Update: this post is long. It deserves a soundtrack.
Everclear: AM Radio. One of my happy place songs.
So, this one blogger has lately been leaving comment spam and links to his/her site all over the k-blogs. Seems like everywhere I go this person is linking "for hard-hitting" news and some other stuff.
Problem is, as Brian Deutsch told him/her right before deleting his/her comment, "There are proper ways to promote your site. Like I told you the first time, pretty much the best way to ensure I'll never visit your site is to spam it on unrelated posts."
Ask the Expat talked briefly about this, and sent people to ROK Drop's "How to get a good blog" and Acorn in the Dog's food referred to Skelliewag.org's advice, as did James Turnbull in this comment at hub of sparkle, talking about the Golden Klog awards. A lot of what I'm saying here is gleaned from these pages. Especially ROK Drop's.
So here's my take on how to get a popular K-blog. Some of this probably works for others too.
There's a bunch of stuff that's really well-known, and obvious, so I'll brush over that. Read ROK Drop's post for further explanation ... (of stuff that ought to be obvious). Other tips are a simple matter of blogger courtesy. Here they are:
Start in 2002. Seriously, this is the best thing you can do. The K-blogs that are still around, that started a way long time ago are generally some of the most linked, read, and referenced blogs out there. I also tell my students that if they want to speak English perfectly, like natives, they need to start when they're six. I teach adults.
Yeah, that's a funny one, haw haw, but here's the truth behind it:
Be patient. It takes time for a blog, even a good one, to find its readers.
Post regularly, and consistently. Long breaks or infrequent posts, or a blank week and then five posts in a day won't give you as much bang for your buck.
I'm going to add... there's also a maximum number of posts a day people will read before they stop trusting you to produce quality content, or get blinded by all the noise. Nobody can write five posts a day without recycling a lot of their own thoughts and ideas, and running the risk of losing some of the nuances in their thinking, as a sheer function of time spent per post, so unless you're fashioning yourself as a headlines blog, don't do it. Also, if you produce THAT much content, it gets harder to look through your archives to find something, so old posts won't get many link-backs.
Maintain a standard of quality. durr.
Add your own thoughts. Don't JUST do a link (ahem irony alert ahem), or you're nothing better than a newsfeed, and people won't see the point in reading your blog rather than just checking K-news feeds.
Acknowledge what you don't know, and own up, either in comments, or with post updates, when someone points out an important error. I'd add "don't talk about things you don't know about"... but your readers will figure that out pretty quickly regardless.
Get on the Korean Blog List. This should be your first step. When I was getting started, a third of my new hits (that is, not family) came from there. People DO go there and browse, just to see what's up.
Don't intimidate readers with walls of pure text. If I'm studying for a masters, I'll read journals. Blogs that are screens full of letters (especially if it's in small or difficult to read font) get skimmed, or skipped entirely. Break up paragraphs, add pictures, embed youtube videos, make sure there's empty space on your screen somewhere.
Have a commenting policy. This equals credibility.
At the very least, respond to comments on your own site. Maybe you don't have time for all of them, but take part in the comment board discussions, and acknowledge your commenters. They're important to the success of your blog, and if you're asked a direct question in the comments, and fail to answer, you may have lost the respect of a reader and in some cases, a potential friend/ally. This is especially important when you're starting out.
Link to other bloggers. Most bloggers have measures and metrics that tell them when they get linked. I'm more likely to visit and read a blog that's linked me, than to read a blog that puts a comment saying "Read my site" on an unrelated post.... but when you link them...
Make sure there's enough at your blog to intrigue them. Frankly, one of the first things I do when I visit a new blog is check their archives. If a blogger has e-mailed me or linked to me, or asked me to visit or link their site somehow, the first thing I do is check how many months of material they've already written, and how consistently they produce content. Were there ten posts in the first month and two per month in the next five? I'll lose interest fast. Has the blog been in existence for a single month? I'll come back later, and see if they've stuck around, before I start sending much link-love that way. I'll also sometimes skim the topics in the post headlines of the archives, to see how well the blogger stays on topic, or whether it's just a random, unfocused modge-podge (modge-podges are fine for your friends to read, but won't get linked at The Marmot's Hole. That guy's busy.)
People like lists, top-tens, and other countdowns. It's the fastest way to get linked. The internet attention span fritzes out at about 500 words, but each new point on a top-ten list or an itemized list is a mini-reboot of that attention span. Use headings and lists and countdowns to stretch out the amount of time people are willing to read your post. Or write posts that are generally less than 500 words, or find other ways to break things up -- change of topic, photos, video clips, jokes. Or say "to hell with attention spans: I'm writing good stuff!" and just write an excellent post that will attract attention for its excellence (cf: Popular Gusts and The Grand Narrative).
