Blogging can be a great way to disseminate your research, but how can you make your blog stand out from the crowd? This guide by Dilip Mutum offers ideas for attracting more readers and commentators to your blog and interacting with other blogs.

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Blogging for researchers
The interactive nature of blogs sets them apart from ordinary static websites. On blogs, people are not only sharing information but they are interacting with each other, having conversations. Not only are the bloggers talking with visitors to their blogs, the visitors are talking among themselves as well. This has great potential for researchers, and an increasing number of academics are now blogging.

Search engine optimisation
Most people assume that once they have a blog, visitors will come streaming in. You might have even invested in a domain name. However, you could end up being disappointed when the traffic does not increase even after a couple of months and no one is leaving a comment on your blog.

What is going wrong? The first question you have to ask yourself is whether you are doing enough publicity for your blog. If people are not aware of your blog, they won’t visit it. You can add the url of your blog to your e-mail signatures, post it on your Facebook and Twitter profiles and even print it on your business card.

You can submit your blog url to various search engines, meaning they will come up in those search engines’ results when people search for relevant terms. You could also read up on some basic search engine optimisation techniques, which can help your blog to get a higher ranking on search results.

It is strongly recommended that you go through the webmaster guidelines  provided by Google.

Optimum length of posts
Most blog readers do not stay long on a blog and Darren Rowse aka Problogger suggests that the length of a blog post should be kept short. He notes the general opinion that a blog post should be at least 250 words and below 1000 words.

Connecting to other blogs
Ask questions on your posts as this will encourage visitors to leave comments. Having polls and competitions are also good ways of increasing the interactivity on your blog.

Do not wait for visitors to come to your blog. You should also go out and search for other bloggers with similar research interests. You can leave comments on their blogs along with your blog address (if possible). You could even create a post on your own blog as a response to a post on another blog. This can help initiate dialogues and can eventually lead to collaborations.

If you like someone else’s blog, add their link to your blog roll – a list of blogs you like. Do inform them that you are linking to them and often they will link back as well. However, do not ask for link exchanges; a lot of bloggers find this annoying.

Links to social media
It is possible to link your blog to other social media such as Twitter and Facebook so that whenever you make a blog post, a short message with a link back to your blog post is automatically posted on Twitter and Facebook as well. This will enable you to pull visitors to your blog from your followers and friends on these social networks.

Inclusive blogs
Of course blogs are personal and tastes vary. However, many bloggers make the mistake of choosing template designs and colours that are simply bad. For example, using a black background with red text – this is difficult to read for many people.

It is absolutely essential to make your blog inclusive so that it is usable by people of all abilities. The Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) guidelines by W3C is widely regarded as the international standard for Web accessibility and everybody who has a website should refer to these guidelines.

Most professional blogs have a simple, uncluttered white background with attractive images accompanying the posts. This helps the visitors to focus on the content.

Content is key
Content is what makes visitors come back. You need to have posts which are interesting to your visitors.

Blogs are great because they are personal. Making the tone too formal risks appearing bland and boring. Research has shown that blog users may even view the biased tone of bloggers positively and see them as more credible (Johnson & Kaye, 2004).

You might also want to consider adding videos and podcasts. This will make the blogs even more attractive to a wider range of visitors.

Image Dave & Margie Hill / Kleerup, Wikicommons | Kristina B/ Creative Commons