I am not an expert. At anything. But I have been bird blogging for over three years now and I would like to believe that I have learned a few tricks of the trade that are worth sharing. This will neither be an exhaustive post covering every aspect of bird blogging nor a lecture from a bird-blogging ivory tower. Instead, I look at this post as a jumping-off point and hope that other bird bloggers will share their tips in the comment section.
Have a Blogroll
It used to be that almost every single blog out there had a list of links to other blogs on the sidebar. With the proliferation of different blogging platforms and designs the traditional blogroll has often fallen by the wayside. This does not mean that a bird blogger should not have a blogroll. In fact, I would argue that a blogroll is one of the fundamental necessities for a bird blogger. A blogroll is not just a way to share new sites with your readers but a way to let other bloggers know that you are reading their blogs. The blogger who does not have a blogroll risks appearing narcissistic, anti-social, and just plain rude. Not only that, but if you aren’t linking to other blogs why should they link to you? Here at 10,000 Birds we have a robust blogroll and are constantly adjusting it. Is a great birding blog missing from our blogroll? Leave a note in the comments and we’ll take a look and see if we’d like to link.
Use Words and Images
You can put both words and images onto your blog so why not do that? A wall of type is often intimidating, looks bland, and fails to take advantage of our medium’s potential. Posts that are just pictures may fail to engage the reader and are too easy to skip over. Find a mixture of text and images that is comfortable for you. Sure, there are some bird bloggers that can get away almost exclusively with text but they are the exception that proves the rule. There is no excuse for not having images. Digital cameras are cheap, it is easy to get images on the computer, and people like pictures. On the other hand, if all you are going to post is pictures then it will be very difficult for anyone to interact with you other than to say “nice picture.” Unless you are an amazingly great photographer (and odds are you aren’t) you will need something more than images.
Show Full Posts in Your RSS Feed
Nothing is more likely to make me not read a blog post than the full post not showing up in my google reader. I read lots of blogs. I am not going to click through every single blog I read because I like to do things other than just read blogs. So I use a reader to bring all of the content I want to see to one spot. If your full post doesn’t show up in my feed I can almost guarantee I am not going to read it. The people who use feed readers tend to be people who read lots of blogs and are often bloggers themselves. Why force people who have taken the time to subscribe to your blog to click through each time they want to read one of your blog posts? Especially when these are people who might decide to link to your blog post if they like it? Maybe doing that will get you an occasional extra page view but you will be missing out on putting your content directly in front of your most important readers, your subscribers. That is just plain dumb.
Take Part in the Community
There are a host of blog carnivals out there. There is the Nature Blog Network and the Fat Birder top list. There is Facebook, Twitter, and a host of other social media. And those are just the online options. Bird clubs, national organizations, and bird festivals are other ways to get linked to more birders and bird bloggers. If you have met someone and birded with them they are likely to want to read what you have to say about the outing. If they like what you wrote they might come back and read some more. Birding and blogging in isolation makes it very difficult to build readership and makes it easy for your audience to stop reading.
Space Your Posts Out
I never understand why a blogger posts several posts in a single day or over a couple of days, usually after a trip somewhere, and then posts nothing for weeks. Even if you want to write everything at once there is no reason you can’t schedule the posts you write to go up once a day until you run out of material. I love cookies but I don’t want ten cookies in five minutes and then not have another cookie for a month! Your blog posts are like cookies and unless you have a legion of cookie monsters as your subscribers you should ration your blog posts so readers stay satisfied without becoming gluttons.
Allow Comments (And Respond!)
If you are going to subject readers to your blogging the least you can do is take some return fire. Comments help build community on your blog and make people feel like they aren’t just receiving missives from on high. Commenters can correct your mistakes, provide links to similar posts, or just make your head swell when they let you know they like something that you wrote. A blog without comments is like beer without alcohol. You can do it, but why?
If someone takes the time to comment you should respond. After all, people who comment are the people who were moved enough by your writing that they actually felt that they needed to say something. You want to encourage this behavior! At the very least you should say thank you.
Give Credit Where Credit is Due
If you are sharing a link that you found via another blogger then link to them too. If you are using an image from somewhere else then ask permission (unless blanket permission is given) and link to the source (for example, if you click the cartoon I used above it takes you to GraphicsHunt, where I found it). If you are quoting something make sure you make that clear and link to the source, if possible. Stealing the work of others is just not cool and you should not do it. It is bad netiquette and it could land you in trouble.
