This week I’m focusing on how you can improve your blog. So far I’ve talked about why you should schedule blog posts and the basics of search engine optimization. Tomorrow’s post will cover how to write a product review on your blog.
Your writing is boring.
I’ve read your blog. I know you’re struggling to be funny, and I appreciate that. I struggle with it too. We can’t all come up with ways to weave detective stories into our SQL Server blog posts.
Cheat: add pictures to distract us from your writing.
Your writing can be dead serious and technically complex, but you can still liven things up with a romance novel cover, a drag queen, or a guy making fun of himself. There’s just two simple rules you have to follow when adding images to your blog.
Rule #1: Don’t Steal Pictures
Fortunately, some photographers don’t mind sharing their work as long as it’s properly attributed and linked. There’s plenty of places to get free images for your blog, and my favorite is Flickr’s advanced search. Put in your search terms, and then scroll to the bottom of the page and check the box that says “Only search within Creative Commons-licensed content.” These are images that you can reuse as long as you link back properly to the original image. (When I’m doing presentations with Creative Commons images, I put the link on the bottom of the slide.)
When you have trouble finding good pictures, turn your search around. Instead of searching for technical terms related to your article’s topic, search for words that describe the emotion you’re trying to convey, like funny, confusing, challenge, broken, etc. Sort by “Interesting”, and Flickr will show you the images people love the most. I’m always surprised by how many great photos I find this way, and how well they work in the blog entry even though they didn’t initially appear to have anything in common with my point.
Side note – I tend to reuse funny images when I find real gems, so I mark them as favorites in Flickr. If you ever wonder what my next presentation will include, check out what photos I’ve bookmarked recently, and that’ll give you a peek into my brain.
Before you edit the file (change the orientation, crop it, add a funny lolcats-style caption) double-check the usage rights. It’s on the right side of the photo page on Flickr where it says “Some Rights Reserved.” Some photos allow Remix use, whereas some don’t allow modifications.
Rule #2: Don’t Steal Bandwidth
When you find a picture you want to use, right-click on it and save it to your computer. Upload it to your blog, and make the photo be a hyperlink back to the original web page, not the image. The web page has information about the author and links to their other photos.
Don’t just put an IMG SRC tag that point directly to the other person’s web server. This uses too much of their bandwidth at no gain to them. Savvy webmasters will figure out what you’re doing and take action.