Some of you may know that I live in the Syracuse, NY area. Some of you who watch NCAA basketball might know that over this past weekend many college teams played in the NCAA tournament to get into the Sweet Sixteen, which means the last 16 teams in the tournament. Those who watched know that my team, the Syracuse Orange men’s team, won 3 games last week, being the underdog in each one of them, and is in the Sweet Sixteen again… after getting there 2 years ago. 🙂
I want one of these for 2018
Because of that, I decided to do a blogging tips post where I’m going to mention 16 sweet blogging tips that might help you become a better blogger… or at least a happier blogger. Some of these I’ve probably mentioned in previous posts; after all, I’ve been writing for just over 10 years and I have over 550 posts out of just under 1,800 posts specifically on blogging. Continue reading →
Most of the time when I’m writing about blogging I’m usually addressing people who have been blogging for longer than a year or so. I don’t often write things that are for new bloggers because I figure that there’s so many other things out there for them already.
On to the tips!
I have touched upon the subject here and there, especially when I wrote my pillar post about better blogging and then decided to break it into two parts. Since blogging is my thing, and I like to both share my opinion and hopefully educate and teach some ideas that both new and long time bloggers might not have thought about, I decided it was time to go to the beginning with a few of my ideas and beliefs.
This isn’t overly comprehensive though; that’s why I’m only covering 6 items. Still, I think you’re going to get your money’s worth from these blogging tips; let’s see where it goes.
In November 2011 I spoke at a local social media conference on the topic of business blogging. It went over really well, and I had more than 50 people crammed into a small space, as well as another 20 or so standing outside the door, to hear me talk. That felt pretty cool I must admit, but it proved to me that blogging is a pretty strong topic for a lot of people.
I was asked whether it’s better to use a free service or to self host. I always promote self hosting whenever I can, but I gave pros and cons of each during the presentation. Since this is my blog and my space, instead of giving both sides of this issue I’m going to talk only about the benefits of self hosting:
1. If you don’t own it, then it’s never really yours. Free sites get your stuff, which means you’re supporting and helping them more than you are yourself. I’ve heard from a lot of people how hard it is to move their content to their new space when they decide they want to go the self hosting route. If you’re unsure if you can blog and want to test yourself then going the free way is a good way to test yourself. After 3 or 4 posts, if you’ve got the bug, paying for a domain and hosting is the way to go.
2. Do you want to take a chance on being censored? I’ve said this here often; there’s no such thing as free speech. There’s definitely no such thing as free speech if you use a free service. You can be blocked and dropped if either too many people complain or the right person complains. You could be dropped if no one complains but the owners don’t like what you have to say. Once they shut you down it’ll be hard for you to get any of your content back; why take the risk?
3. Why let another site get the benefit of your words? With self hosting, you get all benefits from what you write. If you attach it to your website by popping it into a subdomain you help your website grow as well.
An argument one of my friends uses is that you’ll get more eyes on a site like Huffington Post or Niume (I almost said Medium, but I’m not sure how much longer they’ll be around). I said that’s a 90-10 proposition against the writers because those sites have so much content that most of the time only well known writers get a big bounce from it. If you have a strategy of using those sites to drive people to your own site, that’s one thing. You still need to have your own space so you can benefit from it if it works out for you.
4. You can’t always market or sell anything on free sites. Most of those sites don’t like it if you want to sell stuff in sidebars of pop affiliate images in the middle of your posts; not that many of your blog visitors will either. lol Adding affiliate links to your posts or having banner ads might get you tossed off free sites like WordPress.com. If you’re looking to pitch a new product or service to someone, it’s better to do it in your own space and promote it via social media.
5. Design, design, design. With WordPress, the self hosted version, there are literally thousands of different themes out there, free or paid, that you can use and modify for your purposes. With free you don’t get as many choices. If you go beyond WordPress you can probably find lots of themes developed for other blogging platforms. No matter what, you have a better chance of creating or having someone create something for you that doesn’t look like a site everyone else has.
