Also, check out Part II of the Blogging Best Practices series.
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Happy January fellow bloggers.
Larissa kindly asked me to submit a post for the Blogging Best Practices series – I guess I must be doing something right…
Anyone can blog. Fact. All you need is a computer, an Internet connection and some words. But what makes the difference between Just Another Blog and one that people will read, return to and hopefully follow? There are no hard-and-fast rules (and rules are made to be broken) but there are a number of tried–and–tested techniques that can help your blog posts stand out from the crowd.
The first thing potential readers see is the title of your post. Make it punchy, make it relevant, make it captivating. If the title doesn’t grab their attention, it doesn’t matter how beautifully crafted your body content is, people won’t stick around to read it. For the brave-at-heart, try humour; not the slapstick, tabloid-headline style which punches you in the face with its crassness, but something subtle and related to the topic of the post. Make people smile and they’ll stay.
A rule which I unashamedly confess to breaking frequently. Don’t make every post a War and Peace epic crammed with sumptuous detail. Of course, you can do that on occasion and your readers will savour the additional insights and depth of personality. But make sure that the majority of posts are concise, to the point and considered. People have short attention spans and there are an awful lot of blogs out there. Think of your own blog-roll; how many do you actually have time to read even twice a week, let alone daily?
Think of your own blog-roll; how many do you actually have time to read even twice a week, let alone daily?
Related to brevity is this classic of the blogging universe – we love lists. We adore them in fact. The most successful bloggers will tell you that they get their highest views and most likes on list posts. Lists allow you to convey a wealth of information in a compact post and they enable readers to scan swiftly. If you want to garner new readers, use a list post from time-to-time; tips and tricks, advice from renowned authors, even bizarre writing–related Top 10s. Trust me, lists work.
Think carefully about how often you should blog. Unless you’re writing a journal, posting every day is likely to induce blog–blindness and fatigue in your readers. Equally, if they don’t hear from you for three weeks, they’re likely to forget who you are and find a new fave. The ideal frequency varies depending on the quality of content you create, but in general, stick to a maximum of around four posts per week. Maximum, mind you. A couple will serve just as well in most cases.
Value & Passion
Write about what you love and put that passion into your content. If you’re half–hearted in your posts, your readership will be equally half–hearted in their reading. Never forget that you blog to provide value to your readers; their time is scarce and precious. If your content doesn’t offer some form of value to your readership – be that wisdom, advice, entertainment or anything else that will enrich their lives – then they’ll be gone faster than a 3D TV in the January sales.
If you’re half–hearted in your posts, your readership will be equally half–hearted in their reading.
Even more than lists, people love pictures – particularly creative people, which is the audience a good writing blog should attract. Images break up blocks of text, add visual interest and provide vital anchor points relevant to the content. So use images. Lots of images. If you can combine a punchy headline and a striking image, you have the perfect crowd-pleaser.
Your readers give of their valuable time to read what you post. Many will engage more deeply by commenting on your post. It’s only polite to return that commitment by responding to comments. Of course, that doesn’t mean you should indulge in a never–ending back–and–forth of mundane pleasantries, but do ensure that you acknowledge commenters frequently.
Give your audience a flavour of the real you. By which I don’t mean that you should post photos of your knees or invite them over for a cuppa. Through your tone, you can impart a real feeling of who you are and what you’re about. Your content can include references – concrete or abstract – to places, people and events that form part of your daily life. Let your audience know you’re a real person, not a blogging robot churning out words by the bucket-load. Whether that’s the real you or an invented persona is entirely up to you.
And finally, but possibly most important of all…
Don’t oversell yourself
There are innumerable author blogs which exist for no other purpose than to scream “BUYMYBOOKBUYMYBOOKBUYMYBOOK.” They drive me mental. OK, I know you’ve written a book. I know you want me to buy it. Why not just come round and beat me repeatedly with a frozen haddock until I hand over the cash? But please, for Heaven’s sake, stop shouting at me with your blog. Maybe if you tell me why you wrote the book, or show me samples of your writing, or offer me advice on how you beat writer’s block, then I may be more inclined to warm to you as a person, enjoy your prose and decide I can no longer live without your book on my bookshelves.
…tell me why you wrote the book, or show me samples of your writing, or offer me advice on how you beat writer’s block…
So there you have it ladies and gentlemen, a few key points to bear in mind next time you blog; I hope they’ll help you as much as they have me. This isn’t an exhaustive list, but it covers the major tactics which should keep your audience champing at the bit for your next post.