02 October 2006

The Beginner’s Guide to Being a Beginner Blogger by a Beginner

100th post. Ha [exclamation mark] That’ll learn all those teachers at school who said I had the attention span of a gnat. A whole hundred posts. Rather than waste it on some frivolous meandering about the mysterious reappearance of my mobile phone or telling you how I found a spider in my mash potato on Friday I shall provide an important public service and blog about blogging.

I am a beginner blogger and a bit helpless, hapless and hopeless. But, being objective, I have happened upon blogs less adept than this one so I’m going to forge ahead with The Beginner’s Guide to Being a Beginner Blogger by a Beginner. I have called upon Flashman Topside to hinder me in this mission, as he wants his own blog and may have some relevant questions. You may listen in as I attempt to share my pearls of wisdom with him. Or shitbits of shite as he called them. Shall we begin?

You’ve had a blog for some months now, how come you are still a beginner?
There are bloggers who are very well respected and very widely read. Note how they have all had blogs for eons and how they have gathered momentum over time. Seven months or so is not long in the world of blog. Although some people have a friend who has a very well respected very widely read blog and then they are all linked up and ready to go by the tenth post. But this is not the case for you as I don’t have a blog of this type and we are not friends. No matter how much your mother would like us to be.

You know that thing about how, if the earth had existed for a only day, life would have appeared in the sea at teatime and dinosaurs would have sat down to watch the ten o’clock news before mysteriously dying out and human beings have only been here for 3 seconds just in time for teleshopping to appear on every channel? Well in blogging terms I appeared in the last blink of an eye. So, I am a beginner blogger rather than a stalwart of the vanguard. And it’s only as you get more people interested in what you are doing that some of the other things become relevant, like managing feed and all that.

Also, I read some of these types of article and actually, thinking back, they weren’t that relevant to the absolute beginner because they were being written from the lofty perspective one acquires when sitting on triple figures visitors a minute and 3,000,000 inbound links. Although the last one I read was very good. And helpful. So there are exceptions. As always.

How do I get a bit of the Internet to call my very own then?
I just have a .blogspot.com at blogger because it is very easy and free. Lots of people on the message board seem to moan about it but I’ve never had any problems. It’s easy and free after all. Well, it’s a little bit taxing and free now I’m in beta but that’s my own fault; I tend to get over excited whenever presented with the word Upgrade. Anyway, you just sign up and then off you go. The Help Directory is very good. I read it all. Twice. If you know about CSS and things then you can really knock yourself out. But if you don’t it doesn’t matter.

The hardest thing is thinking of a name. My mate Crispy gave me mine. If it weren’t for him there wouldn’t be a blog. I'm sure you will join with me in saying thank you to Crispy.

Yeah. Thanks. Now, what am I supposed to put on my blog?
Put what you like on it. I don’t know. I like blogs where people write something about themselves and what they think about things. Although I’m not so interested in the sex blog people, or the people who over share about their emotional traumas or experiences of near death. But that’s just me. Some people, I suppose, find that fascinating and helpful. I expect you’ll end up with a blog similar to the ones you like. There are some specific types of blog, like photo ones or tech ones or ones which just have links to other things. It’s up to you.

What sort of blog do you think I should I have then?
One where there is no footage of you sitting around in your greying underpants shaking your bong wondering how it all fits together so marvellously. That is what YouTube is for, surely? You could be an Internet celebrity.

Oh, yes, because blogging can make you famous, can’t it?
No. It can’t. That is nonsensical. The easiest way to have a novel published is still to write one. Actually, the easiest way to have a novel published is to mention to a friend over dinner that you would like to write a novel, then they will speak to their senior management team at their publishing house and make it happen for you. You might even get it ghostwritten.

Also, while we are on the subject of fame and blogging, you would have to be pretty dense to lose your job because of your blog nowadays. Unless you wanted to, or you were sacked because of some other reason. The bubble has burst on that one, if there ever was a bubble. We must now await the backlash. Also, I would advise you to have a look at the photographs of all the people who have received publicity because of their blogs. None of them are gigantic half man half dog creatures, are they?

None of them are clumsy half woman half street urchin creatures either are they? You can be so hurtful sometimes.

How do you decide what you are going to post and what you aren’t?
There's a fine line between posting and not posting. You could sit around writing and writing, waiting for a great post. But the point is, I think, to post and not worry. The great post will come. Surely? I know, I know – still we wait.