Write about Cultural Intersections
That is, as a bird blogger, you should write, at least sometimes, about the places where the world of birds and birding intersects with another world, like the world of art. Here at 10,000 Birds some of our most-visited posts continue to be where birds meet literature, sport, and tattoos. Bird blogging is a small niche and the more you can do to expand the niche the more room you have to grow and the more interesting that your posts become. Trip reports are great but one can only read so many before they all start to blend together. Mix it up and you will see results!
I hope that the tips here have been helpful and that you can use them in your bird blogging. Please feel free to add more in the comments or to disagree with the tips I provided. Most importantly, keep blogging!
Corey, you forgot two other golden rules: swear a lot, and display extreme ignorance on a wide variety of topics. They’ve always worked wonders for me.
@Tom Mc: Well I have the first one down pat…
“Show Full Posts in Your RSS Feed”
You summed that up perfectly. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone articulate it, I’m glad you put it out there!
Regarding the rest of your post: dammit, now I want cookies. Thanks for that.
Thanks, Mike. That is a serious pet peeve of mine and it almost ends up with me unsubscribing and no longer reading the blog.
Now I want some cookies too…
I got here by googling “swearing + cookies” and now I’m extremely disappointed.
Speaking of cookies, I cleaned out a bunch from my computer, and now 10,000 Birds no longer knows who I am!
I suppose I should know better than to bring up cookies around birders. Why are birders always so hungry?
Excellent post Corey! I have both tried to live those principles in my own blog and have violated all of those concepts at one time or another. I’d like some tips about how to break the glass ceiling of getting on other people’s blog rolls. I have regular readers that have blogs of their own, and I have links to their blog on my blog roll, but I never seem to make it on theirs. Is it within birding blog ethics to “ask” for reciprocal links? I could almost put together a list of the Big 10 blogs that show up on almost every birding blog. Of course, if I didn’t change the name of my blog every few months, it would certainly help…I think my changes are done now. By the way, Birding is Fun! is going to be a Utah-based birding blog starting in the new year. My company asked me to go there rather than North Carolina. CRaZy!
Thanks, Robert. I too have failed to follow pretty much every single tip I mentioned here.
I’ve added you to our blogroll (not sure how you weren’t there already). Sometimes folks do ask for reciprocal links and it is certainly fine to do so (in my opinion) provided that the person asking doesn’t get pushy if they don’t get a link back. It can also be weird when someone starts a blog and has written two or three posts and they start asking everyone for a link.
I hope everything works out for you in Utah!
Sometimes it is hard to follow all the principles… but I’m still trying (and I’m thinking now in adding a separate page only for links to my own blog… there are so many good ones out there).
All I need is another 10-15 writers and my blog should take off…
Thanks for the tips! I have been blogging for a while but don’t have any followers…I think I have a few secret followers. Maybe I’m just boring. I’ll add some pictures of cookies with text and see how it goes 😉
Great post. I’m glad to see you include the point about full RSS reads. I currently have 374 feeds in my RSS reader, and I’m much more likely to read and comment on posts that I can read in the reader than ones that I have to go somewhere else to read.
I’d like to add one point regarding images. Not everyone has the photography equipment to photograph birds well, but that’s no reason not to include bird images in posts since there are lots of great image resources online. For example, images created by the federal government are in the public domain, and the Fish & Wildlife Service has a great collection of images available in a searchable database. There are other resources, too. Most image on Wikipedia are either in the public domain or available under a Creative Commons license. Some images on Flickr are also Creative Commons licensed, but it may be necessary to check with the photographer to use them.
@Jan: Another advantage to moving stuff off the front page is a faster loading time for visitors.
@Will: Well get to it then! 🙂
@Lisa: Keep at it!
@John: Great tips on the photos, thanks! And 374 feeds! Holy cow! How do you find time to blog at all?
Corey, would you consider making your “latest posts” side section a lttle bigger? A reader who does not check in every day risks missing a post that has fallen off the bottom of the column. During a heavy blogging time, a latest post could be history in little over a day and consigned to the archives. Without knowing what you have missed, it is hard to go searching for it.
If you are counting pages, then this may just be a ploy to trap unwary readers into stumbling around in the catacombs of past posts and generating lots of page hits (what a good idea, I must try that).
@Redgannet: We’ve been considering such a move…I’ll also take this time to remind readers that they can always look up an individual’s posts by adding “/author/redgannet” to the blog’s URL if they wanted your posts or “/author/corey” if they wanted mine.
We also strongly encourage readers to subscribe!
1. A ‘robust’ blogroll from A to Z doesn’t inspire me to click on anyone. Blogspot lets me list the latest 5, with a thumbnail and title. If that is what you want, you can click Show All. I have also split my blogroll, you’ll find 10,000 birds in Part 4. It is about a friendly promotion of blogs you like to read. Absolutely not knee-jerk reciprocal links.