You’re probably read many articles where people will recommend that you select a niche to write on to get targeted traffic to your blog. This is both a good and bad thing; let’s talk about the good first.
Niche blogging means you write posts on a specific topic to target people to come to your blog that are looking for the information you’re writing about. With niche blogging you have the potential of making more money, either by selling products or providing services geared towards that audience. You can pretty much figure these people came because they want what you have to deliver without much deviation. There’s no guarantee that you’ll make money, but at least you have a pretty good shot at it.
Here’s the bad. You can define your niche so finely that you’ll quickly run out of things to say. I was once asked to consider writing a blog for a company that specialized in forensic loan analysis. I realized after 2 articles that there was nothing left to talk about so I moved on. I looked at that blog a few months later and saw that they had no more content after my two articles. I felt bad but it was a tough topic to write about.
Next, it’s possible that the niche you’re writing about leaves little for people to comment on. For many people, comments are the life blood of a blog and if people come and don’t see comments, they usually don’t stay long, even if you’re offering them something good. This probably hurts me on my business blog when I write on the topic of diversity. Those articles are fairly deep and detailed, and all people can often do is write a one line comment (which I won’t keep) or not comment at all.
The best way to write a niche blog is to select a topic that offers you many things to talk about and allows people to give their opinion on. I once wrote a blog for a chiropractor who also allowed me to write about alternative medicine and practices. That gave me a world of things I could write about, and it turned out to be a lot of fun. It also generated some comments from people who hadn’t heard of some of those things. If you can be creative with your blog, niche or not, you’ll have fun and your visitors will feel the fun you’re having and contribute to the process.
One of the major conversations all of us who talk about blogging concerns the proper length of blog posts. Over the years I’ve often said that there’s no magic number of words for blog posts. I’m partially going to walk back on that one, but I do have some caveats.
You as the writer do have to consider what’s long for you and your particular audience. For instance, if you’re telling a story, then length doesn’t matter because a story is a story; people love stories, and stories are done when you get to your conclusion.
If you’re instructing someone on how to do something they might find important, length doesn’t matter. What matters most is that you give all the information others might need without any shortcuts that leave out specifics they might need.
However… things have changed over the past few years. As I mentioned in last week’s post about the Panda hit I took from Google, these days length has indeed become an issue. Whereas years ago we could get away with posts that hit at least 350 to 400 words, these days you risk the big G penalizing you if you’re not closer to 800 – 1,000 words at a minimum. Some folks like Neil Patel are recommending you not put out anything less than 2,000.
Me at 55
This negates what I used to say about writing multiple posts surrounding a topic and spacing them out than trying to get it all into one post. These days, it’s all about having longer posts and, when you can, adding what’s called pillar posts here and there. For instance, I wrote a post titled 55 Tips And Ideas About Blogging just after my 55th birthday that ended up being close to 3,600 words. Google loved that post, even though it didn’t get tons of comments. Because Google loved it the article got a lot of traffic and it got a lot of shares from Twitter. It seems that authority does have a number of words these days, as long as you’re not rambling.
Let’s look at the other side of the coin. Does one line make a blog post? What about two paragraphs as a full article all the time? Very short posts makes it seem like either you have no idea what you want to write about or you don’t know enough about your topic to be able to convey whatever your topic is. They feel incomplete if they’re too short.
Yet, it’s possible that for your niche that’s what your audience wants. At a seminar I went to last week, the speaker was saying that if you’re good at generating traffic on your own via social media or live networking that it’s possible for you to have a successful blog even without the blessing of search engines. It’ll take a lot of work and probably great visuals (see images below), but it can be done.
Editing And Grammar
There’s always this interesting discussion about how well a blog post needs to be edited before it goes out. I’ve read different theories on how it does or doesn’t matter, and how what’s most important is the message the writer is trying to get across.
