2 Corinthians 8:21 Providing for honest things, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men.
Some months ago a friend of mine was getting ready to start her first blog and asked for some advice from friends on Facebook. I gave her some thoughts off the top of my head and then thought I should share them here for any of my own readers that might be interested.
Here’s what I told her with some new thoughts added:
1. Make it so you have to approve all comments. Unless you get a ton of them and it's too much work, you can save yourself the issues of spam, rudeness and foolish comments before they happen. [Further note: Plus you can decide which controversial conversations you want on your blog and which ones you don’t want!]
2. Learn to pre-schedule your posts so that you can have stuff going up regularly without having to think about it all the time. (You probably will anyway, but you won't *have* to. ) This is handy for being away too. I did this for the 3.5 weeks we were in Australia. I have almost all of March scheduled at the moment. Ahh...freedom - and a blog at the same time. [When you schedule your posts ahead of time you can choose your time stamp for when you want it to go up. I recommend using the same time every time for continuity. When you’re writing and posting immediately it doesn’t matter.]
3. If you pre-schedule posts be sure to make a back up copy of each one on your computer so that you don't lose all your efforts due to a glitch. I save mine in HTML format in a Notepad file.
4. Read and comment on other blogs that are pertinent to your own and make sure you have your ID set so that your name links back to your blog. This helps bring legit traffic to your own blog. Also, be a follower on similar blogs. [Please make sure you comments are appropriate, intelligent and not just spammy blabber for the sake of getting traffic at your own blog.]
5. Watch your stats. They will tell you which subjects are most interesting to your readers - how many readers on certain days, where they're from, which posts had the most hits, etc.
6. Don't post too often or too little. Too little is a no-brainer, but I've actually dropped blogs I followed where the blogger just made way too many posts – sometimes several in a day. It felt almost intrusive. I've had to work up to several posts a week, but I am trying not to over-do it either. [Readers, are my two posts on Saturday too much? I like the evening song idea, but maybe it’s too much with the sewing and strawberry posts? – Leave a comment.]
7. If you struggle to make your quota of posts give yourself an easy option to resort to. This is why I just post photos with little to no text on Thursdays. Readers get some eye candy, but it's super easy for me! I schedule those posts 6 months in advance sometimes. It feels good to know I have at least one post a week taken care of for months to come. [Also, if you have something you’re writing that is getting long, think about dividing it into “parts” to spread out the content. I should have don’t that with this one, I think!]
8. Make sure your pre-scheduled posts go up. I have had Blogger fail to post one or more times and I had to go post “by hand”. Keep track, if you can, even when you've written them ahead. [One way to keep track is to have your posts sent to you via email. That way if one doesn’t go up automatically hopefully you’ll notice.]
9. Always include an image if you can - your own photos are probably best, otherwise find free places online such as Wikimedia Commons where you can get illustrations for your posts. I started doing this consistently when I realized that I prefer posts with illustrations myself. You may want to find a free spot online to store your own images so that you don't use up your blog account space with those. I think Flicker might be one? I have a paid account at Smugmug.com, so I can't advise on that one. [Another place you can find free illustrating material is at WikiArt. User discretion required. Also, some bloggers are happy to let you use one of their own illustrations if you are posting a recipe or article from their blog, giving clear credit and linking back to them.]
A few more thoughts:
10. Try to pick subjects that will interest readers but don’t overwork them if you can help it. I know your kitchen remodel may be a huge event in your life but don’t blog about only that for weeks and weeks giving a play-by-play of every little step and detail. Really. We’re not all that interested. Your wedding or your daughter’s wedding may be the most wonderful thing that has happened to you in years, but it probably won’t be the best idea to only write about that for 6 months. Just sayin’…
11. Don’t try to push through writer’s block. Come back and write later or find a quick easy post to put up that doesn’t require too much work – a recipe, a poem, a special photo, a favorite web site, etc. Another easy one is to look up quotes on a specific subject and just put in half a dozen or so that you particularly like.
12. Learn to add YouTube videos directly on your page so people don’t have leave your page to view it. With all the distracting extra videos on YouTube’s side bar your readers might get distracted and forget to come back! Plus, this is one of those easy posts that you can add as in no. 11.
13. “Variety is the very spice of life.” I think Samuel Johnson said that. Anyway, if you feel like your blog is becoming too one subject oriented or that you’re developing a hobby horse, consider where you could branch out and add some content that is similar but different enough to add some interest – recipes, poems, educational information, etc. I know some blogs are dedicated to specific subjects – autism, cooking, healthy living, etc. – but these can be many faceted things and dwelling on just one aspect isn’t useful content after awhile.
14. If you do tend toward hobby horse rants, stop and think about what you are doing with your life. Is it something that will actually count for eternity and make a difference, or do you just get a thrill from blowing off steam publically? Are you wasting your time? Just because you get a lot of traffic on that stuff doesn’t prove that it’s useful or worthy. Really. The world is more attracted to the bizarre, sensational and ludicrous than to wisdom, justice and truth. Yellow journalism is not a Christian ministry.
2 Corinthians 5:18-19 And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.
15. Don’t assume you can’t blog because you’re not a “good writer”. People don’t become better writers by thinking that, they only improve by writing. Give it a go if it’s something you want to do. Just one tip (among too many to mention here): try writing as if you were writing a letter to or talking to a dear friend who understands you well. Just be sure to explain “inside information” where necessary. You might be surprised at how much easier that makes writing, and how well your readers respond. :-)
16. It’s ok to have a small presence on the web. If you are helping a few people you are still helping. If you are staying connected with family and friends, you are still doing something worthwhile. We can’t all have thousands of followers and get interview offers. Be content to make a difference, even if it’s small. Zechariah 4:10a For who hath despised the day of small things?… “There are many of us that are willing to do great things for the Lord, but few of us are willing to do little things.” – D.L. Moody