2. Plain dumb not to use a full feed? Bird bloggers are not affected by scraping blogs? http://www.gardenbloggers.com/2010/12/reporting-copyright-violations-on.html
3. Respond to comments. Say ‘thank you’ by leaving a good comment in turn. Please don’t just say … thanks for the comment full stop.
@Elephant’s Eye: Some people like a big blogroll and some don’t. Ours is pretty well-used, though we also think having a blogroll is about more than just click-through. I like the “latest post” feature on Blogspot blogrolls but I also think that it slows down the blog’s loading and is impractical with a blogroll beyond a certain size.
And, yeah, scraping blogs suck but the negative that they are does not outweigh the positive that comes from providing your full posts to your most regular readers.
I agree that folks should do more than just say “thanks” to comments, that is, assuming that the comment was something more than just “Nice post.”
Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to leave a thoughtful comment!
I gotta agree with you on a lot of this Corey…shit, I never even thought about the RSS feed, I need to check what settings I have going. I will say that since my life is in a constant state of turmoil I will post a lot when I can (although never more than once a day….thats intense) because I may go for months without having reliable (or any) internet access. That, and I can be extremely lazy.
No worries, Seagull (I can call you Seagull, right?), your feed provides a full post.
If you do end up in a situation again where you know that you won’t have access for awhile you should totally leave posts behind to post in your absence. Consider them blog grenades, meant to entertain your readers weeks after you pulled the pin.
Yeah, thanks Corey. You know Ive done the scheduled blog post thing in the past but recently it wont allow me to….maybe I need to try a different browser. You would think Chrome would be the best match with Blogger though.
Oh snap! One more thing. I recommend adding “Count Your Chicken! We’re Taking Over!” (http://nutcase007.blogspot.com/) to your blogroll. Jill takes facemelting photos and gets to check out a lot of rad places/birds/wildlife.
She is added and, yeah, now I need to go reattach my face somehow…
I must be honest that this bird blogging is new to Uganda. I have just met it on the web. A few times on my trips to US since 2006, I have heard several friends talk about blogging but it never caught my interest. Hope I am not late to start blogging.
I need help. Some one to let me know how to blog without any violation.
I have recently started new blog. It is about birding and blogging in the Alberta prairies of Canada. I was wondering if you could add my blog to your blogroll.
Hello! Thank you for such an insightful blog post, Corey. I must admit that I’ve been a bit guilty of committing the “blogging in isolation” faux pas you mentioned above. As a nascent blogger, it can be a bit daunting to flap your wings and make yourself known to the bird blogging universe. I suppose this is as good an opportunity as any to introduce myself… My name is Danielle Mohilef. My sister, Michelle, and I recently launched a birding blog, The Birding Bug (www.TheBirdingBug.com). Our blog is intended for the novice and avid birder alike. Michelle and I don’t fit neatly into any particular bird watching category, and our blog doesn’t either. We relish novels about birding as much as we study a good field guide. We have been known to be as enthused about seeing a new species at our feeder as we are when checking off a “lifer” in another part of the world.
Though we only have a few months under our belt, we are trying to mix things up a bit (loved what you had to say about cultural intersections!) and find our own rhythm. Please feel free to take a look at our blog and add us to your blogroll if you like what you see. As our favorite blog to follow, 10,000 Birds has been on ours since day #1!
Thank you again for encouraging me to come out of my shell. If anything, you can be certain that your blog post has motivated this fledgling blogger to become a more active member of the bird blogging community.
Danielle & Michelle
Blogroll…. just figured you guys are not on there yet, oups, hehe…. 🙂
Changed that 😉
Agreed on all accounts!
And nothing smart to add 🙂
OH snap do I like to break all of these rules.. Except it’s a rare week that goes by that I don’t post at least one crappy photo.. But I definitely break the trip report rule, mainly because that was the only reason I started my blog when I first started birding in 2009. I wanted to remember what I saw, where I saw it, and when I saw it… I was shocked when others started reading it too. Yikes. I am working on my bad habit of never responding to comments. Thanks for sharing all these tips!
Have taken part in quite a number of community sensitization on the importance of birds conservation, I have found out that the best way to take part is through organized bird counts such dry season bird counts and celebration of World birds migratory day
Great read! Great tips. I am new to bird blogging and want to set up a blog roll on my website. Do you feel that I should I ask permission of the bloggers I like before linking their blog to my website or just go for it?
Kenneth, glad you enjoyed this post. You never need permission to link to someone’s blog. In fact, doing so honors any blogger. Best of luck!