I signed up for the blog improvement project this year because I have the least time to blog that I’ve ever had over the past four years, and yet I still want to use this space to the best possible effect. And I always want to give the bloggers who arrive in the Reading Room the best book-related time possible.
The first task set is to decide on our aims for the project. Easier said than done, of course, although we’ve been given the link to Chris Brogan’s post 50 ways to take your blog to the next level to help us out. So I’m following his headings and hints for the first 40, as with the best will in the world, I cannot figure out how to turn the Reading Room into a business.
Make Your Goal and Target Audience Clear
This is the first of Brogan’s sections and he suggests that whatever it is you want to do, you should be clear about it and consistent. He’s quite keen on all personal content being split off and put somewhere else altogether. If I judge by stats alone, the biggest difference I could make to this blog would be to stop talking about books altogether and just give you funny posts about my family. However, not that much happens around here, which is the way I like it, and I do read a lot. So I think things will have to carry on much as they have done in the past.
I’ve spoken before about the fact that the reading room is neither a properly academic lit blog, nor a more normal kind of brief review blog. To sort out my target audience, I really ought to get off the fence. And yet, my whole interest in blogging was to make more literary critical ideas available to general readers. I do believe that everyone can understand even the most complex ideas if they are presented in the right way. I may not have figured out exactly the right way to use ideas in a blog, though.
The other area of improvements Brogan highlights concern the blogging community. I don’t think I do enough in a community way, and one easy improvement I could make is to include links to other bloggers who have reviewed the same book. I like it when other bloggers do that, but need to find the search engine that locates those reviews for you. Anyone know where I can find it?
Beauty Is More Than Skin Deep
O God, design. Now you see my problem is that I barely understood what Brogan was talking about in this section. He referred to all sorts of things that were a mystery to me, technophobe that I am. One of the biggest problems for this blog is its look. Clicking through to a sea of dense type is NOT what people blog for generally. What I would like to do is include an image of the cover of books I review, and it would be nice to add a few more pictures generally. Thing is I have no idea how to do this. I still need help when posting a picture taken on one of our cameras. And instruction pages assume you are fully cognizant with all the technical terms – that’s if you can find the right instruction page. I really need to learn how to do this, but my lack of intuitive understanding is at such a level that it ought to be termed a disability.
It would be nice to have pictures of books in the side bar, but that sounds like such an advanced level of computer skills that I might think about it again in another three year’s time.
Make Your Content Top Notch
Concision, says Brogan, is a virtue. Ahh. Oops. By now, as ever, I’m wondering what possessed me to blog at all when I am so naturally unsuited to it.
Lead with your main point, he also suggests. Or, in other words, have a good snappy opening. Think about having better titles – ha! If he knew how long I spend pondering titles when the maximum I can fit in is about three words. See above for problems with concision.
Vary the length of your posts. This is worth quoting. He says: ‘If you write a “feature length” post have something brief next to avoid reader fatigue (unless you’re writing an essay length blog all the time, and hey, good luck).’ Well, here we come to the crunch. I have an essay length brain. I think in paragraphs rather than bullet points. I would love to be able to write shorter posts, particularly as I’m time poor at present. But how is it done? When I start to review a book, I have so much I want to say about it. And explaining ideas and concepts takes the time it takes. I am thinking about how to vary my post length, though, and maybe some inspiration will occur.
Post regularly, is his final piece of advice. Out of term time, I can return to every other day posting, but while teaching’s happening, I think it has to be every three days or so. I’ll always post when I can.
Promoting Your Blog
Always a good idea this, and something I haven’t done since I first started blogging in 2006. Again, the problem with technical terms strikes. Use social bookmarking plugins, Brogan suggests. I’m sorry, come again? What are they? Check you’re linked to Google, Yahoo!, Technorati (check, check, check) and… DMOZ. And what is this, please? Nor do I twitter – see above for problems with concision.
What would be great would be to find more bloggers who are interested in that crossover place where the general reader meets the more specialized critic. People who are as keen as I am to take their reading to the next level (and not just their blogs). But how to find such an audience?
Okay, so now I’m supposed to put together an achievable to-do list.
1. Find that search engine that focuses just on book blog reviews.
2. Learn how to post pictures and images without fear.
3. Think about what I could write in a short length blog post.
4. Try to figure out what a social bookmarking plugin is and whether I might ever be able to use one.
And if you have any comments or suggestions for improvements, please do say so. Goodness knows it’s hard enough to figure out what to do with one’s own blog, let alone anyone else’s, but if anything strikes you and it’s within my (extremely limited) capabilities, I’ll be glad to hear it. I’ll let you know how I get on with the above…