Twelve ways to blog better

In behavior, blogging, culture on September 9, 2012 at 12:13 am
compassion hearts

Go ahead — share your heart with us! (Photo credit: journeyscoffee)

Last December I posted fifteen tips on how to make your blog more compelling. A few of you have since emailed me privately to ask how to find more readers, and more quickly.

Since I started blogging here at WordPress, in July 2010, I’ve been chosen for Freshly Pressed five times, which has been a pleasant validation that I’m doing OK in this new medium.

Here are twelve tips I hope will inspire and help you to grow your readership.

None are necessarily simple or quick. Just because it’s “only” a blog doesn’t mean creating quality content is, or should be, painless.

We all have limited time and attention

You know how few seconds we’re willing to offer anything on line. If you’re demanding others’ attention, which you are with a blog, why does yours deserve it? What value are you adding to my day if I take three or five or even ten minutes to read it? Don’t just hit publish because you think a post a day is worth doing. Make every single post something you truly think worth others’ valuable and limited attention.

The very best blogs combine the personal with the universal

We all feel fear, crave humor, hope to avoid embarrassment, experience sadness or anxiety. How often is your blog being emotionally truthful?

Compassion and empathy rule!

Snark isn’t my default mode and the blogosphere is full of stupid photos and political rants. You don’t have to be smarmy, but realizing that 99% of us feel pretty much the same feelings all throughout our lives (yes, really!) will inform the best writing.

Check your spelling, vocabulary and grammar

Messy copy shows a lack of respect for your readers. Spell-check is not your best friend. A dictionary is.

Pretend your blog is a magazine and you’re the editor in chief

By that I mean, make me eager to read it, using great visuals — photos, drawings, video — and a terrific headline to tease me in. Magazine editors are intensely aware of the need to entice readers away from all their competitors. Think a little more like them.

You’re being read worldwide — be inclusive

It’s easy to forget that whatever you’re writing about may be read by someone thousands of miles away. It drives me nuts when people can’t be bothered to tell me where or who they are. It’s extremely common.

Use social media to spread your work, selectively

As I write this, 25 people have wandered over for a look from Facebook, where a guy I’ve never met who lives in California liked one of my posts enough to link to it. Don’t beat people to death with your opinions, but social media is the one sure way to attract new eyeballs and potential readers.

Leave thoughtful, funny and/or helpful comments on others’ blogs. Do it every day.

I did this every single day for more than a year. It took up a ton of time and I’m glad it’s no longer necessary, but it is something you simply have to do if you’re truly hungry for more readers. I read Freshly Pressed every day and often find two or three posts I can leave a useful comment on. “Liking” isn’t enough! Leave a trace of your personality as well, which may well intrigue others back to see who you are.

Fill out your “About” page. Today!

Even if you’re not writing using your real name, readers want to have some idea who you are and why they might want to listen to you. Include a photo, a recent and flattering one. If you’re too scared to write even a paragraph about who you are and why we should be reading you…are you really ready to blog?

Move us!

The very best blogs, like a piece of music, leave us feeling something emotionally, whether outraged, laughing or pensive. Bland = zzzzzzzzzzzzz.

Edit, revise, repeat

Do you bang out your posts in an urgent frenzy to share your views with the world, and hit “publish” right away? If this is your automatic habit, time to re-think. Use every revision to make it tighter and stronger.

Use paragraphs

A blog that goes onandonandoandonandon without a single line break, or paragraphs, is just selfish and rude, the written equivalent of a big fat boring monologue.

Does anything you read in the real world lack punctuation and paragraphs?

What are some of your tips?

  1. Thank you so much for the tips! I am brand new to the blog world, so every little bit helps. I will definitely be trying to incorporate these into my blog-life. Trying to find “my voice” has been challenging… but it is getting easier (with help from other bloggers, of course)!

  2. All very good tips, some I’ve used in the past. Your experience shows in the writing.

  3. I appreciate every blogggernwho shares tips like this. I enjoy your writing style, and, as someone trying to find my voice, love that you have so much helpful advice for writers on your blog.

    • Thanks! I’ve got two advantages…I’ve been writing for a living for 30 years and, more importantly, am edited all the time in my work, which reminds me I have to keep improving. Bloggers do not have editors. Editors improve copy.

