Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Blogging Advice: Writing on Other Sites

Today I read a post on Sara's blog Tea Happiness titled Steep Thoughts- The Shamlessly Promoting Stuff Edition, in which Sara writes about the Tea Review Blog. I really like the Tea Review Blog; it is a lot like Teaviews, another site that I really like. In many respects, these two sites, featuring a team of reviewers that post reviews of teas, fill a niche that is intermediate between individualized tea blogging and community sites that are open to the public for free sign-up, like RateTea and Steepster.

I did not think there was anything overly promotional about Sara's post, and this got me thinking about when a blogger goes too far in promoting material posted on another site. I am sensitive to this because I do not want to come across as overly promotional about RateTea or any of the other sites that I run. I have definitely seen blogs that cross this line (including ones I would not overly label as spam), and I came up with the following advice to offer. Feel free to take it with a grain of salt, or offer your own perspective!

I think this issue is important for tea bloggers, however, as many of us publish on a variety of different sites, from microblogging social networking sites, to guest posts on other blogs, to community sites, forums, and the like.

When you publish on other websites:

I have two key guidelines or recommendations to bloggers who wish to promote their writing pieces on other blogs or websites. Whatever you do, make sure your blog retains its character, and share things in context.

Make sure your blog retains its character:

If you mostly write detailed posts with a chatty tone, or if you mostly write elegant, poetic posts with beautiful photography, then keep your posts in this style even when you wish to share your writings on other sites. If I subscribe to a blog, it is often not just because I like the content and subject matter, but because I like the style and presentation.

My blog is often characterized by the inclusion of nature photographs, followed by slightly far-fetched analogies between what is going on in the photo, and the subject of the blog post. Just as this Yellow-bellied sapsucker (a sap-eating woodpecker) is migrating south to warmer regions for the winter, some bloggers find it fruitful to migrate over to posting material on websites other than their blog. However, unlike migratory birds, bloggers usually have the best results if they continue to publish unique posts on their blog throughout the year, even if they do start publishing elsewhere as well.

Sharing things in context:

I tend not to like blog posts that consist of a single link to a writing piece or blog post on an external site. This sort of sharing of links is appropriate for twitter, facebook, Google+, and a variety of other sites. By sharing links like this on a blog, you are losing the main benefit of all-out blogging rather than using these other "microblogging" services.

If someone arrives at your blog post, they're set up to read least a paragraph or two, maybe. If they come to your post, they're ready to absorb information, and more than just a single sentence or link. If you just include a link, you're wasting their attention, losing an opportunity to engage with a captive reader. Furthermore, by making someone follow the link to another site, you can sometimes be wasting your reader's time, especially if you share a post on twitter that takes the reader to a page that just links over to another page. It sounds silly, but people do it more often than you might think.

What does it mean to share something in context?

There are many different ways to share things in context. You can write a blog post about a different topic, and link to one of your articles that expands on a topic you mention tangentially or in passing. You can write a blog post that highlights a collection of articles you've written, with a blurb about each of them. And, if you really do want to write a blog post that serves solely to point the reader to one article on a different site, I would recommend:

  • Share why you think this post would be exceptionally interesting or relevant for your readers to read.

  • Add something unique, like unique or exclusive commentary on the article, such as a personal reflection on why you wrote it.

  • Write the post in the style / character of your blog.

  • Include such posts only sparingly in your blog.

What do you think?

Do you like this advice? Do you follow it yourself? Do you think I have been doing a good job of following my own guidelines, or am I a hypocrite? Any other related advice to offer, to me or anyone?

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