Much as I like WordPress, the ethos and mission can be mixed. The anti-creative tagging business and how to get Freshly Pressed are problematic; on the other hand, I’m more than happy for their selection process to be unashamedly, unapologetically subjective and based on individual reading. “Get Personality” is, amusingly, about picking themes. “What’s Your Style?” at WP’s own The Daily Post blog is, um, weak and naff. Considering that one of WP’s strengths is their very well-written, often wry and witty instructional / help material. And yes, there’s compulsory stuff about How To Make Your Blog Bigger. Alas, we’re still living in the Viagra-paradigm age.
Mind you, as mentioned before (and I hope it’s so blindingly obvious that you’re kicking me) we live in a complicated world, in complicated ways. Overall, I’ve been happy with them and how they work; and though I’ve also used other blogging platforms over the years, WP are the people I’ve been with the longest and with whom I’ve been the most content. I first shifted from old static websites to blogs in 2003, on Movable Type, and moved to WP in 2007; this blog has been on WP (with a mirror-site on Blogger) since 2011.
Anyway. Over to WP for the rest of this post, punctuated by visual commentary from early xkcd (much earlier than WP’s topical tips, no relation to them; or, When Worlds Collide). The good, the bad, and the ugly; I still think more of the first, but over to you the reader. The introductory posts may be the most interesting: why read? why write? why blog? what’s the point of it all?
WordPress.com is a hosting platform that makes it easy for anyone to publish online. […] Here at WordPress.com, you don’t have to download software, pay for hosting, or manage a web server. You can instead focus on creating wonderful content, and let us handle the rest! WordPress.com is a great choice for bloggers, photographers, artists, plumbers, doctors, restaurateurs — almost anyone.
At WordPress.com, you can build the site of your dreams in no time. […]
You’ve got a blog: huzzah! Now, it’s time to make it the next internet sensation. Whether you want to be a WordPress.com pro or just need to get the hang of the basics, you’ve come to the right place. We’ve got you covered from sign up to custom design to publishing your first post — and then some.
To go from gumshoe to guru […]
Whew! Signup, configuration, customization, publishing, photos, and video, oh my! By now, you have a great looking site chock full of compelling content, so we’re done, right? Nope: having this site is about more than just publishing. On WordPress.com, we want you to share your content with the world, discover others in the community with similar interests, and use the tools available to you to create more and better. If a blog is written on the internet and no one reads it, does it really exist? Okay, yes, it probably does, but wouldn’t it be preferable if someone did read it? That’s what Get Connected is all about. […]
If you’re like the many others who signed up for a WordPress.com account, you want to blog — to write, create, and share your thoughts and ideas — because you want to be part of a bigger community. You want to connect with people who care about the same things you do, and you want them to find you — otherwise, you’d just keep a private diary.
Once you get up the nerve to hit Publish for the first time, you might find that publishing a post may be the easy part, while getting others — often strangers — to engage with you is tougher. […]
One of the best ways to strengthen the fabric of the blogosphere is adding your own comments. It’s an easy way to engage with fellow bloggers and contribute to an ongoing discussion. […]
Commenting is an integral part of blogging — and all part of the fun. You leave comments on other blogs not only to respond to what you’ve read, but to build connections with bloggers who post on ideas and topics that you care about and network with people from all corners of the blogosphere.
That being said, some commenters are more effective at this than others — you still have to say something worth reading. Here are some tips being a comment pro:
- Read thoroughly. Before commenting, read the entire post and the other comments before adding yours. First off, reading all the way through (hopefully) keeps you from saying anything off-base. Second, If a conversation is already underway, in some cases it may make more sense to reply directly to someone else’s comment.
- Contribute something of value. Add something meaningful to move the discussion forward. Avoid a general “great post!” or “thanks for writing this!” response. That is, sure, tell them they’re great — and then add something. Of substance. A meaty reply is more likely to attract the blogger of the post — and other commenters — to your own site.
- Keep your comment bite-sized. If you have a lot to say on something you’ve read, leave a brief comment, then add a link to a post on your own blog where you’ve replied to or expanded on the topic at hand — it’s a clever way to engage readers who share your interests. If a comment stretches into multiple paragraphs, you’ve probably got a post on your hands.
- Avoid shameless plugs. Don’t just leave a link to your blog in a comment — it’ll likely be deleted. Your username links back to your site anyway, so there’s no need for a redundant plug. That said, be sure your user details — especially your website address — are current in your personal settings by going to Users >> Personal Settings and scrolling down to Account Details.
- Show yourself off. Upload an eye-catching Gravatar, which is the image that will appear next to your name across WordPress.com blogs and other sites and comment forums. Most people will be more moved to click on your smiling face (or cat photo, or drawing, or. . . ) than on a generic icon. (You can also edit this public profile in your dashboard by going to Users >> My Profile.)
