Spring has finally arrived at top speed and everything is trying to catch up. Daffodils and tulips are sulking about sharing a bed, leaf buds are throwing back the covers, shrieking “I’ve overslept!” and I am sitting in the garden, enjoying the sunshine on my pallid English limbs, and wanting to be gardening rather than blogging.
I have almost two years’ worth of draft posts tucked away, but none of them appeals to me this week. There was a flicker of inspiration when someone emailed to say that he was going to “reach out to set up a phone call”, but the prospect of ripping another hapless soul to shreds doesn’t chime with my sunny mood.
So, today I am going to be a deckchair expert in the art of blogging and share my tips on how to write a great one – many of which I fail to follow myself. But, as I said, it’s sunny, I am thinking about a half bot of something chilled, and after all, tomorrow is another day (Thank you Scarlett O’Hara).
Blog frequently and on time
And I fall at the first! A basic blogging tip is to blog a lot. Two or more times a day (yes, a day!) for power bloggers, and at least twice a week if you want any growth at all. Readers will return for new content, not the same words they read yesterday. Each new post is a new doorway into your website, and search engines like that.
If readers know that you blog every Tuesday and Thursday, then they will start to look out for your latest post. If you blog three times in one week, and then nothing for a month, it is much harder to build a following.
Think about your blog’s design
As well as the words, think carefully about the design of your blog. It should be pleasant to look at, so avoid garish colours or distracting pictures and animations. Use a clear dark font on a light background, use subheadings and paragraphs to break up the text and allow readers to scan. If you must have music, give an option to turn it off! Offer a search function so readers can find a post again. Offer readers a subscription option – sending your words straight into their email inbox. Make it easy to comment, make it easy to share.
Think about your readers
Blogs are meant to be quick and disposable reads. People read them on their phones or tablets, during their tea breaks, as they commute. A post should contain one or two main points and be easy to read in one go. Aim for around 600 words – less than 250 and you risk being too small to be noticed, much more than 800 and your readers may put you aside to read later – and perhaps never come back.
Create great titles for your blog posts
Make your post title informative enough to get the right people clicking on it, but still intriguing enough to make them want to read more. Use killer keywords to rank well with the search engines.
Make a blog that buzzes
Write honestly. A blog is a perfect way to introduce yourself and chat with your readers – letting them ‘hear’ your real voice rather than the formal ‘front of house’ voice that you may use on your website. A blog post doesn’t have to be correct – although be very careful about libel and so forth – it is far more stimulating if it is informed opinion. Which leads on to the 3Cs of blogging:
Allow comments (even negative ones) apart from spam and abuse, reply to them courteously, and encourage debate around your posts. Blogs need nurturing, they won’t grow on their own.
Share but don’t steal
The internet is all about mutual back scratching – I write a great blog post, you share it with people, and so on. But there is sharing, and there is stealing. Be aware of the Copyright Law regarding fair usage, and don’t over-stretch it. It is fine to quote a few sentences from someone else, but make sure you give them credit with a link and an attribution. If you want to use more than a small part of someone else’s work, ask permission. Best of all, don’t just copy someone’s work, but build upon it.
Promote your blog
You need links into and out of your blog. So called “black hat” SEO tricks include linkbaiting – blogging about something currently topical with little relevance to the blog’s topic. If I suddenly posted about Margaret Thatcher’s death when this blog is about writing and words and being self-employed, I might get a deluge of visitors to my Maggie post, but they won’t stay and they won’t come back.
“White hat” links take work – they need to be built by commenting on other blogs, reciprocal guest blogging, having more than one blog yourself, sharing on social media, promoting as much as you can and above all writing something that is worth reading. If you write great content, people will want to read it, and read more, and share it with their friends. There isn’t a short cut to actually doing some work.
Now, my runner beans are calling so here I shall end. There is a lot more detail underpinning these tips, and plenty more tips that others may add, but these seven are a good way to start.
What would you add to the list?