This week I’ve been writing an article for the Studio Art Quilt Associates Journal. My assignment was to write about blogging so I’ve been talking to a half-dozen art quilters about their blogs. One of them is Rebecca Hosta and during our conversation she asked such a terrific question. She said:
One thing that has mystified me is finding other blogs…I’d love to know how blogs relate to the web/internet as a whole and how they are searched and indexed. I have no luck finding blogs, and conversely, no one is finding mine.
There’s a lot to this question and I just want to focus on one aspect in this post: how do you find blogs?
I’ve been an avid blog reader for 11 years and I currently keep up with about 100 blogs. How did I find them? And how (and why!) do I read so many?
I find blogs by following my own curiosity. When I encounter an artist, crafter, or writer that I like I look to see if they have an active blog. When one of my Facebook friends links to an interesting blog post, I read it and then look around a bit to see if I might like the rest of the posts the author has written. I discover blogs via links from Pinterest, Instagram, and Twitter. When I hear an especially interesting podcast interview with someone I hadn’t previously heard of I look to see if they have a blog. And, perhaps most often, I discover new blogs from links within the current blogs I read.
I think all of us do some of this. We click over to a blog from Facebook and read a post, then click back to Facebook and engage in conversation about what we’ve read. But in that pogo sticking from Facebook to a blog and back again we’ve lost track of the blog where the article originated.
And that’s why we need to use a tool for keeping track of blogs. When I first began blogging people kept track of blogs by keeping a list of their favorites on the sidebar of their own blog (see the right sidebar on Stitches and Seams for an example) and they used Google Reader. Google Reader was an RSS reader, a web application that creates a digest of all of the new posts from the blogs you choose to follow. It allows you to follow lots of blogs all in one place.
Google Reader was shuttered in the summer of 2013 and at that moment many people simply stopped keeping up with blogs in an organized way. They began to rely on social media for links to new blog content, but they aren’t seeing every new post and I think that’s a missed opportunity.
Just before Google Reader died I exported my blog list and imported it into Bloglovin, another RSS reader (Feedly is another and there are more). It operates in essentially the same way. Input a URL into the Bloglovin search bar and the blog will pop up. Then hit follow. You can organize your blogs into groups if you’d like, but I don’t. It’s just one long feed.
I know there’s a contingent of people out there who like to receive every blog post from their favorite blogs via email. I think that can work if your inbox stays manageable. I get hundreds of emails every day and as my business grows the volume of email grows. I need blog reading to take place elsewhere and that’s where Bloglovin comes in.
I mainly read Bloglovin on my phone. I read blogs with my morning coffee and over lunch. I think of my Bloglovin as an ever-changing, independently published magazine tailored just for me. Here’s a small selection of the mix of blogs in there right now:
- Alisa Burke
- The Swellesley Report
- Pinch of Yum
- Instagram for Business
- Phoebe Wahl
- Scrapbook Update
That’s an artist’s blog, a hyper local blog about my town, a food blog, a social media blog, an illustrator’s blog, a news blog about the scrapbooking industry, and Ravelry’s blog. When you set up and build your RSS reader your selection will reflect your interests and will likely be totally different from mine. Periodically I weed out blogs I’m no longer interested in, but I’m always adding new ones. It just takes a few seconds and it’s so worth it.
I think now more than ever following your favorite blogs is helpful to your business. In fact, I’d say that just like you should pin for work you should follow blogs for work. All of us are now in the role of content curators. Want to build your Facebook page? Find good links to share. Want to make your newsletter amazing? Find good links to share. Want to be interesting on Twitter? Find good links to share. Where do those links come from? For the most part, at least in the craft world, they come from blogs.
Even more than that, blogs are a way for you to keep up with what’s happening in your industry. Reading blogs helps you see trends forming, introduces you to new products on the market, educates you about shows and conferences you might have otherwise missed, helps you see what kinds of books are getting published, and so much more. They’re like Instagram, but longform and longform is still important.
Social media is an unreliable way to keep up with blogs. Not every blogger you’ll want to follow is active on every social media channel and even if they were you’ll surely miss some posts. If you don’t currently use an RSS reader, give it a try. Set it up, install the app on your smartphone, and add a dozen of your favorite blogs. Blogging is very much alive and there’s so much to be gained by following along.