We’ve all seen them. The same old, tired lists of regurgitated tips on how to blog better. They’re so common, you could probably name most of them in your sleep. I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of them. I want to know what really works.
I’ve heard blogging referred to a couple of times recently as a mixture between an art and a science. If this is true (and I think it is), there’s no ‘right way’ to approach blogging if you want to be successful. There are plenty of people who’ve done a great job of it though, and I thought it would be useful to learn from them.
Since 2006, I’ve been a blogger and have helped thousands of people learn this craft of online publishing. Still, there are days when I feel very much like a newbie.
When I quit my old blog and started a new one, I realized how much I didn’t know about blogging. So I decided to put together my own list of tips stuff I started doing recently that I should’ve been doing since the beginning.
So whether you’re just getting started or have been blogging for awhile, here are 25 tips to help guide and direct you:
Write for yourself first & foremost. Ignore the fact that anyone else will read what you write; just focus on your thoughts, ideas, opinions and figure out how to put those into words. Write it and they will come.
- No copy-catting. Stop trying to be like someone you admire and instead find out what unique offering you have.
- Tell the truth. Never lie, mislead, or cajole. Trust is slowly earned and easily lost.
- Be awesome. There’s enough mediocrity out there. Stop adding to the noise, and do something outstanding.
- Give yourself grace. Be patient; it takes time to find your voice.
- Pick a theme. But realize readers will stick around for your voice, not your subject.
2. Growth and community
- Don’t measure stats too early. If you’re obsessing over daily numbers and you’re only a few months into your blogging journey, you’re wasting your time. It’s still too early to pay close attention to trends. After that, make sure you have Google Analytics installed.
- Make your content easy to share. The majority of content that’s shared online is done through social networks like Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, LinkedIn, and others. You should make this easy for your readers to tell their friends about you. (A WordPress plugin I recommend is DIGG DIGG.)
- Encourage community. Write unfinished posts, and ask your community to complete the conversation.
- Never underestimate the importance of networking. If you’re not connecting regularly with readers and other bloggers, you’re missing out.
- Guest post, guest post, guest post. (Enough said.)
Love the readers you already have. A lot of bloggers get quite obsessed with finding new readers – to the point that they ignore the ones they already have. Yes – do try to find new readers but spend time each day showing your current readers that you value them too and you’ll find that they will help you grow your blog.
- Write timeless content. On the web, old content is perceived as irrelevant. Don’t write a newspaper; create a resource. (This is, incidentally, why I intentionally don’t put dates on my posts.)
- Don’t write too little or too much. Generally, I try to write at least 300 words and no more than 1000 words. More than that, though, only write as many words as it takes and cut the rest.
- Have a point. Don’t just word-vomit on your audience.
- Write with conviction. Pick a side and be bold. And if you’re wrong, admit it.
- Short sentences win.
4. Motivation and inspiration
Understanding your audience better means you’ll have a better idea of what blog content will resonate with them, which is a good start when you get to writing blog posts.
A great technique for doing this is to simply ask your readers first on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn with an engaging quote. If people respond well to it, than this is probably a great topic to write about. An example for this comes from Andrew Chen who famously “tests” his blogpost ideas on Twitter first.
And so does Joel here at Buffer. Take this example from a recent Twitter post of his, where he simply tweeted one quote to see how well people liked a topic before he blogged about it:
- Don’t give up. Bloggers who stick with it ultimately win.
- Write as often as possible. Constantly capture ideas and turn them into posts. A tool that may help is Evernote.
- Expect critics. A few people hating you is a sign you’re doing something right. Be prepared.
- Find ways to regularly get inspired. This is the only way you can inspire others. When you’re empty, fill yourself up. Don’t neglect this.
- Realize you can only create or react. At any give time, make sure you know which one you’re doing.
This can be a great way to gather ideas of what topics people would most like to read about, which will help your blog grow! One of the best ways I’ve seen this in action is through blog comments or Tweets. In one example, here on FastCompany a lot of people requested a post that features more women entrepreneurs:
- Write for scanners. We live in a busy, distracted world. Don’t demand attention; earn it.
- Build an email list. If you ever want to sell or promote something, having people’s email addresses (and their permission to use them) is essential.
- Invest in a good web design. Bad design can get in the way of good content.
- Be generous. Give away more information, content, and ideas than you’re comfortable with. People will reward you. Link to others, but never let someone pay you to do so.
- Watch what experts do. Not just what they say.
These are my best 5 tips. You probably have 5 of your own. And that’s okay, because I’ve realized that everyone needs to approach blogging in their own way. That’s part of the fun. Feel free to add to this list in the comments.