Pick a format, and a focus, and stick with it. This is why Roboseyo will never be more popular than it is right now: not enough focus. Ask A Korean and Ask The Expat got popular, really fast, because their format was really accessible and interactive. The Grand Narrative is popular because it has a very specific focus, and that means people interested in that will visit. But if one post is weekend trip pictures, the next one is a restaurant review, the next is an academic discussion of English teaching styles, the next one is about Obamacare, and the next one is a confessional about one's best friend back home, don't expect readers to follow the jumps all over the map, and don't expect K-blogs with a specific focus to link you too often. I've seen a lot of bloggers put a ceiling on their own popularity by failing to choose a clear focus. Keep in mind also that if you get known best for an emotional tone, rather than a topic, it can be hard to break out of that pigeon-hole. (Says "The happy one")
To get noticed, and promote yourself:
Follow the Kushibo Model, or the Popular Gusts Model: The two main models for blog popularity can be explained by contrasting Kushibo and Gusts of Popular Feeling.
Popular Gusts and The Grand Narrative just wrote excellent blogs, and waited. Particlarly Popular Gusts -- TGN had an early phase where he put pictures of hot Korean stars up on his blog a lot, to get hits from "Lee Hyori sexy" searches and such. Planting common search keywords in posts and titles isn't something I ever got into too much, though I'm sure it works. Even though PG's Matt rarely commented on other blogs, eventually, other K-bloggers noticed, and started linking, and he, like TGN, built his credibility from the ground up. This version is credibility-intensive -- you can't afford to toss off a few cat videos in this model. It takes time, so be patient. Both are active on their own blogs' comment boards, taking part in discussions of their ideas, even though they aren't often on other blogs comment boards. Remember to link other bloggers if you're doing this. (This model doesn't only work on "smart" blogs. Humor blog Dokdo Is Ours also rarely comments on other blogs, but it has a clear focus and a quality standard as consistent as can be expected in a humor blog.)
The Kushibo model is much more extroverted: Kushibo is all over comment boards at other blogs, getting involved in discussions. Now, you don't necessarily have to take a different stance from other commenters on issues the way Kushibo does, and I don't actually recommend putting [update: TOO MANY] links to your own site in your comments, as that form of self-promotion is pretty naked, and can be off-putting, but I'll tell you what: one of the best ways to get me to visit your blog, and read it more carefully, is if I think "Hey, I've seen that username on other comment boards. He/she's generally smart/funny/knowledgeable/concise and witty." This was how I got started, by contributing a lot to commentary at The Marmot's Hole. There are a few other blogs that are popular and well-read, where you can do the same. This advice comes with the warning that if your comments are repetitive, ignorant, half-baked, poorly thought-out, or offensive... well, your comments are representing yourself, like the cover letter you send with your resume. Let your comments be a fair representation of what people will see at your blog, if you're taking this tack. And if you're ONLY commenting to get hits on your own site... people can tell. We netizens get things wrong sometimes, but we're pretty good at sniffing out a fake. Also, make sure there's stuff to see at your blog. I can't tell you how often I've been disappointed to click on a really interesting commenter's profile, to find a blog that updates twice a year.
Remember to do courtesy link-backs. A little thing like this (see the bottom of the post) goes a long way. When I started out, I'd even personally e-mail bloggers to thank them for linking me.
Have a unique handle that shows up on comment boards. There's only one Roboseyo on the internet, so when I put a comment somewhere, everybody knows it's me (for better AND for worse). There are about five Melissas (some are friends from back home), who comment on my blog, and four Matts who comment on K-blogs. If you want to build your brand on the comment boards, make sure your handle is unique, so that I'm not clicking on your ID and wondering "Is this the Baseball Matt or Popular Gusts Matt or On My Way To Korea Matt?" On the other hand, off the top of my head, there's only one Sonagi, only one Korean Rum Diary, only one Gomushin Girl, only one Kushibo, only one 1994, and only one MKM on the K-blog comment boards, so I remember them.
