Interestingly, this question comes from someone whose blogging history seems very mistake-free to me.
I’ve made plenty of mistakes. Still do. I’m sure that some people will think this “All Request Tuesday” is one of them. You really should expect to make a few mistakes and be prepared to admit them and correct them and move forward.
Here are a few big ones:
1. Launch a blog without trying to understand the blog culture or the blogging world. So many mistakes fit into this category. I’d spend at least a month or two trying to get a good feel for (1) the legal blog world and (2) the blog world at large. THIS DEFINITELY MEANS GETTING A NEWSREADER AND UNDERSTANDING RSS FEEDS AND HOW PEOPLE CONSUME RSS FEEDS. People with experience on email lists and other types of discussion groups tend to do a lot better at this than people without that experience. Many of the same issues come up – netiquette and the like.
2. Don’t post on a topic that you clearly got from another blogger without crediting that blogger for pointing out the link, article or resource to you. Most bloggers subscribe to a lot of RSS feeds and it is very obvious where you got the “idea” for your post. In legal blogging, this issue is more pronounced because many of the legal bloggers know each other and we usually will not post on the same topic that another blogger has discovered out of courtesy. In the business blog world, on the other hand, you’ll often see many bloggers post the same item. Neither way is better, but in legal blogs, bloggers tend not to do “me too” posts. Instead, you’ll reference another blogger’s post and comment on their post to make sure they get credit. If you “echo” another legal blog, believe me, you’ll get noticed, but not the kind of notice you want.
3. Falling for the common advice about getting reciprocal links and treating prominent bloggers as if they offer a free search engine enhancement service. There are some very generous legal bloggers who routinely mention new legal blogs. They do that because they are good people. They do not offer a free marketing service to which you have some entitlement. They’ll mention your blog when they get the chance. Similarly, I mention other blogs because they have great information that is useful to my audience. If you want me to mention your blog, work on producing great content, not on emailing me to ask me to mention your blog or to link to it or to add it to my “blogroll.” Let me give you an example. The legal bloggers who know Jim Calloway love Jim Calloway. When he launched his blog recently, we could not do enough to mention his blog, link to it and give it a rocket launch. Even though we told Jim what would happen, Jim was stunned how quickly he zoomed to the top of Google on a search for his name. It happened in not much more than a day or two. The current approach of Google gives some of the prominent legal bloggers enormous power to enhance your Google search rankings. That has enormous value to a new blog. Think carefully before you make requests for reciprocal links and mentions without planning to offer anything in return. I see the economic benefit you get from me mentioning your new blog, but I really don’t see what benefit I get in return. At the very least, you want to say thank you to someone who mentions your new blog and mention or link to their blog in return. I have no doubt that Tom Mighell has mentioned many more new legal blogs than the number of blogs that have links back to his blog. He’s a saint – I’m not quite that saintly.
4. Being overly-familiar with existing bloggers or taking pot-shots at existing bloggers to make a name for yourself. This is a variation on #1, but the level of politeness and courtesy among legal bloggers is very high. Yes, that does surprise people. Again, most of us now know each other and we’ll find out if you are really a pal of someone you claim to be a pal of.
5. My Pet Peeve: Being a New Blogger Who Lectures People About the One True Path of Blogging. Yikes! Don’t launch a blog and start throwing around definitions of what is and isn’t a blog and making other pronouncements. Settle in and do your own thing for a while. Look, listen and learn. I’m interested in questions you raise, your unique viewpoints and the like, but I grimace every time I see a new blogger start lecturing people about blogging, almost always without knowing what they are talking about and the history of the issue. I value your fresh voice, not your know-it-all voice. There’s a big difference.
6. Think Carefully About This Anonymous Thing. I really struggle with the idea of anonymous legal blogs, but I’m an old-school kind of guy. On the one hand, I am very disturbed by the current legal culture in which associates in law firms live in such a state of terror that they will not blog unless they are anonymous. On the other hand, I don’t understand how blogging anonymously helps you. Of course, look what I named my blog.
7. The Biggest Mistake – Not Using Full Text Feeds in 2005. Almost all of the other bloggers will subscribe to your RSS (Atom, RDF, etc.) feed and read your posts in a newsreader rather than actually visit your page. Anything other than a full text feed makes you a candidate for deletion whenever someone decides to prune the number of feed subscriptions that they have. I believe that you really have to understand newsfeeds and their role in Blogosphere 2005 to be most effective as a blogger, but that’s just my opinion and I’ll respect your reasons for taking another approach.
Bonus: Not Treating Your Blog Launch Like the Launch of a Publication. Coming up with regular blog posts is surprisingly hard work. I suggest getting some material together in advance to help you sustain the first few months.