blogging

25 Really Useful Blogging Tips

57 Comments 09 December 2010

blogging tips

Want to start a blog?

Every now and then a friend sees my blog and says ‘I’d like to do that.’ And I think Fab! I’m evangelical about blogging. I think it’s good for the soul (usually, so long as people play fair) and fun.

I am not a blog expert. No way. Never will be. But over the past year or so I’ve tried to work on making my blog just a bit more entertaining to more people than just me and My Cat Paddy (he has a warm lap and a captive audience when I’m blogging). I’ve collected some tips that may help you guys who are either new or pre-new. Can that be a word? Today it will be because this is my blog. See, isn’t that cool? You can do pretty much what you want on your own blog. So have a look at these tips and get going! (I’m talking to you, Gemma –who’s-getting-her-Christmas-tree-this-weekend-if-she-doesn’t-get-lost.)

1. What do you want to write about? Look at a site like Wikio for blog niches—parenting, travel, photography, lifestyle… try to stick to the niche. If you want to do more than one niche, start more than one blog.

2. Use a platform like wordpress (.org or .com) or blogger or Typepad. There are other platforms but these are probably easiest.

3. Try to get your own domain name, but if you want to start off with a blogger or wordpress name that’s ok too. Whichever way you go, really think carefully about what kind of name you want to be known as. What describes you or your subject best? This could be the same or slightly different to your handle. Look at lots of blogs in the niche you’d like to write in before deciding. I used to blog under A Mid-Atlantic English because it was a fun way to describe both my accent (after living in the UK for 20 years) and my attitude. But as a name it was probably not the best for driving in new readers. I then chose www.theamericanresident.com because I thought it was an entertaining play on words and describes what I am at the same time. So far the new name has more than quadrupled my visitors.

4. Choose your handle carefully. It might be easiest if this is your handle everywhere. Mine is Michelloui. I use this for my handle on every site I visit. It just makes sense. I have other identities for other business. That makes sense too.

5. Short is sweet. Too short and the reader feels they’ve wasted their time unless all you want to show them is an amazing picture or a funny video. General consensus is 500-800 words, and if you go for the long blog post you’d better make it amazingly informative or entertaining.

6. Use a rough outline. Writing off the cuff can create very ‘in the moment’ posts, but writing with some quick notes turned into an outline will make your blog look professional. Just a few extra minutes spent on your posts will give you more and more readers each time you publish.

7. In Media Res. Like novel writing, start each post right in the middle of the interesting stuff–don’t meander along in a big preamble before you get to the good stuff. This is partly because people skim that first paragraph and click away in seconds if it’s boring and partly because Google also checks this area for keywords.

8. Bullet point or numbered lists are easy to scan. Make reading your blog easy for your readers who have limited time.

9. Spell and grammar check. But forgive other bloggers who don’t. Like me. Well, I do try to spell and grammar check but not always successfully.

10. Link, link, link. Link to other bloggers and link to other posts within your blog. Go tell the other bloggers you have linked to them–it’s nice to know when people like your work enough to link to you.

11. Write about something that will interest people. If you are writing about your daily life don’t expect it to get a lot of attention unless you have a loyal following, a big family or the story is highly relevant to your readers. Or if you can turn the mundane into the entertaining. Some people have that gift and I love them for it.

12. Write as often as you can. Not only is this better for your page rank, it helps you to become a better blogger. And a better writer.

13. Don’t be afraid to express your opinion. It’s your blog, you can write what you want. An opinion makes you real. And a real blogger means people will enjoy reading your blog more. Just avoid too much bitching about life or other people or other bloggers or whatever because if that’s all your blog is, that’s the only kind of reader you’ll attract in the end.

14. Blog with integrity. Always tell readers if you are writing for money or kickbacks. Don’t badmouth other bloggers. Help new bloggers. Use original content unless you expressly state you are writing about someone else’s work (provide a link) or gathering together a lot of other items from across your internet reading (as I am doing here). Respect your readers.

15. Answer your readers’ comments. While emailing them back is one form of answering and it is nice and personal, the rest of the readers miss out on the discussion and you may miss out on more comments. Try answering in the comment section.

You don’t have to publish mean comments from readers, but you may want to publish comments with a different point of view in order to encourage discussion among your readers.

16. Read lots of other blogs. And leave comments on other blogs. Let them now what was interesting about what they wrote. And please, don’t post a link to your blog in your comment. That just looks like cheap touting for business. They will be able to get back to your blog through your comment.

