We get e-mails pretty often from new bloggers asking us for tips. We are SO flattered whenever this happens, because we are still pretty new at blogging ourselves! We launched in March of this year and have been lucky to grow our readership a little more every day and have loved every second of creating this little gathering place. So, we decided to put together a post with advice we have been given from other bloggers and some of the stuff we have learned along the way for those who would like to know.
-Good photos are important. This is something we are still learning how to do here at Pretty Providence. You don't have to be a professional photographer, but people don't like crappy photos. Make sure you at least have a point and shoot camera and some good natural light to take your photos with, so people can make out what your photo is of. The better the photos, the more people will want to look at them. (Most likely.)
-Giveaways and reviews are good in moderation but have integrity. Only give away or review items that you yourself would want to have. If the product has absolutely nothing to do with what your blog is about and your readers will most likely not be interested, don't do it.
-Blog about something you are passionate about. Consistently writing blog posts can be challenging enough to keep up with, but if you are blogging about something you don't know enough about, or get sick of quickly, you are going to hate it after a short amount of time. Choose to blog about something you are absolutely passionate about. Something you will still want to write about even if you are tired or busy, because it means something to you.
-Get business cards with your blog name on them. This way, when you are talking to someone in your neighborhood, at church, school or anywhere and you tell them about your blog, you can give them a card so they can check it out. I can't tell you how many times people have re-asked me what my blog name is because they got home and couldn't remember it. Everyone is a potential reader.
-If you're interested in blogging for money, free stuff, or recognition, don't. Blogging does have its perks and can become a source of income if you have enough readership and you monetize it. That said, it's a ton of work to get to that point, and unless you are truly passionate about the actual blogging part, you will not get anywhere and people will be able to see right through what you are doing and tell that it is not genuine. Do it for the fun of it and don't quit your day job! :)
-Sticking to a regular posting schedule and being consistent is key. I love reading blogs. There are a handful of blogs that I like so much I check them every day. Part of the love I have for them come from knowing that there will be something new to check every day. In the past, I have liked a blog, but stopped checking it when I noticed that they would post every day for one week and then have nothing up for a month at a time. You'll lose your readers quick if you don't stay consistent. That doesn't mean you actually have to post every day of the week. Maybe it's once a week for you, or every other day. Whatever you can do is great, but keep it consistent so people know when to count on new content.
-Link Parties are a great way to gain readers who are interested in creative things you are doing. We share all of our D.I.Y. projects and recipes at link parties and they send us a steady flow of people each week. We also have found some of our favorite blogs to read by going to link parties. Just make sure you follow the rules and you'll make a lot of friends that way! If your post is one of the most popular of the week, the host might even feature your project and link to you in their next link party post! Click here for a list of link parties we participate in.
Setting up your blog:
The way you set up your blog is very important. The way it looks will be the first determiner of whether or not someone will stick around and read what you have to say. It's the sad truth, people will judge the book by its cover in the blog world.
-Create a good 'About Me' page. This is going to be the most clicked on page on your whole blog. When I got to another blog I haven't been to, I always click over to the about me page so I can find out a little bit more about the person behind the blog. Since so many people will be looking at it, give a few details about yourself and why you write the blog. You can be as personal or anonymous as you want but people do want to know something, so don't leave it blank!
-Have a clean and simple layout. Light colors (white!) with dark text is best, it's easier on the eyes and will not overwhelm. If you have a pattern for your background, it's best that the pattern is small and not huge, again so as not to overwhelm. Use only one or two simple, easy-to-read fonts for your text and titles, etc.
-Photo width should be one standard size. Regardless of whether it is a landscape or vertical photo, one width fits all. Most bloggers recommend this width being the exact same as your main text area. Ours, for example is 575. This will be a lot easier on the eyes and will keep your blog looking crisp and professional.
-Keep your sidebars clean too. It's good to have buttons, to link to other blogs, and to have the occasional ad on your sidebar but keep it clean. Width should be one standard size for all of your buttons.
-Take advantage of making other 'pages' for your blog so you don't have to crowd your main page and sidebars with all of the content you want to offer.
-No auto playing music. Nothing will get someone to close the window and never come back like having a song they hate come on blasting over their own music the second they get to your site. If you must have music, make it optional. Let the reader hit play if they so desire.