  4. Excellent tips! Especially the ones about editing and paragraphs. My tip is to have each post be a complete unit with a beginning, middle, and end. It should have a purpose– not written “just because”.

  5. Thank you for these awesome tips! I am a novice blogger and finding something like this is extremely helpful!

    However, I have a concern about a point you’ve made in your “Use paragraphs” section. I am an aspiring novelist who wants to generate buzz about his works (so I put some excerpts on my blog). Exactly, how long is too long for blogging?

    • That’s really up to you. I don’t read much fiction to begin with. Nor do I look to web-based blogs to find fiction I might want to read…so on two fronts, my advice may not be helpful.

      Generally, less is more. I would not put up more than 1,500 to 2,000 words, which is 2-3 times the length of most blog posts…with a link to read more.

      But maybe others here have a suggestion?

      • Thanks one again for your sage advise! That’s more than enough to get me started on setting improvements. I love having some guidelines to work towards. Much appreciated!

  6. Thanks so much for these excellent tips! As someone who is new to blogging I sometimes feel a little over my head. But I love how you put it into perspective and shown with dedication one can gain recognition. Rome wasn’t built on day! I shall carry on! Lol thanks again!🙂

    • Blogging = writing.
      Writing = offering communication/connection/clarity/content.
      Offering the four C’s = thinking long and hard before hitting “publish.”

      Do not “blog.” Write. Write really, really compelling, interesting well-written material that is unlike anything else you read that day.

      Yes, that is asking a lot!🙂

      Bloggers are ASKING others for their time. Most of us have very little of it to give away these days. Every blogger must WIN that attention. I think that perspective is often totally absent on the net.

  7. Great tips! There’s a couple in here that I need to revisit! This will help me kick my blog into gear🙂

  8. I’ve been blogging over the past year and diligently reading posts by other bloggers. I’ve gotten this down to an art and I have to say the number one biggest reason I will not read a full post is no editing. We can’t all be e.e.cummings. Capitalize sentences, learn the top grammar mistakes and don’t make them, and have a point. I get that blogging allows for a lot of stream of consciousness writing, but imagine listening to someone who talked like that!

    Thanks for the confirmation about what it takes. I got Freshly Pressed once and the letdown aftermath was tough, so I must trudge onward. Good to hear from another writer with a longer view to blogging.

  9. I can’t bear that! People seem to mistake the ease with which they can now make their thoughts widely public with…our interest in reading them! I am really glad I work as a journalist and author because I labor under NO such illusions. I know that every person out there is swamped with competing choices for their attention and interest and know to get to the POINT or they’re gone. As they should be!

    Being FPed is a hoot. I’m happy it’s happened to me a few times as it’s helped boost my readership a lot more quickly than otherwise.

    I guess you really have to decide what blogging is about for you…recognition? validation? future book sales?

  10. Thanks for the good tips. My first struggle was getting my blog organized so so visitors could find their way around in it. Now that I have that fairly well done I can work on making my posts attractive and your tips will be a big helpl. i am already using some of them but the biggest problem seems to be finding interesting things to write about. You obviously have very effectively mastered that.

    • It’s a challenge to be consistently interesting and I’m not! My page views are sometimes extremely disappointing, so it’s not as consistent as I’d like…but I also blog about a lot of things and my readers are very varied, from teens to seniors, so I can’t logically expect everyone to find the same things of interest.

      If you blog on a niche topic, that might be different. I think it’s not so much finding interesting things but seeing them and writing about them in an interesting way. I often jump off of links from the news that spark a thought…

  11. These are definitely great tips for blogging!!! I’m just getting back into it recently and sort of forgot what I was actually doing here. Thanks🙂

    • Glad you found them useful.

      My biggest gripe is that too many people just blather on. I’m only interested in reading stuff that really captures my attention. I try to be compassionate that so many people are so eager for public attention but it has to be good! Maybe I’m not typical and others have a lot more time to read stuff that’s less polished?