Editing is very important, but it doesn’t have to be perfect. I come across many blog posts that are written so horribly that I leave before I even get to the meat of what it’s all about. The human brain has been proven capable of muddling through badly written text to figure out what the writer is trying to say but who wants to work that hard all the time? Bad spelling, punctuation, and skipping words doesn’t make for an easy read, and if truth be told, missing words will drastically change the meaning of some posts.
Yet, I had lunch with a marketing expert who told me that sometimes a way to disrupt people and actually keep them reading your articles is to throw in a mistake here and there… on purpose. His point was that these days more people tend to skim an article that actually read it, and an error here and there will interrupt their skimming and make them pay more attention at the points where the errors have been made. It’s probably a good marketing ploy but I just can’t do it intentionally. 🙂
Readers tend to make allowances for people who aren’t from the same country as the writer when reading their posts, but we’ll only accept it to a point. If all you’re doing it telling your story, it’s acceptable. If you’re writing a tutorial or, even worse, trying to market something, we’re not sticking around.
Most blog software or browsers automatically highlights misspelled words, so there’s no excuse for that sort of thing, even though there are lots of words I tend to use that I have to add to the dictionary of the browsers or Word… even after all these years. Try reading your post out loud after it’s completed to see how it sounds to you. It’s easier to pick out mistakes when you hear it.
No one expects perfection, so if a word here and there is off, no biggie. But if your entire text is wonky, people are going to hate reading it and you’ll find it hard to keep a following.
To Image Or Imagine
Blog posts should have images; that’s cut and dry now, though some years ago it wasn’t a big deal. Some people believe that every single blog post should have an image, and longer posts should have multiple images (like this one). Some people believe that there shouldn’t be an image on a blog post that doesn’t go with whatever the post is about.
My response to all of this? It depends; I’ll explain myself.
Over the past year I’ve started using a lot of my own images for my posts for a couple of different reasons.
One is because not everything I write about has images that actually pertain to the topic. For instance, there aren’t a lot of images concerning blogging. This mean I either have to look for images on writing or do off the radar and put up an image that has nothing to do with the topic. If I’m going rogue, I might as well use my own image and add my own words to it.
Two, because last year I got a couple of letters from photo copyright companies saying I had some images on old blog posts that I thought I had a legal right to use. One I’d gotten from Flickr, which was before Flickr had tightened up its rules for what people could add to their accounts. The other was an image I’d seen in multiple places and thought it would fit a post I was writing. Even though I still use Flickr via my Compfight plugin, I mix in a lot of my own images because no one can accuse me of stealing their stuff if I’m in them. lol
One last thing about images not being used is if you’re using something else in its place. Last month when I was writing a blog post a day on my local Syracuse blog, one of the posts had 9 short videos highlighting things in central New York, and those in essence became the images. Of course that post violated the word count rule but it turned out to be popular with the local crowd. 🙂
Will People Like Your Blog?
Well now, we’ve finally come down to this. Will people like your blog? Is it worth the time to start or continue?
At least she liked me 🙂
Have you ever wondered what makes a movie good? There’s no real formula that applies to everyone. That’s because every person has their own ideas of what makes a movie good or not. For instance, I went to see the movie John Carter with a friend of mine some years ago and we both liked it, but the reviews ended up coming in close to 50-50 as far as who liked it and who didn’t, and the movie tanked at the box office.
Many people say that they’re not sure whether or not people will like what they have to say. I’ve always said that it doesn’t matter who likes it as long as the person writing it likes it, and I stick with that. None of us can please everyone, and the topics we select aren’t going to be for everyone. Do you believe that the entire world is interested in the topic of blogging, whether or not they blog?
There’s nothing wrong with being liked, but when did that become the criteria for whether we do something or not? I can’t believe how many parents I see who don’t really parent their kids because they’re afraid of not being liked. I can’t believe how many teachers won’t do their job and fail a kid that deserves it because they’re afraid that neither the school or the parents will like them.
