Best Practices in Blogging: How to Maintain a Good Blog

BlogHer Original Post

Hello from BlogHer Food '09 in San Francisco, where today I will moderate a session about best practices in blogging, especially food blogging but with general application for blogs on other topics (What? People blog about more than food? How cute is that?)

Our topic is in the Vocation Track, "How Blogging Best Practices Apply, No Matter Your Blogging Niche". We've got a panel of diverse speakers, each a successful blogger in her own right, each representing a particular niche or community within the larger food blog world. Let me introduce them!

NOTE: This session is being live blogged, once the session is live (9:45am PST, Saturday, September 26).

Meet Michelle Lentz the 'Wine-Girl' at My Wine Education, who'll tackle the first-things-first topic of finding and speaking with your own voice. Michelle represents the 'non recipe' contingent of food blogging. She's also the one 'local blogger' on the panel, since her blog focuses on wine news and events in her hometown of Cincinatti.

Meet Elana Amsterdam of Elana's Pantry who will share ideas about the best practices for formatting a blog. Elana represents the gluten-free blogging community and blogs about organic food and natural homemade household products. She's also the author of the brand-new cookbook, The Gluten-Free Almond Flour Cookbook.

Meet Kalyn Denny of Kalyn's Kitchen and a fellow contributing editor for the Food & Drink topic here at BlogHer. Kalyn wil take on two topics near and dear to her blogging style, smart SEO tactics and what she calls Link Love.

Meet Lauren Ulm aka "Lolo" of VeganYumYum and also author of another just-released cookbook, Vegan Yum Yum: Decadent (But Doable) Animal-Free Recipes for Entertaining and Everyday. Lauren's known for her creative photography and while there is a Visual Track at BlogHer Food '09, Lauren will kick off with some start-up ideas about photography for food blogs and then discuss best practices in recipe development.

And then there is me, the moderator of today's session, Alanna Kellogg, the second-generation food writer at Kitchen Parade and the veggie evangelist at A Veggie Venture, the food blog about vegetables. It's my job to make sure we stay on track topic-wise and time-wise -- and that participants, both in person and online, come away with lots of ideas to bump their blogs up a notch or two.

So You've Got a Blog. Now How Do You Maintain It?

NOTE For time reasons, this topic is not scheduled for today's panel but is one of the very most important best blogging practices.

Read Like a Subscriber

  • Subscribe to your own posts in e-mail
  • Follow your own RSS feeds (all of them) in Google Reader, Bloglines, My Yahoo, etc
  • How friendly is, “If you are reading this other than in a feed reader, the site you are visiting is guilty of plagiarism and violating my copyrights."

Drop In Like a Search Visitor

  • Every landing page is your ‘front door’ - how do you look?
  • Optimize the best (not necessarily the highest) search landing pages with calls to action, better photos, tighter writing, recipe improvements, more links to related pages
  • Analyze combined keywords via HitTail

Rethink Past Decisions

  • Full or partial feed - If you're not monetizing your site, why use a partial feed? If you are monetizing your site, how important are the pageviews versus reader convenience, can you get the pageviews with other links? If you are using a partial feed, are you helping readers know what to expect, giving reason TO open the page
  • What content is highest on your page? Do you know that users don’t scroll, see Usability Findings and Guidelines from Smashing Magazine.
  • Posting frequency - Who's on a recipe treadmill? What percentage of a month's traffic comes from the current posts? If you posted less frequently, could you spend time improving your blog's performance and usability?
  • Photo sizes - too big, too small, are you optimizing the alt tags?
  • How many Javascripts / widgets - the more, the slower the page load
  • Is your About Page current and complete?

Categories Are Lazy Easy and But Ineffective

  • Categories are easy to check off but do they really serve our readers?
  • Just think, categories typically present one or more long full pages, which the reader has to wade through to see if they're interested in them, then another page with the same, then another and another
  • Can you vastly improve pages per visit by creating many practical ways for readers to find the exact recipe they're looking for?
  • Our recipes sites are really recipe databases
  • See examples of extreme "anti-category mania" from my own sites, A - Z of Vegetables and Weight Watchers Recipes and Recipes by Ingredient

Measurements Beyond Pageviews

  • Measure page load times - WebWait
  • Browser compatability - Why is it okay to tell 75% of readers who rely on Internet Explorer to switch to the better Firefox, even if it IS better? Instead, watch how your site appears on various browsers using BrowserShots.
  • Broken links - LinkTiger
  • Google WebMaster Tools
  • Search traffic - for sites with high percentage of search traffic, watch changes here closely
  • For monetized sites – calculate revenue per 1000 pageviews to compare relative contributions from different programs, especially important to compare from month to month
  • E-mail cancellations - what kinds of posts cause a rush of e-mail cancellations?

Does Your Site Have …?

  • Search box
  • E-mail subscription
  • Mobile page
  • Measurement converter
  • Feedburner subscriber count
  • Disclosure statement – advertising, gifts, etc (for examples, see Disclosure Policy
  • For Wordpress users, up-to-date software (Blogger and Typepad do this for their sites)

Basic Math to Compare One Period to Another

  • The one calculation you'll use again and again, whether comparing last month to this month, or especially, last year to this year.

How to calculate change between one period and another

And you?
So that's my list of maintenance items, stuff I keep a regular eye on. What's your own maintenance mode? Leave a tip, an idea, a reaction in the comments.

At heart, BlogHer food editor Alanna Kellogg is a techie and numbers geek but when it comes to food, she's over-the-harvest-moon excited to finally be cooking fall recipes again.


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