I started blogging on July 04, 2003. I lived in Portugal at the time, so the size and scope of the local blogosphere (yes, they do exist as entities) was limited compared to the one I am in now. Even if Portuguese is the fourth spoken language on Earth, we owe most of that ranking to our former colonies in Africa and South America (i.e. Mozambique, Angola, Portuguese Guinea, Cape Verde and Brazil), so when it comes to blogging in Portugal, in continental Portuguese, we are talking very localized content. To those of you not familiar with Portugal’s demographics, we are roughly the size of Ohio with a population of around 11 million people.

In this limited environment, however, the blogging boom was perhaps more noticeable than in greater virtual venues, like the great North American blogosphere. To put it in a nutshell, the blogging rock that hit our blogosphere pond really reached every corner of it in record time. It seemed like everyone was blogging all of a sudden. It started as an activity reserved for the cultural (and political) elites, but pretty soon everyone realized that they too could be bloggers. And so they did. Of course, today, while you can still talk about local blogospheres, the great big global sphere of blogging starts to reign, albeit not supreme – that’s cultural diversity for you. But let’s go back to my old blog.

I wrote about my personal interests, from cinema to literature to politics and international relations, adding the occasional romantic post from my literary alter ego (that is starting to bug me again, now that I am back writing regularly). But how was I going to reach an audience? Who would care to read me and, more important than that, how would they find my blog in the first place, so they could then make that decision? Well, back in 2003 there was no abundance of sources about blogging methods and strategies, so we kind of learned from our mistakes as much as from our (meager) successes.

The answer, my friends, was blowing in the wind. Bloggers are as much readers as they are writers, so I started adding links to the posts in which I was replying or commenting on someone else’s blog, directing my readers to those blogs and, as a consequence, get their bloggers and readers to know someone was writing about those posts. Naturally, they back tracked my links and found me. Now it was all about making that first contact grow into a long lasting relationship. Even though I do not blog regularly on that particular platform (I stopped late 2008), I still maintain good contacts with the bloggers that I used to discuss with and due to the fair amount of traffic I managed to gather at the height of the blog’s existence, I still get regular hits from various search engines. Why? One word (and it’s not keyword) – content. Blog optimization based on keywords may get you the traffic quantity you want for a limited time but not the quality, and after a while quality generates quantity. You want people to come by again and again, you want them to engage in the discussions you are starting by writing about something and to enrich your posts with other references, other points of view and sometimes, if you are lucky, even reinforce your own by agreeing with them. Once that dialogue is established, blogging becomes both a fun and an enriching experience.

So here is my advice to you, class of 2012. Read as much as you write; engage as much as you would like to be engaged; give credit to your favorite blogs and do your best to captivate the attention and interest of both their bloggers and their readers. And above all, write like you already have a million readers. Because, you know what? You actually do.