Follow these quick tips, and you’ll begin to connect with people with similar interests and attract new readers to your site. Above all, be patient, be respectful, and be yourself! Whether you are smart, witty, or just plain bizarre — be you. We’re drawn to the blogosphere because we want to read and interact with real people; if we just wanted news, we’d head to CNN.
One of the best ways to attract new visitors to your blog is to write high-quality content frequently, but there are also a multitude of ways to spread the word about your site. [… this is a version of the next item…]
Want more traffic? Here are some tips for attracting more visitors to your site:
Tell people in your social networks about your new post.
You can do this using WordPress.com’s Publicize feature, which will automatically tell your Twitter followers and Facebook friends as soon as you publish a new post. You can find more ideas in our Social Tools support pages.
Make your content visible to search engines
If you want your post to be indexed by search engines such as Google and Bing, you should set your blog privacy settings to make your blog visible to all search engines. The internet is full of theories as to how you can raise your post’s visibility in search rankings: none will contest that good quality original content with a few well-chosen tags is the best way to get started.
Pay for traffic to your site
Web applications like StumbleUpon can bring visitors to your posts with rates starting at $.10 per visit. If you’ve just published a great post and you really want some feedback from visitors, this can be a good way to get the ball rolling.
Companies that are looking for broader distribution of their posts, including getting their content in front of journalists, may want to try services from companies such as PR Newswire.
Bug your real-life friends
Encourage friends and family to read your blog: send them reminder emails when you update and talk to them about it when you meet in person. Better still, encourage them to sign up for updates using the Follow Blog Widget. Often having a really small audience of people you care about is better than having a million visitors and not knowing any of them.
Use appropriate tags
Attach appropriate categories and tags to your entries and people may find your blog through those. Our link recommendation feature can help you find good tags (it also recommends photos and articles you can use in your blog post). Be careful not to use too many tags though — less than 15 tags (or categories or both) is a good number. The more tags you use, the less likely your post will be featured in the WordPress.com Reader.
Read and comment on other blogs
Check out Freshly Pressed or our Topics to find the people that care about the same stuff that you do. Then subscribe to their blog and get to know them a bit. When you see an article that interests you, click through to their site and leave a comment with your thoughts.
Link to other blogs
Just like you love getting links, so do other folks. (Remember, blogging is all about people.) When you link to another blogger or blog entry they’ll often find your blog through their stats, Technorati, or a pingback and come to see what you had to say. If you’re interesting, they may even subscribe to you and leave comments just as we suggested you do above.
Let people know about your entries
If you have a blog entry that you wrote with someone in mind, feel free to drop them a short email with a link to it.
WARNING: This only works if used very sparingly, maybe once a month per blogger. Remember, you don’t want to annoy anyone or seem like spam.
Blogs that have more frequent and regular posting schedules tend to develop an audience quicker. If you need inspiration, check out the Daily Post or view today’s Freshly Pressed posts to check out some of the best of WordPress.com and learn how you can be featured on the homepage.
Relax, it takes time
Even if you do all of the above religiously, you probably won’t develop a huge following overnight. Like anything worth doing, building a sizable audience takes time. Many of the bloggers you admire have probably been at it for at least a year. Stick with it, and don’t get discouraged by a slow start — everyone starts slow.
Size doesn’t matter
Finally, remember that it’s not the size of your audience, it’s how much you care about them and they care about you.
Every day, we hand-pick eight new blog posts to highlight on the Freshly Pressed section of WordPress.com. Freshly Pressed posts can be about anything, but they all have a few things in common: they enlighten us, inspire us, entertain us, and get us talking.
Why should you care about being Freshly Pressed?
Well, why do we blog in the first place? For most of us, it’s to share our ideas with and be part of a larger community. Getting promoted to Freshly Pressed is a major traffic win that helps you with both. WordPress.com receives a huge number of page views every day (and we have a feed set up to make it easy for folks to follow our Freshly Pressed picks) so being highlighted exposes your post to a wide audience and brings you a flock of engaged new readers.
Why do we do all this? It’s our way of saying we like you. We really like you. You do incredible things on WordPress every day, and it gives us the warm fuzzies when we’re able to share them.
A few preliminaries:
- There are half a million of you and a handful of us, and we’re scouring the blogosphere day in and day out. If we don’t find you, it’s nothing personal – promise. Keep writing, and we’ll keep looking.
- We’re real people with different perspectives and tastes, so we’re drawn to different content. And we love feedback, so if a Freshly Pressed post feels really off-base to you, let us know!
We know what you’re thinking now: “My blog is pretty awesome; how do I get Freshly Pressed?” It’s all about the content. (Well, mostly.) Here are our top tips for increasing your odds, along with links to resources to boost your blogging prowess:
Write unique content that’s free of bad stuff.
Each post that makes it to Freshly Pressed contains original content created by the user. You thought it up, you wrote it out. It’s your brainchild.
