Friday, January 15, 2010

Thirteen Tips for New Bloggers

Here are thirteen tips I sent a friend who has just started blogging this year. In no particular order:

  1. Adding pictures to the posts always makes them look better. Advice I hardly follow myself, but admire in others. Most professional bloggers add at least one picture to every post. They search online for copyright-free pictures to post. (Free pictures on Flickr!). It is good practice (and karma!) to mention the origin of the pictures in the footnote. Add other media like music, voice (podcasts!) and video - even better. If you are the original maker of these other media - that's the best!
  2. Subtle wording which encourages readers to comment is also good. This could be as simple as asking a question. I had one friend who often ended her posts with a question. She had a lot of participation.
  3. Blogs are a more casual medium. So, the tone of writing should be conversational, active as opposed to passive, first and second person as opposed to third person. Many successful bloggers make you feel like you are engaged in a friendly, personal dialog with them.
  4. General rule of online writing: avoid walls of text a.k.a. long running paragraphs. Breaking text into smaller paragraphs is always nice - even smaller than you would have in printed pages. Also, focus on just one topic per post and may be 2-3 main points about that topic. If you have more to say, you can always do another post. TL;DR (too long; didn't read) is a new and popular acronym online.
  5. Some bloggers have a popular theme or practice to which they come back regularly. Like, post on a certain topic every Friday. Or, answer reader questions on Saturdays in a post of its own. Some ideas for you: weekly recipes / seasonal recipes, first Monday on a professional topic, second Saturday post for kids, etc. Do enough posts on a single theme and you will end up with a neat little collection of essays you could publish as a book!
  6. Occasionally, do a post with links to interesting things you read / saw online. Not too much text. Just a set of 5-6 links. This is a way to share your reading material with your users.
  7. As you continue blogging, during the course of the day you will come across many topics which you think would make a good post. I immediately send myself a short email about the topic so that I don't forget. Later, I turn that into a post. Sometimes, if I am not ready to publish immediately, I will make up a draft and keep it saved. Then, I come back to it again and again, gradually adding more material until I am ready to publish. This happens rarely though - I am a one-sitting writer, even if it takes me all night.
  8. Be careful and conscious about revealing personal information. There are weirdos and stalkers out there. One day you might post an opinion someone doesn't like. They will read your entire blog from beginning to end, leave nasty comments, etc. Don't take it personally. On the other hand, talking about your personal passions and interests will connect you to many people who share the same. Those days can be fun.
  9. Another weird thing: your regular readers get to know you very well, while they remain total strangers to you. If you ever interact with them, they will talk to you as if they are old friends and you will feel somewhat uncomfortable. I guess that is how celebrities feel. But then, you might be familiar with being a celebrity already! :-)
  10. Participate in other blogs and discussion boards, leave comments. Link to other blogs, quote from other blogs. You will bring the authors and readers of those blogs to yours. I guess this is not much different from Tweets and re-Tweets.
  11. Some people do occasional guest posts. They invite a friend or acquaintance or expert to write a post for their blog, covering the same or related subject.
  12. Not to sound sexist, but for some reason, topics of interest to women bring lots of readers and comments.
  13. Keep the title line of the posts simple and straight-forward. They should give a good idea what the post is about. This is especially important because search engines like Google give a lot of importance to the words in the title and the top few lines of the post. So, be sure to mention the topic of the post in the title line and at least a couple of times in the first 5 lines.

Bonus: If your blogging tool does not already provide reports of visitor statistics, be sure to use free tools like Sitemeter and Google Analytics.

Do you, dear reader, have any other tips for new bloggers?


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