HomePostsOct 23, 2008

Good advice to a client about building a blog from the ground up

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I built a blog a couple weeks ago for a very talented teacher and graffiti artist who stays here in San Diego. We were both excited to create something that could easily hold updates and be a central place for fans and potential clients. It has an urban feeling but is still classy, well-laid-out, and very functional.

So, now he’s got this blog. How does he build this blog up. The actual question:

ok so my blog is hooked up how do i send it and link it to other peoples sites ... get it out there?

This is a key question, especially for someone who wants to use the internet to gain a bit of exposure. His current web presence is very static and not easy to maneuver at all. The blog was my idea and, by the time I had explained it to him, he loved it.

So, here’s what I told him, appended after the fact with a bit more information.

Spread the word, my friend.

First things first, send an email to every email address you’ve got. Tell them about it, what it’s there for, and they they should expect to see. Even better, announce your intentions ON the blog itself as well.

Activate that friend and family network, that is step one. The people close to you and your existing fans want to hear more than anyone else how and what you are doing. The great part about running a blog that is tied into your personal life is that the news of your life can be slightly re-purposed and presented publicly. I like to use this site as somewhere I can announce what I’ve got going on and really analyze them completely. For me, writing about something either gels it in my head or it removes it completely. Sometimes I’ve got too much to say about something and can’t stop typing – these topics are ones I explore further and continually write about. Then, sometimes I think I’ve got something to say and I can’t write anything – these topics are ones I can forget about.

I’m digressing a bit (surprise, surprise) but the first thing to do is to send an email to every email address you have in your mail programs (that you can match up with a name). Here are a few resources to export your contacts:

When you write, make sure to use the words you expect people to use when they search for what you do. Think of what words people might be using to find people who do what you do, feel me? For example, you teach graffiti techniques so think of the phrases people might be using to find that (“graffiti class” “graffiti classes San Diego” “can control” “how to write graffiti”). Be descriptive in your title and in heading text. Let me know if I lost you on that.

This is speaking to keyword research. I’m planning a few articles on how I do keyword research in the near future so I’m not going to go into depth but the KEY is this: you want to use words that people will use to search for what you have. This is confusing at first but pay attention and you’ll get it.

You probably use a specific set of words to describe what you do for people (in terms of your product, your service, your art, your instruction, etc). You use words that make sense to you and that paint an accurate picture of what you do. Now, imagine someone with whom you had coffee and to whom you explained your whole shebang needed to explain your shebang to someone else. Now, what if that next person needed to do the same. If you got two or three (maybe even the first one too) away from the original conversation, the words being used to describe what you do are not the words that YOU used originally. This is the first step towards understanding how to pick keywords.

So, for example, I might describe myself as a technology generalist, a tamer of technology, or a tech strategist, there are very few (read: no) people searching for this on the internet (yet). For my keywords, I need to pick things that people will search for to find me. These might be “build a web presence” or “design a personal web page” or “company email marketing.” I need to find words that people use to find the services that I’m offering.

Next, you’re going to want to try and find people who are doing similar or related things on the web and participate in what they’ve got going on. Go here http://blogsearch.google.com and start plugging in words that pertain to what you do. Do the same in regular Google. Start commenting on blogs, posting in forums, and connecting online. Also, sign up for Facebook if you haven’t already.

I’m talking about blatant and targeted self-promotion. Ready to virtually network?

I’ll say this: there are a million ways to go about this but, from personal experience, there is nothing more boring, unsatisfying, and time-wasting then spending several hours a day promoting yourself to people you don’t know. It’s boring because it’s repetitive, it’s unsatisfying because there’s a million other schmucks doing the same thing, and it’s time-wasting because it takes your attention away from the important things in life: relationship and creation.

I use Twitter (now) because I find a lot of great links, get some helpful information, and really enjoy the format and portability (I can add widgets to several other websites). I use Facebook because I have a lot of friends on there, it keeps me in touch with school people, and it makes me feel closer to home. I use LinkedIn because I see a lot of potential and meet some interesting people on there. I also use these tools to gently promote what I’m doing but that’s NOT the major reason I’m on any of those sites.

Read and comment on blogs because you like what someone had to say or this is a person you’d like to meet locally. I tried the “blatant self-promotion” half-heartedly for a month and found myself feeling like a blithering douche. This is why I don’t do “networking events” or anything like that. I like to talk to people that I respect, are interested in, or just like for no good reason. It’s very difficult for me (thought possible) to socialize with people simply to build the number of connections I have. I know this might be a great way to make sales or climb the ladder but it’s not interesting.

To be seen and heard online, you don’t need to trick people, you need to offer information and content that is unique, interesting, and useful. If you feel like it, just start writing about art, making art, what the experience means to you, what you learned the other day. You don’t need to write a diary but put words down that you would be likely to say to aspiring artists. Your blog will start doing its job if you’re making it important to you and start thinking “hmmm, that should go on my blog.” What starts out as somewhat of a chore eventually becomes an important piece of your day-to-day.

This is the kind of self-promotion that I do.

I’m not looking to trick someone into clicking on a link and reading my blog just so my Google stats look better. I’m also not interested in writing for a bigger audience about shit I don’t care about. I didn’t feel exactly like this a year ago but it’s what I’ve settled into. I’ll play the SEO game a bit, I’ll optimise my blog as much as possible, and I’ll spend time picking out keywords but, in terms of actual content, I’m going to write what I want to write… it’s the only way it gets done.

I used to write a blog about sustainable transportation. I followed the news religiously, went to events, and revelled in my own green lifestyle. It was fun, I got a few clicks, and made a few e-friends. But, after some time, it wasn’t much fun for me to stay on top of things. I enjoyed reading about it more than I did writing about it. Also, there were other much bigger, much more powerful blogs doing what I did only better. I became a aggregator for some of their content with a bit of commentary on top.

Now, I write about my career, what I’m learning, what I’m doing, and how this can help other people. I’m building this up slowly and still struggling to find my voice. However, like when I started the other blog, the words are just pouring out of me. I don’t have to sit in front of a monitor and STRUGGLE to find the words to say. I write about the web and science and tech and what I’m doing and it just feels natural.

Blogging, now, is a release for me rather than a chore. This is the only way to keep a blog going. It might even be a good thing not to monitor your audience (if you’re not interested in making money from advertisements). It’s like dieting without a scale: the depression of not losing weight can easily outweigh (har har) the elation of losing a couple pounds.

So, that’s my honest take on starting a blog from scratch. Do it because you like it and don’t assume you don’t like it because you have no idea what you’re doing. Really put yourself into it, find your voice, and screw what others are doing. Then, make sure the most amount of people know about what you’re doing in ways that are sustainable for your life.

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Writing + Publishing

Oct 27, 2008

A beautiful day, a piece of pressboard, some Montana Gold, and an illustration

I finally got around to throwing up some paint in my graffiti class. It had been a while since I last held a can and, because the last go-around was so disappointing, I was afraid it might happen again.