Whenever you run into a knowledgeable or opinionated people, most often the latter, enthusiasts encouraging them to start blogging are not far behind, prompting a lot of folks to consider picking it up as a profession, a hobby, an outlet or a promotional asset.
A blog is a wonderful tool and, if used correctly, can help you achieve any number of those things. However, the one thing the Internet is in no short supply of is advice and, when it comes to blogging or social media, it’s a real whopper. If you’d like to properly channel your energy and not waste it on useless tips, read on.
Hype: Just write
Reality: You need a plan
Whatever the reason behind your attempt at blogging might be, planning is a very important component in getting some return on your investment. Your editorial calendar, promotional efforts, design, social media presence will all have to be in sync with whatever you want your blog to do.
Let’s say you want to blog about flowers, as a hobby, because you enjoy them so much. At first, you’ll think Just writing is a good idea, as you’re sharing your passion with the world. Great, but if you blab on incoherently, you’ll find the world might not be so excited about it.
On the other hand, having a structured editorial calendar, following whatever flowers are popular in a particular season, or offer solid advice on how to grow and care about a specific type of flower, you will easily find people who share your passion or might want to learn from you.
Defining a recognisable, authentic blog persona is equally important, as it will individualise your blog and help it stand out from the mind-bending amount of content being produced every day online.
Hype: Stick to X number of words
Reality: Write well not a lot
Some say the perfect blog post should be 500 words long, others say you ought to stick to something between 300 and 700 words. The fact of the matter is, if you push for 700 words but have precious little to say, your post will be full of stuffing, making it quite boring to read through. If you try to cut it down to 500 but have some really good material for a 1,100 word post, you’ll be slashing content in favour of satisfying some arbitrary number someone came up with.
The most sensible thing to do is write well-structured content that accurately conveys your message, however long or short it may be. If you can effectively say something in 200 words, there’s no real reason to struggle and push for double that number.
Hype: Write every day/ week
Reality: Write as often as you can
Another so-called golden rule of blogging is to come up with a schedule, preferably as tight as possible, and stick to it come hell or high water. Some people can’t even do their jobs under pressure, let alone be creative, not to mention that for those who blog because they enjoy it, it can’t be that much fun to do when it turns into a must.
The point is to create good-quality content and if it takes you two weeks to put together a well-written article, so what? You think readers will stop going back to your website because you’ve missed a week? It’s a blog, not a doctor’s appointment.
Relax and come up with a realistic schedule you can stick to, which will help you not just with the self-discipline of keeping up with the blog posts themselves but also in addressing more time-sensitive topics. Whenever you’re over-productive, don’t publish the posts right away. Save them and schedule them according to the timeline you’ve set for yourself. That way, you’ve got content ready well-ahead of time, relieving some of the pressure you might feel.
Hype: Sell ad space to monetise
Reality: Selling ad space might drive readers away
The Internet has made advertising so accessible to brands that people either develop ad blindness or run away from advertising as much as possible. Blogs are often a welcomed respite from the ad littering that’s become so prevalent on news websites and social media.
Selling ad space might seem like an easy enough way to monetise your blog but, unless you’ve got hundreds of thousands of visitors every day, you’ll get a barely-there fee in return for flashy, horrid-looking banners that advertise products which have nothing to do with your blog and, more often than not, severely clash with your blog’s design.
Ads on blogs can become very distracting, annoying and have the very real potential of driving your readers away. An even more unsavoury practice that’s started to become more and more popular is writing obvious advertorials as blog posts. I’ve got nothing against advertorials, if they contain useful information, are presented as exactly what they are (ie. contain a disclaimer) and are not forcefully inserted into a usual post as a I’ve had a really weird day, oh by the way, it would be really weird if you didn’t take advantage of this sale.
Hype: Comments are a measure of success
Reality: You don’t really need them
Blogs are a multi-directional means of communication, add to that the common knowledge that opinions are in no short supply online and you’ve got the reason why so many bloggers turn to comments as a tell-tale sign of their post’s success.
Thing is, comments are influenced by a wide number of factors like the audience, topic, post positioning, author, whether or not people have anything to reply ( stunning, I know). Even more so, since a lot of blog traffic now originates from social networks, people prefer to leave comments at the source rather than on the blog post itself.
Dig deep into your blog’s analytics and use engagement metrics to determine how well your posts are doing. Look at shares and average time spent on article rather than the comments you get on each of them.
Hype: It will only cost you time
Reality: It will impact way more than that
The biggest lie ever told to bloggers, by other bloggers mind you, is that blogging is for free and, at most, it will cost you time. This often leads people to settle for free hosting, default or dirt-cheap WordPress themes and badly-designed blogs.
If you’re serious about blogging and want to be taken seriously, you need to carefully select a name, buy a corresponding top-level domain, work with a designer to come up with the architecture of said blog and, once it’s up and running, invest time and resources (yes, this includes money) in bringing qualified traffic to your blog.
There’s an entire slew of reasons behind each of those items but that’s a topic for another post, the essential thing to remember is that by using generic, all-purpose things the most your blog can ever hope to achieve is being average.
The Bottom Line
When reading a great blog post, one can easily think that it doesn’t take that much work but, effortless design and easy-flowing content are the things every blogger strives to achieve. In reality, it takes hard work, time, money and truck-loads of research to deliver a well-written post. For a more personal insight into my personal experience with blogging on Shoestrings & Fancy Things, check out my 1 year anniversary post.