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|
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?