I’ve been blogging since 2010, and now and then I like to review a bit, take stock, and see what I’ve learned along the way. This is my current roundup for bloggers…whether you’re just starting, trying to grow a following, or simply writing to express yourself…this isn’t about list building tools or social media magic. These are my favorite dos and don’ts for blogging as a writing form.
- Be yourself, be authentic…it’s tempting to try to sound like popular writers…as clever, as moving, as profound as others out there…and maybe you will be all those and more. But regardless of anything else your writing evokes, it should be real, sound like something you would really say. That will come across as natural and genuine, and be much better than trying to copy someone else, however successful. No one can speak in your voice and style but you.
- When you have an idea for a post, write it down. You may remember it later when you sit down to blog, but you may not. (I always think I’ll remember, and often I don’t. I finally learned to take my own advice here.) I’d say the same for a specific phrase or thought you want to use…easier to write something down in the moment than try to remember the perfect word flow two days later.
- Use photos, quotes, stories, and tell your story. Even if you write a food blog or a DIY blog, or write on a very narrow subject matter, you’re still sharing your point of view. Using tools to bring your personal style and voice to your writing is always a good thing. In general the more successful blogs are well-defined in subject and tone. Readers know what to expect, and that’s helpful for building a following.
- Before you publish a post, use the preview function and read your post as it will appear when you’re done. No one’s perfect, and I’ve caught many a typo in my work. No matter how much you try to prevent spelling errors or spacing issues, sooner or later something will slip by your eagle eye. Don’t let fear of making mistakes be a barrier to writing. And remember, even after you’ve published a post, you can edit and update it when you see your mistake.
- Similar to #4, read in preview mode for the flow of your content. Often I let a post sit in draft form for a few days and re-read it to be sure I like the flow, and that I’m not wandering off topic. Re-reading your work after it sits for a while will help you see it with fresh eyes, and as a whole piece. That said, as a blogger, you’re not attempting to write a novel or produce a white paper. Don’t over-critique or analyze your writing, or you’ll never hit the publish button.
- Some writers follow the same format for all their posts, and others use a variety of writing and formatting styles…list posts, holiday or birthday wishes, photo posts, poetry posts, vacation or travel posts, pet peeves or random items…anything can work, as long as you’re writing from the heart. If you’re concerned about falling into a rut, ask input from other bloggers you admire.
- Some bloggers follow a calendar for blogging with different types of posts on different days of the week. I haven’t done this myself, but I see the benefit. If you’re struggling to be consistent, or come up with material for your blog, consider developing an editorial calendar with a strategy of specific types of posts on specific days of the week.
- You can link to other sites that give a writing prompt, and that’s a great way to connect with writers who have similar interests. It’s also a way to grow your readership.
- If you use photos, edit them! You can probably crop, enhance, or somehow improve your photos to make them more appealing for your post. You can also find free photos on sites like Pexels.com.
- One of the best tips I can offer is: be consistent! When I post consistently and regularly, I notice I have new people following my blog. When I neglect my writing, that usually results in losing readers, and slows growth. Having said that, I try to remember that I’m blogging / writing out of choice, and if life is crazy, I don’t let blogging make it crazier. I want the blog to work with my life, not the other way around. Priorities and balance are important values to hold in the blogging world. It’s easy to get lost in the challenge of posting, being relevant, creating new content.
- Use categories and tags for your posts, these will help readers find your work.
- Link your blog to at least a couple of social media sites…I link to Twitter and Facebook. From everything I read, it’s best to not be active on too many social platforms…just dilutes your efforts and will be too distracting to try to keep up for most people.
- Invite comments! And when readers comment on your blog, respond to them. Some successful bloggers don’t do this, and I’ll admit, I’m sometimes guilty of missing this opportunity as well. But I think it’s a good practice to follow, and helps build a community, helps you get to know people who are visiting your blog regularly.
- When someone follows your blog, check out theirs. I don’t always follow a blogger who follows me, but I try to visit in response to a follow notice. If nothing else, I can leave a comment, thank them for following me, and see what they’re writing about. I’ve found some wonderful writers doing this, and again, this helps to build a community.
- Once I connect with another blogger, I try to read their posts often. That doesn’t mean I read everything, but I try to visit their blogs regularly, as a way of maintaining my place in the community. When I read other blogs, I often comment. It lets writers know I’m engaged and part of the community.
- Be generous. I don’t always post to be informative…some of what I write is more in the genre of personal growth/development, working out my issues by writing them out. Perhaps even through those posts someone may learn something. (One of my life functions is being a cautionary tale.) But I also like to write posts that are intentionally educational or informative, whether a list post, like this, or sharing a recipe or new website I’ve found, a tool or app that works well, or even a link to another site or article I find valuable. I also love to feature quotes…those are simple posts to do, but they can have a big impact.
- It’s ok to share your ups and downs. As a blogger, writing directly to readers, you can say just what you want…what’s on your heart. While I don’t think blogging should be an exercise in self-absorption (not every post on my blog is about me or my life) this is your opportunity to use your stories and insights to offer a message…a message of caution, of hope, of perseverance, of triumph, of loss. Sometimes my posts are about something funny, and I like that too. Mixing up the serious subjects with something lighter is a good thing, I think. Whatever you choose, let the sincerity and real-ness of your stories shine through.
- If you’re writing about difficult personal issues, be careful and thoughtful about what you share. Whether you have a small following or a large one, once you launch a post into cyberspace, it’s out there. My personal opinion is that you can share a lot generically, but respect the privacy of others, especially anyone you may reference directly in your writing. Some bloggers are very open about any and everything going on in their lives, relationships, health, etc. I prefer to keep my private life private, at least in the details. I’m ok to write in broad strokes about relationship challenges, struggles with personal issues, etc. I can do that and still maintain a certain level of privacy and dignity. If I write about a struggle, I’ll be honest with what I say, but I don’t have to disclose every detail to make a point.
- I don’t use profanity in my posts, though some very successful writers do. That’s not who I am, and I don’t need to write like it is. Some bloggers introduce controversy, others have a very empathetic/sympathetic tone to their writing. I think it’s ok to occasionally mix your emotional tones, but I wouldn’t do it often. Readers grow to expect a certain vibe from you, and it’s probably best to be consistent in general. Look at how your favorite writers do it…don’t copy their material, but you can learn from a successful blogging formula or strategy. Again, very important to speak / write with your authentic voice.
- Be friendly! Friendliness will come across in your writing tone. Even if your writing is very dark and emotional, readers will likely connect better with you if you sound approachable; if you sound relatable; if you sound like a real human being they could sit down and talk with.
I wish I could do all these things perfectly myself; sometimes I’m more successful than others. But these are the guidelines I try to follow. Let me know what you think, I’d love to hear from other writers!