Monday, March 13, 2006

What Makes a Good Blog

You've got a blog but Sarona, Wisconsin--population 7--gets more traffic. Why aren't people visiting? Why aren't they commenting?

Here are some blog dos and don'ts to help you boost your blogrisma.

  1. Content is King. It's what brings people back. It's what draws new readers through search engines. If you share important information, experience, and wisdom, you'll build a readership. Confessions of an Idiosyncratic Mind is great one-stop-shopping for everything happening in the mystery world, and it is wildly popular as a result.
  2. Lists, Tests, and Bullet Points. A text-heavy blog is a turn of. Pay attention to negative space. People like to absorb information in bite-size pieces. The easier it is to digest and read, the more return visits you'll have.
  3. Stay Focused. Stick to one topic per entry, and make sure this topic is different from previous topics so your readership doesn't get bored. What is the reason for your blog? Do you have a reason? Tess Gerritsen blogs about the ups and downs of being a bestselling thriller author. She doesn't water down her content with opinions about last night's episode of the Sopranos, lists of her favorite foods, meme tags, or life stories unrelated to publishing.
  4. Ask Questions. A blog isn't a monologue. The best ones ask questions to provoke feedback. First Offenders is very good at this. Solicit opinions, ask for input and advice, and people will offer it.
  5. Be Friendly. This is the community watering hole, and you are the bartender. Be welcoming, friendly, and accommodating. Answer questions, be polite, and be genuinely glad people have shown up.
  6. Be Controversial. Arguing is good. Disagreement is good. As long as everyone remains civil, encourage debate. Lee Goldberg walks the line between entertaining, informative, and controversial, and his traffic shows it.
  7. Link to Other Blogs. Go to and sign up for free. It will let you see where your traffic is coming from. This is often an eye-opening experience. The more sites that link to you, the more hits you'll get. If you want to see who is alreayd linking to you, visit
  8. Free Stuff. Periodically hold contests or give away free things. Everyone loves free things.
  9. Keep Yourself Out of It. Unless the focus of your blog is your personal life, your personal life doesn't have much of a place in a blog. My focus is about the publishing business. As such, I don't blog about my children. In contrast, Melanie Lynne Hauser writes books about a single mother who becomes a super hero after a horrible Swiffer accident. Melanie is constantly blogging about her family because her books are all about family.
  10. Strive for Perfection. An occasional typo is harmless. Every other word spelled wrong is annoying. Most blogs have Spellcheck. Use it.
  11. Limit Self-Promotion. Sure, I hope everyone who reads my blog runs out and buys a copy of Whiskey Sour (or clicks on the Four Pack of Jack link to the right--four stories for only 49 cents!) But if you do this all the time you've become a commercial, not a blog. MJ Rose's blog is about self promotion, so she occasionally uses her own books as examples. But she also uses many other examples. Which brings me to the last point.
  12. No Blog is an Island. Besides linking to other blogs, you should reference other blogs in your blog entries. We're all in the same writing community boat, and giving shout-outs to your peers is classy and helpful. I encourage everyone reading this to check out the blogs I've mentioned in this article. And if you find them to be helpful, informative, or entertaining, consider buying their books.


Stacey Cochran said...

Great post, Joe! Lots of good advice.

A couple things I do that seems to interest folks is a quarterly T-shirt drawing and the use of lots of photos on my blog.

People like free stuff!


Bernita said...

Very nice advice, Joe - though I'm still wondering how the gentleman who was searching for "brothel fees gratuity" wound up at my blog.

JA Konrath said...

Bernita: Tell him 15% for half and half, 20% for around the world.

HawkOwl said...

I'd take your advice, except for one thing: I don't enjoy reading blogs like that. I like blogs with personality and a variety of topics.

JA Konrath said...

In the publishing blogosphere, the blogs with the most traffic are the ones that focus on topics rather than meander all over the place.

This post is about getting traffic.

Having a blog about nothing in particular is fine, but in the publishing blogosphere these don't seem to get as much attention as the ones with more focus.

Jude Hardin said...

Solid advice. I'm waiting until I get a publishing deal to start my own blog, because I feel my time is better spent working on my book right now. When I do start blogging, this post will make a good reference.

Even though it's a few days off, let me be the first to say happy one-year anniversary on your blog, Joe. Hope you give us many more years of great information and entertainment.

Lainey said...

I think you're right, but it's difficult for blog novices. I have no idea how to "fancy up" my blog with pics and stuff. Guess I need to see if there's a Blogs for Dummies book.

Sandra Ruttan said...

Just one question, though. I mean, you're famous and all, so you don't have to worry about this, but what about us lowly schmucks asking questions on our blogs?

Don't we look like idiots if nobody answers them?

JA Konrath said...

I'm pretty sure I'm not famous.

Anonymous said...

JA, what a great post. I ticked off a mental list of what I've doing right, and what I've been doing wrong.

I know even as I write some blogs that I'll get few comments. I write them anyway, but I'm realizing that doing this is self-defeating, as well as self-righteous.

It's all about sharpening the tool.

