The Top 10 Adventure Blogging Tools
Somewhere in between the individuals working hard to create a brand for themselves and the companies working hard to make their brand feel more personal, there exists a gaggle of great adventure bloggers. They tell stories and share essential service through videos, photos, podcasts and news analysis. Our favorites include alanarnette.com, The Gear Junkie, Bike Snob NYC, and dirtbagdiaries.com.
At its worst, a blog is used for blatant self promotion and mindless recounting of banal activities. At its best, it's a medium for sharing information in an elegant or humorous way. Kayaking, climbing, surfing, hiking, traveling, cycling, and other adventure pursuits offer plenty of opportunities to tell great stories. If you want to get in the fray, here's a Top 10 list that might help. It's a quick run down of the best tools and resources for creating or improving an adventure blog, with a few guiding principles thrown in the mix. We're not saying it's the ultimate 1-10. We're just getting things started.
10. Three Important Letters
Let's just get SEO out of the way and then move on. The first question people ask after they start up a blog usually goes something like this. I put in my name in Google and I'm not the first person listed. What can I do to improve this? The short answer is…work. Mostly, you should be putting time and effort into writing a good blog. Still, there are a handful of simple techniques can help you move up that all-important list and enhance the reader's blog experience. Do these five things, but don't overdo them.
1. Pick a Good Title – The reader should know what you're writing about by looking at the title. Write something snappy that will draw people in and summarize what the post is about.
Note: You can also just scrap the above and write funny headlines.
Warning: For this to work, you have to be funny.
2. Link Often and Cite Your Sources – The more you link and reference other sites, the more you'll get love back. It's like that Paul McCartney line. Add a description to the link that references keywords and the source. Readers will be happy with the easily identifiable links to additional information.
3. Add Keywords – Add a box at the bottom that lets you list the keywords or tags in the article. You only need to add each term once.
4. Add Descriptions and a Link to Pictures – It's information the reader can use. Search engines will pick up the information in the pictures.
5. Add an Excerpt – Condense your lead or write a one-sentence summary and put it in the excerpt field at the bottom of your post. Search engines and RSS pulls often include the excerpt, which helps the reader understand what the article is about if the title isn't obvious.
Learn More: Google SEO Lessons for Beginners
9. Share, Share, Share
Put yourself out there. Set up your posts in an RSS feed. RSS stands for “really simple syndication.” It allows people to get your posts in real time on their blog, iGoogle, or any other aggregation site. Limit your feed to roughly 100 words, so people will click from the feed to your blog for the full story. If you're searching for news every day, you'll probably want to build a customized page with RSS pulls. You can aggregate all the sources you need to cull in one place, sort of like a mix cd for the web. We use Feedburner for our RSS Feed, and organize our favorite feeds from others on iGoogle.
There are several simple buttons you can embed at the end or beginning of your post so people can share with others via email, a reader, or social media in one click. We use Share This.
Learn More: Mashable
8. Microphone Check
If you're far off and need a quick way to record podcasts with minimal effort, ipadio lets you record phone calls and publish them to the web. Thirteen-year-old Jordan Romero used this software during his recent Everest summit. It works with blogging platforms and is available on both the iPhone and Droid. Fitz Cahall's series, The Dirtbag Diaires, is an excellent example of how to set up a podcast of higher production value. You can listen to the podcasts via his blog, or download them from iTunes. To produce a basic podcast, we suggest using Garageband. It has simple controls for recording, editing, and publishing.
Ideal: The Dirtbag Diaries
7. Mix It Up
Here are five good options for making your own playlists. We used to love Lala, but that's a problem now. Mixtape.me offers easy access to songs, liner notes, videos, and more. It's a great way to let people know what you're listening to when you're hiking across a desert, skiing in Antarctica, or driving to the beach.
Learn More: Mixtape.me
If you have a blog, build a fan page. “Like” others with similar interests. Tag people in your posts, pictures, and videos. Allow others to post photos and videos-detailing their latest travels and adventures. Build custom tabs using html and fbml. Ask questions and update your page at least once a week. Comment on others posts, but don't follow what you're saying with a self-promoting link. Remember, you're sharing information and engaging in discussion, not spamming people with your site. If someone likes what you say, they'll click on that thumbnail that links directly to your page.
Learn More: Mashable's Facebook Guidebook
4. It's All About Location
There are several ways to show people where you've been, where you are, and where you're going. With a little work, you can go from a basic google map to an interactive map that updates in real time via your GPS location (like Roz Savage's Epic Tracker or Chad Kellogg's 2010 Everest map). After watching some of the summit attempts on Everest last spring, we've come to like Spot Adventure.You can track your route, upload photos, and share from their basic service, which is free with purchase and sign up. Head to Weatherbug or The Weather Channel and pick up a custom widget so others can see the freezing wind you're hiking into. If you want to go sport-specific, head to widgetbox and add a tool like the surf forecaster from Surfline or the snowfall tool from SkiBonk.
Ideal: Roz Savage
3. Shoot Away
If you're open to sharing, sign up for Flickr or Picasa and start building a profile. If you're just looking for free photos, we recommend Flickr and Wikimedia. Make sure you check the rights on any photo that you post. You can use photos marked for creative commons, noncommercial use, as long as you source them appropriately. If you put up a gallery of your own, remember that less is more. Tell a story and leave people wanting more. To show off your photos on an online portfolio, check out aphotofolio.com and graphpaperpress.com for some clean site designs. To improve your skills, sign up for the Santa Fe Photographic Workshops, a National Geographic Expedition, or an online course on shooting or retouching from Creative Live. Shameless Plug #1: If you want to take a big step up as a photographer, consider the Outside Exposure 2010 Photo Workshop with Jimmy Chin, Robert Maxwell, and Kurt Markus, this October in Santa Fe.
To really get better, pick a story to follow, go outside, and shoot – a lot.
Learn More: aphotoeditor.com
2. Video Killed the…
The web has a ton of easy-to-use tools for hosting and sharing video, chief among them are YouTube and Vimeo. If you shoot a lot, start a page and organize your videos into playlists, favorite other videos, and update your page as much as you can. There are a number of online tutorials. One of our favorites is a three-day online workshop from Vincent LaForet and Creative Live about shooting video on a DSLR. It's $129 for full access. Again, the best way to improve your skills is to go out, shoot stories, and edit them. Shameless Plug #2: If you want to learn how to shoot and edit a great adventure video, you can't do better than our week-long Outside Adventure Film Schools with award-winning director Michael Brown. He and his team will help you find a story, learn Final Cut, and produce a finished product.
1. Tell a Story
Pick something your passionate about and put it in narrative form. Failing that, offer up advice to people in your world, interview someone interesting, create a cool list, or point out something funny or smart. Most importantly, have fun.
Ideal: Alan Arnette
For more information, check Outside's list of the 100 Best Adventure Web Sites.