I can already imagine you rolling your eyes and sighing. “Another blogging advice post?”
Yes, you’re right. The blogosphere is full of such posts, each one of them resembling the other, and I’m fairly confident that with today’s post, I’m not going to add anything new. Besides, if you’re anything like me, you instantly feel the urge to rebel and go against the tips you see from other bloggers.
And after all, I’m far from being a perfect blogging model to follow. Still, that won’t stop me from writing my opinions about this subject, which has now become so important in my life. But first, I better give a clearer picture of what this post is meant to be.
This post will NOT be:
- a step-by-step guide on how to create and manage a blog;
- a surefire way to achieving clicks and success;
- a technical post (I hardly know SEO myself — and no, dear ‘professionals’, I’m not asking for your help).
What this post will be:
- advice to a hypothetical friend who wishes to start a blog but is still lost;
- oriented towards motivating newbies to improve themselves and to bring out their personality through blogging;
- derived from all the blogging tips I’ve read in recent months, but heavily influenced by my personal opinions.
So here are my own 10 nuggets of advice for aspiring personal bloggers!
1. Discover your passions and be conscious of your knowledge.
If you want to open a blog, the chances are that you already know what to blog about. Since a personal blog is (ideally) more than just a diary, you’re supposed to choose one or more topics to blog about. Books, fashion, food, travel… the options are infinite.
The only limits, if you opt for more than one topic, may be the number and the compatibility of the chosen subjects. Narrowing it down to one to three related topics looks good (for example, lifestyle blogs tend to mix fashion, travel and food; book reviews go well with creative writing but also with other types of media reviews), but in the end, it’s up to you. What I suggest is to be extra careful if you want to blog about diverse subjects on different blogs as there’s a risk of neglecting one blog or another and stressing yourself more than necessary.
It also goes without saying that you have to blog about what you already know. I can’t wake up one day and decide to open a fashion section on my blog because a) it doesn’t really fit with the rest of my topics and b) I don’t know anything and I don’t even care about it! So, focus on what you love and what you know, and you’ll soon come up with lots of material.
2. Think about branding.
Branding is a marketing method that helps a business with catching the public’s attention and rising above the competition. What do I mean by mentioning branding in blogging? I am talking about the blog’s title. I suggest you research well and find a title that is related to the general theme of your blog, that represents you as the author of the blog, and that sounds unique. Although you’re free to change it in the future (but not too often, so not to confuse readers), you have to try to choose a title that you’re going to stick with.
You can also extend branding to the names of categories in your blog, to a name logo and to the graphics style. Your blogging intentions might be humble, but it helps to think of your blog as a product that needs to be sold.
3. Make it personal.
This sounds obvious since, you know, we’re talking about personal blogging. What I mean is that, even if you blog about general topics such as books or fashion, you have to include yourself and your experiences in the posts. Are you reviewing your latest read? Tell us about how you came to choose that particular book. Are you writing about a new recipe? Be sure to tell about the occasion on which you made the dish for the first time. Your personal touch adds credibility to your message and it makes your blog more fun to read.
Apart from that, a good About page is essential. I always go to the About page when I stumble on a post of an unknown blogger. This page has to include information about you, what you do and what you like, as well as the intention of the blog. Using your real name and your photo is a plus, although various bloggers opt for an alter ego and that’s fine for some types of blogs.
4. Find your voice.
As if deciding what to write about wasn’t hard enough, another tough thing to do is to bring out your individuality through your writing. You need to understand the scope of your topics and your target audience and then find an ideal register to use. An idea would be to write informally, using a friendly voice. The use of slangs is up to you, and I’ve even seen bloggers using swear words, creating their own provocative style. Just make sure that the writing style sounds natural to you and that’s appropriate to your type of blog and its readers.
Don’t forget your audience! Try not to write like you’re just speaking to yourself – even if you have no readers yet. Make sure you’re always referring to the readers like you’re in a direct conversation with them; that sense of intimacy can be an attractive factor.
5. You’re not a pro yet, but professionalism still counts.
Being professional means avoiding blunders and playing fair. Making use of proper grammar can be tough, especially if you’re not writing in your native language. However, extra care and editing are needed to, at least, avoid the number of typos. Formatting is also essential; HTML and broken image links can easily mess up the appearance of a post, thus putting off visitors.
Last but not least, don’t go around copying other bloggers or websites without giving due credit. You don’t want to appear unoriginal, fake or unfair. So, include sources and mention fellow bloggers when needed.
6. Keep to a routine but don’t overdo it.
Creating a blog is exciting, I can tell you that. You devote hours of planning, organising and designing and, once it’s set up, you’ll be eager to start posting. If you’re going to publish a post every day, beware! Remember your ‘real life’ duties. If you spend all your day at school or in an 8 to 5 job and have lots of activities in your free time, you might come back home too tired to blog. Your posting rate will fall and it may destabilise your reader. And yourself.
So, I’d suggest you devise a schedule – for both your school/work/free time and your blogging time – and try to follow it. If you still want to post every day and you think you can manage that, it’s all right. If your posting target is once or twice a week or you have no specific goal, it’s perfectly fine! The key thing is to understand your time and production limits and to avoid feeling sorry and stressed.
7. Learn the rules and… break (some) of them.
This almost defeats the purpose of this post, but whatever, I believe in freedom!
Reading about blogging is fundamental if you want to delve into this world. As I’ve already said, there are LOTS of posts on this subject by other bloggers and professionals. Many of them give technical tips. It’s important to realise that blogging, whether we like it or not, is more than just publishing an opinion.
However, you’re still free to do it your own way. Following the ‘rules’ to the letter can easily provoke stress (at least, that’s how I feel). If blogging starts looking too complicated, you’ll soon stop enjoying it. Besides, following all the tips is still no guarantee for success. So, my suggestion is to inform yourself about every aspect yet to take it easy. It’s a continuous learning process.
8. Mingle with other bloggers without wasting time on comparisons.
The blogosphere is a vast and diverse community. If you go to the right places, you’re bound to find blogs that you like. By browsing them, not only do you make new friends but you also learn new things and find inspiration.
Nevertheless, don’t fall into the trap of comparing your blog to others’. You’ll always find bigger, better and more successful blogs (especially if you’re a newbie). Instead of envying their graphics or their audience, remember your very own style and your perspectives. Be original, be you!
9. Work towards your own goals, not others’.
Many bloggers track their blogging process. Some focus on their publishing rates, others like to analyse their statistics (number of views, new followers, etc.). That’s great, but not all of that necessarily applies to you. I, for example, don’t look at statistics, as my primary goals are to be productive and to write what I have in mind. I also like to focus on improving my writing quality first (even though I seriously need to work on my graphics as well).
What I’m saying is that each blogger has his or her own priorities and they don’t need to be the same as the others’. Blogging is also a personal, intimate journey with different outcomes.
10. Don’t give up and, most of all, enjoy it!
Blogging is not an easy ride. Keeping a blog requires time, energy and dedication. Results can be slow to come, and you can go a long time with virtually no readers. However, that should not stop you. If you’re passionate about writing and about your topics, you’ll discover that there is still some satisfaction to be derived, even if it takes long to achieve concrete results. And you’ll understand, above all, that blogging is really a fun way to feel productive and communicative!
I hope that my rambling post made sense and that it didn’t make blogging seem overwhelming. What I really wanted to show today is that blogging is much more than just writing what’s on your mind, more than the number of followers and more than the ranking in search engines. It’s an ongoing journey of self-discovery and self-development and a way to show your individual style. I heartily encourage you to try it!