My Seven Tips for Better Blogging

One of my recent followers is The Art of Blogging:

https://artofblogging.net

where you can find tips on how to make your blog better; all of which set me thinking, what are my tips on blogging?  Do I even have any?  Is the way I blog personal to me and not relevant to anyone else?  Well, let’s find out.

I began blogging because as a writer I wanted readers – and blogging is an instant way to get them.  In theory.  In theory, you just hit ‘publish’ and your words are out there in the world for all to read.  But blogging is like a miniature version of self-publishing; the publishing’s the easy part: in order to get readers you have to do the marketing.  Which presents me with a problem: I’ve always eschewed self-publishing because frankly the thought of doing all that self-promotion makes me feel a bit faint and then I have to go and have a lie-down.  Nowadays we’re all supposed to be self-promoting, self-starting, self-aggrandising little market forces, and that’s just not me.  And what’s the point of writing if you have to be someone else in order to succeed?  So I guess my first tip is this:

Tip No. 1 – Be Yourself. 

If you don’t know what that is, you’ll find out in the process of doing this stuff, but don’t assume you have to be like others in order to succeed.  You are unique and you have unique and individual things to say.  So whilst you can learn from others, don’t try to be them.  Be you.

Tip No. 2 – Communicate. 

It sounds obvious, but make sure others can understand what you’re saying.  If you’re blogging on a specialist topic don’t use words a lay person wouldn’t know: people have very limited tolerance for looking up words.  As I’m continually telling OH whose main blog can be found at:

https://zerothly.wordpress.com

try to look at it from the reader’s point of view.  Are you being too technical?  Too abstruse?  Too long-winded?  This brings us on to:

Tip No. 3 – Don’t Go On And On.

OH maintains that a post of 2000 words is ‘not too long’: I disagree and aim for around 500.  There’s no set limit but I tend to think that more than 1500 words puts a strain on the reader’s time and attention span.  Remember, you’re competing with 1001 other things on the internet, all demanding time and attention.  Which brings me to:

Tip No. 4 – Make It Worth Their While.

Just because you’re interested in something, doesn’t mean your readers will be.  If you’re describing an experience, make them feel it; if you’re giving instructions make them clear and doable, so they’ve really learnt something.  Nothing is more frustrating than a ‘how-to’ blog which skips important sections or assumes knowledge you don’t have: nothing is more dull than a description of someone else’s holiday which doesn’t take you there.

Tip No. 5  How Often?

When I started blogging I made it a rule to blog every day.  My posts were a lot shorter then; but the every day rule was a daily discipline for me, so that I’d get into the habit.  Nowadays I’m more relaxed and several days can go by without a post.  There’s no hard and fast rule but I think that too much content can weary the reader: you don’t want your followers to be getting too many emails.  On the other hand, if I’ve been absent for more than a week, I tend to find my readers drifting away, so I post something to let them know I’m still here.  There’s no point in posting just for the sake of it, but you don’t want people to forget you – so find a balance which works for you.

Tip No. 6 – Don’t Be Ordinary.

Avoid cliches and everyday phrases; without being contrived, try to think of different ways to describe things.  Depending on the topic, use humour; and if you’re writing about something serious like death or depression or suicide, be helpful.  Don’t leave your reader on a total downer – nobody likes that.

Tip No. 7 – Edit.  Then Edit.  Then Edit.

Don’t just write, finish and hit ‘publish’.  Your readers deserve better; hit the ‘preview’ button and check it through.  Then click on ‘edit’ (I usually bring this up in a new tab so I can check back and forth) and look for errors: it’s amazing how many typos slip past even in a few hundred words.  Then look at how you’ve expressed yourself.  Is it clear?  Does it flow?  Could you substitute a colon or semi-colon for that full-stop?  Are your sentences too long, too short, just right?  Could the vocab be sharpened up?  Does the title hook you in?  What about the first sentence?  Think of it like a newspaper article – you need an attention-grabbing headline and then a really good first paragraph (though as with tags, make it relevant to the article).  None of this means the rest of it doesn’t matter, but hooking people in is half the battle.

