Thursday, August 09, 2007

10 Tips For New Bloggers

As a follow-up to yesterday's post on what I've learned about blogging (insert link), I've created a list of 10 tips for anyone interested in starting their own blog. These aren't exhaustive by any means, but they cover the main things I wish I knew before I began.
Before starting your blog...

1. Picking a topic can be difficult, but be sure to choose something you're passionate about and already spend a lot of time reading, talking and thinking about.

2. If your blog is topical (not just about your personal life and thoughts), make sure you're not limiting yourself to one specialized subject. If your goal is for the blog to last and gain an audience, you've got to think about what you can write about 5-7 times a week for tens or hundreds of weeks on end. Don't box yourself in.

3. The majority of the millions of bloggers around the world have a small audience of family and friends, and they want nothing else. If that's what you're interested in as well, you only have to post as much or as little as you'd like. But if you want to grow to have more than your mom and best friend as readers, you have to dedicate a lot of time and effort to producing a consistent product. With very few exceptions, blogs that post less than 4 times a week don't get big (and by big I mean having more than a few hundred readers a day). People have to want to check back every day for new content, and you need to post at least 5-6 times a week to entice them to return regularly. Once you have an established audience, you can cut back, but you have to expect to lose a lot of readers.
Once you've begun your blog...

4. Build relationships with other bloggers. This is so critical, as so much of one's success in blogging is dependent on who the traffic from links. But in addition to gaining readers, knowing other bloggers allows you access to experts who can answer blogging-related problems, give you advice and help promote special projects you might be working on. On top of that, one of the best benefits to blogging is meeting really interesting people you'd never meet in real life. In addition to e-mailing bloggers, I recommend becoming a regular commenter on your favorite blogs. Bloggers are inundated with tons of link requests, but if they know you're a longtime reader and commenter, they're far more likely to want to help you.

5. If you can, find someone else who's willing to read over your posts. This is not totally required, but it will make your life a thousand times easier. Your writing will improve, but more importantly, you'll have another person's impression of your post. They'll let you know whether your point is coming across clearly, where to flesh out your argument and take away fluff, and give you feedback that will give you a better idea on how your readers will respond. This is especially important if you take on controversial issues, as you're far less likely to inadvertently offend someone.

6. Examine your own strengths and weaknesses and identify people who can help you in areas you're not so strong in. If you have no knowledge of basic HTML programming and no graphic design skills, your site isn't going to look very good, and you'll spend a lot of time teaching yourself basic tasks. I knew that these were my weaknesses from day one, and I was lucky enough to have friends (this is the payout of having nerdy friends) who were generous and willing to assist me in these areas.

7. Create a routine that makes it easy for you to stay on top of your blogging. Your life will be so much easier if you set aside an hour or two every day to write, and force yourself to at least accomplish something small every day. During the school year and now that I'm on vacation, I set aside a few hours after I eat my breakfast to write and work on the blog. I find that if I force myself to write first thing in the morning, I can go about the rest of my day without stressing about getting it done. On days when you're feeling totally uninspired, try to come up with new post ideas, find pictures for a future post, or just write a loose outline of a post to get your ideas out on the screen.

8. Write posts in advance. Not everyone does this, but you'll feel a lot less enslaved to your blog if you have a safety net of posts. I try to have 5-8 posts saved up at any given time. This allows me to plan out the order of future posts (so there aren't too many similar posts going up at the same time) and relieves me of the fear that if something big came up in my life (a last minute vacation, a death in the family, a huge paper), I could go a week without worrying about writing.

9. Stay on top of other blogs that cover similar topics and follow the news on your topic. Not only will this provide you with inspiration, it'll allow you to gauge where you stand in relation to other blogs like yours, and hopefully, will help you distinguish yourself. The more informed you are, the better your posts will be. Learn to love your RSS reader (I follow 106 blogs daily).

10. Don't take hate mail and insulting comments personally, and don't respond to them. There are plenty of people who gain pleasure from putting others down, and if you're putting yourself out there, sharing your perspective publicly, you make yourself a target for their attacks. Usually these attacks aren't based in fact, but it can hurt nonetheless. I always find it funny when someone invests the time in writing me hate mail, or posting multiple insulting comments, as it only shows that they're still reading the blog. If you hate it or me so much, why waste your time reading what I have to say? Reminding myself of this point is how I've grown a thicker skin to insults. Also, it may be tempting to lash back at haters, but giving them this attention will only egg them on. Ignore them and they'll go away.

And, as a bonus, 11. Like everything else in life, success in blogging is a mix of luck and hard work. I was ecstatic the first time I saw that a major blog linked to me. The hits were pouring in and I felt like I finally had a shot at getting huge. Unfortunately, after a few days my numbers were back down to normal and it was as if the link hadn't happened at all. I found the same thing happened when I've been mentioned in newspapers and magazines. My hits haven't risen dramatically in the long run as a result of these events. Granted, these mentions have a way of snowballing so that other journalists or bloggers talk about you as a result of previous articles, but it's regular, consistent posting that has fueled my longterm growth.

Now, I'm by no means an expert on blogging, but I hope that these tips will prove useful for those of you interested in starting your own blogs in the near or distant future. For additional information, check out blogs about blogging (ProBlogger and Copyblogger) are two of my favorite resources). I'll be back to regular posting on fashion, beauty and pop culture topics tomorrow, thanks for hanging in with me these past two days!


Anonymous said...

Thank you, this is incredibly helpful.

The hardest thing for me right now is just finding the time to write consistently. I have lots of ideas, but no discipline.

Joanna said...

Thank you for these tips Meg. I admire your diligence and persistence in making this blog such a sucessful one.

Anonymous said...

People send you hate mail? Wha...? That's totally bizarre. Anyway, you've done an amazing job with FGB, keep it up!

- Katherine

A Bon Vivant said...

Thanks for the insight! I am also amazed that you would receive hate mail. Must be the Posh-haters. :)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your work on FGB. I send my teenage daughters to read your blog because of your thoughtful comments on the place of fashion and beauty in young women's lives. Keep up the critiques and the good tips!

A Mom

Deja Pseu said...

Great tips! Thanks for taking the time to post these.

tangobaby said...

I've recently discovered your blog and enjoy it very much. I've much more recently started my own blog and your post is incredibly timely and helpful.

Thank you for your insight. Your tips will be very useful to me, I can tell!

Trupti said...

I discovered your blog randomly and have been following it ever since. I admire you for your ideas, thoughts and the regularity with which you post. I think your blog is such a huge success because you attract a wide variety of audiences and that is mainly because your thoughts are so sensible.
You have a very diverse fan following because you are realistic, you realise that most of us have a budget in which to shop for on clothes and makeup.
Keep up the good work and thanks for the tips! :)

G.G. said...

Great tips! I try to have 1 or 2 posts saved up in case I don't have time to blog on a given day, but 5-8?! I'm so :)

maggie bam boo said...

thanks, this was very informative. i just stumbled across your blog and i appreciate your tact and formalities, while still keeping to style. bravo!

Peggy the Veggie said...

Wow, great tips! I'm going to keep a copy of that list handy. :)