Kate Feld, Manchester-based writer and curator of The Manchizzle, gave a great seminar on Thursday 10th at the Cornerhouse Theatre.
The Art of Blogging taught us how to start a blog and what we needed to do to gather our all-important first readers.
Kate started by explaining the purpose of The Manchizzle, a site rounding up all of the Manchester-based blogs (Find Power is a State of Mind under Lit and Writing Blogs) with occasional posts about Manchester's blogging community. If you're a Manchester blogger, she says, get in touch through the blog and she'll add you on.
- Blog about your passion, Kate advised. If you're not interested in what you're talking about, your readers will notice. And they will not come back to your site.
- Add a Twitter widget to your blog. This will allow readers to communicate more easily, and will show people how you're communicating with others. At the moment this is broken for Blogger. Boo.
- Add an image to each post to break up the text. Like me, she tends to put the image at the top of the blog post. Use Flickr for copyright-free images. Flickr has a range of pictures with creative commons licenses, meaning you can use them for free provided you credit the owner. If you use a copyrighted image, the owner can make you pay for each day you've had the picture up.
Using the Advanced Search function, You can tick a box for creative commons-only pictures, meaning you won't get sued if you use them. Hmm. As Hunter S Thompson once said, many a fine book has been written in prison.
Taking your own pictures is a quick and easy way of getting around this problem.
- Kate gave a quick overview of the different blogging platforms available online. Blogger is the simplest, she says (I agree that it's simple). It works well with most kinds of multimedia. Wordpress is more customisable but hence more complicated. Posterous is good for mixing and linking with other social media platforms. Tumblr blogs are pretty but have no comment function.
- Once you've started your blog, you want people to read it. The next step: read other blogs. Comment on their posts. This makes a link back to your own blog, and page views follow. Include a blogroll on your blog, a list of links to other blogs that you like. (Side note- as PIASOM is partly about Manchester, I separated my blogroll into two lists- Manchester and worldwide.)
- Kate points out that allowing comments on your blog provides the opportunity for discussion regarding your writings, but as a blogger you need to check these comments thoroughly. If your blog becomes popular, it's possible that people with conflicting views could go head-to-head right underneath your latest post. Be ready to wade in / moderate comments if needs be. Kate cites her Blog Awards post as an example of when she stepped in on an increasingly heated debate about the blogging event.
- On the flipside, Kate says, NOT allowing comments on your blog raises a red flag. People wonder WHY you won't let people comment. People might assume you have something to hide.
- Add tags to each post- words that people may be searching for that relate to your work. Use a tag cloud on your site. This is a collection of links represented by key words, directing people to particular posts that may interest them.
- Links to other sites may break if said linked site shuts down. Using an online tool like Broken Link Check you can wean out any URLs that no longer link to the required site.
Kate used a few Manchester blogs as an example of the fine blogging happening in the city:
Fat Roland on Electronica, a music-based blog. Roland uses Soundcloud, a music site, to embed playable music files on his site. He also embeds Youtube music videos. Kate cites the importance of multimedia in blogging. After all, what's a music blog without music? And even if your blog isn't music-orientated, multimedia makes your blog a blog, not a collection of essays.
Who the Fudge is Benjamin Judge, the personal blog of a Rochdale-based writer.
Food Legend, written by David Bailey.
Skyliner, by Hayley Flynn, Investigating Manchester's top-level architecture.
Onward Manchester, by Kristian Jackson and Samantha Bradey, about the city's events.
Didsbury Life, a South Manchester-based hyper-local blog.
Ciara Leeming, a photography blog
Here are some shout-outs to some of the people who attended:
David Clough, of Autus Web Design & Marketing, providing websites for businesses.
Diana Kakkar, fashion designer and trend reporter writing at Londel Hi Fashion
Jacky Hall, writing about personal style, art, music and Manchester at Northwest is Best
Great meeting. Happy Blogging!