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How to Start a Blog, Part 2: Social Media Promotion

March 05, 2010
by Liz Colville
After getting a knack for blogging, most bloggers will need some tools, tricks and inspiration for gaining readers, which will motivate you to keep writing. (New to blogging? Read Part 1 of this series first.)

Make Use of Your Blog Host

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Most bloggers use a host like WordPress or TypePad to write posts and customize their blogs; learn more about choosing a blog platform in Part 1 of this article series. Your blog host can often help you form a network of bloggers, which can act as your support system as you look for regular readers and encouragement from others in the business of blogging. Blogger, WordPress and TypePad all have systems that allow you to connect with, or “follow,” other bloggers who use these platforms.

Connect with Twitter and Facebook

With many blog platforms, you can also integrate your blog on Twitter and Facebook. In other words, when you write a post, a link to it will show up in your Facebook and Twitter feeds for your friends, colleagues and followers to see. You can also do this manually, customizing a headline or comment about your post and then sharing a link.

If you want your posts to automatically feed into your Twitter account, try the free, easy-to-use service Twitterfeed.

Another Twitter tip: Track your traffic from Twitter to your blog by using the URL shortening service bit.ly, which is actually far more than a URL shortener. With a free bit.ly account you’ll be able to see all your links in a list, as well as a live feed of how many clicks they get. You’ll also see where visitors are coming from and whether other Twitter users have posted (or “retweeted”) your links. If you need an even shorter URL, bit.ly created j.mp for that purpose.

Confused about URL shorteners? Read bit.ly’s “About” section for a quick explanation.

For Facebook, use the “Notes” application to import blog posts so that they show up automatically in your Facebook activity feed. Get step-by-step instructions from a post on the blog Inside Facebook, “How to Import Your Blog Into Facebook.”

Search Engine Optimization

TypePad has suggestions applicable to all bloggers in an article called “10 Ways to Optimize Your Blog for Search” (search engine optimization means improving the presence and placement of your blog in search engine results). The tips include submitting your blog to search engines; writing clear, relevant blog post titles; and encouraging others to link to your blog. Though a search engine’s staff might find and index your blog without you asking them to, you’ll speed up the process by submitting it yourself. TypePad’s article explains how to do this.

Pinging

A “ping” is essentially an alert that notifies a search engine that you have published new content. It helps feed your blog to an even wider audience than if you just took the steps mentioned in the previous sections. Use a service such as Ping-o-Matic to send a ping to dozens of search engines, both general and niche.

Note: Sometimes you might use a ping service and get a message saying your blog has already been pinged recently; this is probably because your blog host has pinged the new post for you. This function can usually be set up in the settings section of your blog.

RSS

RSS (Really Simple Syndication) is another means of getting your blog posts to a wider audience. With an RSS feed, your blog posts can be syndicated, whether on an RSS reader like Google Reader, an application like Facebook Notes, or even in someone’s e-mail. RSS allows people to get easily digestible headlines and full-text blog entries and articles all in one place. Learn more about how RSS works by watching Common Craft’s video, “RSS in Plain English.” 

Use a site such as Google FeedBurner to get an RSS address for your blog. This will enable others to “subscribe” to your blog feed. Feeds can be displayed on the sidebar of a blog, in headline form; in a widget; or in a reader like Google Reader or Netvibes. With many readers, blog posts appear as full text on those sites, but they also link to the original post on your blog.

Social Bookmarking

There are numerous social bookmarking sites out there; some cater to a bevy of different links and multimedia around the Web, and some are categorized by topic, or have groups and networks within the site to help you organize your bookmarks and contacts. Bloggers who want to expand their knowledge of social bookmarking sites should check out Search Engine Journal's list of 125 social bookmarking sites. But to get started, try just a handful of the most popular: Reddit, StumbleUpon, Delicious, Digg and Diigo.

We'll look closer at these and other sites in the third installment of this series, which covers social networks. In the meantime, read Mashable's article, "Twitter, Facebook Digg: Can You Join Too Many Networks?" to learn how to manage your presence on such sites.
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