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How Not to Blog in a Blogathon Blog

I had a great time with the Blogathon this past weekend. While I didn’t participate as a Blogathoner, I hit a couple hundred of the blogs blogging in the Blogathon, and found some great bloggers blogging about fun and interesting topics. I also learned a lot.

I highly recommend that you make it part of your blog development, SEO practices, and blog owner goals to go through the Blogathon blog list and do some serious learning of your own.

From my weekend cruising and commenting on blogs in the Blogathon, I learned a lot about what to do, and what not to do, not only on my own blogs, but also what to NOT do if I want to participate in a future Blogathon.

Number One Lesson Learned in How Not to Blog in a Blogathon Blog

The first thing I quickly learned among the how-to lessons in how NOT to blog in a Blogathon Blog is to sign up, spread the word, make promises, and then do nothing. I found over 50 blogs that had signed up, even written about it on their blogs, and then did nothing.

Yes, there were some who had an emergency situation and notified the Blogathon folks and got permission to blog their Blogathon next weekend. There were also late starters. I’m not talking about them. I’m talking about the folks who signed up and did nothing. I’m talking about the people who signed up to attract attention to their blogs and websites, and didn’t say anything about their participation, before, during, or after. In a few cases, some registrants weren’t even blogs.

I know the Blogathon volunteers worked overtime to cull the do-nothings, but still, I found them. This isn’t about their hard work either. They were awesome, keeping Blogathoners engaged, stimulated, and going through the long 24 hour haul.

This is about you, the do-nothing, make-promises-and-don’t-keep-em YOU.

The true purpose behind the Blogathon is to shed positive light on blogs and to raise money for worthy causes. It’s also a chance for people to leave behind their normal blogging babble and share stories, tell tales, and talk about whatever they want, including their charity, which is a passion for many.

A deeper value of participation in the Blogathon is to attract attention to your blog, build an audience, and keep it. Personally, I found few blogs which engaged me, and now they have me as a fan just because of their participation in the Blogathon.

These are the characteristics I found held true with every Blogathon blogger I stumbled upon who were blogging well for their charity and themselves:

  • Good writing skills.
  • Focused intent and purpose.
  • Storytelling abilities.
  • Strong giving and sharing abilities.
  • Passionate.
  • Aware of their audience.
  • Aware of the world around them.
  • Concerned for the world around them.
  • Committed, determined, and promise keepers.
  • Clear that their words matter. Distracting graphics, gimmicks, bells, and whistles don’t.

The second most important lesson I learned was about comments. Make it easy for me to comment on your blog.

I wanted to cheer some of these folks on, point to something interesting to blog about, and just let them know people are out there and reading. Yet, on many, many blogs, I had to jump through hoops, type in hard-to-read captchas, and click through pop-up windows in order to register and login and figure out how to leave a comment. After three or four clicks, screw it. Cheerleader fell flat on her face. Not interested enough. I gave up.

Part of the magic of the Blogathon is the interaction between the participating bloggers, and the readers with the bloggers. Make it easy for us to comment on your blog. If your blogging platform doesn’t allow simple and easy-to-use comments, change. I’m not kidding. You are only hurting yourself and your audience and restricting the lines of communications.

Other Lessons Learned on How NOT to Blog in a Blogathon Blog

I learned so much, it will take time to process it all. The following short list of things I learned how not to do in a Blogathon apply to things you should not do on any blog.

Static Front Page – No Obvious Links to Blogathon Blog

I found a bunch of links from the Blogathon blog list led to a static front page. Sometimes these were welcome screens (Come on, folks. Welcome screens are dead. People hate clicking past it to get to the content, and this is not good SEO practice.) and other times just static front pages with an about statement, photos, blogroll, and links to posts or blog.

The post and blog links were hard to find. When I found them, I still couldn’t figure out if the posts being written were part of the Blogathon, unless they were clearly titled as such. With more than 300 blogs to go through in 24 hours, I didn’t want to search for links to content. Make it obvious.

Give Us a Reason to Come Back Now

The blogs I saved in tabbed windows and put into my feed reader were the blogs that made me hang on to my computer with excitement and anticipation. I wanted to read what was coming next. I thought about what they had written and wanted more. I would refresh their blog page over and over, forgetting I had to wait the prerequisite 30 minutes. I wanted more. I couldn’t wait.

