As I continue to sift through Scoble’s blogroll and call for good blogs to read, I read a lot of blogs. In fact, I have read hundreds of blogs in the past few months. I have found a lot of interesting blogs, and I have seen a lot of blogs fall into the death spiral of neglect. I have seen some great designs and some not so great designs. I have added quite a few blogs to my blogroll. Many have stayed on there, some have fallen off.
I’ve made it a point to note what it is about a blog that makes me start reading it regularly and ultimately add it to my blogroll. Here are five steps to good blogging. There are other things that help make a good blog, but to keep it simple, I have settled on the big five.
1) Know Your Topics and Add Original Content
By the time I find a blog, I’ve already seen links to the hot topics of the day. I want to read an original perspective from someone who has thought about the topic for more than the 30 seconds it takes to add a link to somebody else’s post. I want to know why conventional wisdom on a subject is right or why it’s wrong. Make me think about something in a new or different way.
There’s nothing wrong with a quick link to a particularly interesting post or a regular posting of interesting links- in fact equal opportunity linking is a requirement (see Step 4 below). Link posts are appreciated, but original thought is what gets a blog on my blogroll.
2) Don’t Be too Narrow or too Broad
I like blogs that contain posts on a fairly broad range of topics. My dream blog is some combination of tech, music, humor, movies, family life and current events. But any good mix that includes some stuff I care about will work. A broad selection of topics provides more opportunity for me to find something on a regular basis that really interests me, plus I get to learn about new things.
On the other hand, Step 1 requires that you know something about your primary areas of focus, so you can’t try to cover everything. If your coverage area is too broad, your blog looks like a mini-USA Today (which is fine, but there’s already a USA Today). If your coverage is too narrow, there’s not enough variety to keep my full attention. Stated another way, I will scan the headlines of a blog that’s very narrowly focused to see if there’s a post I want to read, but I am less likely to read or even skim every post.
Try to find the sweetspot, but if you have to err, err on the side of being broad.
3) Don’t Act Like a Rock Star, Because You Aren’t
Nobody likes people who are abundantly self-important in the real world, and the same rule applies in the blogosphere. Look, blogs are great- I am writing on one this very second. But at the end of the day, blogs are merely turbo-charged, online, public versions of the diary my daughter writes in and then goes to great lengths to hide from her siblings (if you are irritated at me after reading that, you may be a rock star in training).
So even if you’re the greatest blogger who ever lived, you’re still someone who writes a cyber-diary to share primarily with other cyber-diary writers. Most people I know (and most people you know) either have no idea what a blog is or think blogging is for nerds. If you start thinking you’re a big star just because a lot of other nerds read your online diary, you need to aim higher. Go outside.
There are lots of popular bloggers who fully get this. But there are also some who think they are celebrities and consider returning an email an autograph and acknowledging another blogger a great blessing.
4) Lead Me to Other Good Places; Be an Equal Opportunity Linker
I love blogs that do my work for me. Review a new product, or a book or movie. Tell me about new software I don’t know about. Be my online newspaper and lead me to good content. Memeorandum is the best at this. Tom Morris is great at it.
But don’t link exclusively to the sites I already know about. I read Om (509 days now without a link to Newsome.Org). I read Scoble. I read Steve Rubel (I am getting close to getting a link from Steve by earning my way up the hill). I’ve already read those blogs by the time I get to yours. So show me something I haven’t already seen.
Give me a link to someone I don’t read every day who has something interesting to say. Be an equal opportunity linker. There are a lot of other smart and funny people out there- help me find them.
5) Be a Person, Not a Website
While I read most of my content via Bloglines, I still think there is a place for web site content. Through sidebar photo feeds, music lists and other content, the blogger becomes a person to me, not just a website. Write sometimes about the movie you took your kids to see. Tell me about you- your background, your family, your triumphs and your challenges. Become real to me. That’s the essence of community building and it makes people feel connected by more than the occasional cross-link.
Those are the things that make a blog interesting to me.
What do you look for in a blog?