-Make your follow button easy to find. If people can't easily see how to follow you, they won't bother.
-Custom domain names are worth it. From the beginning, we knew we wanted to be prettyprovidence.com instead of prettyprovidence.blogspot.com. It cost us only about $6 to reserve our domain name for a year and it has been totally worth it. It gives off a sense of legitimacy. It's less of a mouthful when you tell your friends. It's just nice. I recommend getting one.
-Choose an original name for your blog. Do a thorough internet search for the name you would like and make sure it is not already taken before you finalize setting up your blog. Having an original blog name is good for many reasons: people won't get it confused with another blog or website, you won't have anyone sending you a cease and desist letter because it is their business name which they have a trademark on, you won't have competition on getting your domain name, and you won't have to worry about changing it in the future for any of the above reasons.
-Turn off comment moderation. You know when you go to comment on someone's blog and the captcha takes you seven tries before you get it right, and you just want to give up and not bother with the comment anymore? Yeah. Comment moderation is too much for most people to want to deal with, and will greatly discourage comments. If you want comments, turn it off. If spam comments do start showing up, what you can do is set your comment moderation to "sometimes" for posts older than 30 or 60 days. Spam comments are generally on older posts so you won't have too many of those anymore.
If setting up your blog seems overwhelming to you, there are people you can pay to do it for you or you can find free templates on blogger or other websites and customize them further for your needs. Google is your best friend for setting up your blog though. You can google "how to make ____" or "how to ______ in blogger" and tutorials will come up for the very thing you need most of the time. It is how I have learned to do everything!
Just like in any other community, good manners are important if you want to have friends in the blogging world.
-Don't spam your friends and other bloggers. Self-promotion is the only way to get your blog out there and let people know about it, but once you have sent one message out to your friends and other bloggers letting them know about your blog, it's best not to keep sending and sending them. They know.
-Link back and give credit. If you see a post or photo somewhere else (like pinterest or another blog) and share it, link back to the source. If you don't, it's stealing. Sometimes people are concerned that if they link to other blogs they will lose readers to that blog. Not the case. Almost always it helps you to link to other blogs and of course, it's the honest thing to do!
-Don't recycle full posts or groups of images. If you are sharing something you saw on another blog, most bloggers are okay with you re-posting one or two of their photos as long as you give them credit and link back to their post, but do not copy their writing or their entire set of images.
-Don't feed the trolls. Sometimes there are people who have nothing better to do than leave mean, nasty and hurtful comments on blogs. They are doing this because they want a reaction. Don't give them one. It would be awesome if everyone lived by the golden rule, but they don't. Just try not to let it get to you and definitely do not argue with them. It won't help. Simply delete the nasty comments and move on.
-Do not add other bloggers to an e-mail newsletter or any recurring e-mail list without their permission to do so. This goes along with the above point of don't spam, but I felt it was important to reiterate. It is super annoying to get a newsletter that you do not want. Our inboxes are cluttered enough as it is with things we did sign up for.
-Comment!!! Commenting on other blogs is a great way to make friends in the blog world and get more people to come over to your blog. Don't just leave a generic two word comment that has nothing to do with the post and then two lines telling people to come to your blog though. It's bad etiquette. Only leave genuine comments, and then have a blog title with a link to your blog underneath your name.
-Answer questions and reply to comments. We try so hard to answer all of the questions we get asked in comments and e-mails. Although we might miss one or two here and there, or it might take us a while, we are so glad people are commenting and asking questions at all. Try to answer questions people have and reply to comments here and there. In my experience, if I leave a comment on a blog that asks a question, I really do want to know, so it's nice when that question is actually answered. If I reach out to a blogger in a comment and say hello to them and ask a question and don't get a reply, I feel a little unappreciated. Maybe that's just me.
Whoo! That said, here are some of the resources we took tips from when we started blogging.
Blogging tips by Elaine from Clothed Much
Blogging tips by EZ from Creature Comforts
Blogging tips by Kaelah from Little Chief Honeybee
Blog, Inc. by Joy Cho of the blog Oh Joy!. A book with good info and interviews with successful bloggers.
Setting Up a Photo Studio on the Cheap at Apartment Therapy. Foam core and natural light are your friends!
If any of you have a specific question about something that was not answered above, feel free to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll be happy to answer it! (Granted I know the answer...)
This post may be linked up to one of these link parties.