If you have visited before, you may have noticed that I am trying to do the blogging thing a little more seriously these days. While I have never been a professional blogger (made money for the work), I have actually been doing this since way before they called it blogging. I don’t remember the name of my first site in the mid 90s but it was on AOL.I updated it daily using the writing as a means of depression therapy. I am aware of only one other site that was doing what I did at that time: Wing of Madness, who had begun hers a year or two before me. I have such a HUGE admiration for her because her site is still up and running under the same name. She has been consistent for almost 20 years and continues to be a hero for all the help she has given to countless people by always being there.
When I think about all that I have learned over the years about blogging, her consistency stands out and it is something I’ve never been able to match. I loved creating blogs. One site was called Unique Junque when I focused on eBay. Other sites included Creative Jumble, Mel’s Attic (both as melsattic.com and later mels-attic.com), Thinking WAHM, Daydreamlane and around another half dozen that I’ve forgotten. These days as I try to keep myself writing on a steady basis, I also sometimes help brand new bloggers make their homes on the web as a host and what I call website assembly. That basically means that I help them pick out a theme, perhaps create graphics for them, install everything and even teach them the basics of Word Press. I try to share what I know about blogging in 2013 and finding your niche out of the thousands of other sites out there. Someone suggested doing a post on the best advice I’ve gathered through my own mistakes and years of accumulated research. I hope these ten tips help you with your blog.
- Be Consistent. You knew that was going to be at the top of the list, right? Take this site, Little Bits and Pieces, as an example of what used to be poor consistency. I began this site towards the end of 2011. I’m proud to say that I wasn’t too bad in 2012 and I wrote often. Many of my posts received views in the mid to upper hundreds and three posts have had over 1,000 views. That was exciting to me. Such a difference six months can make as the post I wrote this past Wednesday has received only 50 views and I know that half of that was because it was part of a writing challenge on another blog. My numbers have plummeted to the bottom because for a good part of the beginning of this year, I couldn’t write. When you don’t write, people stop caring and stop visiting. So please learn from my mistakes: make sure you have at least four new posts published each week. Find guest posters for when you’ll be out of town and try to write as much as you can ahead of time. I’m still not there. I am writing this at 6 pm EST Thursday hoping to get it published today (NOT) and I don’t have anything ready other than the concept for the next post.
- Never Stop Learning About The Industry. Yes, blogging is now an industry. There are many bloggers who bring in a little extra cash by selling ad space, getting sponsorships to attend conferences, becoming brand ambassadors and even obtaining book deals. Of course, you can still write for the sake of writing, for therapy, for venting and for fun. If you want to take that step up to the next level though, you need knowledge behind you. There are some really wonderful sites out there devoted just to helping you learn the ins and outs like Eli Rose and The SITS Girls. Read everything you can find whenever you have the time because things are always evolving.
- Writing From The Heart Is Not Enough. Your writing skills are important, though as much as we each try to proofread, we all have posts with grammatical errors and entire words left out from run-on sentences. Writing poignant, funny, or informative posts of quality with peeks into your soul are required because that is how you keep your readers, but the web is not the Field of Dreams and just because you build it, doesn’t mean that they will come. Social media needs to play a part of your daily life if people are to find, connect and remember you. Talking about your blog, sharing on Facebook with a separate fan page, a few tweets on each post at different times over a couple of days, and using other social platforms will be things you have to become comfortable with to get the word out about your work. Then there is something called SEO which stands for Search Engine Optimization. Basically it is using popular key words naturally in your headlines and post body. You have to think of what words someone may use to find your topic. Take time to research the right way to do this. Most of all, remember that it will take time to build your readership and that it will totally be worth it.
- Make Sure to LOVE Your Name. As I shared above, not only have I had times when I took breaks from blogging but I have also made my ADHD very obvious by ALL the domains and sites I have owned. What can I say other than I love starting new things? But … you shouldn’t do this. If you haven’t started your blog yet, please take time to really love the name you decide will become your personal Brand on the web. Every time I made a switch, I would lose readers and oftentimes my focus, as getting involved in switching everything up made me lose track of what was really important — to keep the posts coming. Some folks just use their actual name while others will try to find the right phrasing that captures the goal of the blog. If you go with a phrase, try to make it short and catchy because writing out littlebitsandpieces.com many times a day is just excess finger exercise.
- Word Press Is Better Than Blogger! Okay, that is just my personal opinion but allow me to share why. On one of the earlier websites I owned, I actually sold a few things from it (mostly books and vintage fun stuff). That particular site was, like my first, a freely hosted one from AOL. These were also the years when there was Geocities and many other free hosting sites and many of us took advantage of them. I used that site for items that I hadn’t yet put up or hadn’t sold on eBay yet and I advertised through AOL forums and other internet based message boards. I did this until someone said, “Sorry, I never buy from sites that use free hosting. If you aren’t interested into putting money into your business then I’m not interested in giving you mine.” Boy, did this stick with me. Now, even though I have no interest in selling anything from my blog, her words still impact me enough today that I continue to believe there is a level of professionalism and implied seriousness that comes from using your own domain name. Now, you can use your purchased domain name with Blogger but you are still restricted by their rules and limitations. By investing a very small amount of money into your own self-hosted Word Press blog, some readers out there will think of you at a different level than a site with has blogspot in the middle of the name. If that isn’t enough to entice you, then take a few hours one day to look at all the free plugins you can get for your Word Press site to make it really reflect who you are as a blogger. Please know that I do NOT think any less of blogs that take advantage of free hosting, especially ones who aren’t selling anything. There are many out there that I just adore. This is my personal fear that someone will take me less seriously combined with my true love with the Word Press platform (which will comes free with most hosting accounts) makes this an important point to share.
