Monday, 16 November 2015

Advice to Newbie Bloggers

This blog pots is really for friends who have said that they want to start blogging but have no idea where to begin. I am in no way an expert but I have been blogging for on and off for over 10 years. So these are just some of the things I have learned along the way. If anyone else gets something out of it all the better.

1. What do you want to share?

Most bloggers start because they have something in their life they want to share.  It can be anything at all. Mine is crafts in general but there are others who focus more on one subject within that such as sewing or baking. There are lots of blogs out there such as political or funny. My friend recently started one up about fitness called Fitness Dreams (shameless plug there). As long as you feel strongly about what you are sharing and will have a lot to say over a prolonged period of time it doesn't matter. Theme you blog around that subject so that your audience knows what you are about too. Just be aware if you don't think people will be receptive or that people might be offended it might be worth having a rethink.

2. Choose your domain.

I chose blogger because it's what I've always used. Ever since my first blog 15 years ago. I have tried other domains but blogger is what works for me as it's what I know. My advice would be to look around before you decide. There are loads out there. Look at reviews of others and look at the domains used by some of your favourite blogs. Think about how you want your blog to look and would that domain be ablee to deliver. If you are using it to promote your own business or this is more than just a hobby for you then it might be worth while setting up your own domain.

(above screenshots are of Danny Gregory, Attic 24, Yarn Harlot and Shimelle)

3. Choose your layout.

Just remember that whatever layout you start with doesn't have to be set in stone. Your layout can change and evolve as you get a feel for your blog and what you want it to show. Having said that have a think about what you like. What attracts you to a blog initially? Remember you want to attract readers but also encourage them to come back. Make sure your layout is easy to follow. I've had a fair few layouts in my time. I went through a phase of changing them regularly and I think I have had just about every colour apart from black. However, I like the look I have now. It's clean and simple so that it highlights the images and the content. In my mind this makes it easier to read. Some of my favourite blogs are a lot busier than mine. Have a look at your favourite blogs and have a think of why you like the way they are laid out.

4. Content.

All of these other things are important but if you want people to come back to your blog you have to focus on your content. One thing that took me a long time to learn is not to squeeze everything in to one post. I've always done that with my craft blogs. I don't have a set subject for a post and so they are filled with a little bit of everything. I like to think that I have learned from that. Theme you posts around one thing and make sure you actually have something to say about it. In other words don't post for the sake of posting. Consider if the subejct of the post is relevant to you blog (something else I learned the hard way). 

5. Planning.

This appeals to my not so inner geek. If you know me you know I am a planner. An article I read a few months ago suggested having set days for posting. That way regular readers will know when to visit your blog. This is something that I have put into place recently and it works for me. I started off with two set days a week and (thanks to my themed Friday posts) That has changed to three. You don't have to post as often as that. You might want to build up to it. Try posting at least once a week though. Less than that you might lose readers and you might find you lose interest yourself.

6. Images.

I think that when it comes to images on a blog it really comes down to personal preference. I am a visual person and so images are important. It should bee relevant to the subject of the post but I am more likely to stay with a blog if there are images. this is what attracts me to a blog, especially if it's new to me. You don't have to go mad. Sometimes one image at that start of your post is more than enough. It all depends on what you are writing about. Since my blog is about crafts I always feel that images are a necessity. If you are using images try and ensure they are of good quality. This is something I am always trying to work on.

7. Linking In

One of my favourite tools is the linking tool. This allows me to link other websites of blogs to my post. It's common courtesy to do this if you are discussing something that was done or created by someone else. I have done this with all of my pinterest, Christmas and Bake Off posts. It's a good way to show readers your favourite sites. I also use it to remind people of previous posts providing that it's relevant. Very rarely do I post anything without a link being in there somewhere and I have since started keeping a list of all my favourite blogs and tutorial links (you don't have to go as far as that).

8. Experimenting.

While I say keep your voice true to your blog there is nothing wrong with experimenting. I do it all the time. It can help rejuvenate your blog, keep your readers interested and keep yourself interested. It doesn't matter if something you try doesn't work out for you. You can put it down to a lesson learned and move on to other ideas eg. themed posts, guest bloggers, interviews, tutorials.

9. Social Media.

Like most things Social Media can have its good and bad sides. In a lot of ways I have social media as I have seen the damage it can do to people when used incorrectly. However, I think it can also be a useful tool so long as you are careful with how you use it. It can be your platform for your blog. I have my own page on facebook specifically for my blog. I link each new post there. I occasionally add in a photo or update that I haven't posted here and I used it to promote other crafters. I also use twitter, pinterest, Instagram and google plus. Blogger can show you where most of your readers are coming from and I'm sure other domains do the same. It lets you see which social media tool is working for you. I even tried a blog platform although that particular one doesn't exist anymore. It was a good way of discovering other blogs though.

10. Write for yourself.

If you are constantly looking for comments and view numbers you are going to become very frustrated and bored fast. Yes, these things are important, particularly if you are using it to promote your business. It's a good way to find out which posts work for you. It's not the be all and end all though and shouldn't be your only reason for writing. Do it because you love it and because you love what you do and want to share of even motivate yourself. As soon as it becomes about numbers you'll lose your voice and your interest. Which brings me to my last piece of adcice. If you find yourself burning out take a break. It is okay to do that and then come back again. I've done that myself.

These aren't hard and fast rules. Just things that I have learned along the way. Usually through making mistakes. Rememberr hwat works ofr one person might not work for you. More importantly - have fun!

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