I’ll recap the Fifteen Ways here with some comments mixed in:
1. Blog because you want to
Robert pushed Maryam to blog for quite a while and she resisted because she felt she wasn’t a geek. She didn’t start blogging until she really wanted to, and now Robert complains about what she blogs about. She compared it to a parent who can’t wait for their baby to start talking, and then when they’re a kid chatting away they want them to be quiet.
Robert said if he didn’t want to be writing about what he does, he wouldn’t be able to stay up until 2 am writing posts and interacting with his audience. “If I was doing it for $20 a post without an interest in my subject I couldn’t do it.”
2. Read other blogs
Find the blogs you like and read them for inspiration. Those blogs also will be the ones you’re most likely to build link relationships with.
Maryam: “Another reason I started blogging is because I’d go to conferences or meet people and they’d tell me they’d want to read my blog, and I enjoyed reading theirs so it made sense to start my own.”
3. Pick a niche you can own (be different)
Robert said “It’s a Google world”. He noticed that while he was in Montana meeting with a lot of non-geek people that people used the computers by just using the search field to interact with the computer. Matt Cutts told him that one of Google’s most popular search terms is “Yahoo”. And the same situation is true that one of Yahoo’s top search terms is “Google”.
What this means to Robert is that mainstream users are finding sites through search, and by focusing on a niche you can gain traction in search engines to get traffic. He used the example of a user who has broken pipes in Seattle coming to Google and typing in “seattle plumbing”. If you can blog often about plumbing in Seattle you’d very likely be the top search results.
An audience member pointed out to Robert that his blog is in a very difficult niche being that it’s about technology where there are many early adopter models. But Robert responded giving TechCrunch as an example that is a newer blog that focused on a part of that niche (startups, Web 2.0 companies) and basically has rocketed to the top of the tech blog world as a whole.
Maryam gave an example of a woman she met at BlogHer that was writing a blog about the London Underground. Maryam considered that a pretty boring topic at the time, but when the London Underground bombing happened this blogger rose in popularity and became an authority. Maryam continues to read her blog as it’s actually very interesting talking about “London Underground fashion victims”, interesting stories, and things along those lines.
4. Link to other blogs
Robert led this off talking about Apple having some problems, and Robert using linking to get their attention by linking to them and them seeing it in their referrer logs.
Maryam pointed out that bloggers are generally egotistical, so they look at their referrer list and see who’s writing about them. If you want to get a blogger’s attention and potentially get a link, write about them and they’ll notice it.
Dave Taylor of AskDaveTaylor.com asked if he could pin Robert down. He mentioned how Jason Calacanis talked about that people can become an A-list blogger if they want and have some talent, and how if you’re not on it you suck. Dave asked Robert if there is an A-list, and Robert said there was, and that it’s okay because anyone can get on it if they have interesting things to say. It led to a mini-discussion where people debated if someone can get on the A-list being a one-hit wonder. Finally another audience member pointed out that the A-list doesn’t matter if your blog is near the top of your topic. Robert agreed and pointed out that a plumber doesn’t want to be on the technology A-list blogosophere, he wants to be #1 in the plumbing blogosphere.
5. Admit mistakes
Maryam led off with saying one of the reasons she didn’t want to start blogging was because of the negative comments or abuse Robert received on his blog if he made a mistake. Like in real life, admitting that you made a mistake is the best way out of it.
Robert appreciates it when bloggers admit mistakes, apologize, and change their behavior.
6. Write good headlines
Robert said he sees things changing a bit in our behavior in reading blogs. Instead of subscribing to a bunch of wine blog feeds, he is now subscribing to a Technorati feed for wine and reading the headlines for posts that are interesting regardless of what blog it’s on.
The headline should be interesting to catch people’s eyes so they want to read it, and if they include keywords that their users might be searching for it can obviously help your posts show up in search results.
7. Use other media
Robert said one aspect of TechCrunch that helped Arrington succeed was using logos and images in each post. Robert posts mainly text, and he wished he spent more time. Robert said he thinks bloggers who use audio, video, and pictures can help improve their blogs and rise in prominence. It can be an advantage over competitive blogs.
