BlogCamp is the one of many brainchilds of Sally Whittle, whom some of you will already know through Tots100 and the MAD Awards. She's cleverly spotted there's a need for bloggers to not only get together and have a good natter, but also to find out a bit more about blogging itself. There's only so much you can do online - and often the information on there is conflicting anyway - and many of the events available are aimed at businesses, with a price tag to match.
This event was free. It had lunch. And... it had cake :)
A broad range of topics were covered and whilst much of these were aimed at working with companies and being more business-like about blogging, I'd say any blogger would find something of interest and useful from this kind of event.
Chris Mosler spoke about ethical blogging, both in terms of how it informs the voice and personality of her blog and also which companies and charities she chooses to work with. Elisabeth Winkler, then went back to basics with some reminders about why we blog and using these reasons to shine through in our words and pictures.
Phil Szomszor spoke about his recent research findings about the relationship between PR agencies and bloggers. Finally, Lee Smallwood not only defied the traditional post lunch slump but also made Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) entertaining [:o - Ed]. There was also plenty of opportunity to ask questions and discuss the issues we all face as bloggers throughout the day.
I won't summarise everything from each presentation as that would mean a very long post. Besides, I want to experiment with some of the things I've learned and share them with you at a later date. However, here's a few tips from yesterday to keep you going:
- Be yourself, but act like you would in a public space
- A blog is your own voice even when campaigning: writing a story around what I do is much more powerful than a preachy this is what you should do
- Research the companies who approach you: if they don't fit with your content and/or ethics then politely decline. Always use the opportunity to explain why the answer's no
- Do experiment and keep 'playing' to keep your blog fresh: write with a beginner's mind so you can share what you've learned
- Make your blog easy on the eye: write short paragraphs with spaces between them; pay attention to spelling and punctuation; read your words aloud before you hit Publish
- If you want to make money from your blog, then think about what your goals are as these will inform how you go about it and how long it might take. Have a look at the guidance from the NUJ on freelance writing rates (including online, though you will also need to take your experience and the publication into account) and the Blogger.Ed forum will be gathering information on rates actually obtained for advertising
- The main ways PR companies currently find bloggers to work with are: manual searches; blogrolls and forums; and Twitter. Once they've found you, the main aspects looked at are: content relevance; post frequency; and comments
- Around 19% of bloggers have had a PR company ask them to not mention anything negative about the product. Thankfully my experience has been quite the opposite and I believe the main strength of blogger:PR relationships is the opportunity to sort out any negative aspects of a product or its sales/after sales service
- Consistency is vital in not only in what you write for your readers, SEO likes it too. Ensure the key words you use for your post are included in your post's title; your first and last paragraph (and every couple of hundred words if possible, but not at the expense of your writing style); your chosen image title(s) and its alt attribute. NB it's good practice to use the alt attribute for your readers too - the link to Wikipedia explains why
- Search engines also like backlinks to your blog very much, so do keep on being sociable!
NB these events aren't just aimed at parent bloggers, but are open to anyone who doesn't blog commercially. There are other BlogCamps coming up as well as yesterday's in Bristol - the next one's in Brighton today - so it's worth checking out the website to see if one will be coming to a venue near you very soon.
Update: Here's a list of links to everyone who's posted about Thursday's event :)
Update 2: I found this interesting piece re SEO changes a few days after BlogCamp. Unique, useful and well-liked content will also be key in the future. This might be due to Google's moves to downgrade the importance of content mill pieces in returned search results?