I don’t consider myself an expert blogger. I don’t have 10 handy tips to drive traffic to your blog, or make you better read. I didn’t start my blog either to make money or become famous, though I’m not averse to the possibility of either. I did it mainly to hold myself accountable – to push myself to write more, to find my ‘voice,’ and to become more disciplined as a writer. I also did it to connect, which is probably why all of us really use social media.
So I didn’t follow any of the blogging ‘rules’ – like focusing my blog on a particular theme, for example. As a fiercely independent soul with a wide range of interests and an abiding fear of commitment, I wanted to write about anything that took my fancy. I’ve also, I’m ashamed to say, failed to strike up many significant relationships within the blogging community. I’ve generally spent very little time in the blogosphere, if I’m honest, because the online world can be overwhelming enough as is and I’m trying to use any free time I have to write. (I also subscribe to Groucho Marx’s old adage that I’d rather not be a member of any club that would have me.)
But somehow, after a newfound determination to write more frequently last year – and a little help from the nice folk at WordPress – I’ve picked up an increasing number of readers, which has been lovely and very touching and also rather overwhelming. From all corners of the world and spanning all ages, lifestyles, political persuasions, etc. If you are one of them, thank you – I’m very touched.
With this modest success, I’ve discovered, comes certain responsibilities. I am increasingly asked to check out other people’s blogs, to follow them if possible, and to comment on their work – by new bloggers, especially. With that in mind – and the caveat that I still consider myself a novice – I wanted to share a few things I’ve learned on my journey, just in case it can help you in any way.
1. I’ve visited – and been visited by – an incredible range of blogs – from poetry to politics, sport, sex, food and fashion, and then some. You name it and there’s probably a blog for it. On the plus side, it means there’s room for everyone, which is what continues to make the blogosphere such an interesting, vibrant place. On the downside, it’s probably getting harder than ever to get your voice heard – to achieve ‘cut through,’ as the marketeers would call it.
2. People blog for a variety of reasons but I’d hazard a guess the majority of us want to be read – whether you’re anonymously chronicling your sexploits or diligently photographing your recipes – and probably beyond your friends and family and immediate circle. If that’s the case, I think there should be one primary goal: Quality over quantity, by which I mean striving for original and well-written content, rather than putting anything and everything out there. This may mean that you post less frequently than you set out to, but in the long run, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
This is very much a personal opinion and it also depends on why you’re blogging in the first place – if you’re doing it for catharsis or because it makes you happy, then post as much or as little as you like. Otherwise, I think it helps if posting is a judgment call. Not everything you write needs to be published.
3. As I’ve said already, I don’t believe your blog has to focus on one topic – though I may be the exception that proves the rule. Do write about the stuff that interests you and that you’re passionate about, which always helps. Unless you’re writing for yourself primarily though, it’s worth remembering that the majority of people aren’t going to be interested in the minutiae of your daily life – unless you have a talent for expressing it particularly well. Again, this all comes back to your reasons for blogging in the first place – if it makes you happy to share, do it.
4. A few writing tips mostly culled from my journalism and editing background that may help – do with these what you will.
- Most journalists will tell you that your first two paragraphs are the most important, since they’re responsible for drawing your readers in – or not, as the case may be.
- Pay attention to your headline – it doesn’t have to be one of those annoying clickbait ones but a catchy headline definitely helps.
- Use spell check or get a friend to read over your work if you’re worried about the grammar/content (I always run everything past my sister or good friends first).
- Use paragraphs! In today’s fast moving world, nothing is a greater turn-off than huge chunks of text without proper paragraphs or spacing. I’m not a fan of the overly simplistic blogging style of using a paragraph for every sentence, mind you – just advocating for a happy medium. Try and intersperse long sentences and short ones for maximum effect too.
- Edit. There’s nearly always stuff that can be taken out to make your prose tighter and sharper – this is where a second opinion from someone you trust can help.
5. While good content is vital, do make sure your blog is easy to read and navigate too – which means the font isn’t too fussy or too small (spare a thought for us older readers) or on a dark background, which can make it difficult to read, and that different sections are clear and accessible. There’s a fine line between expressing your personal style – and blogs are definitely great for that – and putting off your potential readership with an overly fussy or incomprehensible design.
I think Medium showcases writing especially well, for example – all that clear white space is a writer’s dream. And don’t be afraid to change up the theme every now and then, which is easier than ever before with WordPress, I reckon – if I can do it, anyone can. My blog’s gone through several incarnations before this one – and may well change again sometime soon.
6. A personal bugbear – if there’s an About section, please do add a line about yourself and/or your concept for the blog, or get rid of it altogether. This may be just me but I always visit the About section of any blog I go to because I want to find out something about the person I’m visiting and their vision for their blog, which often helps me understand it better.
It’s a bit like going to a party and looking out for the host – I’m in your space and I want to stop by to say hello. An incomplete About section always looks a little careless to me. It doesn’t have to be an essay or particularly witty or erudite, and it can still be anonymous if you’d prefer that, but it helps if there’s something.
7. On blogging etiquette: Please don’t ask me to follow you or get offended if I don’t or don’t thank you for a follow. I tend, in life, to operate by the same principles I apply for myself and I don’t actively solicit followers, which feels a bit too much like political campaigning to me.
I’m also sorry to say I follow very few blogs now for the reasons I outlined earlier – my email folder is overflowing on the best of days, as is my daily reading list. I do try and visit every blog that visits me, however, and like and comment on posts I particularly enjoy. In the future, if I ever get organised enough, I’d like very much to highlight the blogs that stand out to me to draw wider attention to them if I can.
The last and most important point is that all rules are made to be broken – including these – and thankfully the blogosphere’s big enough and bad enough to accommodate all of us. What works for me may not – and probably will not – work for you, since I’m most likely blogging for different reasons, and I can be a nitpicking perfectionist, and different things make me happy.
To read a wonderfully warm, honest and different perspective from someone I consider a proper blogger, read this by the Holistic Wayfarer, who I think sums up the joys and pitfalls of blogging beautifully. Of everything she says, this point rings especially true for me:
Remember how small you are – in blogging and life.
There’s always someone with more readers, someone faster, smarter, more talented and savvy. You’re not all that. Neither am I. That’s why I try to keep it real. For all the rewriting I do here, I don’t want to end up editing my image when you’re coming to me with a certain level of trust in my honesty.
All best and happy blogging to you all.