Tip No. 8 – Categories, Tags and Sharing

These are the kinds of things you usually get tips on and I’m not an expert on these so I’ll just say this: categories are a means for you and others to understand the areas the blog covers and search it accordingly so think about how to divide up your content in the best way.  As for tags, don’t misrepresent the post.  If there’s nothing about Johnny Depp, don’t put him in a tag just to get more readers: if people want Johnny Depp they can go to other blogs.  Make your tags short, punchy and above all relevant.  For example, when I’ve finished this post I’ll probably put tags like ‘top tips for blogging’ or ‘how to perfect your blog’.  Tags are picked up by search engines and are a really good way of getting accidental readers, so make them count.  As for sharing, social media is a great way to reach more people; I connected my blog to Facebook years ago and got a sharp spike in views.  I’m not on Twitter but if you are, use it: I recommend connecting to any social media platforms you’re on.  You may find readers comment on those sites rather than on the blog itself, which some find annoying; but I tend to think all comments are worthwhile and a basis for engagement.  Which brings us to:

Tip No. 9 – Respond!

When readers take the time and trouble to comment, respond.  If you’re in the fortunate position of having too many comments to reply to, make some general response.  Always thank people for commenting: not every time as that becomes a bit wearisome, but make sure commenters feel listened to and appreciated.  One of the most enjoyable aspects for me is engaging in conversation with readers.

So, turns out I do have some tips for blogging – so please comment below and let me know what you think.  If you like the blog, please click the ‘follow’ button on the bottom right, so you’ll get an email whenever I post.  I cherish my followers – and I will ALWAYS look at your blog when you follow me.

Kirk out

 

 

 

 

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Lies, Damned Lies and – Ooh, Look at That!

When I began this blog nearly ten years ago, my stats were not worth looking at except from an aesthetic point of view.  They do a nice job with the little illustrations which vary every day and often make it look as though you’ve had a surge of interest when you haven’t; but for a long time my blog stats were as flat as a corpse’s blood pressure.  Still, I kept posting and before long I had some actual readers.  This triggered a ritual daily scrutiny of my stats which was first a habit (tea, email, Facebook, stats) then a compulsion and finally an obsession.  If the column dipped I wondered what I’d done to deserve it: likewise if it rose I wondered what had grabbed my readers’ attention.  My life was dominated by these stylish bar-charts and the maps and diagrams that accompany them: and when, on occasion, the bar surged like Nigel Farage’s blood-pressure on Question Time, it felt like Christmas.

But there was no fathoming it.  Why did people cotton on to some things and not others?  Sometimes the comments would give me a clue, but more often than not I was in the dark.

I had told myself at the beginning that I would blog every day.  In those bleak early months when I had published nothing, just to write a few hundred words and hit ‘publish’, propelling those words out there for everyone to read, was a huge deal.  So for the first few years I was highly disciplined – until one summer I’d had enough.  I decided to take a six-week break.  And guess what?  The stats went down almost to zero – and though they rallied a little, they stayed low for almost a year.  So in the end I stopped looking at them.  I stopped obsessing about what people liked and what they didn’t like, and I wrote what I wanted to write.

Then about six months ago a weird thing happened.  I got a little spiky thing in the corner of my window which indicates a sharp upturn in views.  Yeah, right, I thought, expecting a flood of spam comments.  No such thing.  Whatever the reason (and I still don’t know) my views had gone dramatically up, and dramatically up they stayed.  So I’m back on the daily checking again…

Kirk out

 

Quaker Blogging?

In some ways I approach this blog the way I approach a Quaker meeting.  A Quaker meeting is silent unless – and until – somebody speaks: and whilst you might think that describes just about any meeting, let me assure you there is a lot of silence.  This is because you are supposed to not only think before you speak, but speak only when you feel led to.  It’s not about saying something that’s on your mind, or coming to meeting with some things you want to get off your chest.  Speaking during meeting is called ministry, and it is supposed to be something you feel irresistibly led to say: as if it will burst out of you otherwise.  This is not a comfortable experience.  I have spoken a few times and it feels very much like somebody prodding you in the ribs until you can’t take it any more.  You are not in control of this process, it can come upon you quite unawares, and it can be nerve-wracking, even quite scary.  So that’s the first thing: speak only when prodded.

You are also supposed to subject your speech to various tests: to ask not only ‘is it true?’ but ‘is it helpful?’  We all know people who make a point of speaking the truth, but whether we find it helpful is another matter.  Kindness is another consideration and there is a fourth but I can’t remember exactly where to find it.