17. Good navigation. You want people to stay on your site as long as possible, right? Make this easy for readers by offering suggestions for other posts they might like, a short list of popular posts, or a brief list of comment excerpts in the sidebar, etc. Archives are good, but not really that enticing unless you show titles as well as dates. A search field is great for people who can’t quite remember a title of a post they liked on your site, but do remember what it was about.

18. What not to have on your blog. Too much clutter. Awards, ads, memberships of different blogging sites, pretty little thingies all down the sidebar (or worse, in amongst posts), distract the reader from content and further navigation around the site. Have a separate page for as many of these as possible. On the other hand… it is really welcoming and part of your ‘brand identity’ to have a few of these things to dress up your site and make it look different from the site the reader has just come from. And you can make some pin money from the adverts.

19. Following and Stats. There’s several ways to follow people, so offer up as many as possible on your blog. You can have an email subscription, an RSS or Atom feed and in blogger you can click ‘follow’ and you’re signed up. If you use the Blogger platform and you’re trying to find a ‘follow’ button on a non-Blogger platform, don’t worry, just copy and paste their website address into your ‘add’ section on the Dashboard part of your Blogger site. Google do a follow widget just like Blogger (I think it’s the same one)—it’s what I have on the side. Don’t stress about numbers of followers. Write good copy and visit lots of other blogs leaving quality comments and your followers will increase.

If you want to know true numbers of followers count your email and RSS feeds as well. And for true numbers of readers, use something like Stat Counter.

20. Twitter. Do I have to? Well, no. But it can be fun and useful if you learn how to do it.

  • If you want to use Twitter just to say hello to your group of good blog buddies it works because you get on there, say hello, exchange a few witty comments about life, about what you’re up to that day, about what your kids are or are not doing etc and maybe drop in a tweet about your new blog post. You’ve connected to some people and that’s cool (and for some, it relieves the insanity). You won’t have raised your blog profile because those people probably already subscribe to you anyway.
  • If you want to use it to promote your blog (and thus, your writing) you need to be more twitter-active. Organise the people you follow into lists and target those lists for different subjects you may write about, ‘writers’, ‘mums’, ‘expats’, ‘buddies’, whatever. Build up your lists by looking at who other people follow, have a quick look at those people’s tweets, if they look interesting and/or useful, click ‘follow’ as well. Many of them will follow back, if your tweets look interesting and/or useful to them.
  • If you want sponsors and PR companies to be attracted to you from your Twitter account never use foul language, never bad mouth other people, never tell dirty jokes. Basically be the person they would want representing them.
  • The best times to Tweet blog-promoting/networking tweets are lunchtimes and evenings (if you’re in the UK, then your evening means it’s many Americans’ lunch times).

21. Read websites offering blog tips.

Try Daily Blog Tips, Blogging Tips, or ProBlogger.

22. SEO, or Search Engine Optimisation. You’ll hear a lot about this. Some people think maybe too much. Put simply, this is making your website more attractive to search engines (like Google). The more attractive it is to search engines, the higher it will rank on their listings and the more visitors you are likely to get.

You can increase your SEO in different ways:

  • Use post titles that are searches people are likely to enter into Google, such as Blogging Tips. The fun and funky titles that leave the reader guessing are not ideal post titles. Save that for the chapters in your novel. This is a different kind of writing.
  • Use keywords in your first sentence, first paragraph. But remember to use key word phrases and don’t try to stuff the post full of them. Just about six or seven are plenty. If you use too many search engines will potentially mark against you.
  • Is there a space in your template for a description of the site? Use keywords here.
  • Give your images relevant captions or better yet, alt text if your template allows it. Search engines don’t see images but they see the text describing it.
  • Inbound links. These are links to your site from other sources. People sometimes do a link exchange but as with overloading your page with too many keywords, too many link exchanges alert the search engines to too much manipulation.

 

23. Photos. You don’t have to use photos, and some people are really not into photos at all, but they do catch the eye and help the site look more interesting. If you don’t like taking photos but you do like the idea of using them, go to iStockphoto for the free photos (or you can buy them, that’s up to you) or Flickr and choose the photos with the Creative Commons With Attribution License (this means you can use the photos for free, edit them, do whatever you want so long as you credit the photographer).

24. Network in person. Every time I meet other bloggers at conferences or organised lunches or informal meet ups the one consistent thing people say is ‘how nice it is to finally put a face to a name.’ People will remember you and make more of an effort to stop by your blog after you’ve met them. And you will find other people’s blogs more interesting after you’ve met them.

