Sunday, July 31, 2011

Blogging tips for beginners

This post is a part of the #SummerBlogSocial going on at a belle, a bean & a chicago dog and Four, Plus an Angel. Today I am focusuing on this prompt:

If a real life friend approached you and said, “I want to start a blog. Can you give me a list of helpful tips?“, what 10 (or more) things would you tell your friend?

The book, Blogging for Dummies, was written for me.
At a glance blogging seems like an easy enough hobby. Just type away your thoughts and with one click of the mouse you are a blogger loved by thousands of followers eager to read your every post.
Except it's not like that at all. It's hard work.
But if you have a passion for writing and reading and are willing to put in the time and effort, the payoff is worth it. Here are some tips/tricks I've picked up over the course of my blogging career:

Seek and Ye Shall Find: If you are starting off with Blogger, which most people do, they make it pretty easy to navigate the basics and design the look of your blog. But if you are like me and want to spruce your blog up a bit, you are going to need to work a little harder at it. Of course there are people you can pay to design you a lovely blog, but if you are starting out and not ready to take on the investment you can do a little DIY blog design yourself as long as you are willing to put in a little elbow grease.

*Search for "free blog backgrounds" and/or "free blog designs". There are many good places out there offering freebies and they walk you through the process of setting it up.
*Search for tutorials on how to add things, changes sizes on things, or move things around so you can customize your blog to your own specifications. There are also many sites that offer help with simple HTML codes which are helpful to learn.
*Seek out other blogs for inspiration to get an idea of how you want to set yours up. (Just make sure that you are not copying their material!)

The Proof is in the Pudding: Once you have your blog looking spiffy, you need the most important part, the content. Whatever you choose to blog about, own it, because at the end of the day, that's the thing people are going to comment on and come back for.

*Think before you hit publish. I am my own worst enemy when it comes to this because I often write with such passion, I get excited and hit publish before realizing I made stupid mistakes. It happens. But make sure you spell check your post and try to proofread it a few times to make it easier for your readers to understand.
*Don't force it. In the beginning I got hung up on the idea of posting all the time and it killed my writing. I became so worried about what I was going to write that it affected what I was writing. Does that make any sense?? What I am saying is, inspiration, comes and goes. Don't force yourself to write a post if you aren't feeling it, because chances are no one else will "feel it" either.

Getting Over the Wall: Writers block sucks.If you are like me, material is either feast or famine. Some day's I am brimming with ideas, other days I feel stuck. Here is how I've (somewhat) overcome that "stuck" feeling:

*Take advantage of the "feast". Draft as many posts as you can during that time, so when you are low on ideas you have something to fall back on. Even if they are just a few lines, it is something you can go back to and fill in if you ever get "stuck".
*Look for a great meme or linky party to get in on. Some are weekly so you can formulate a post ahead of time. Vlog talk, Fill in the Blank Friday, and Mama Kat's are some good one's I have tried, but feel free to explore your own. You can also check out Mama Kat's and Kludgy Mom's idea bank's which are great resources if you need a bit of extra inspiration.
*Guest Posts are a great way to take a break & make bloggy friends. Don't be afraid to ask a blogger you admire if they will guest post for you. Maybe if you are lucky, they will even ask you to return the favor someday!

See the Sights: The thing about blogging. It's just as much about reading as it is about writing. If you really want to build a community and have loyal readers that leave meaningful comments, then you have to do the same.

*Don't be fake. Sure you could visit 50 blogs a day and cut and paste the same, "OMG I love your blog, hope you can check out mine at ..." comment on every ones. But is that going to get you any loyal readers?? No. Probably quite the opposite. Make sure your comments on other people's blogs are genuine and related to the post at hand.
*Aim to read one new blog a week. Maybe you'll find one you really like, maybe you won't. But you aren't going to grow your community just by reading the same blogs over and over. Need help finding new blogs?? Check out what your friends  are reading. If you follow a blog regularly, check out their blog roll or pay attention to the blog posts they retweet. I've found some really awesome blogs this way.

The Big Leagues: If you find yourself really into blogging and want to turn it into much more than a hobby, you'll need to up your game a bit:

*Buy your domain. It's the best $10 you'll spend.
*Use social media. Get on Twitter and create a Facebook Fan Page for your blog. Use them. Often.
*Really want to build your brand?? Get a Blog Assessment from Eli Rose. They can give you practical and easy advice on how to streamline your blog. They also work with you based solely on your needs, so weather you want more followers, want to work with more companies or simply want to grow your business, they can help give you the tools to succeed.