In my day job I have to think about what I’m writing, and my other work, about which I procrastinate so expertly, is very planned and thought out. I like posting first draft stuff here because I don’t get an opportunity to do that anywhere else.

I have three imaginary readers. I try to write for them. I made them up so they are probably a bit odd and willing to indulge me in ways that real people, sadly, aren’t. But it's quite a useful thing to do.

How long should a post be?

Exactly the same length as a piece of string. Not a millimetre more, not a millimetre less. This post is about two metres longer than the piece of string.

How often?
Well, I post quite a lot but I’m thinking of only posting three days a week on the same days. It depends on what you like really. I used to read a blog where the guy only posted once a week but I lost interest. Do you see?

If you are a smoker, or have smoked, or done some other habitual things like always sitting in the same seat on the train or something – you’re probably going to be quite good at blogging regularly.

I supposed it’s important to make sure you’re spelling is right and your blog is not full of silly mistakes, yes?
Oh yes. That’s very important. I always always make sure I never ever make any mistakes silly or otherwise ever ever.

How can I get people to read my marvellous blog?
You can sign up for some directories and ping them. Pingoat is good for this and if you go there it will make everything clearer than I ever could. I get people coming from the Tube map over at London Bloggers and Brit Bloggers (but I haven’t managed to get the code up on the new site yet – sorry). Ask the (pin)goat.

Referring to someone else’s blog and providing a link is a good way of getting yourself out there. And writing about other people’s posts. I did these two things doubled the amount of daily visitors, for a brief time.

Word of warning: I think that it’s important to be genuine about these things though. It would be easy to write something about how, over at the very popular Squashed Birds Smell Bad, Dead Crow has written about road kill. But that’s not something I’m interested in at all. I would just be doing that to link up and get noticed by her and her massive audience. That is not only very mercenary but blatantly obvious. It’s not really in the spirit of the thing.

You can also do nothing but post. Some people arrive here because they’ve searched for something odd. I had a visitor who search for something like art hanging clothes line genitalia and I had about four camel toes. And one carrie anne moss camel toe. As though that would ever happen. I imagine that if you posted something (today) which was about how delegates at the Conservative Party Conference in Bournemouth were able to attend fringe meetings where they could engage in anal sex with dwarves holding axes and large bottles of honey mead, then before proposing any new legislation they can visit a Georgian gimp who would teach them about oral hygiene through the medium of dance and booth tanning; then you might get a few hits.

How can I get people to come back and read me again?
Don’t ask me. I had three or four, or some other similar smallish number, leave comments saying they liked what they were reading. But then they don’t seem to come back again. I miss them but there you are. Maybe I went through a patch of boring posts or maybe they are busy. I don’t know. There are a lot of good blogs out there and only so much time to read them in.

I think it’s more important to make sure that your blog makes you happy and that you post what you like, than it is to have people pour praise upon you or have your hits counter go through the roof. There are few places in life you can just say what you want and no one can interrupt you. At least if you live in my house there are. Very very few. Not even the bathroom.

I did go through the obligatory statistic obsessed faze but we’ve got over that now. Haven’t we? Yes we have. Good. Yes. Good indeed.

All right. Calm down. I heard that you’re supposed to comment a lot on other people’s blogs, is this right?
According to all the other advice about blogging comment box whoring is a good way of getting people to visit your site. I think this is nonsense. Comment box whoring was once a good way of getting people to visit your site but now everyone is wise to it and it doesn’t work anymore.

There was, oh only a couple of weeks ago now, a lot of natter about commenting and should you reply as a matter of courtesy to new readers. I even joined in. Rather rashly. I now have a policy of replying to every comment. Unless it’s hilarious and then I delete it in a fit of jealousy and righteous outrage.

I, of course, don’t really have this problem because I hardly even get any comments and by replying to them all I automatically double the number I get. My, how easy it is to get all obsessed with statistics and popularity again.

I note with horror now that on some sites where I have commented (rarely and again, rashly) my details are remembered for next time. So when I read the comments now there’s every chance I might post a comment by accident. Currently, I’m too scared to read any comments at all. It’s a minefield, I tell you. A minefield.