25. There’s always something new to learn about blogging. Not everything works for everyone, and a lot depends on what your blogging goals are. And of course there are a hundred more Really Useful Blogging Tips besides these! Look at the blogs you like and watch what they do. I don’t follow all these rules all the time, but they’re a pretty good guide overall. I hope this list is useful, and possibly inspiring. Now I’m off to see how many of these I need to start doing myself!!

If you found this post interesting and/or useful, please Tweet it or Stumble it. Thank you!

(Much of this article first appeared on A Mid-Atlantic English)

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57 Comments so far

  1. Gemma says:

    Brilliant!!! I have no excuse now!!! :)
    Fabtasic advice!!!!
    Thanks x

  2. Marianne says:

    I had seen this on MAE but it is a very helpful post and well worth reposting.
    Lovely to meet you yesterday, I always come away from events like that wishing I had more time to speak to everyone but at least now I have a face for you :)

  3. I'm So Fancy says:

    Oh you and that Twitter! I’ll get there…thanks for being kind and helpful to us newbies!

    • Michelloui says:

      You’ll get there for sure. You’ve got a great writing style, really fun for a blog and Twitter would be even better, I’ll bet!

  4. Maureen says:

    This is a great post – lots of useful tips and advice. Thanks for sharing your blogging expertise, Michelle!

  5. Thanks so much for this helpful post. I already practiced most of these, but just reading this re-sparked my interest in blogging.

    For about two years I wrote the Uniquely Tea blog, but gave it up due to some time restraints. I loved blogging and still miss it very much. But the Virgo that I am meant that I was really putting an awful lot of time into it, time that perhaps could be put into writing other things (but what?) at a profit.

    Do you know what I’m saying? I know that blogging is not about profit, but at the same time, it can consume one’s life.

    I’m not sure where the happy medium lies, but I did want to thank you for this post. And I do love your blog!

    • Michelloui says:

      Thanks Denise, I’m really really pleased it has inspired you!! Oh yes, blogging is very time consuming and there is definitely very little profit in it! Perhaps the next time you start blogging you could look at it with a view to promoting an eBook ‘tea rooms in Britain’ or another unique guide to tea or tea drinking. There might be some profit in that? It will take some thinking! Anyway, thanks for your comment.

  6. Outstanding post. I’m here because I’m following point 16! I’ll be back.

  7. Kym Hamer says:

    Some great tips here – I’m now inspired to create some sort of ‘About Me’ page to tell the story of Gidday from the UK!

    Thanks for putting fingers to keyboard (vs pen to paper)!

  8. Jean at The Delightful Repast says:

    I’ve been blogging for 10 months now and in some ways still feel very new, which is why I was drawn to this post–still looking for tips. I tweet (@delightfulrepas), but I’m not on Facebook or any of the other social media sites. And I post to my blog just once a week (on Friday mornings). Before I started I gave a lot of thought to frequency and decided that once a week was a pace I could keep for the long haul. I write about my family food traditions (English and Southern US) and whatever else I like. I’m so enjoying your blog!

    • Michelloui says:

      Hi Jean, thanks for stopping by and I hope you found some of the tips useful. I shall stop by yours and say hello!

  9. A Modern Mother says:

    Some great tips here. I included a link from http://www.bmbmblog.co.uk. Happy New Year!

  10. Karen Jones says:

    Hello Michelloui,
    Thank you for sharing so much information. I only started blogging in April this year and am totally hooked. I have several of your suggestions in place but, erm, am just about to run off and remove the fluffy stuff from my side column in an effort to look more professional.
    Many thanks, Happy New year.
    xx

    • Michelloui says:

      Thanks for stopping by Karen, I’m really glad you found the list useful. Looking forward to checking out your blog!

  11. A brilliant post. Excellent advice. I’m not keen on ads so don’t have any on my blog at all. And I like your advice about expressing an opinion. That’s something vie always been wary of in the past, but there are so many blogs out there these days that I think we need to have a little controversy and difference of opinion in order to get “heard”.

    CJ xx

  12. Some really useful tips on here and it’s good for me New Years Resolution which is to be a more organised blogger lol.

    Thanks very much

    (I tweeted it too x )

  13. Geeky Mummy says:

    Great tips especially re ads, it is a real turn off.

    I’d like to suggest some more tips. Consider mobile users. I do most of my browsing on my mobile and so many blogs use fixed widths so they don’t resize, Blogger blogs tend to be the worse. I love finding WordPress blogs that have mobile versions turned on as they fit perfectly.

    Second tip is make it easy for people to comment if you want people to leave comments. Captcha on a mobile is no fun.

    Looking forward to reading your blog. Happy New Year.