Does this mean you can’t reference other sites? Not at all. We encourage it; it’s part of participating in the larger conversation. Just be sure to give credit where credit is due. Use quotation marks or block quotes when quoting others, and include links to any articles you mention. If you’re unsure, refer to our tips for citing others appropriately.
Bad stuff includes (but isn’t limited to) plagiarism (yes, we check!), hate speech, fear-mongering, adult/mature content, copyrighted images that belong to someone else, spam or content that’s primarily advertorial in nature. Curses are not necessarily bad as long as they’re not gratuitous; go for impact, not shock value.
Have a point of view.
Sure, we care about the facts, but we can get the facts from hundreds of sites. We read your blog because we want to know what you have to say. We’re more likely to be sucked into a post that has a strong point of view, and the rest of the WordPress community is too.
Freshly Pressed posts make people think and provoke a response. That means they have opinions, and they’re not afraid to defend them intelligently (see: no bad stuff or hate speech). Don’t just rehash the conversation – add to it.
Ready for more? Learn how to write effectively about controversy.
Don’t be afraid of your voice.
Not everyone approaches their blog in the same way, and that’s a good thing. Some posts are stream-of-consciousness, some are formal essays, some are dialogues, some are poetry, and some are none of the above. (Not sure what your style is? Maybe we can help.)
No matter what your voice is, there will be someone drawn to it. Sure, you could try to please everyone, but that (1) never works and (2) isn’t fun. Embrace your own style.
Paint us a picture.
Although not every topic can be illustrated, we believe most blog posts can and should have a visual element. (In fact, every post on the Freshly Pressed page has an accompanying thumbnail.) A captivating image helps tell your story and can draw in a reader who might have otherwise passed you by. An image isn’t mandatory, but it’s a nice plus.
We love original photos (the bigger the better!). If you don’t have any of your own, there are lots of options available through Creative Commons searches and stock photo sites. Be sure to properly credit the original source (Zemanta takes care of this for you – click on the thumbnail, left). Video rocks, too.
Don’t know where to start? Visit “Get Flashy” over at Learn.WordPress.com. For more great tips, read Three Ways to Make Your Blog More Visually Appealing.
Make it easy on the eyes.
It doesn’t matter how fantastic your content is – if it’s difficult to read, it’s not going to get read. Here are some key elements of readability:
Keep paragraphs short. Readers are overwhelmed by huge chunks of text. Is your paragraph more than 8-10 lines long? Read it again, and see if you can separate the ideas or eliminate unnecessary words.
Break up your text. Using headings or bulleted lists makes it easier for folks to scan dense content.
Stick with left justification. Why?
When you center your text,
of each line is in a different place.
This is confusing for the reader and
makes for harder and slower going,
which turns folks off.
So don’t do it.
Clean up your design. We encourage users to customize their blogs, and we love seeing how you adapt themes. But although you might love the look of gray text on acid green, or want your post background to be that cute photo of your cat, you’ve just made your content less accessible. Your blog competes with thousands of others. Don’t make it compete against its own design, too. See what we mean?
Add relevant tags.
(Answer: Very sad.)
To make it easier for us to track you down, don’t use tags that are too obscure (“beauty tips from the ancient world”) – stick with more general tags (“beauty,” “history”). Feel free to get a bit creative as well; we use all kinds of search terms. Think about what keywords you’d use for if you were looking for this post, and go from there. You can add up to 15 tags per post.
Write a headline we can’t ignore.
We love a clever headline, and that’s often the reason we click on your post in the first place. We also like to know what we’re getting into, so it helps if your headline gives us a clue as to what the post has in store. Things to avoid: swear words, excessive punctuation, vague statements and total non-sequiturs.
Bad headline: U Loserz, i WON!!!!!11!
Better headline: Winning the Lottery
Best headline: I Won the Lottery and You Didn’t!
Bad headline: Pizza
Better headline: Making Homemade Pizza
Best headline: 20 Minutes to Making Your New Favorite Pizza at Home
Need more help? Check out “How to write better titles for blog posts.”
Aim for typo-free content.
We know, we’re human, too – mistakes happen. We recommend using our proofreading feature before publishing posts. If you’ve got a few typos but we really like your post, we may ask you to fix them first. Make sure your headlines are clean as well; a headline typo is the death knell of a fledgling post.
Proper grammar helps, too. The Daily Post has tons of useful articles to help you out, from a more in-depth look at verbs than you ever thought you needed to a thorough explanation of when to use “affect” vs. “effect.”
For more insight into the process, visit our series over at The Daily Post, “What Makes a Post Freshly Press-able?” where we take a closer look at one of our recent picks, or take a look at en.blog’s monthly roundups of the most engaging Freshly Pressed posts.
That’s it! We can’t promise that you’ll make it to Freshly Pressed if you follow these tips, but you’ll help your chances. The best thing you can do? Just keep on blogging, and write what you love.
Once you’ve been promoted, you’ll receive an email. But more importantly, you’ll notice your page views, followers, and comments increasing. Enjoy the ride – you deserve it!