I had a comment a few weeks ago asking for tips on blogging. First off I am no expert. I don’t have a gazillion readers or make money from my blog. But I have loyal followers (about 700 at time of posting) and regular readers (2000 to 6000 per day at time of posting) so for what it’s worth, here goes. This is my third blog. My first one was about handbags and was on Typepad from about 2004. I was a senior moderator on the Handbag.com discussion forums and I had a link to my blog in my signature so I had a very large reader base coming through there. When I left Handbag I had had enough of the internet (internet fatigue!) and so took a break from everything internet-related apart from what I needed to do at work. My work then asked me to do their social media for them because I had experience. I did this for a year (on WordPress, Facebook and Twitter) but found it difficult to do it as part of my job because it is time-consuming in itself and I was already working full-time as a teacher. I found the blog creeping in to my private time. I started to hate it but no one at work wanted to help out or take over, and about fifteen months ago, I burned out. I had a dormant wordpress blog which I had registered a year previously (because I liked the name thisbugslife.com and I had the chance to buy the name) so as I got better I started writing about things that interest me. Part of my burnout was that I was unable to concentrate, let alone read or write. So I made it part of my therapy – writing short bits as often as I could about things I cared about. And I think that was key. No pressure. And just doing it for myself. Tips:
- Regarding platform I think Blogger and WordPress are the best. Blogger is far easier to use than WordPress but if you have experience of internet forums or communities, the interface on all platforms is usually pretty similar.
- Don’t make your first question about blogging ‘how can I make money?’ A few years ago bloggers were few and far between so there was a huge market. Now the market is saturated and in order to make money you have to have a niche subject and extreme ambition and motivation. Making money will only come (if at all) after you are established. And blogging is often very hard work.
- Write about what interests you.
- Don’t put pressure on yourself. If your muse fails then give it a break and come back when it does.
- Write regularly – even if your posts are short it’s something. What I do is – when I am on a roll I write as many posts as are in me and schedule them for days and weeks ahead, instead of posting them all at once and overwhelming people.
- Don’t write too many or too few posts. I tend to go through periods where I post too often but I can’t help it and figure that as long as it doesn’t happen every day I won’t annoy people.
- Use the free features available to you such as themes suited to your topic, and all the widgets that come with them. Don’t be afraid to experiment because there is very little you can’t get rid of if you don’t like it.
- Use the help feature or the online support staff. They will not be able to help you immediately but they always do in a pretty reasonable time-frame.
- If you find that this is what you want to do, even as a serious hobby, you can register your own domain name, buy extra space, remove ads, buy premium themes. They are relatively inexpensive.
- Use other social media to publicize your blog – Twitter and Facebook are good at this. Pinterest is also good as long as you don’t mind (NOTE CAREFULLY) losing control of your photographs. You will never know who has repinned or where it has ended up. So if you want to keep control of them, put a very clear note on your blog that you do not allow pinning to Pinterest from it. And then check in your stats to see if any are coming from Pinterest. If they are, follow the link back to the Pinterest site and ask the offender to remove your photo.
- Comment on other blogs that you like. This often leads to them checking out your site.
- Joined networked blog sites so that your blog is seen by more people.
- If you write about hobbies or special interest sites, or if you buy things you like, drop a line to forums or customer care and let them know about your blog.
- Interview people who are interested in the same things you are.
- Respond to comments.
- This is personal of course, but comments on my blog have to be manually approved before they appear on my blog. This is to avoid spam. But once I have approved someone once they are then free to post and be published immediately. Spammers are the mosquitoes and flies of the internet.
- Don’t get defensive or nasty if responding to critical comments – particularly if you are writing on controversial topics. Getting into flame wars with anonymous strangers who don’t agree with you is not worth your effort and you may lose regular readers.
- Be aware that what you write can be seen by the whole world. Don’t make personal attacks, air dirty laundry or take cheap shots because everyone can see them. It’s up to you to choose whether to be anonymous on your blog but you are always traceable.
- Use the statistics feature to know your readers and your traffic. For example:
- Use tags effectively to increase traffic and see which posts bring viewers to your site, and:
- If you see links to forums follow them back to see who has posted your link and why. Maybe you can answer questions or post more links for clarification. If it is somewhere you don’t want it you can ask to have it removed. Policy may differ but you can always try.
- The posts which attract most traffic to my site are about spelling aloud, Filofaxes, Boerboels and handbags.
- I would recommend following Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s motto of ‘Act first and break things’. Don’t be scared to start blogging; don’t wait until you have mastered everything; don’t agonise over perfection in your posts. Give it a try, and come back to fix it later if necessary. You will learn as you go along.
- Use features like scheduling posts in advance and being able to password-protect certain posts to optimise your blog. I can pop up lesson plans which are only visible to my students for example.
- Carry a notebook with you to write down inspiration as it hits. Keep lists of blog topics for when you have an idea drought or don’t have time to write immediately.
Some of my favourite blogs are in niche areas: Advanced Style – photographs of stylish older people CarrotBox Ring Blog – rings of every kind, style, shape or form plus a shop. Philofaxy – all about Filofaxes (this is a blog with a very active bustling community) Plannerisms – all about Planners Purseblog – about handbags Bagsnob – about handbags Bag Bliss – about handbags Bag Lady – about handbags Beading Gem – about jewellery and jewellery making Regretsy – about funny items available on Etsy I have posted several bag blogs above – if you look at them you will see how they have pretty much become complete for-profit sites. But they began as hobby blogs and it took a lot of unpaid effort and love to make them grow. As from February this year Regretsy is now only an archive but it is still one of my favourite blogs of all time.