    • Michelloui says:

      Those are some excellent additional tips–I really want my blog to be mobile/cell friendly but not always sure how so thanks for that. Happy New Year!

      • Geeky Mummy says:

        Whilst you are WordPress I don’t get a mobile version but your site comes up quite nice, though the comments box doesn’t resize and is to big to fit portrait on the screen whilst entering text.

        • Michelloui says:

          Ok, I’ve tried adding a mobile widget but not sure how it’s working. Will work on that in the coming days. Thanks again for the heads up!

      • ella says:

        This is a great post, I’ve bookmarked it for fellow wannabe-blogger friends!

        There is a WordPress Mobile Pack plugin for anyone who wants to have a mobile version of their WordPress site.

        • Michelloui says:

          Thanks Ella, I’m really pleased you found it so useful! I think I found the plugin you’ve mentioned, will try to work on it to improve it. Thanks!

  14. Geeky Mummy says:

    Oh, and if you use Twitter, make sure it’s on your blog and easy to find, I don’t use RSS any more, instead I follow people’s Twitter account. But that may just be me.

    • Michelloui says:

      Thats a good one too. I use a reader, but not as often as I should so the Twitter option is much more accessible for me.

  15. Mid 30s Life says:

    Thanks Michelloui! Great tips there, I especially like the fact you’ve put so much time and thought into it to help relative novices like me.

    Love your work and happy new year!

    • Michelloui says:

      I’m pleased you enjoyed it and very happy to pass on any info I can even though there’s not a lot of difference between novices and slightly more experienced bloggers. Keep up the great content you’ve got on your site and you can’t go far wrong! Happy New Year to you too!

  16. Great tips, thanks so much! I’m new to this and this post has really answered some questions!
    XxX

    • Michelloui says:

      I’m really glad this post was able to answer some questions for you–you’re exactly the sort of person it was intended for!

  17. kate says:

    Found you through BMB. Great tips – will be bookmarking it! Thanks. x

    • Michelloui says:

      Thanks for stopping by Kate, I’m really pleased you found this post useful! Looking forward to checking your blog out now :)

  18. NVT says:

    Very helpful tips and thanks so much for sharing.

  19. Brilliant post, Michelle!

    • Michelloui says:

      Thanks Nickie! I’m really pleased you liked it, awesome blogger.

  20. helloitsgemma says:

    Thank you for taking the time and effort to do this, very useful to someone like me who is still very much finding their way, SEO is still a mystery to me, but I’m happy with who’s visiting blog at present. Mostly, people via Twitter who I feel familiar with so – I don’t think I’m losing anything by not understanding or possibily accessing SEO.

    • Michelloui says:

      Yeah, don’t bother with SEO if you;re still just trying to find your feet. Enjoy it for now and the rest will come when you’re ready. I’m glad you found it useful!

  21. Great tips thanks very much for sharing. :)

  22. mamaUK says:

    Thank you, I have learnt some things (Ok, lots of things!) I didn’t know!
    Thank you!

  23. Lisa says:

    Thank you! I just started my blog a month ago and am clueless!! I am still trying to figure out my niche, but am working on it. This helps a ton, though! I always thought I needed to write more, but you’re right…less is more! And that’s why I like your blog…short and sweet! Thanks again!

  24. Jean | Delightful Repast says:

    Michelloui, I’m always drawn to posts like this because, after nearly a year, I’m still learning! Started my food blog (featuring tea and lots of English food, BTW) knowing lots about my subject and nothing about the medium.

    • Michelloui says:

      And I’m still learning-I think even the hugely popular bloggers are still learning! When we stop learning we stand still and everything begins to pass us by…

  25. Louisa says:

    Hi Michelloui

    I’m not quite sure how I found your blog and yet here I am! I’m an Aussie Blogger who’s been at it for a while and I loved your list – it’s really comprehensive and thoughtfully put together. Some great tips especially for those just starting out, but for all of us to remember :)

    Cheers, Louisa

  26. Nelly says:

    Really useful advice, thanks

  27. Holly says:

    I found you at Cheshire Wife … had to laugh when I read about your trials trying to get through Passport Control in the UK … DH and I battle that when we visit the states.
    You have lots of good posts.
    I’ll be back!
    Holly

    • Michelloui says:

      Thanks for saying hello! Looking forward to seeing more of you here. :)

  28. Erin says:

    Thanks for sharing Michelle! I learned a number of good tips. Erin x

    • Michelloui says:

      Pleased you found it useful Erin!! Looking forward to seeing more of you and your blog! x


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