Now that you know what blogs are and have started reading them, you’ll notice some com- mon elements. Let’s take a quick look at eight of the most common elements of a blog:
1. Title and Tag line
The more obvious your blog’s title, the more quickly readers can figure out your blog’s topic. Sure, a clever title is nice, but if you want to get the right kind of tar-geted traffic to your blog, be obvious. I’d rather see a great blog with a boring, obvious title (and fantastic content) than a clever title that no one can figure out. Also know that you don’t have to have the word “blog” in the title of your blog. Include a tag line under the title to help add a little more clarity and focus to the topic of your blog. When you make your blog available to search engines, remember that your title and tag line should reflect important key words. What terms, queries, and solutions might your customers be looking for that relate to your products and services?
A blog’s entries are called posts. Typically, the most recent posts are displayed on the front page, in re- verse chronological order. As new posts are added, the older ones roll off the front page into the archives. Posts can consist of quick write-ups of helpful links you’ve found online, opinion pieces, long essays, short thoughts—anything goes. There’s no wrong way to write a post, except to be sterile and boring. If I want to be boring, I can go write a press release!
You’ll notice many blog posts have a permalink at the end. Permalinks serve as the permanent home (a “permanent link”) of a post, so others can link to it for future reference. Let’s say you link back to the latest post on my blog—which at the time is on my front page. As time goes by, the post you referred to moves off my front page and into my blog’s archives. If you just merely linked to my blog’s home page, anyone clicking on your link to my blog would end up at the front page and need to search the archives for what you were trying to link to. However, if you link to the specific blog post using the permalink, then your readers will be able to navigate directly to that post. Think of it like this: Every post on your blog has its very own individual Web page. Instead of saying, “Go to the home page of Andy’s blog, go into his archives from November, then go to the 4th, and it’s the fifth post he wrote that day,” the permalink al- lows you to link directly to that post. Permalinks are a great idea—not just for blogs— but for all Web sites. To find a blog post’s permalink, you typically click the post’s title or click the word “permalink” located at the bottom of the post. You’ll then be taken to an individual page for just that par-ticular post. Your browser’s address bar will reflect the URL of that post’s permanent link.
A blog is made of posts, and, if you allow for it, read- ers can leave their comments right below each post. One of the biggest reasons blogs have taken off like they have is the ease of engaging readers in an im- mediate conversation. With a newsletter, you’ve got people e-mailing directly to your inbox. It becomes merely a dialogue between you and them—they don’t see what everybody else is saying. With a blog, they can add their thoughts about your post using a comment form. It’s like having a mini guest book for each post. They can agree with, expand on, expound or rebut your post. They can even offer suggestions about where to go for further information. Allowing com- ments on your blog is a sign that you’re open to dis- cussion or collaboration on your topic. And, as the blogger, you can always remove, edit, or revise com- ments if necessary—or even turn off the commenting feature for individual posts. Most blog software also allows you to approve any comments before they show up on your blog.
As posts age, they roll off the home page and into the archives. This is where blog software really shows its moxie. Instead of you (or your poor Web designer) having to update dozens of pages every time you add a new post, the blog platform does it for you. It adds the new post to the top of the home page, moves the oldest post off, and rearranges the archives as needed. Archives are important because they are or- ganized for easy indexing by search engines. Archives are typically organized by month or week, depending on what you specify.
6. Author Info
A blog with no author information is pretty darn bor- ing. But a blog with no interesting author information is worse. The more individual and candid the details, the better. A blogger who tells not just what he does but who he is builds a stronger relationship with readers than just being Regional Director of Some- thing Important-Sounding. I used to post my chili recipe on the front page of my blog and people would remember my site because of it—”Oh, you’re the guy with the chili recipe.”
As mentioned above, a blogroll is a list of your fa- vorite blogs and Web sites. Just like the author infor- mation, it tells the reader a little bit more about who you are. Blogrolls contribute to the networking of blogs and the cross-linking of ideas.
You may see a link that says “Subscribe to this blog’s feed.” Or a big orange button that says XML or RSS. These are links to a blog’s feeds. Feeds are another way for your readers to get the latest updates on your blog using a type of software called a news aggrega- tor. Feeds are becoming popular because they pro- vide readers a spam-proof, virus-free way to receive updates like newsletters. As feeds are a pretty com- plex topic, I’ve dedicated a whole chapter to this sub-ject, on page 140.