Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Ten Top Things I've Learned About Blogging.

What do I wish I knew when I started to blog?

During a "cousins" reunion Saturday, a cousin reached out to me for help.  He's been writing pieces for local newspapers.  His daughter bought him a Wordpress site, thinking he might want to get into blogging. He put up one post but he doesn't know what to do now to get readership and to grow his blog.

I wish I knew what to suggest to him as far as WordPress (which I know nothing about), but I can tell him a little bit about blogging.  I have seven years of experience.  I'd like to share some of what I learned with you, my readers, so I can share my vast (ahem) wisdom with him.  In turn, if you have any suggestions for a true blogging newbie,  I'd love you to leave me a comment.

This is what my blood, sweat and (sometimes) tears have taught me:

1.  Blog a lot about giraffes!  No, only kidding.  Seriously: blog about things people are interested in, if you are interested in that thing.  As one example, there are a lot of people out there still interested in April the Giraffe, the once-pregnant giraffe whose last two months of her pregnancy were streamed on YouTube 24/7.

As it happened, April lives about 20 minutes from me.  And yes, in July, I went to see her.
April melting my heart
I got more likes on Facebook (OK,  it was in in a Facebook group of April fans, but still) from that post than any other post I've ever posted on Facebook.  Why? If you can arouse strong emotions in people, you will get reads. (That's the secret of cat videos, too.)

But, in all seriousness, people can see through a phony blog in no time.  And they can tell if you don't love what they are doing.  No one wants to read a blog that sounds like "do I reallllly have to do this?" Well, they don't realllly have to read it.   If you love something, work that into your blog posts.  If you couldn't care less about that topic, don't bother.  Blog about something you love.  I can't emphasize this enough.  That dislike/boredom/lack of passion will show right through your writing.

Be real. Be you.  It's not as easy as you think, but it is worth the effort.  And when you know your voice, stick with it.

(Also, link to other bloggers.  Share the blogging wealth.)

2.  I wish I knew there was such a thing as blogging challenges when I started.  If you want to grow your readership (and who doesn't want followers, for either personal or business reasons?), this is one of the fastest ways to increase your readership.  By reading the blogs of those in your challenge, you will quickly learn what works - and what doesn't.  A great challenge, the Ultimate Blog Challenge, will start up again in October.  Another challenge he might enjoy is the April Blogging from A to Z.
Or (not sure it will happen this year) NaBloPoMo in November.

While I'm at it - join a blogging support group. And publish your posts on social media - Facebook, G+, Twitter.  

3.  I wish I knew that consistent posting is key.  I highly recommend daily posting, at least for the first month or two of your blog.   Once you establish yourself, what becomes necessary is not daily posting, but, rather, consistent posting.  If you don't want to post daily - and many bloggers don't want to, or can't - then it helps your readers to know that you have a schedule. Then stick to it.

4.  I wish I knew there is no such thing as a perfect blog post.  Perfection is not necessary.  Passion IS necessary.  If you don't like what you write, your readers won't, either.

5.  But, you must know what your readers want.  A blog is not all about you.  It is about your readers. My readers seem to love pictures of snow (in the winter) and flowers (the rest of the year),

6. You must read your readers' comments.  You must!  Those comments are more valuable to a blogger than breakfast, lunch, dinner, or even good chocolate.  For example, two years ago I wrote a blog about autumn, which turned out to be a bit self centered.  A couple of my readers gently reminded me that much of the world does not experience quite the same fall as upstate New York (where I live).  My sin?  I had taken my readers for granted.

7.  Related to #6, I wish I knew how important it was to comment on, not just read, other blogs.  Yes, don't be shy.  Comment!  And if you do disagree, which is fine, please, please, please, be respectful. There is a person, a living, breathing human being with feelings, on the other end of that blog post you like or dislike.

8.  Pick a good name!  I like the name my cousin picked for his blog.  If he goes on Twitter or other social media, he should be consistent about the name.  The name of your blog is your "brand".  That s something I learned too late.

9.  Include photos (and please, only your own photos). NEVER get photos from a Google search.  NEVER STEAL PHOTOS.  NEVER NEVER NEVER.  There are legit sources for free photos but don't worry about it while you are learning the other stuff. If you take good videos, you may want to share that with readers, too.

10.  Finally: appreciate your readers.  Let them know often because your readers are what makes blogging worthwhile.  I don't do that enough.

If you had advice to new bloggers, what advice would you give?

16 comments:

  1. All of them excellent points: and this post needs to be shared to all new bloggers-- I wish I'd come across a post like this when i started my blog, Alana!

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    1. Thank you! I hope my cousin can use something from this.

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  2. These are great points ... I wish I need all of this when I started too. I have been this active in social media only for a couple of years, even though I used to blog a lot before. I agree about the name. I wish I had choses a better name :)

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    1. I regret my choice, too - just a little.

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  3. Some great points, Alana. I loved your posts on April! Good to read a post from you again. I've been out of the blogging loop for a couple of weeks - and I now need to furiously write some that I can schedule as I'm going away on Friday for ten days. Share Your World

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    1. Welcome back to my comments, Shirley. Happy to hear you enjoyed my posts on April the Giraffe. I do intend to blog about my visit to her later this month.

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  4. Excellent pointers! Really good. I saw the title and thought it might be a rehash of a gazillion other "10 Things..." posts, but found myself nodding vigorously as I read along. This is real, and it's good advice. I don't know that I could distill nearly 20 years of blogging into a "Top Ten Things I've Learned" type post, or prioritize it properly if I could! But I don't disagree with any of these.

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    1. I'd still love to have you share your wisdom, Holly.

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  5. Yours is good. I'd add advice to readers: If you like a blog, support it. Commission posts! Keep your favorite blog alive!

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  6. Excellent advice. Your cousin will do well to pay heed. Good luck to him.

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  7. I think the only thing I'd tell a newbie blogger is to find a good feed reader and start following blogs. This helps with your #7. Read. Comment. And make sure to follow.

    You can automate sharing your blog with other social media sites. But I think that's more of an intermediate blogging concern ;)

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    1. Thank you for making this point, Liz. It's something I wouldn't have thought of, although I do have my posts automatically posted. I'm not familiar with what WordPress offers.

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  8. Great points. One piece of advice that I got from my blogging guru when I started, and has served me well was simply to be kind. Gardeners put a lot of effort into their creations, even bearing their souls at times in their spaces. A single snarky comment about a garden can be devastating. I'm only critical of my own garden and sing the beauty of those created by others.

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  9. Great advice for anyone starting a blog or even for the those of us already in the game.

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