  12. Thanks for the reminder Caitlin! I’ve been so slack lately (well – a tad uninspired and flat) and it’s been an effort to get back on track. I lost my way blogging wise and it was very hard to start again. So I’m guessing it’s time to try again…

  13. I miss your posts!

    I have to admit, if Broadside were not (as it is) growing every single day (i.e. validation, reinforcement, support) it would be hard to gin up the energy to bang out 3 posts/week. I also want and need readers for my books, so I have an ulterior motive!

    For “civilians” who blog for…personal? reasons it’s a much more challenging slog because there is no end goal or metric of success beyond personal pleasure. Most bloggers do give up.

    • Thanks Cailin… nice of you to say so. The good news is I’m getting the ‘bug’ back and I’m slowly building back up to it. I’ve had some extraordinary experiences lately and I’m trying to do them justice. Hope all’s going well over there mate… all the best!🙂

  14. So I am not only “liking” as usual, I’ll say once again, great content, as always.

  15. I find that great visuals is a good way to attract readers.

    • I’m glad you know that! It seems that only artists and photographers consistently add visuals to their posts — which often are almost fully visual.

      Words alone are too boring!

  16. Thanks! Much appreciate the vote of confidence.

  17. Great tips. Especially about the ‘about’ page. I’m always looking for a blurb about the blogger to further help me identify and connect with them; what’s their story? And include geographic location! Yes, we’re all in one big cyber world, but we still have physical towns, countries, and cultures that help define our story.

  18. Thanks for weighing in! I love reading your blog about Ontario…makes me homesick!

    For me, it really goes back to the basic issue, and probably because I work as a journalist and author for whom reputation, honesty and reliability are 100% essential to my ongoing success. I just don’t have the time or interest to read someone who can’t be bothered telling me who they are…When a blogger offers (like most) no external affiliations or credentials, I have no idea why I should de facto just listen to them and believe that what they are offering is valuable or even truthful.

  19. […] was the comment response by the author to a comment I made on the Twelve ways to blog better. After reading that comment response I felt inspired to put more substance into my blog posts. […]

  20. Thanks for the great tips! I’ve been doing my blog for about 4 months now and trying to be patient and take the long-range view – if you write good stuff, they will come. I’m encouraged to read that you spent a good chunk of time checking out freshly pressed and finding blogs you could make meaningful comments on – that is one of my strategies for building readership. I”m looking forward to reading more of the broadstreetblog – great name by the way!

  21. Great tips! Reading and commenting on other blogs is definitely the surest way (besides being Freshly Pressed) to grow a blog. Reading your list, I realise that my “About” page needs a bit more work- thanks!

  22. Rule one is having something intelligent to say/unique observation/something worth thinking about/just plain interesting stuff/generosity in sharing info.
    I’ve yet to see you break this rule.

  23. “Check your spelling, vocabulary and grammar Messy copy shows a lack of respect for your readers. Spell-check is not your best friend. A dictionary is.” and a thesaurus too. Thank you for the tips.

  24. This is the first actually helpful blogpost I’ve read in a while.

  25. very, very informative! loved your post!
    as for my tips,-
    hope you enjoy reading it as much as i did reading your post!🙂

  26. Thanks for the tips. My very first blog post was yesterday and I have a lot to learn. I am a nutrition researcher but writing for research journal very very different then communicating ideas with the public. Blogging and reading blogs is a whole new world.

    • People are hungry for smart, helpful information in plain English.

      I’d be very interested in reading about nutrition (as someone needing to lose weight and having seen two nutritionists already) from a really down to earth perspective. I’d suggest a series that really de-mystifies all the words doctors throw at us…explain cholesterol and what it is; explain metabolism and why it slows; explain the differences between all the sugars…leptin, ghrelin, cortisol…there is so much science affecting everything we eat and most of us have no idea…we just know our doctors are fed up and so are we!

  27. I’ve read so many post about how to improve traffic on your blog and by far this is the most helpful. Thank you!

    • Glad it helped.

      I recently attended a seminar on advanced SEO and traffic, per se, is no longer the metric people look for — it’s engagement; i.e. you can have 20,000 visitors a day but if none of them leave a comment and you never reply, this is not now considered a site that’s doing well.

  28. […] Here’s a former post with specific tips, a taste of what we talk about in the webinar. […]

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