19 tips from (almost) 10 years of blogging

I’ve been blogging for almost 10 years now (not always here, though, in case you’re wondering). I’m not saying I’m an expert, but I know a thing or two. I’ve also picked up what I like to think of as a few best practices and good ideas along the way. Here’s some:

  1. Use WordPress. It’s not perfect, but it’s still the best out there as far as I’m concerned. There’s a free hosted version if you don’t want to mess with installing it yourself.
  2. Give credit where credit is due — for photos, ideas, whatever. Whether it’s required by law or not. That’s what links are for.
  3. If you’re linking to anything other than an HTML page (for example, a PDF), tell the reader in the link text. Put “[pdf]” or something similar
  4. Use a spell checker. I’m a good speller — a really good speller — but everyone makes mistakes. So double-check.
  5. Be consistent. This is something I’ve been very inconsistent about, especially since I became a parent (’cause, in case you didn’t know, kids take up a huge amount of time and energy). And I’ve paid for that with fewer readers and less traffic. So be consistent — blog regularly, and you’ll get and retain more readers.
  6. Don’t get paralyzed by trying to make things perfect. Do the best you can, hit publish, and then go on to the next post.
  7. Don’t post anything you wouldn’t want your boss, spouse/partner, parents or children to see. Because they will. Discretion is the better part of valor.
  8. Do post about things that you find interesting and helpful. There’s a lot of other people in this world, chances are some of them are going to find the same things interesting that you do, and they’ll read your blog.
  9. Publish an RSS feed, and also provide an email subscription. There are lots of options to do this, and most of them require little or no knowledge of actual code.
  10. Use Feedburner for your RSS feed.
  11. Subscribe to your own RSS feed and your own email subscription (yes — both!). See what your readers are getting from you, so you can fix it if it’s bad and so you know if it stops working.
  12. Don’t blog on your employer’s time (unless you really are getting paid to do that).
  13. It’s OK to make a little money with ads, affiliate links or whatever, really. Being a blogger does not require a vow of poverty. Just don’t be the kind of smarmy marketer we all hate (for more on this I suggest Copyblogger’s excellent post on the ‘Third Tribe’).
  14. Write interesting headlines. One very basic, easy place to start: Put verbs in your headlines.
  15. Periodically go back and read your old blog posts. If you’ve been blogging for a while, it’s good to remind yourself what you’ve already done. You may also find some posts that could be updated or added to — in other words, a new post!
  16. Look at your blog through a different browser than the one you’re using sometimes — other people are, so you should, too.
  17. It’s OK to post a collection of links to other interesting stuff occasionally. Just don’t do it everyday. That’s what Digg and StumbleUpon are for.
  18. Get a Twitter account. OK, there are a few very successful bloggers who don’t have Twitter accounts. But really, if you’re one of them you don’t need my tips. So if you don’t have one, get a Twitter account.
  19. Be inspired. This post was inspired by David Risley’s 50 Rapid Fire Tips for Power Blogging. You’ll note we share many ideas about best practices. He does have a longer list than me, though.

Have some tips yourself? Please share them in the comments below.

Eight tips to fine-tune your online life

Here are a few tips that I’ve found useful for living online.

Get more out of your web surfing

  1. Use delicious or a similar utility for your bookmarks. Then you have them available to you at any computer – with the power of tagging.
  2. Use delicious to tag what you intend to do with a bookmark – to_read, to_blog, etc. Also use delicious tags to record what you did with a bookmark. I tag blog posts of others that I’ve commented on with icommented.

Email like a pro

  1. Most email programs (even the one on my BlackBerry) have a spell-checker that you can set to automatically run before the email is sent. Make sure that option is activated. It prevents you from forgetting to spell-check a message and making a mistake that makes you look dumb, or at least unprofessional.
  2. Entering email addresses in the To:, CC: and BCC: fields should be the last thing you do when composing an email. Write it, review it, revise it. Entering email addresses last ensures you don’t accidentally send off a half-written email.
  3. If you don’t need a reply, say so in the message. If you can get your message across clearly in the subject line, do so, and add <eom> for “end of message” to the subject line.

Be a better online publisher

  1. If you’re going to write anything about sex, politics, religion, personal relationships, using illegal drugs or drinking heavily on any web site – your blog, Facebook, whatever – think twice. Then think a third time. I’m not saying not to post it, just consider it carefully. Current and future employers, customers, investors and others may see it. You have the right to say whatever you want, but you also can’t escape the repercussions of doing so.
  2. If you publish a blog, subscribe to your own feeds, via both RSS and email. This allows you to get the same experience many of your readers will, and when the experience isn’t very good you, you’ll know it. Then you can fix it.
  3. Also, if you publish a blog make sure you have your comment options set so that when you get a new comment on your blog, you get an email about the comment. In my early days of blogging I failed to do it and discovered only after several days that enormous amounts of comment spam were being published on my blog.
  4. Buy your own domain name, as in “JoeSixpack.com.” If you don’t, someone else might, and you might not like what they do. Heck, it’ll only run you $10 or $15 a year, depending on what registrar you use.

What are your top tips for making life online a little easier? Please let us know in the comments.