I made it a six-day week last week by heading to WordCamp Seattle—and I’m glad I did. I came away with some great advice for this blog, some of which I’ll be implementing in the near future. My biggest takeaways came from Aaron Hockley and Ian Lurie, both of whom advised general good blogging practices (they could probably be applied to a blog on any platform). Short bios are available on the WordCamp speakers page (I’ve linked Aaron and Ian’s name out to their own sites). General impressions? Yeah, I’ve got those, too.
After launching a couple dozen blogs, I figured out how to do it right.
Aaron’s presentation was all about starting anew. He covered a lot of the backend technical aspects of setting up a hosted WordPress blog (I didn’t ever hear the free platform, which this blog runs on, discussed during the conference, not that I expected to), which I’ll definitely refer back to once I eventually ‘port mine over.
That aside, he suggested customizing your blog—difficult to do on the free platform, but worth it, even if you’re talking slight tweaks—because anything you can do to differentiate yourself is good. It’s somewhat disappointing to show up to a blog and see a theme that’s uniform across thousands of other sites. Switch the colors, change fonts, customize an image header—whatever options you have, play with them and be as different and unique as possible.
He also suggested piling up blog posts before your launch and scheduling them about a week and a half out; that way, if you stumble out of the gate (not uncommon, I can attest), you’ll have a week and a half to come up with something while fresh content is still popping up on your site. That’s actually a pretty good rule for any point in a blog’s “lifespan.”
Internet therapy: Tough love for your blog
I was taking notes furiously during Ian’s presentation. I’ve been a fan of his blog, but I haven’t read it in a while and I was reminded of how good it was while he was talking. Ian runs Conversation Marketing, which ought to be required reading for college and print journalists looking to make the jump into new media (if you don’t know what SEO is, leave this page and start reading his site).
The best piece of advice from him was to emphasize what your blog does over its brand (kind of an “aha” moment for me). It makes sense—if you’re looking to build traffic, you’re looking for people who probably don’t know your blog exists…so promoting your brand name’s SEO probably isn’t as important as promoting the services you provide. (Note: Brand-name SEO is still important.) For example, I blog a lot about new media and the future of journalism on this site; but my site’s biggest SEO haul is from the terms “Paul Balcerak” and “paulbalcerak” (those don’t say much about journalism, but the other intent of this site is to act as a professional portal, so I’m OK with that).
His other gem was that popping up new windows and tabs from links on your site is massively annoying and a bad usability practice—so I feel like a total idiot and have changed that. (I’ve always been a “pop open a new window or link so I can keep my place and keep reading” type of guy, but then again, I don’t really read my own blog).
Supposedly the conference was put together pretty hastily (though you wouldn’t have known that if you attended) and one of the main organizers was out sick—well if that’s the case, I’ll definitely be looking forward to what happens next year. I already feel like I got my money’s worth (OK, work paid for it, but still) and if any improvements were made, I’d easily plunk down another ten or fifteen bucks (out of my own pocket, if necessary).
- Flexibility (multiple times to choose which breakout session you wanted to attend)
- SWAG (always appreciated)
- Food (lunch was absolutely fantastic)
- Navigation (it was a little confusing figuring out who was in which room)
- Wireless Internet (I was spoiled last month at Gnomedex by the Bell Harbor Conference center, but I basically spent the whole day on my phone)
I’ll heads up everyone with another post when this rolls around again. In the meantime, check out the site, follow @wordcampseattle and if you just can’t wait, I’ve heard rumblings that a monthly Seattle WordPress meet-up has been happening and is open to newcomers.