When you write with a clear intension of hooking your reader and giving them a reason to come back, they will. And they will tell their friends.

Messy Blogs

They say a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, well, a cluttered blog is just a mess. If it is reflective of what is in your head…bye-bye blog. I’m not interested.

Things that dance, blink, flutter by, or jump out at me are not only annoying, they are painful. The busier and more cluttered the look of the blog, and the harder it is for the reader to get to the content, the information they came there in the first place to find, the faster they will leave.

Title Your Posts

Reading through 48 posts, I want to know what you are talking about and where I am in the process of reading your long list of posts. Give your posts titles.

I was shocked at how few posts had titles, or they titled them “23/48″ or “23 of 48″. That’s helpful. I know it’s a Blogathon post, but it isn’t helpful past the point of the Blogathon. What you write will last longer than these 24 hours. So help future visitors find the interesting information you wrote with some good titles.

Focus, Focus, Focus

The more focused your blog’s subject matter during the Blogathon, the more likely people were to follow you through the 24 hours, coming back for more every hour, and the more likely you are to have created a body of work that will people will want to read, talk about, and link to.

Focused topics and subject matter creates a “body of work”. To search engines, you give them a whole meal instead of just meat and potatoes to list in their search results. To your audience, you showcase more than one post on a subject, establishing yourself as an expert in that subject, which means they know where to come to when searching for information on that subject. The Blogathon offered a unique opportunity for content and “body of work” building.

Give Us a Reason to Return

Remember, the key purpose for you as a blogger participating in the Blogathon is to give exposure to your blog and increase your blog’s readership. Give visitors during the Blogathon a reason to come back next week, and the weeks after. And months after.

You aren’t blogging for now. You are blogging for the rest of your blogging career. Give us a reason, and we will come back.

Blog to More Than Your Fans

I recently offered a blogging challenge to describe your blogging audience to get you to really think about who you see in your mind’s eye when you blog. I read a lot of people blogging for two to five people.

The Blogathon is your chance to reach out beyond those few people to a wider audience. Instead of worrying about whether or not your mother will be reading your blog, how about worrying about 10 million other people who might be reading your blog during the Blogathon. Write to them and they might increase your reading audience to ten. Or more.

Give Us a Reason to Write About What You are Blogging About

I found some mildly interesting blogs and some real dorks, but few that I really wanted to highlight and blog about. Part of the nature of the web and Blogosphere beast is the networking, linking to and writing about what others are blogging about.

Blogging in the Blogathon is a prime way to get people talking about what you are blogging about. Did you? Do you?

Make It Easy to Comment

Yes, I mentioned this, but I want to hammer the point home. Don’t invite us to comment, to suggest topics to blog about, or ask for our help and then have the process of commenting on your blog be a torture test. Don’t accuse your audience of not reading or responding when you know it requires work and effort to leave a comment.

The easier it is for us to comment, the more response you will get.

Think About 48 Precious Posts, Not “How Can I Write 48 Posts?”

Over and over I read people writing about how they will never come up with enough stuff to write about to cover the 24 hours. How they will never think of 48 things to write about. Wrong way to think, folks.

You had an opportunity to write 48 precious posts. Only forty-eight. Not 365, if you blog daily. Not over 600 if you blog more than once a day. Just 48. A tiny number. Each one counted. Each one means something. Each one is an opportunity. Don’t waste a single one.

Think about how many steps it takes you to walk from your computer to your refrigerator. Two, three, ten, twenty? Maybe 24? Round trip would be 48 steps. Is that so far to go for an ice cold soda? Put into 48 steps, that number doesn’t seem to be so far, does it? If you think 48 steps is equal to a short distance instead of a long way to go, your perception changes.

Blog as if each of those 48 posts might be the last 48 things you blog about. That will change your Blogathon perspective.

Don’t Tell Me You Can’t Think of Anything to Blog About

The deadline for registering as a Blogathon participant was over a week before the Blogathon. The time between learning about the Blogathon and registering was probably more than a couple hours. In that time, you must have come up with 48 things to blog about, right? I did. And I wasn’t participating.

You all had time to make lists and come up with ideas. For those who paid attention to my Blogathon tips, I listed an article with 100s of resources for finding things to write about. There is so much information on the web to write about, I’m overwhelmed. There is so much information everywhere to write about, the view out your window, making up stories about the people walking past your window, life stories, how you solved a problem or three, school, family, dogs, cats, jobs, news, friends…so much to write about – so don’t waste one of your precious 48 posts on a statement that you can’t think about what to blog about. Time waster and audience killer.