[Update - January 2010] By the same token:
Don't use Kimchi in your blog title, and don't make your blog title a pun on Seoul. Not to crap on the bloggers who have done exactly that (especially ones that have been around for awhile), but buddy, there are already so many blogs that pun on Seoul in their name, and so many more that use kimchi in their name, that it's getting harder and harder to tell one from the other. It's like that cruel prank of female names where there are so many women named Kristen, Kiersten, Kristen, Christa, Crystal, Kiersta, Christine, Christina, Christianna, and all of them get upset if you call them the wrong name. So yeah. If you're thinking of naming your blog "Seoul of Kimchi" or "Kimchi is my Seoulfood" or "Say Kimchi with your Seoul" - save yourself getting confused with a dozen other blogs, and don't.
If hits are all you care about, write about K-pop. The K-pop blogs get more readers and commenters than anybody else in Kblogland.
Don't Spam. Every once in a while, somebody goes through the entire Korean Blog List and leaves a comment on each one "Hey great blog. You should check out my blog, too." with a link. Or somesuch. Don't do that. Especially if the only post on your blog is "This is your new blog from Wordpress." I had about a year's worth of content before I started actively promoting Roboseyo, never asked people to visit my site -- just made what I thought were worthwhile comments, and because of that, Brian (one of my early boosters) has something to read when he DID come by, and later he listed me as a significant up-and-comer. Write a polite personal e-mail instead, saying something like "I just wrote about this topic... maybe you'd be interested in checking it out."
If you're not getting acknowledged by "the big bloggers," aim lower. Sending e-mails to The Marmot or Brian in Jeollanamdo about "Hey, I just wrote about this topic, maybe you could link me" might not have results, because they might get five e-mails like that a day (I sure don't)... so go to one of the several dozen "second-tier" bloggers around the K-blogs, the less popular ones that DO get read regularly, that post consistently, that are creating original and/or quality content, and get active on their comment boards. They're more likely to become blog pals anyway, and I've even seen some sweet friendships develop through bloggers starting to comment on each others' sites. There's a lot of good content there, and many of the "big" bloggers read a lot of them for leads, or for links. This is also a nice way to learn more about blogging during the first few months, to get excited about it, and to generate enough content on your site that "the big bloggers" will actually pay attention when you try to join the discussion there.
respect other bloggers starting a feud with Eminem helped Insane Clown Posse, but it won't help you if other bloggers won't link you because "that writer pisses me off"... instead, get in touch with other bloggers. Meet face to face, hang out, write e-mails. People visit the sites of people they feel like they know personally, more often. Friend them on facebook...but be friendly, not stalkerish, especially if they don't know you from Adam.
answer your e-mails... and read the FAQ's on a blog before sending an E-mail.
get into other media (Newspapers and magazines, also facebook and twitter)
be funny, or be smart, or be both, but be readable: academic writing is satisfying to accomplish, but hard to read. I'm more likely to revisit the site of someone with an engaging writing style than someone who doesn't, whatever the other merits of the site. Even a few sites angry enough that I'd never read them otherwise, get the occasional "train-wreck" hit from me, if they have an entertaining writing style.
edit your work: sloppy writing, obvious "I posted this without proofreading it" errors are a huge turnoff. The occasional typo is forgivable -- it's not a peer-reviewed paper -- but I've seen the ugliness when a mean commenter and a careless writer meet, and it ain't pleasant.
start a separate blog for your family and friends, or e-mail them. Mixing personal posts in when you want to "make it" as a k-blogger puts a ceiling on your blog's popularity, because of the lack of focus. You need to choose your audience -- that's one of the most important rules to good writing out there.
recognize that this is a pretty small niche. You'll never be as popular as if you write a "celebrity gossip photoshopped into cat photos" blog. There just aren't THAT many English Korea blog readers to go around, so don't expect twenty thousand hits a day. Seriously. Don't expect to quit your job, thanks to your google ads income.
K-blogging is not an exclusive club, as far as I can tell. New K-bloggers are constantly getting in "the club" and making their mark, and no matter how big you were a year ago, people drop off the map pretty quickly too, if they stop caring about what they write. However, it takes some time to become part of the club, not because we're snobs, but because so many other blogs have come in, made a splash, and then disappeared. But seriously, if you demonstrate that you've got some staying power, and you return the courtesy of links and such for most of us, that's all we ask. And if you don't feel like "part of the club"... then I guess I'd ask, are you blogging to get recognition, or are you blogging because you love sharing your ideas? Because the ones who are only in it for the recognition... usually don't stick around. If you want recognition, get your friends together, drink four beers, and get into that "you're my best friend" stage of happy drunkenness instead. It feels better, it's more reliable, and the high lasts longer than the high of getting linked by Roboseyo.
Are there any other tips I'm missing?