Sisterly Advice for New Bloggers

A couple of weeks ago my family and I all received an email from my brother, informing the family that he had decided to start a blog. I was overjoyed to welcome him to the blogosphere and was glad that, as an already talented writer, he decided to try his hand at a new medium.

Then, the other day, I received another email from my brother, this time asking me how exactly to get his blog ‘out there.’ And there you have it, the age-old question (or at least digital age-old question): Now that you’ve decided to write about something, how do you get people to read it?

The following is the email I sent him in reply:

Dear —-,

The bad news: There is no easy, one-step magic trick to getting a blog
“out there.”
The good news: Your problem is exactly the sort of work that I’m
looking for a career in, so I’d be happy to try my hand at helping you out.

Basically, what you’re asking about is Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
People make careers out of driving traffic to websites, but alas you
are not a multi-million dollar corporation and I am but a mere novice
in the ways of SEO. Still, I’ll do my best to give you some quick and
easy tips, especially ones that I have followed with my own blog.

Now, keep in mind, my blog is no best-seller. It took me months to
get the limited readership that I have. Yes, sad but true, the basic rule of thumb is
that increasing traffic will take time– perhaps not months, but time
nonetheless.

First off, I hate to admit it to you, but don’t forget that in all
actuality, your blog’s premise isn’t unique (Sorry. Harsh. I know.) In
fact, you would be hard put to find any topic to write a blog on that
would be unique nowadays. It is the content, rather, that
sets a blog apart.

So let’s get down to the nitty-gritty and I’ll give you some basic SEO
techniques:

1) Link your social media: I noticed you have already used Facebook to
publicize your blog, now go a step further. I suggest making a unique
Twitter account for your blog. You can then feature your tweets right
on your website. Also, you’ll be reaching a completely different
audience.  I also have a Tumblr, which you might want to look
into. There are also YouTube accounts, Stumbled Upon, Flickr, Digg,
MySpace, even LinkedIn. Whatever your feel will work best for you. And
then– connect!

2) Search Phrases: Use unique and specific tags for your posts. When
you just label something as ‘video games’ or ‘books,’ imagine the
number of search results that show up before your own. Be specific and
feel free to be liberal with the amount of tags you have. Also, the
words on the site itself all are put into some crazy mathematical
equation that determines your sequence in search results. I’ve found
that people have been driven to my site even by the words used in
images that I post. You can figure these things out by looking at your
WordPress stats. So be creative and feel free to be wordy.

3) Keep your content fresh, relevant, and user-friendly: Seems simple
enough, true, but just keep it in mind. Make sure that when a person
stumbles upon you after searching, they are getting exactly what they
are searching for. As far as keeping content fresh– you seem to be
doing that well. One thing I will point out is the ‘user-friendly’
aspect. Try not to let your posts get too looooong. While for some blog
readers, that’s not a problem, for others is a major deterrent. It’s
overwhelming to scroll down the length of a page and see that the post
you are (or were) about to read is much lengthier than you had
expected. I understand you’re not used to writing for this specific
format, but just keep in mind that it is a different format. Just like
you wouldn’t write a novel like a lab report, or vice versa, you don’t
write a blog post like a novel. I highly suggest looking at one of my
posts for further instructions on this front
(https://tessarickart.wordpress.com/2011/02/22/10-tips-of-blogging-tip-taking-blogger/).

4) Reciprocate: I know that you said you’ve been scouring the
blogosphere and to that I say: carry on. Also, comment back when you
do get comments. Visit other blogs and comment. If you see posts that
relate back to your own, comment and suggest that they take a look at
one of your posts (see my stealthy use of this tactic above).

I hope some of these ideas help. Like I said before, it’s not an
overnight process. It takes work and time. Just don’t become
discouraged. Stick to it.


Your fellow blogger,
Tessa

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The Permanency of a Digital Legacy

Around the time of her 80th birthday, my Grandmother decided to write down her memoirs. Not for publication or as some sort of formal biography, but simply as a keepsake for the family. Having been born in 1919, she lived through a time of major changes and, whether kin or not, it’s hard to not find her stories fascinating. After reading them more recently, I began to wonder about my own legacy. Sure, it seems a bit morbid, but it’s hard not to wonder what you will leave behind after you’re gone.

That’s when I realized that, unlike my Grandmother, much of my life and experiences have already been recorded in perhaps an even more permanent format than ink and paper. Yes, I’m talking about the internet.

Over the years, I’ve had multiple blogs, some for school and some for personal use; social media accounts, ranging from the now-dated MySpace to the ever-popular Facebook; accounts at numerous sites, from shopping to gaming; papers or pieces published in online formats; and of course, any bit of local news with my name in it can also be found in the great online archive. So you see, if years from now my ancestors decide to look into who I was, they need go no further than the nearest computer.

Certainly there’s something less romantic about memoirs from the digital age, but perhaps the most frightening thing to take away from this is the permanency of all our online (and offline) actions.

In 2010, Twitter announced that the Library of Congress would be digitally archiving the tweets of all the site’s users since its inception in 2006. Phew, what a relief– years from now my ancestors can view my attempts at being witty with a 140 character limit. What exactly will they learn from this officially documented data? Well, they’ll find out I’m a bit of a complainer, not all that funny, and kind of boring. Of course, while sifting through the thousands of trivial tweets, they may come across some of my activities and opinions– you know, the kind of things one actually puts in a memoir.

But what about my other social media accounts? Well, I’m not sure if the Library of Congress has any claims of ownership on my Facebook, but then again there’s no telling what sticks around after you pass on. In fact, this has actually become a major concern for individuals– what happens to one’s online accounts after they die?

Sites such as Facebook and Twitter actually have policies set in place to deal with this and, with the proper proof, loved ones can delete the accounts of the deceased. In some cases, they can also choose to memorialize the account instead. Other accounts, such as those on PayPal or Gmail, also have systems in place to deal with such issues.

To make things a bit easier, it is becoming more and more common for individuals to make a Digital Will in which they leave instructions on the proper steps to be taken with digital accounts after the person’s death. There are also services, such as Legacy Locker, that store all of the information– passwords, usernames–for loved ones to access in the case of death.

So sure, there are plenty of steps to take in order to clear away some of your digital disarray, but there’s no way to completely erase your online presence. Then there’s always the fact that many people, myself included, don’t really care much what happens to those accounts after our passing. I mean, I’m dead and gone, what do I care if Amazon.com still has my order history on record. But then again, I also don’t have anything to hide…do you?

And that’s what it comes down to: our lives are out there, on the internet, and with just a little bit of digging, any number of things can be found out about us. And the scariest part is the permanency of it all.

So here I am, writing my memoirs every time I tweet, or comment on Facebook, or write a blog post. Look at me, I think I just wrote a whole chapter of my memoirs right here and now.

So what do you think? Is your digital legacy something you would like to try to erase, or just another chapter in your memoirs?