Befriending Bloggers

Though some on LiveJournal seem to think so, blogging is not a broadcast of the “me me me” channel — rather, it should be a dialogue where the lines between producer/consumer blur a little, with less emphasis on the “expert” role of the newspaper columnist, tv personality, etc. This is the charm of blogging, really, and the best bloggers generate lively discussion with every post and frequently comment on and write for other blogs.

Well, how do you, with your fresh, inspired new blog, go about developing relationships with other bloggers? In the previous installment I talked about finding other blogs in your niche. Now it’s time to introduce yourself.

(Don’t) Keep Your Comments to Yourself

The easiest, most popular, and most acceptable method of participating in other blogs is to comment on a post. Practically every blog that’s intended to be a blog allows comments, and often the discussion on blog posts can be quite involved (and interesting enough that people will subscribe for the RSS feed).

Some blogs will require you to register, but many just ask for your username, email and (obviously) comments. You often get an opportunity to put in your web address, as well, so in addition to posting your thoughts, you are inviting other people to check out your blog. So make your thoughts matter!

The Trackback

Okay, say you’re really inspired by a blog post, and you want to add to the conversation, but you want your readers to see your thoughts as well. Of course, it’s very easy to just quote someone on your site, but say you want the blog author to know you wrote about their post. This is where the trackback comes in handy.

Not every blog will let you do it, but on the bottom of some you’ll see a link that says “trackback for this post.” This link is different from the link that you will use to link to the article itself, and you’ll want to include it in the trackbacks field of your blogging software. In WordPress, it’s below the Upload and Excerpt fields.

So, write your article, quote or reference the target post how you like, then copy the trackback link and include it with your post. What’s the result? In the target post there will be a little quote like this added to the comments:

[…] I found this blog really interesting, and as you can see here […]…

And the blog author will probably find your excerpt so enticing that he/she’ll go and check out your blog to read the rest. At least, that’s the desired effect.

Learning to Link

While fewer and fewer blogs allow trackbacks, mostly due to the way spammers have abused the system, you can link to anything. And while it’s impossible to keep track of every single link if for those who manage a busy site, the smaller bloggers and webmasters will notice you. You readers will also appreciate your sharing of interesting resources and search engines will associate you with that part of an internet neighborhood. Linking is vital to make your blog part of the information superhighway rather than an island!

Luckily, the simple and powerful link is one of the easiest features to use in every blogging software yet. Copy the URL in your address bar, click the little chain icon, and paste. Whammo. You’ve helped build the web’s interconnectivity.

The caveat here is be sure to link to sites you, too, would read! Just like your friend would be upset if you recommended a crank mechanic, linking to poor quality sites will reflect same upon you.

Be My Guest

Frequently top-blogs will feature content written by other bloggers on the same subject. Being or having a “guest blogger” should be a mutually beneficial relationship where they have the opportunity to reach out to a new audience base and you have the other blogger’s audience naturally interested about what their favorite author has to say.

If you’ve opened a blogging friendship — that is, you’re actually exchanging emails and corresponding frequently, not that you commented once on an obscure post — it’s certainly reasonable to broach the topic of writing some guest articles. There are no hard-fast rules of etiquette for this relationship, but generally you’ll feature something on your blog disclosing you’re blogging elsewhere and accompanying the content you write will be a small blurb about your blog along with a link (or vice-versa if you’re having a guest).

It’s all about the Connections

Whatever the techniques you use, the writing on your blog should be aware of the greater community and invite that community to participate. It should also reflect an awareness of what’s been written elsewhere, using links whenever possible to extend your reach beyond your own site. Your efforts will be rewarded by a blog that draws in more readers, elicits reader response, and attracts the interest of your peers and fellow industry experts.