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Is your blog the unpopular kid?

Etiquette in today's digital world can be tricky. Andrea Bartz, left, and Brenna Ehrlich are here to help.
Etiquette in today's digital world can be tricky. Andrea Bartz, left, and Brenna Ehrlich are here to help.
  • Andrea Bartz and Brenna Ehrlich are's "netiquette" columnists
  • If your blog is too general or unattractive, try columnists' tips for a different approach
  • Find your niche; plenty of great blogs belong to people who can't write worth a darn

Editor's note: Brenna Ehrlich and Andrea Bartz are the sarcastic brains behind humor blog and soon-to-be-book Stuff Hipsters Hate. When they're not trolling Brooklyn for new material, Ehrlich works as a news editor at, and Bartz holds the same position at Psychology Today.

(CNN) -- Let's face it -- you never really leave high school.

Long after you flip your tassel, there are the same hierarchies, name-calling and swirlies (wait, that might just be us ... carry on). The internet realm is no different.

It's as hard to break into the popular blogger crowd as it is to shake that unfortunate nickname you got the first day of junior high after you fell asleep in class and had that super, exciting dream about that chick from "Who's the Boss?"

Why? Last year the total tally of blogs hit 126 million, according to BlogPulse. That's a big class to climb to the top of. We're not saying you have to be head cheerleader, but it would be nice to be noticed among the digital masses.

So if the only IP address StatCounter has to report is your own, and your comments section features a chorus of crickets rivaling that field behind the cabin you visited last weekend (and posted about in painful detail), face it: Your blog is that pathetic, friendless kid who skulks under the jungle gym at recess and reads Lois Lowry books in the bathroom during lunchtime.

Consider this your letter home to the parents -- no blog deserves that kind of social exclusion. Read on to pinpoint and correct its reader-repelling ways.

Problem: Your blog is a Spaz

"Imma review this movie!" "Obama is mishandling the oil spill!" "Today I saw a horse!"

"General interest" content is generally uninteresting, and making like a digital dilettante means no one will take you seriously or see you as an expert in your domain.

So take a page from the yearbook of Stuff White People Like: Join a clique. The blog's Christian Lander stuck to a single subject and format -- a serving of wit and "Man, I do like that" to savor over one's ritualistic coffee.

The same goes for sites such as Fail Blog and Garfield Minus Garfield -- they commit to their theme, fostering a knowing community (an in-crowd, if you will).

You're a jock? Write all things jock-related. You dig D&D? There are scads of kids out there just waiting at their computers to read your stuff.

A narrow subject is best. If your theme is, say, "mental health," you're competing with gazillions of more-established blogs. But "bizarre psychological conditions," you can totally own.

Do research. Set Google News alerts. Get your clique to click for the info they're too lazy to find themselves.

Take Feministing. Readers interested in feminist news dig it because it funnels relevant info and commentary into one blog. Handing out good content is an instant ticket to popularity. (Hey, even that weird kid was momentarily cool when his mom sent him to school with two dozen cupcakes.)

Problem: Your blog is a loner

Yeah, reaching out is scary when it's possible to huddle with your laptop and spew unchecked commentary all day. But if you want fresh eyeballs on your site, you must be social.

Once you've amassed a decent number of posts (at least a few pages' worth), register with a blogging community. They're out there -- everything from the Coalition of Crime Bloggers to the Food Blog Alliance. In your own posts, link to blogs you dig that cover the same topical turf. If your stuff doesn't suck, they'll return the favor.

You'll get even better results if you make bloggy friends IRL, too. Contact a local blogger you admire and ask if she'd be willing to chat about her strategies over a beer. Or team up with a larger blog or two to host a citywide blogger meetup. As a co-host, you'll get some free advertising from the event promotion, plus the chance to network with some of your hood's quirkier characters.

Problem: Your blog is funny looking

People are shallow. Research suggests that hot people are more well-liked, earn more money and are able to get away with more questionable behavior than uggos. The same is true of pretty blogs.

Choose a simple, clutter-free theme and learn a bit of HTML so you can customize at will. (W3Schools has free tutorials.) And here's a quick tip: Remember Geocities? MS Paint? Comic Sans? Yeah, unless you're making fun of them, avoid anything that remotely resembles that unholy trinity of hideousness.

Problem: Your blog is shy

It's the plotline of many a teen movie: Friendless loner secretly possesses mad guitar-shredding/painting/software-hacking skills. Once he lets those abilities shine, he's crowned prom king in a sickening homage to oppressive high school stereotypes.

Plenty of great blogs belong to people who can't write worth a darn. If you're a musician, include links to your tunes and elicit feedback from followers. Visual artists can view Tumblr as an endlessly unrolling canvas. As any sixth-grade teacher will tell you, everyone's got some kind of talent, even if it's as simple as splattering cat photos with misspelled captions. Wait, I think we're onto something. ...

Problem: Your blog is rude. Wait ... actually ...

Every loner wishes he could be the class clown. The resident jokester isn't afraid to toe the line of appropriate behavior.

And really, controversy is a blog's best friend -- Texts From Last Night, Look at This F---ing Hipster and Gawker are all decidedly divisive (i.e., they probably offend more than a few folks). Just make sure to have a reason and a point whilst causing a disturbance.

There's a fine line between making the whole class laugh and suspension.


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