Blogging and writing are supposed to be about truth, education and entertainment, perceived or real. If you have something to say, say it. The majority of us try to be honest and relatively kind, even when we’re griping about something.
If you let the question of whether or not people will like your blog or what you have to say hold you back too much, then you’re not worth anything to anyone. It’s never the opinions one has that makes people upset so much as how they say what they have to say. Think about that if you’re worried about being liked or not.
Every person needs to have their own voice on their blogs. Authenticity is the only thing that really counts in blogging. If you’re authentic, even people who might not share your interests might still read what you have to say because they feel your passion. Those who don’t care what you have to say or aren’t interested in your passion… those people aren’t your audience. You will find your audience if you write, and of course if you cultivate them. If you can get to 50-50 you still get to call your blog a success.
Now I’ve had my say, and I’m around 3,000 words. I hope I’ve helped some of you with these blogging tips. Let me know your thoughts or ask your questions, and I’ll see what I can do to address them.
Strangely enough, for all the years I’ve been writing about blogging and for all the articles on this blog that are about blogging (more than 25%, 443, are specifically about blogging), I almost never get any email from anyone asking questions that I’ve either covered or not covered. I figure that means everyone who’s online must already know these things… right?
Maybe not. This past week I got an email from someone who’s just started blogging and, at an event the other night, someone who’s thinking about blogging, and they asked some general questions that inspired some answers from me.
I decided to not only write about it, but not necessarily include the questions. Therefore, I’m only posting answers, 6 in fact, that I gave to these folks, in the order I gave the answers. See, this is called being creative because I’m sure I’ve written some of these things before in a different way. It never hurts to reinforce stuff as long as you can find a way to change it up I say.
So, let’s get on with it.
First, the best way to grow a blog is to promote it in a few different ways. The fastest is blog commenting, though that one can be a bit more time consuming. If people love your comments they’ll often follow you back to your space. This is my favorite way of getting the job done, but not the only way.
Many people who suggest blog commenting say it’s best to try to find blogs that are in your niche to do it. That’s not a bad idea but don’t be so finite that it’s hard to find blogs that fit.
For instance, if you’re writing material that might apply mainly to younger people it wouldn’t hurt you to find some sites geared towards younger people, or young people making it good. Someone whose radar wouldn’t hurt to get on is Chelsea Krost, a millennial who’s got a TV show and is an up and comer.
Another place is on Twitter, as there are lots of clients that allow you to schedule posts to show there when they go live, and then you can schedule previous posts also, as well as add hashtags. That strategy works great.
LinkedIn is one last place to advertise yourself. You can write articles specifically for LinkedIn in your niche and put your links in the content that match up with what you’re talking about. They also give you the opportunity to add tags at the end of each post; the problem with that is they define the tags, so you either have to try to fit into one of their options or take a chance and don’t use one at all; let the people find you. lol
Second, guest posting is a way to help get noticed… kind of. I have to admit I’m not all that big on guest posting as a strategy, though it’s touted often enough. The problems with guest posting are:
* the audience might not follow you back * The owner of the blog might not like your style * you could end up being one of those people who Google contacts and says your link strategy is dodgy and then you’ll have to contact people to remove your links and get some of them (like me) to be irked with you. lol
Having said that, if you want to pursue a guest posting strategy find either high ranking blogs or try to get onto something like Huffington Post. Those are considered authority sites and there’s no way you can get in trouble there… unless what you say isn’t true. lol Anyway, if you know how to write but might not be ready for HuffPo, there are sites like my buddy Ileane’s Basic Blog Tips, who likes helping new bloggers get noticed… as long as you’re writing about topics she talks about on her blog. You can always use search engines to find blogs that accept guest posts on your topic (if you see any sites recommendingTop Finance Blogas one of those sites and you write on finance, it’s incorrect; trust me on this one).