An audience member pointed out a study that people read 30% slower online than offline, and if you add pictures it actually allows people to read faster and keep them engaged. Halley Suitt pointed out Busblog.com and their great use of pictures of sexy women in the blog, even though the pictures don’t have anything to do with the post.
8. Have a voice
Robert tries to write just how he’d talk. He imagines that he’s just talking to his wife or a geek friend.
9. Get outside the blogosphere
Go to parties, conferences, events, and get out and talk to people. Make relationships with other bloggers, meet them face to face, and you’ll be much more likely to get links and readers. Robert said this was how the first A-list was really formed, by a group of bloggers who all became friends and linked to each other after meeting at parties and conferences.
Robert said that this is where PR people go wrong, they just try to email him pitches for products. But he met Stuart Butterfield of Flickr in the hallway at a conference when Flickr was just starting and he wrote about Flickr after meeting Stuart and checking it out.
10. Market yourself
Don’t be afraid to promote yourself and your blog. Maryam told a funny story of when her blog was mentioned as one of MSN’s top blogs and was featured on the MSN home page. She went to Robert and told him she had 40,000 visits that day, and Robert deadpanned and said “That’s because I linked to you.”
Robert mentioned how he often looks at business cards after conferences and meetings and noticed many bloggers don’t even include their URLs on their business cards. He was the first Microsoft employee to put his blog URL on his business cards. He said that alone caused conversations within employees there and got his blog more readers. It’s small little touches like that which can make a difference over time. An audience member pointed out that many companies have their main website URL on all their materials, but never their blog. Many companies get a lot of referrers back and forth between their blog and website, so why not promote both?
An audience member mentioned that advertising wasn’t mentioned as one of the tips, and Robert pointed out that for most bloggers advertising through Adwords or other means may not be profitable for bloggers. Personally I think this depends on how the blogger is monetizing their blog. If they are using the blog to sell products or services, it can make sense. If they’re relying on advertising or not menetizing at all, then spending money on advertising is probably a losing proposition.
11. Write well
Use spellchecking and proof your post before actually publishing it. Make sure your thoughts make sense. An audience member said writing well is hard for some people, so at their company they suggest that if people struggle with writing that they do a linkblog, photoblog, or videoblog to still get some thoughts out and publish. Robert also pointed out a crazy idea that people could try and get educational help on becoming a better writer by taking a class, reading books about writing, and working at improving.
12. Expose yourself
Don’t just write a safe blog. Blogs that read like press releases aren’t engaging or interesting. Spice it up by showing some personality and maybe a little bit of your personal life. Robert said if a few posts out of 100 are about your interests, it lets your readers get to know you without boring them as well. Move the needle towards the “interesting” over the “safe”.
13. Help other people blog
Robert pointed out that Dave Winer has helped a lot of people learn to blog, and that’s come back to him by getting more links and relationships with bloggers.
14. Engage with commenters
Participating in conversations on other blogs grows your reputation and can get people clicking on your link to come back to your blog to read more of what you have to say. Additionally, I’d add that you should engage with people commenting on your own blog as well.
15. Keep your integrity
Dave Winer told Robert to keep his integrity when he started blogging, and he didn’t know what he really meant at the time. Now he realizes it’s really about disclosure and treating people well. If you take free products to review them, disclose it. If your blog has a commercial focus or motive, disclose it and be honest about it. There are lots of examples of things like the Wal-Mart/Edelman incident when pretending you’re something else is dangerous.
Robert said he has his phone number on his blog so that people can call him for opportunities or to ask questions. He said he probably gets 4 calls a day, and the majority of the time it’s a good reason. He’s gotten on TV in the BBC because his phone number was there and the PR firm’s phone number wasn’t easy to find. Extreme Home Makeover also got a hold of him on a Saturday while he was playing mini-golf saying they were doing a house in his area and they needed to get computers by Monday but couldn’t get a hold of anyone, and to see if Robert can make it happen. He made it happen and got some good PR for the company out of it.