need to.

4. Use the comments for refining your point


Lots of times I'll post and my point won't be crystal clear. Someone will read it and leave a comment saying so. When someone does this, when they take time out of their busy day to read what you've said and respond to it, TAKE IT AS A GIFT. Always remember that these people are right! They're your readers, and so if something isn't clear to them then it's probably not clear to the others who who haven't read it yet or don't have the time to leave comments.

So you have to take the time to go back and make your point clear. Whatever you do, don't argue with them, don't say that they didn't understand the point. Let them know you're hearing them and try to clarify what you mean. And, if its a relatively big change, make sure to go back and change your original post to reflect that, so readers coming in get your most up-to-date thinking.

5. Everything is beta


My theory for Bokardo is that everything is beta. That lets me stop worrying about publishing end-all, be-all pieces that set the world on fire. If my blog is my beta (the blog itself is not's the thoughts that are beta), then it becomes a place for trying out ideas and refining them. After I do that, I'll republish the best ideas somewhere a talk I give or in a UIEtips article or an article in an online magazine. Some posts will rise to the top and have lasting power, like my piece on the Lesson, but the vast majority don't. So don't worry if your writing is beta...that's perfectly OK.

6. Have a schtick


I write about lots of things here on Bokardo, but my schtick is that I write about social design. I even have the words explained on every page on this site. Why is this? Well, it helps me keep a focus for the keep the posts moving in a general direction. This vastly improves my ability to figure out what to write about, because I've got a flag to fly. Before I had a clear focus I used to flounder when I couldn't decide what to write about...I ended up with a much less focused blog and poorer posts because of it.

One caveat, though. You have to really believe in your have to think that the topic is important and have to have passion for it. You can still deviate from the topic, as I'm doing with this post, and that's OK. It's a lot easier to write exceptions to the rule than it is to not have a rule in the first place. So plant your flag...have a not only makes writing easier but you'll also get other people thinking about your blog in terms of it. It's kind of like a brand in this way.

7. Correct English be-damned


People don't care very much whether you write in complete sentences, use correct grammar, or are copy-edited. It's much more visceral and fast. They care about ideas...are you adding good ideas to the idea-pool? Are you telling them something they knew but haven't articulated or haven't thought about yet? If you spend a lot of time blogging, make sure that you spend it on clarity...that every word is understandable and your ideas are clear. Notice that in this post I'm being's clear what I'm talking about. This isn't always easy...and it takes practice and time. Don't let the simple posts fool you...that's the goal.

8. Show your greatest hits


A tactical lesson I learned from Brian Clark, who writes highly-recommended CopyBlogger. Create a greatest hits module for your blog and display it on all pages. This will be an instant target for new readers, who will be funneled into your best content. It will also help remind regular readers what you've said in the past, and help them think about your blog in those terms. And if you're just starting out, put all of your posts in it. You can easily take them out as new greatest hits emerge.

9. People are listening


For every person who posts a comment on your blog, you have 10 (or 100) readers who won't. Always remember that! Even if you don't get the 100 comments that you were hoping for doesn't mean that people didn't like the post or that they didn't consider just means that they didn't have anything to initially say or couldn't at the time.

This is a hard problem...because if you don't travel a lot then you might never know that there are people who are reading and just not saying much. If you do travel, make sure you let people know who you are and what your blog is, and you'll be pleasantly surprised at how many readers you have.

Original article by Joshua Porter published on March 11th, 2007 as "9 Lessons for Would-be Bloggers" on Bokardo.

About the author


Joshua Porter is the editor of Bokardo, a site about social web design. He is currently the Director of Web Development at User Interface Engineering, a behavioral research company based in North Andover, Massachusetts. There he conducts world-class research on how people actually use web sites and products. He also holds the annual User Interface Conference, one of the most successful design conferences in the industry.

Photo Credits
Worried man: Ljupco Smokovski
Whispering: Artsem Martysiuk
Keyboard: Dzmitry Stankevich
Direct hit: Alex Hinds
Hiding mistake: Ieva Geneviciene
Cursor: Guy Erwood
Listening man: Andres Rodriguez

Joshua Porter -
Reference: Bokardo [ Read more ]
Readers' Comments    
2010-10-28 17:24:10


Great for someone who isn't web savvy. Very easy to understand and lots of great information. Thanks for taking the time for explaining the very basics. I'm just starting a blog and do have a long way to go, but I have at least started. So many questions, so little time!
Thanks! Donna

2007-03-16 22:44:17


When the bloggers are in doubt about what to start from,I think there are always examples of people who are doing best with their blogs you can always learn from them.

posted by on Friday, March 16 2007, updated on Tuesday, May 5 2015

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