I don’t get many requests for blog topics so when I received one recently, I was really motivated to comply. A reader wrote in a comment: “Do you have any tips for first-time blog writers?” Rather than post a comment reply that might get lost in the blog ether, I thought I’d use the question as a prompt for this week’s post. Here are a few tips for the beginning bloggers. If you’re an experienced blogger and want to share a few of your own, feel free.
1. Don’t plant a garden if you don’t want to pull weeds. In the springtime, many of friends have great plans to plant gardens. But as the summer rolls along and the weeds start to grow, they grow tired of the commitment and the work and end up ignoring their garden completely. A blog can be the same way. It’s a huge commitment and loads of people end up ignoring their blog despite having big plans at the onset. Recent statistics from Blogger.com report that 65% of businesses that use blogs for PR purposes haven’t updated their blogs in over a year. To develop a loyal readership, however, you need to write regularly. It doesn’t have to be daily, but you have to work to maintain your blog “garden.”
2. Develop a schedule that’s manageable for you. Some bloggers amaze me. Take Richard Byrne, who writes the blog Free Technology for Teachers. He contributes several new posts almost EVERY day. To maintain a successful blog, you don’t need to blog daily. You just need to blog on some predictable pattern. I contribute an original post once a week because I knew it was a schedule I could keep with the other commitments in my life (family, work, etc.). Figure out what will work for you and stay on that schedule. Plan it into your calendar so blogging takes a priority.
3. Find your niche. A friend of mine is an excellent writer but blogs about anything that strikes his fancy. Some days, it’s about parenting. Other days, it’s about cars or the beach or a concert he attended. His blog is an accumulation of diverging streams of consciousness that can be difficult to follow. While most people hold a variety of interests about which they could blog, a blogger needs to select one central theme so that people want to visit regularly. It’s kind of like going to a restaurant and one day they’re serving sushi and another day they’re serving burritos. Some folks will just avoid the inconsistency completely. Offering quality posts around a consistent theme is critical for a successful blog.
4. Keep your writing terse. I often stumble across blogs that are like short dissertations. While I appreciate the effort the blogger went through to write their lengthy posts, I am also pretty pragmatic when it comes to my readers. I know most people will start to check out after a few hundred words so I try to keep my posts short. While I don’t have a restrictive word limit, my internal alarm starts to sound when I reach around 500 words.
5. Be social. Read other people’s blogs and link to their posts. Don’t be afraid to comment on their work. The blogging community can be really friendly and supportive if you put yourself out there.
6. If at first you don’t succeed… I created several blogs before the 8 Blog. Some survived a few weeks. Others lasted a single post. If you feel you have a blogger inside you, keep trying until it sticks. Try changing blog themes, writing styles or writing schedules.
7. Embrace the writing process. Back in middle school, my English teacher forced us to write drafts and revise our work. I thought the process was pointless at the time but I now realize that’s what good writers and good bloggers do. At any given time, I have two or three different blog posts in draft that I’m revising and rewriting. While I originally doubted the writing process, I now see firsthand its ability to help writers work on their craft.