Third, think about hosting your own site instead of using WordPress.com, Blogger, etc. The reason is that free blog sites are somewhat restrictive if you have bigger plans for your blog. It’s hard to market products through them, as well as setting up PPC (pay per click)campaigns. If you’re either hoping to get consulting gigs and clients or entice advertisers you definitely need to be self hosted. Owning a blog that you’re paying for eliminates any potential hassles and totally protects your content.
You do need to know that it’s not always easy to do things on your own initially. There are lots of things to learn, whether you use WordPress software (like I do), Drupal, Joomla or any other types of things. Once you figure the basics out you’ll be fine. If you want to learn more you can always go to the search engines for more help; if you need WordPress help, you can find a lot of stuff on this blog.
Fourth… and I hesitate to bring this one up since I stopped on one of my blogs, but you could allow guest posting. I used to allow it on my finance blog and truthfully, at one point my blog was ranked really high because of guest posts.
However, I’m an independent consultant, and once I started traveling more I found that the time to correct so many horribly written posts didn’t feel like a great use of my time. I might have been making around $500 a month via advertising but that wasn’t enough to get the bills paid. And when those letters started arriving asking me to remove links… oy!
If that doesn’t bother you then go for it. A better strategy is to every once in a while ask someone you trust to write a guest post for you if you’re comfortable with it. That way they look like more of an authority and your readers will like that. I’ve done that for many people, written something for them based on a request, but only people whom I’ve talked to at least a year online, or when someone’s in trouble.
Fifth, let’s talk about quality vs quantity. It’s not too early to talk about this, even if you might not have much quantity early on.
The question some ask often is which is better. The truth is… it depends.
There’s this discussion lately about whether it’s better to write 3 or 4 posts a week with length between 400 and 500 words or one really long post a week that’s between 3,000 and 10,000 words (yeah, scary isn’t it?). It’s not a simple thing to answer.
For each of these, one has to determine whether the content is high quality content or not. This is something you’ll see many people mention as the basis for all blogs but not define; at the link I shared I tell you what it is.
So, say you’re writing a blog that’s like a tutorial, and you cover only one aspect of what you’re teaching per post. Probably each post will be relatively short, but it’s probably high quality because you’re teaching something, and writing 3 or 4 articles a week like that would be great.
As long as you’re not leaving stuff out that makes your advice worthless, that’s good content. However, if you’re writing something and you say “write good content” and that’s it, that’s bad content because not only didn’t explain what it is, but you said the same thing thousands of people before you said.
One more thing before I go to long posts. A reality is the more you write, the higher your blog will rank. The problem is that high rankings don’t always equate to lots of traffic nor targeted traffic, which you care about if you’re hoping to do any type of business with others. Thus, you need to keep an eye on your visits and other things that involve traffic; I’ll come back to that.
Long posts… let’s begin here. I used to be considered as someone who writes lots of long posts. Yesterday, on my business blog, I wrote a post that came to 1,994 words because I celebrated my 14th year as an independent consultant and wrote some thoughts about it all. I didn’t start out planning on it being that long (pretty much like this post); it just turned out that way.
These days, people are advocating really long posts; I already gave numbers above. I’ve seen some brilliant long posts… just not all that many. What’s the problem?
The problems are twofold.
One, many of the long posts will repeat things over and over. They don’t seem to be all that focused. I made a comparison in a video talking about blog post length (and Kool Aid; check it out lol) with kids who used to have to write 10 page papers in school and how they’d write 4 pages and, because they didn’t know what to do next, would start repeating things they’d already said to stretch papers out. No one wants to read that.
Two, they put so many things into a single post that it might as well be a booklet that someone can print. It started out well, then got so deep that it starts to confuse the reader. Tutorials in this fashion work great; not many other types of posts do.