- Keep Your Layout Clean and Light. Again, this is a personal opinion but there is enough clutter in my real world and I don’t need to see anymore online. Whatever tools you use to create your blog, there are many free or paid themes you can use to style your website. As a blogger, I’ve always love the sidebar/content/sidebar layout because there are always so many things I want to share and that gives me the room to do that. BUT as a blog reader, I tend to avoid blogs that have so much going on in that main page. I have no interest in being startled by your automatic music player or automatic video ads that I have to rush to find and shut off. If that takes too long, I’m gone and I am not coming back. My ADHD plays a part in feeling very overwhelmed when I come to a three column or grid site that is completely filled with flashing graphics, more than 4 or 5 small square ads on the side and everything else that grabs my attention away from the reason I am there to begin with: your content. I will be 45 next month and my eyes are tired. There needs to be white/blank space so my eyes can rest on your words or products. Personally, my eyes also give bonus points if you are using dark text against a light background and not the other way around. It may not be trendy, but even though I want to share so much with you, I create with caution that I’m not alone in this and stick with two columns blogs.
- Show Me You. It is great when a National Brand wants to connect with your readers and you get to test products for review posts in additional to maybe doing giveaways. I know how much that means and how fun it is to do those things. If I am going to believe your recommendations though, then I want to know who you are by a great About Me page and personal, non-promotional postings you do in between those others. If day after day the only blogging you do is telling me how great this product and that product are, then you become a commercial and no longer a person. I don’t know about you, but I DVR every show I want to watch so I can fast forward through all the commercials. I take recommendations from people I can relate to and you probably do too. So keep who YOU are as the blog’s main focus because your readers want to care about you. They wouldn’t be reading otherwise.
- Reply To Your Comments. If a reader takes the time to read a comment, please put back the effort to respond. It is really sad going to a blog and see posts lucky enough to get comments. Yet I will believe the blogger must not really care because they don’t bother even saying “Thank you for your time.” and that is not the way to create relationships with your readers. All right, if you are The Bloggess and receive hundreds, even thousands of comments on every single post, you are excused. If not, you may write the greatest piece I have ever seen online, but I am not going to waste my time sharing how I feel if I know that you won’t even acknowledge me. So again because it is my pet peeve — Reply To Your Comments. Going back again to having a Word Press site, one of the greatest plug-ins is called Comment Luv. It allows for your commenters to automatically show a recent post and it is a kind way to help your community advertise their work.
- Find Your People. I am socially awkward, even online. Due to this shyness, I have stayed aways from the message boards and networking sites. I can get lost in them and find it hard to connect. With my recent fresh blogging restart, I am moving out of my comfort zone and trying to be active in those settings. I am glad to say that I am really happy I am doing this. I have initiated conversations in blogging Facebook groups, joined in conversations in The SITS Girls forum and as I mentioned, I took part in a writing challenge Wednesday. Finding your people, your tribe, your clique or whatever is a huge component to the entire blogging community. It was a huge mistake to let my fears of not being good enough keep me away from them all these years. Making finding yours a priority.
- Be Honest. What you put on the internet is forever thanks in part to Google Cache, so be honest in your work. Don’t make up stories without marking them as fiction. Don’t give a good review for an item you really didn’t like. Admire other bloggers and strive to reach their level of professionalism and writing skills without taking their words as your own. I have to share a quick story. My husband owned a handyman company for a while (we are re-opening by the way) and of course I handled his online presence. I am proud to share that I really did an amazing job with his website. I had great SEO on a wonderful site which put him consistently in the top five results on Google for his keywords. When we had to close the company, I took the site down and let the domain name expire. As we started to discuss reopening, I began to research how to buy the name back. We were disappointed to find that someone had already bought the name and I knew that could happen. It was fine until we visited the new owner’s site. He used Google Cache to screen capture our header graphic and copied basically everything word for word. Even though they have a New Mexico area code, our former address is being used so it looks like it is a local South Florida company. I haven’t decided exactly how to handle this, but I will be sharing on the new site a good part of what we discovered and will hope the word gets out. If he is stealing our words and images, then I wouldn’t want anyone to trust him in their home. It can happen with bloggers too. I am aware of a Dad blogger who is known to make up stories about his life and a Mom blogger who was connected with a huge children’s brand that was stealing content left and right. These bad apples impact the entire community. Whether you are blogging for business or personal reasons, never forget that trust on the internet is a huge thing and once it is lost, it can be nearly impossible to regain.
Well, there you have it. The above is the best advice I can share to those of you new to the blogging world. Even after all these years though, I am nowhere near an expert and there is so much more you should know on top of these 10 tidbits. Additionally, you are aware that a good part of this has been personal opinion and you need to create the site that is unique to you. I hope that you will comment and contribute with your own tips or with questions knowing that I will read, appreciate and always acknowledge you!
xoxo ~ Melissa