My blog is somewhere between the newbie and the bestselling author--an author trying to get to the next rung on the ladder. So much is said about people trying to get their books sold. Very little is said about what happens in a writing career when you're actually in the midst of it. The ups, the downs, or as they say in Spinal Tap, the good, the bad, and the (expletive).

Anonymous said...

What I don't understand are aspiring authors who maintain blogs which nonetheless exhibit the unholy triad: (1) no links to other blogs, (2) no comments on posts or recognition when you do leave a comment, (3) no courtesy visit back to your blog after you leave a comment.

What does the unholy triad show? No promotion. None. Why put in the effort of writing a blog if you don't pound the pavement for readers? After all, your name and writing style are not going to appear to the reading public in a prophetic dream.

Unknown said...


Good tips! My Blog which I launched 3+ years ago has received a very loyal following of 500 or so daily readers (300 vocal, 200 tracked but lurking) and I've discovered that I can basically write about anything - private, referential, humorous, whatever. And so long as there is a post in the AM for the working peeps and a post in the evening for the people home from school and work, they tend to be happy, and come back often.

Of course I'm talking about Change at Jamaica my original Blog, and not my drowning failure of a lit blog which I'm about to kill.

I learned that I was greedy by trying to launch a second Blog. My audience wasn't interested in jumping around, so my passion stays where it began.

Bernita said...

Er..Joe...what's "half and half?"

JA Konrath said...

Regular and French, no Greek.

Bernita said...

Dear me...
Thank you, Joe.

Anonymous said...

Uh, if those are salad dressings, don't you mean "house" rather than regular? she asked innocently.

Bonnie S. Calhoun said...

Bernita...don't you are so bad..LOL!

I just like to make people laugh! It seems to work pretty well for me and I've only had a blog for a matter of months! I don't really have a particular subject!

Rob Gregory Browne said...

One thing I'm certainly learning is that blogging is difficult. Trying to come up with a new post every day or so is probably the hardest part, but then there's maintenance and trying to respond to comments and visit other blogs --

-- plus write the next book, make travel plans for the NYC meet and greet, get promotional projects going, etc.

It can all be overwhelming.

That said, it's also a lot of fun and I look forward to working on the blog every day. I love getting and responding to comments, it's like hanging out with really great friends.

But sometimes I wonder if we're not overexposing ourselves. Maybe as writers we need to step back a little so that there's a little mystery about us.

Who knows.

That said, as usual, Joe, your advice is dead on.

Anonymous said...

Excellent advice as usual, Joe. (And may I just add, your taste in other blogs is excellent?) I think that in blogging, like all writing, it's important to think before you blog - think about who you're trying to reach, what your purpose is. I definitely thought about the audience for my books when I was deciding what kind of blog I would put out there. To me, it was important to reach out to readers, not other writers (although I don't ignore writing things altogether, because an awful lot of bloggers - even Mom Bloggers - are aspiring writers). You've done a good job, too, in identifying who you want to reach. I'm a huge believer in imagining who your audience is when you're telling your story, whether it's your fiction, or your blog.

CheSol said...

Two questions from a newbie blogger, Joe:
1. How do you find the time to blog, read all those other bloggers, practice personal hygiene and otherwise conduct the business of writing for a living?
2. How did I wind up being quoted on the blog of a 16-year-old girl in Singapore ( when I swear I've never been south of Guangzhou?

Thanks for the great tips and the pleasure of your blogging!

Joanne said...

Great advice, JA! Much of what I should follow, but because I've made my blog into a combination of my writing, my photography and my life, I'm not real anxious to start over. :(

I do love your blog and the wonderful information you post here.

Anonymous said...

sound advice and I will be sure to take it. While i'm at it, I invite everyone here to visit my blogs at:

animemangakuryujiru said...

I just started blogging....literally. Like 2 days ago.
And I just wanted an opinion from you.

Would you read a blog about ups and downs of a country and its people? And a blog talking about cultural and supernatural beliefs as well as sayings?

Siva said...

started blogging just minutes before
nice way to voice your self

Our Solutions To Your Problems. said...

Very informative. How did you get your blog to show up on google?

Anonymous said...

The Internet contains nearly 3 million active blogs, according to one recent count, with topics ranging from politics to movies, to food, to the emotional ramblings of high-school teens.

With so many blogs, how does one become popular? What qualities will distinguish a blog from the massive congestion in the blogosphere?

Blogs become successful because of specificity and passion, according to Kevin Donahue, co-creator of Fanblogs, a college football blog described by as the best blog dedicated to a single sport.

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Kimmie said...

This advice helps me quite a bit. I just started my blog a couple of months ago and find that I must be missing something since I have zero comments, besides the 1 little comment from my personal friend trying to help me out. I ask questions, but nobody replies for some reason, I post lists and comment on others blogs I find interesting, but still no comments or interaction. Is this just something that takes time?

T.May said...

Just started a blog myself. Some good advice here. Tossing some content in for starters seems to be a bit difficult but I suppose content fills in over time

Thanks for the Info