The Shy Person’s Guide to Blogging

Not too long ago I was asked an eternal question. “If a blog entry falls in a forest, and no one is there to hear it, does it really make a sound?” In other words, how do you get people to read and comment on your blog?

Contrary to what Google and other internet search authorities would have you believe, the answer is not as simple as “Just build good content.” The internet is filled with awesome content that no one reads. And it’s also jammed with worthless garbage that millions of people see. You know what I mean. Search for “Job Interview Tips” and the first two pages of search results are  robot-written “about” pages that  offer brilliant advice like, “Bring a resume that you printed out a peace of paper.” Ugh.  Then somewhere on the twentieth page of search results is a really useful article from a former HR professional with practical advice on how to tell an interviewer about your salary expectations or explain your so-called “weak” points. Now why isn’t that article on page one? Why does it have no guest comments? Why does it say, “You are the 17th visitor to this page”? Unfair interwebs. Unfair, I tell you!

In my personal life, I am not a great success as a blog traffic generator. So take that as fair warning about any advice I may give. However, in my professional life, where I occasionally blog for others, I have had more success. What is the difference? Besides time and the financial incentive? It may have something to do with personality. If, like me, you’re shy in real life, you may be shy online, too. When I write professionally, I’ve got another persona, and I’m more comfortable putting my stuff out there and doing things that generate blog traffic.

What do many shy people have in common? We over-think things. For example, when you’re at a party, do you find yourself thinking along these lines: “Oh, no one is really interested in what I have to say. They don’t want to be bothered. They’ve got their own thing going on. I’ll just stand here quietly and wait ’til they come over to me?” Then, my friend, you are probably a shy person. The naturally gregarious dude doesn’t operate that way.  He is not thinking about what other people are thinking about him. Or about what an oddball he is. He just walks over to someone and says, “Hey,  here’s words that are shooting out of my mouth. By the way, you seem cool. Want to go over there and get some shrimp?”

Which brings me to my first guildeline for the shy-person blogger:

Make like a gregarious dude and start reading and commenting on other people’s blogs.

In the words of the Beatles, “The love you make is equal to the love you take.” Seek out other  bloggers who are into the same topics you are, read their articles and comment on them.  For traffic generating purposes, it’s best to comment on blogs that allow you to leave a link back  to your own blog in the signature area. (But don’t get married to the link back. It’s ok if it’s not on offer.)  Don’t leave a comment like “Nice post.” That’s what robots do. Say something that indicates you’ve actually read the article.

Which brings me to my next point:

Be kind when commenting.

That doesn’t mean agree with everything all the time. If you do disagree with something a blogger has written, do it respectfully. It won’t take much blog surfing to find examples of commenters who are great at disagreeing without being offensive. Don’t insult the blogger; indicate that your opinion is just that, and be open to further discussion. Lively discussion is one of the essential components of blog popularity, so you have to get comfortable with it.

Which brings me to another topic that makes shy people uncomfortable:

Use your other social networks to publicize your blog .

Use your twitter, facebook, linkedin, pinterest, google+, whatever, accounts to tell your followers that you’ve just written a new article. Yeah, this can be a tough one for the truly shy. But just tell yourself that not that many people are paying attention to your google plus account anyway.

In addition to your personal networks, there are some other effective ways to get your articles out there in the public eye. Services like digg, reddit, technorati, and delicious, will make your blog more easily findable for folks who are searching on your topic. While it probably won’t hurt to use all of them, these services tend to fluctuate in terms of hotness. You may want to research which services the most popular blogs in your field are using. And, like everything else in the “getting readership” game, you’ve got to give a little to get a little. When you’re using these services, it helps to read other people’s articles, promote them, comment on them.  Or you get relegated to  no-link-juice purgatory.

My next point, Be yourself, if you can.

My personal recommendation is for bloggers to blog as themselves. Readers like to know that there’s a real person behind the blog. “About” pages are extremely popular. And people do want to see photos. You don’t have to publish your phone number and address (in fact, don’t.) but a reasonably accurate avatar is a real plus.

If for some reason you don’t want your family or your coworkers to know that you’re really into, say, birdwatching, then it’s fine to blog under an online persona that preserves some anonymity. But base your persona on the real you, and be advised that a truly motivated individual (such as the FBI) will be able to uncover your true identity in no time flat.

Whatever name you blog under, for traffic reasons, your blog will benefit from having a unifying theme and a distinctive voice.  Do you blog mostly about vintage cars, or astrophysics, or water sports, or cute outfits? That’s excellent. Your “About” page should tell your readers how you got interested in that subject  and what qualifies you to write about it. If your blog is a potpourri of subjects, it can still have a unifying theme, like “The Adventures of High-School Sophomore” or “Funny Things that Happen in Cleveland.” For search-engine-related reasons, your blog entries should contain words and phrases that relate to that unifying theme. Most popular blogging platforms like wordpress and blogger include features like “categories” and “tags”. Use them to highlight those key words and phrases.

And lastly:

Don’t over-think it.

Seriously, most people are not that  into your blog. They are not dissecting your every phrase and punctuation mark.  Or questioning your expertise and judging you. Most folks are just interested in themselves when web surfing. We’re all just looking for useful or entertaining content– for our own selfish purposes.  Is this a good restaurant? How do you paint a fence? Wow, that’s a funny hamster! We get our information and we move on.

And now my last point — it’s good to blog regularly.

If you blog, like I do, twice a year (scrapes toe on floor), that is probably not often enough. Once a day: you are a rock star! Once a week is awesome. Once or twice a month — depending on your topic — passable.  Now hear the advice I am repeating for myself: don’t overthink it. Blog entries do not have to be masterpieces. That’s one of the great things about the interwebs. There’s plenty of room to do it all over again. Shy brothers and sisters, the internet was invented (in part) for us and by us, so let’s enjoy it!

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