Okay. Next question. It’s all about the linkage, isn’t it? How do I get lots of people to link to me?
Well, that’s how to get people to your site mostly. Although not totally. I think if people link to you that’s great, and a lovely compliment but you can’t make them do it. I can’t believe that some new bloggers have actually pestered others to get them to link to them. I wouldn’t expect anyone on my blogroll to link back to me just because I’ve linked to them. And vice versa. Although I am meaning to link to Popplestone and can’t because I can’t remember my blogroll password at the moment. Blogroll: another handy doobery dah.

Why are you always on that site meter page and why does it make you cry?
Those little bits of javascript that you can pop into your template so you know how many visitors you getting? Are evil. I would advise against getting one because all you’ll do is spend the whole day looking at your summary page whimpering and wondering why no one is visiting. Is there anything more soul destroying that clicking on ‘Who’s On’ and being told that ‘There have been no visitors to your site in the last hour’? Don't do it.

Anyway. I’m over this now. It’s a stage you have to go through. Like turning off your comments box.

There are stages?
Yes. We’ll do an update at 200 posts.

Okay, I’ll check my diary. What about the competition?
There is no competition. Unless you have a clone who has a blog and posts the same things you do. Otherwise how can you possibly compare?

I read somewhere that there are over 35.3 million blogs online. I think this is a lie because this morning Technorati said I was ranked 337,561 in the blogosphere and if there actually were 35.3 million I’d be somewhere around 35.29 million. Before you start, I love Technorati and will hear no ill of them.

Any more handy hints, oh wise beginner?
My best tip is to say to yourself regularly ‘Woo wee, it’s only a blog.’ And also ignore everything in the papers or on the radio about blogging, unless it is an actual proper blogger talking. Don’t look at other people’s site meters. I never have, I can’t imagine why you would want to, but apparently it can be profoundly upsetting.

If you could start your blog again what would you do differently?
I would post for three months, maybe longer, with no site meter and no comments box for a while. I think that would have profoundly improved the quality of my experience. That's all really. Ever onwards. Etc.

No really, how do I get people to read my blog and how can I get people to come back when they do?
I don’t know. Honestly. Luck?

You’ve put me off now.
Oh no [exclamation mark] don’t be put off. Do persevere. In four years you could have lots of readers and loonygroupies, at least I think that’s what they are called. You could be on the radio, in the paper, all sorts given time. I love having my little corner of the Internet and messing about with it, accidentally deleting it all and having to rescue it. It’s great. It’s much less dangerous than windsurfing after all.

Right, I’m going to start a blog and get loads of attention and be in the paper and on the radio within a year.
Or you could audition for Big Brother. It would take less brain power and far less commitment.


Peter said...

Hiya Froosh. You make me feel so guilty, coming and going like that. But I didn't forget you, just didn't get round to doing your link till earlier today. And that was before I read today's wistful (but not really, as I sense you're well ahead of the game) post.

Do you want more commentage? Some of my high-comment pals get worn out and exasperated by the sycophancy and "off the planet-ness" of their groupies.

It's a strange old world, but fun. Loved your bit too about the best way to get a novel published is to write one. And that the people "outed" in the press tend not to be half man half dog I think you said.

mike said...

Last time I tried to leave a comment (on your "x is better than y" list thing), the comments system wouldn't let me. And of course, I hadn't CTRL-A/C'ed before hitting Publish. So I laboriously re-typed the whole, lengthy, and might I say pretty damned interesting comment, and hit Publish again, and still got an error. Which did rather put me off having another go. Until now, that is.

I can't imagine how off-putting it must be for a new blogger these days, starting out amidst all this constant talk of book deals and TV interviews and stuff. It wasn't like this at all five years ago, when I started. The Technorati of its day was called Blogdex. After a month or so of blogging, I had picked up maybe two external links - but that was still enough to place me higher on Blogdex then than I am on Technorati now.

Anyway, like Peter said, an astute summary...

Popplestone said...

Never mind sitemeter, Technorati on it's own is enough to depress me

(1,169,289 on Technorati)

Ossian said...


Ossian said...

oh god, what's the most intelligent seeming out-click. an open sitemeter is like...never mind what it's like, you're bad enough already.

i went to a really cool blog (i suppose you want the link now... here www.little-people.blogspot.com) and the sitemeter stats showed something like 11,000 visitors per day.