Last week I hosted a seminar at my local library. The topic was basic tips for starting and maintaining a blog. It was a success due largely to your comments and suggestions to my blog post, Please Help Me Not Look Stupid.
Here are my notes from the seminar…
Since creating a blog is nearly a turn-key operation with lots of help menus and support, I’ve chosen to first focus on the things that no one tells new bloggers; things that are very important for the success of a new blog, but take the longest to learn. In other words, these are the things I learned and mistakes I made along the way.
Before you begin…
Don’t just jump right in! Proper planning and thinking ahead will greatly increase your chances for success with your blog. In other words, slow and steady wins the race.
Decide the purpose of your blog
Think about the focus of your blog…will it be about writing, humor, parenting, general life observations, etc…? Once you pick your focus/topic you’ll be able to target your audience accordingly.
Decide your target audience
In other words, who do you want/envision reading your blog?
Example: If you are doing a blog about writing you’ll be targeting pre-published authors. If you do one about parenting, you’ll target parents. Yes, this is simple, but good to keep in mind during the creation process.
Create a REALISTIC Blogging Schedule/Goal
Updating regularly is VERY important! If your readers return time after time to check for updates, never knowing what they’ll find, you’ll lose them. Better to blog once a week, or even once a month on a regular, consistent schedule than to update sporadically.
If you don’t have it in your schedule to update your blog regularly, don’t bother creating one. Consistency is the key to gaining a following.
*Note…unless you have what every reader wants you are not interesting enough to post everyday
You’ve Created a Blog…Now What?
Keep Your Posts to a Manageable Length
No one wants to read your seven page manifesto on anything (unless of course you’re Stephen King or a famous literary agent) so it keep it short and sweet. Plus, this makes it easy for you while you’re getting started.
Use knock-your-socks-off headlines for your blog posts
This will get readers curiosity up and make them have to read to figure out what you are doing.
This works especially well for putting up your post titles on Twitter, Facebook, or other social media. If the headline grabs attention, you’ll get more readers.
Create a Blog Title that Works FOR you
If your goal is to be a published author your blog title should include your name. After all, when your book is in the stores it will have your name on it, not some catchy phrase. When your loyal readers want to buy your book they’ll already know your name!
This is the most-cited in “what I wish I knew before I started my blog”. To gain readers you must visit other blogs that fall into your target audience and leave a comment. People won’t find you unless you search them out. Amy, who runs the blog Fix It Or Deal, put it this way…
“I think you have to treat blogging more like a community rather than a solitary venture if you really want to get anything out of it.”
Don’t just collect comments and let them sit unanswered and lonely. Someone took the time and thought enough about your post to leave a comment, don’t ignore the comment. Respond back to EVERY comment in a conversational style.
More comments makes it appear that there is a massive discussion going on in the comments section of your post and people may just click in there to check it out.
Until you are the Stephen King of blogging, pay commenter a visit to their site and leave a comment. Writers are a very supportive group, pay it forward.
Don’t Go Overboard with Graphics or Links
The appearance of your blog is fun to customize, but don’t go crazy with the widgets, links, full color blog awards and a bunch of photos. Not only does it clutter up the look of your blog, it makes it harder for it to load.
What is your writing style for your blog? Will you be funny? Poignant? Over the top? Readers will come to expect and look forward to your “voice”.
Contests (with or without giveaways) are a great way to gain buzz for your blog and to gain readership. Keeping readers around once the contest is over depends on you.
To sum it all up I offer a quote from Florence, who runs the successful blog, Ramblings from the Left.
“Blogs can be expository and informative, funny and entertaining … but no matter what they are … they should be an honest attempt to communicate who we are to our readers.”
And finally, here is a link to a blog created during the seminar.
Tori is an aspiring novelist and a member of my writing critique group. She attended the seminar and was brave enough to create her blog while everyone watched. I’d love it if you would stop by and show her just how supportive the writing community can be .