Narrow-minded Bigots

I was stunned by the number of narrow-minded bigots participating in the Blogathon. I have no problems with freedom of speech. I have problems with bigots. The point, though, is that the Blogathon opens your blog up to a very wide and diverse audience. If you want to sing to the choir, do so, but remember, the Blogathon audience is intelligent, global, and wide thinking folks. Blog for them.

No Bodily Functions Reports

My goodness. Are all bloggers obsessed with food? I can’t tell you how many posts I saw writing about what they were going to eat, how they were going to cook it, and then writing about what they ate and showing us pictures of their food. I also read about trips to the bathroom, shower, more rounds of snacking, and other bodily functions and normal living activities that are great time wasters.

Everyone poops. Everyone bathes. Everyone eats. Unless your blog is about recipes and food, then what you are eating, unless truly inspirational, is a waste of time. We really don’t need to know about your daily functions. Share with us your thoughts, feelings, experiences, knowledge.

Teach us, oh, great blogger, how to live and how to function in this crazy world. Don’t give us a play-by-play of your toilet technique. Who really cares?

Don’t Separate Your Blogathon Blog from Your Blog

I like having all the Blogathon posts in one place, easy to find on your blog. But I didn’t like it when bloggers hosted a separate blog just for the Blogathon. I understand that this is a good idea for multi-blogger Blogathon blogs that are one shot deals, but for the normal blogger, I found this annoying.

Keep your Blogathon blog on your blog. Create a category or search links that connect your Blogathon posts together, if you want, but even then I don’t think that is as important as clearly stating “Blogathon” in your post titles. If you create a Blogathon category, then it sits there all year long without any additional posts, taking up space in your Category list. You can do that for the duration of the Blogathon, with your posts also in other categories, and then in a month or so, delete the Blogathon category, and your posts will still be in their other appropriate categories.

Either way, let the Blogathon benefit your entire blog. Don’t move it off-site as that distances the brilliance of your Blogathon posts from your main blog. After all, you are doing this to increase your readership and exposure, so why separate them?

The Great Things I Learned from the Blogathon Bloggers

I’m overwhelmed with the things I learned how to do RIGHT from the Blogathon Bloggers. I learned that there are a lot more things to write about, from many different perspectives, than I realized. There are some amazing writers out there blogging, telling wonderful stories and sharing incredible information.

I learned that I’m proud to be a blogger. That’s a big accomplishment for me. I was humbled at the thought of being an author on this blog, but I call myself a “writer” not a “blogger”. I’m still dealing with the stereotypes of the definition of a blogger, but I see that I’m wrong in most of my assumptions about bloggers. It’s an amazing crowd to hang with. I think I need to start trying on the label a little more.

I learned more about storytelling, of how people tell the stories of their life and world around them. I studied how they used the words to convey their messages, where they were weak and where they were strong, gaining new insight in how I can use words to make my points even clearer.

I learned again about how passionate people are when writing about their favorite subject. The idea of sitting down and writing 48 posts in a short time, for many it was a chance to let down their blogging hairs and take off their blogging masks and really write about something that means the world to them. When you write about something for 24 hours, you have to want to care about it. You have to have a vested interest in it. Watching and reading that passion was very exciting. And inspirational.

That’s the true value I got out of the Blogathon this year: Inspiration. With a good heaping of motivation. To sit at the computer, aching from your toes to your skull, determined to write for 24 hours non-stop, that’s an amazing challenge. Kudos to all.


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Copyright Lorelle VanFossen, member of the 9Rules Network

Member of the 9Rules Blogging Network

9 Comments

  1. Posted August 3, 2006 at 8:25 am | Permalink

    How did you find my blog? Sorry it kinda degraded to gibberish towards the end.

  2. Posted August 3, 2006 at 9:29 am | Permalink

    Edrei: You kept it together all the way through. The theme was obvious from the beginning and stayed fairly consistent. It was about perspective, and you tackled it from “all angles”. ;-) Very well done. Almost poetry.

  3. Posted August 3, 2006 at 8:08 pm | Permalink

    It’s hard to tackle that part of the brain when you’re sleep deprived. Some people tend to get better, others like me just sluggish. Too bad it’s hard for people to see the point during the blogathon or if they read it as an individual post.

