How to Blog without Having a Blog

There is a common misperception that the only way to use blogs to attract clients is to have your own blog. However, blogging is hard work which is probably why 60% of blogs haven’t been updated in the last 60 days. New Bloggers get excited, start a blog, add entries for a few weeks and once the excitement wears off blogging becomes one more thing to feel guilty about not doing as often as you should.

I think one of the biggest reasons why people stop blogging is that they realize they’re essentially talking to themselves. Writing the blog is the easy part. The hard part is marketing your blog. And in order to attract readers, you have to market your blog just as you do your website and newsletter. However, this doesn’t mean that you can’t use blogging to your advantage. Why not tap into the audiences other blogs attract?

You don’t have to have a blog to participate in the blogosphere. An effective blog is essentially an online discussion and what makes a blog different from a newsletter is the ability for anyone to comment on what they’ve read thus creating a dynamic online conversation. A blog that creates and encourages conversation is more likely to engage readers and make them come back in the future. As a result, most Bloggers would love for you to comment on what they’ve written. It’s a win-win situation. They have a more interesting blog and you get to get in front of a new audience.

So How Do You Find Blogs to Comment on?

In order to get in front of your target market, you have to think like them. Start by asking yourself, “Where does my target market hang out on the internet?” Put yourself in your prospect’s place and ask yourself the following questions:

  • What are they looking for?
  • What do they care about?
  • What professional organizations do they belong to?
  • Are there any stories in the press that affect their industry?
  • What publications do they read?

Once you’ve gotten inside your prospects head and created a list of topics they tend to be interested in, it’s time to find some blogs. There are several ways to do this. I usually start with the blog directories and see where it takes me.

Blog Directories
The Open Directory Project, the largest human-edited directory of the internet has a comprehensive list of blog directories. This list of lists will give you more than enough blog directories to search.

Technorati which is the best known and largest blog directory. Although it’s the biggest, I’m not that fond of it because you have to search using key words instead of browsing blogs by what topics they cover. This means that if you wanted to find blogs related to “leadership development” as it pertains to the corporate world the results will return ANY reference to “leadership development” including sports and education references. You wind up wading through a lot of impertinent blog posts. Fortunately things are changing and more and more directories are organizing their blogs into logical categories. This reduces the number of irrelevant blogs you have to sort though to find what you want. A couple of blog directories organized this way that I like are Blogarama and Blog Catalog.

Blog Rolls
Once you find an especially pertinent blog, check out their blog roll for more ideas. A blog roll is a list of other blogs this blog owner recommends. They are typically displayed in the left or right hand column.

Google Alerts
In an article on Google Alerts, I discussed how to use this service to deliver search results to your inbox. Google Alerts can also be used to find blogs. Using Google Alerts is especially helpful if you are tracking a rapidly evolving news story.

Magazines & Newspapers
Many magazines—especially business magazines— have blogs associated with their websites. Fast Company has pioneered the use of blogging in tandem with their magazine and is an excellent place to start if you’re looking for business blogs. (Be sure to check out their blog roll in the left column.) If you’re looking for blogs focused on a particular region of the country, try newspaper websites.

How to Keep Track of Blogs

At this point you might be thinking, “Yeah, right. Like I’m going to remember to check on all these blogs every few days.” There’s a solutions to that! This is where a blog aggregator comes in handy.

A blog aggregator (also known as a news aggregator) allows you to keep track of all the blogs you want to read in one place. Maybe you’ve heard about RSS which stand for “really simple syndication” and wondered what it had to do with blogging. RSS is the technology built into blogs to notify you of blog updates. You can get these updates via website, sent to your email inbox or on your PDA.

The blog aggregator I use is Bloglines. Bloglines is a free web based aggregator you can access from any computer with an internet connection. When you find a blog you like, log into Bloglines and add it to your list. Bloglines will then check those blogs for new posts and will add them to your Bloglines personal page.

You can learn more about how RSS works and how to sign up for Bloglines from Debbie Weil’s blog entry RSS 101. Debbie’s blog is really good. I suggest you test out Bloglines by signing up for the feed of Debbie’s blog.

Check your blog aggregator once a week or so and see if any of the recent posts by other Bloggers catch your eye and inspire you to participate in the conversation.

Blog Commenting Basics

When you find a blog post you want to comment on, treat it as if you were at a face-to-face networking event. You wouldn’t walk into a chamber of commerce meeting and start yelling at the top of your voice, “This is my business and I can help you!” Don’t do it in cyberspace either. Be professional and helpful. You primary goal should be to give pertinent advice that shows the reader you know what you’re talking about.

Keep in mind that most blogs are set up so that the moderator needs to approve your post before it’s viewable to other readers. Be careful about how you bring up your business name or website. If you appear to be blatantly marketing yourself, your comment won’t be added.

If you’ve written something that resonates with another reader, they will put a little effort into finding you. However, there are a few things you can do to make it easier for them to find you. Most blogs ask you for your name, email address and website when you add a comment. Blogs typically don’t display your email address so it can’t get picked up by spammers so to help people find you use your full name and not a nick name.

An appropriate way to refer to your website would be to suggest people go there to learn more about a topic. If you’ve built a database of articles on your website, you could say something like, “I’ve written an article that addresses that problem. You can find it at (put link here).”

Once you’ve commented on a blog, be sure to check back within a few days. Someone might have asked for clarification or even asked you to contact them.

The overall goal of tapping into the audiences of other blogs is to be helpful and demonstrate your expertise. Any blatant sales pitch will get your comment deleted. If you’re contemplating starting a blog, I strongly recommend that you get your feet wet in the blogosphere by doing what I’ve described above. You’ll be a lot clearer on how you want your blog to work and will have a much easier time attracting readers. Happy blogging!

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