So, before you go that route, think seriously about it. The people who write one really long post a week (sometimes one every 2 weeks) put a lot of time and research into it. Some folks burn out having to write what’s essentially a term paper every 2 weeks. If I had to do that I probably wouldn’t still be blogging after 10 years, which I’m up to right now.
Before I go to #6, let me say that I started out with the intention of writing 10 answers. However, I noticed how long this post is so I’m shortening it and getting to one last really good question to answer. Thank me later. lol
Sixth, if you have a business it’s not imperative that you have a blog, but it can certainly help. I actually wrote about businesses and blogging last year. If you check out that post you’ll see links to tons of other blogging tips that will be helpful; I promise.
In that post I talked about having a better presence on search engines than your competitors if you have a blog, but didn’t say why. The reason is that most businesses set up a blog, hopefully have someone who optimized it well enough so that search engines know what they do, and never touch it again until they want to update the site later on.
Search engines love new content. They send out what’s called spiders or bots (depends on who you’re talking to) throughout the internet looking to see what’s old and new. Sites with new content get visited more regularly, which is good if you’re adding great content (refer to link above) that keeps highlighting what you talk about or what your business does. Sites that don’t do anything will fall, and unless it’s a niche with very few people in it, they’ll get no search engine benefit from being online.
As a for instance, I write the blog for my accountant’s firm (we trade my articles for free accounting; yeah!). Out of all the accountants in town, per Alexa, her site is the highest ranked in the area for accounting services. There are better known companies because she’s been in business for herself about 3 years now, but she really only has one true competitor when it comes to online rankings (they’re close, but my client’s site is doing better; I’ll take a moment for myself…). And that’s with only 2 new articles a month; if I was writing once a week it wouldn’t be a contest. 🙂
I think that’s enough for a Thursday morning. I actually said a lot more to the other guys but this post is already over 2,000 words. What do you think of my advice? Anything you want to add? Anything you want to ask about?
I have a contact page over there to the left where my email address is if you wish to have me write about something you’d like to know more about. Enjoy!
You’re in for a treat today and it’s all owed to the fact that I’m now 55 years old. I should be sad about that but it seems that I now qualify for senior discounts at some restaurants; I’ll take what I can get. By the way, before you wish me a happy birthday this happened 3 weeks ago so save it and enjoy the post.
I decided to put together a post sharing the same number of tips as the number of years I’ve been on this earth. Many of you know that I write articles pretty fast so you’ll be shocked to learn that this post actually took me a week to put together. With so many tips it’s all over the board, yet still may not be comprehensive enough for some people. But this is another pillar post on this blog as it tops 3,500 words, and hopefully shows many newer bloggers that with a little bit of effort one can always find stuff to write about. Continue reading →
This is something different. I’m giving myself 2 minutes to write 10 blog tips, short missives that might hold as much power and influence as some of the longer posts I write. These are so short that I’m not even scrounging around looking for a picture that’s apropos to the post, so just enjoy the puppy as you read these 10 quick tips.
1. Write about something you enjoy.
2. write about something you know about.
3. It’s okay to get personal in your blog posts; just don’t reveal anything that could come back to hurt you.
4. Blog with some kind of consistency.
5. Respond to “good” comments; if they’re not good enough to comment on, they might not be good enough to leave on the blog post.
6. Be generous with your blog topics. If something inspired you to write acknowledge it, link to it, mention people’s names.
7. It’s okay to sell with your blog every once in awhile; if it’s a sales blog, it’s okay to sell all the time.
8. Be as entertaining as you can, whether you’re talking about social media, games, fashion or even forensic loan analysis.
9. Be fair. I was going to say be nice but that’s not always what’s called for. If you’re being mean be mean for a reason and give details.
10. Remember that every blog post is potentially a game changer for someone, so do your best. Remember what Joe DiMaggio said as to why he played so hard in every baseball game: “Because someone out there might have never seen me play before.”
There you go; hopefully you read fast enough for that to only be 2 minutes. 🙂