I’m not an expert on blogging by any means, but I do spend a lot of time cruising the web, and I see the same minor but irritating problems popping up again and again. So I thought it might be helpful to toss some suggestions out there for comics bloggers (and creators) who want to build their traffic a bit.
If you’re blogging strictly for fun or personal expression, none of this will apply to you. This is just about how to make your blog more user-friendly for new readers and to other bloggers, like me, who might want to link to it. A surprising number of people overlook these basics, and fixing them will make it easier for me (and other bloggers) to find your blog, follow it, and link to it intelligently.
1. Identify yourself! I can totally understand not using your own name on your blog, but you should have some sort of a handle somewhere—on each post, on the About page, or somewhere on the home page. It’s hard to link to a blog if I don’t know what to call the author. It’s also helpful to have some indication of whether you are male or female.
2. Pick a clear title. Beware of names that are too clever—they may obscure your subject matter altogether. If you’re writing about manga, put the word “manga” in the title. That way Google knows you are there.
3. Make your URL easy to remember If you are serious about blogging, get a URL that is close to the name of your blog. Otherwise it’s too hard to remember. And the same advice in #2 above applies to URLs, only more so—keep it short and to the point.
4. Have an RSS feed! Yes, I know it’s hard to believe, but there are a couple of sites I don’t link to as much as I should because they don’t have RSS feeds and, well, I’m forgetful. And you should subscribe to your own RSS feed, because sometimes they don’t work properly and that’s the only way you will know. It doesn’t hurt to resubscribe occasionally, too, because sometimes they get hosed up.
5. Try to have your content line up with your RSS feed. This is mainly a problem with magazine-style themes, and it drives me crazy: I’ll see an interesting article in the RSS reader, but when I go to the site it’s nowhere to be found. I think this happens because the posts get categorized in different ways and not all of them show up at the top of the page.
6. Avoid obnoxious ads. I am linking less and less to Livejournal sites since they started putting up intrusive Flash pop-over ads (I think this is just with the free sites). I totally boycotted a mainstream comics site for about six months because they had an animated ad on the front page showing a spider crawling up a lady’s breast—I just couldn’t stand to look at it. And the worst case of all was when I was reading an all-ages webcomic on a big hosting site and a porn ad popped up next to it. If you can’t control your ads, pay a few bucks and get your own site.
7. Take advantage of widgets and other features that make life easier for other bloggers. I like to see a list of recent posts, because I can navigate quickly without having to go back to the home page. Time stamps are helpful as well. On the other hand, pop-up previews are obnoxious, especially if they pop up when I just move the cursor over the link. If you use tags, put a tag list or cloud in the sidebar so readers can use them as well. And every site should have a search engine and a way to look at older posts.
8, 9, … infinity: Have good content. Say something interesting. Don’t rant. Check your grammar and spelling before you hit “post.” Always re-read your post after you put it up—sometimes an HTML error can creep in there. Moderate your comments—nothing screams “amateur night” like obvious spam comments.
And don’t forget to have fun!