    Any way to entice people to go through the whole thing in order? Or is this all solely based on the way we write?

  4. Posted August 3, 2006 at 9:04 pm | Permalink

    Order? WordPress and other blogging tools sort posts in chronological order by default, so the reading order is most recent to oldest. But you want people to read from oldest to most recent, right?

    Well, without getting into the code and manipulating the order for your entire blog, which wouldn’t be a good idea, you can take all the posts you wrote and put them on a Page or in a single post in your own desired order. You can also leave them as they are and just copy and paste them into one post for a second, readable copy.

    Actually, I had a similar problem on a transcription of a journal I wanted to publish on our new family history blog. The thing was written with no attention to date order. Scribbled here and there, randomly, including in the margins. I put it in date order and then it began to make some sense, but it was hard work to connect all the random entries. I pushed two versions. One for the all the entries, poems, songs, and diary notes, in as close to chronological order as possible, and the second post with just the diary notes in chronological order – no fluff, just the story of their lives. We learned a lot about their lives and even uncovered some mysteries with this two post technique. I’ll be talking about that more in the genealogy blog series.

    No reason why you can’t do the same with your Blogathon entries since, for the most part, they do follow a sequence. It’s up to you.

  5. Posted August 6, 2006 at 1:40 am | Permalink

    What a great article. Sadly I kinda fizzled for a bit partway thru as ALL the recipes I planned to use died in a hard drive malfunction. I really need to work hard next year to live up to these guidelines…

  6. Posted August 6, 2006 at 1:41 am | Permalink

    And, on a side note, I think if you WRITE a food blog, you should be allowed to write ABOUT food. Just my two sheckels…

  7. Posted August 6, 2006 at 7:14 am | Permalink

    “Unless your blog is about recipes and food, then what you are eating, unless truly inspirational, is a waste of time.”

    I totally agree.

    If your blogathon and blog is about poop, then give us the whole treatment. If your blogathon theme is about every minute of your day’s activities, I expect graphic details. But don’t write about philosophical or political issues, and then for a post or three fill us in on your lunch and potty breaks.

    Consistently consistent.

  8. Posted August 6, 2006 at 10:16 am | Permalink

    That is a really great and well-thought out reflection, Lorelle. It is nice to know there were people out there reading through all the blogs. (Hardly 10 million visitors though, I think I maxed out at 1800 and I am sure about 50 of those hits were my mum!). As a blogathonner myself I regret not having had the time to follow any of the other participating blogs to see how other people did it, so I really only have my own experience of it to judge by. I did the food thing – but that is ok since I am a food blogger and I needed to keep my regular audience interested in the subject matter, and I think actually following my chosen charity at work and photographing them on the go was really the best part of the day – being able to actually to show people where their money was going. I had tears in my eyes when I passed all the people queueing for food, and then it made everything so worthwhile.

    thanks so much for your helpful thoughts

  9. Posted June 29, 2007 at 7:11 pm | Permalink

    Good post! I will be blogging again this year – my theme is to post a cute animal pic every half hour…I figure it is cute and people get excited to see which pic is next!

    I will be blogging at http://www.jilbean.blogspot.com


11 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. [...] I love learning from others, and I often share tips and techniques from my prowls around the web looking for things to learn. The recent Blogathon, a 24 hour marathon of non-stop blogging, I pitched in by reading and commenting on many of the blogs participating this year. I learned a lot, and I learned a lot about the many things you should do, and not do when you blog, especially when you blog in a Blogathon: Over and over I read people writing about how they will never come up with enough stuff to write about to cover the 24 hours. How they will never think of 48 things to write about. Wrong way to think, folks. [...]

  2. [...] During the 2006 Blogathon, I wrote about how not to blog in a blogathon blog and mentioned that titling posts by their post number was fine, but if that’s the only title, your audience is missing out on the “rest of the story” in the blog post. Why would I click “No. 14″ if I don’t know what “No. 14″ is about? [...]

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  5. [...] A blog calls to you, begs you to feed it. Your readers want your words, and the need must be fed. What do you do when you can’t think of anything of value to add other than what you ate for lunch? [...]

  6. [...] A blog calls to you, begs you to feed it. Your readers want your words, and the need must be fed. What do you do when you can’t think of anything of value to add other than what you ate for lunch? [...]

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