Why did I start on this?  Oh, yes: because I was thinking about blog posts.  I started this blog as a discipline, writing every day whether or not I had something to say – and that was good for me at that time.  But now, nearly nine years later (good god, is it nine?) I post only when I have something to say – and days or even a weeks can go by without that happening.  But do I subject these posts to the other tests?  Do I think about whether it’s kind or truthful or helpful?  Or do I think about whether it’s interesting, attention-grabbing or clever?

Hm.

While I ponder that, I am getting ready to book my place at yearly meeting.  This is a national gathering of Quakers, and it will be interesting to find out the answer to my question: with thousands in the same room, will that result in more silence – or more talk?

Kirk out

Am I Itching? Am I Hell!

One of the useful things WordPress does is to tell you about anniversaries, and this morning a little anvil-shaped icon appeared in the corner of my screen.  At least, I think it was anvil-shaped, but as Mark has conclusively proved, I am rubbish at recognising icons.*  Anyway, it turned out to be an anniversary message so who knows – maybe it was meant to be a cake or a candle or a card or something.  I don’t know.  But it did shock me slightly to discover that it was seven years ago this very day that I started this blog.

Seven years!  Seven years is a significant period of time; in fact many people think our lives can be understood in periods of seven: infancy, childhood, adolescence/young adulthood, marriage and parenthood, settling down, finding your way/becoming responsible, middle age (around this time you tend to get a mid-life crisis) and so on.  As a rough guide it sort of works – which reminds me, I wonder if they’re still doing the ‘7-up’ series?  According to wikipedia they are: the last one came out in 2012.  Interesting.  I remember seeing it when I was teacher-training; since that was in 1980 I guess they would have been – hang on! – if they were seven in 1964 they’ll be the same age as me!!!  How come I never realised that?

Maybe I did realise it, and forgot.  I’m at that sort of age…

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Up_Series

Anyway, back to the blog.  As I’ve told you before (you’re probably sick of hearing about it) Hanif Kureishi was the father of this blog, since it was he who suggested to me that I should start one.  I met him in Leicester library and instantly took his advice.  Initially I didn’t blog every day, but I soon got into the habit and now I blog around five times a week on average.

Over those seven years I’ve covered more topics than I can remember.  It started out being a blog about writing; but it soon occurred to me that as well as writing about writing I could practise my writing by writing about – well, anything that took my fancy.  So from home brewing to politics, from film reviews to gardening, from prose to poetry and from poetry to drama – and not forgetting the very pertinent category relating to my dear OH – I’ve covered quite a range.

And I’ve never regretted starting it.  Having a blog has enabled me to interact with other bloggers, to get comments on my stories and poems, and to get a residency on Mslexia’s very own blog!  Not too bad!

So a happy seven-year anniversary to all my readers and followers and a special thanks to those who’ve been with me since the beginning.  Why not drop me a line today?

Off now to see to the garden.

Kirk out

*I think it’s supposed to be a cup or chalice of some kind.  I’m still not sure

I Am NOT Nineteenthly!

I’ve been having a couple of doodahs with WordPress recently; first it deleted all my contents when I asked it to save them; then today it refused to post a comment of mine (on my own post, I might add) because it thought I was The Other Half.  I am not nineteenthly!  yet it persisted in saying after I’d written the comment that I was trying to post as him (ie Mark) and that I should add my password.  I don’t know Nineteenthly’s password: even Nineteenthly doesn’t know Nineteenthly’s password any more as Nineteenthly has gone on to pastures new and is probably up to thirty-firstly or forty-secondly by now.*

Incidentally, if you don’t know the story, the name comes from a university professor who realised it was time to stop lecturing when he heard himself say: ‘- and nineteenthly…’  Mark has great trouble explaining things in a few words; hence the name.

Anyway, WordPress absolutely refused to accept that I wasn’t Nineteenthly, so that I was forced to resort to a different browser.  That did the trick.

This weekend feels a bit flat after the last one: there’s not much happening apart from Tomatoes today and church/meeting tomorrow.  There will be a march for Climate Change (or rather, a march against climate change) on Nelson Mandela Park at 12 and that’s about all she wrote – or will write.

Holly, on the other hand, seems to be having a complete social whirl: Facebook is full of photos of her and a group of friends all screaming and holding drinks.

Meh.

Kirk out

*actually he’s reminded me that his latest incarnation is Zerothly.