[More] Tips For Creating a Better-Than-Amateur Blog

Hey there readers. I’ve been doing some more research on what makes a good blog, and thought I’d make a post answering some questions I’ve gotten in response to my last post about blogging. That post was mostly about what to write/the content of your blog. Unfortunately, though, having awesome content isn’t enough to bring in a whole batch of readers and convince them to stay. So let’s talk about the things that can get in the way…

1. Headline to impress.

Hi everybody, headline goes here please

Hi everybody, headline goes here please (Photo credit: reinvented)

You know how a frog will sit and wait, and just when an unsuspecting fly goes by, it will launch a long, sticky tongue to grab the fly and pull it in? You want a headline like that. One that will reach out and grab people. So get creative! Add your own flare and personality! You have something worth saying, so make sure people hear you.

2. Theme Theme Theme.

As with most things, the theme you choose should reflect the material you’re talking about. If you’re documenting your travels or cooking adventures, pick a theme that lets you put lots of pictures up and makes them easy to navigate. If you want a more serious and alluring blog, pick a simple theme you can customize to meet your needs. Using the example of my blog, I wanted my writing to stand out, and also wanted to maintain the black-and-white theme to go with the whole typewriter thing I’m trying to do here. Think about the overall layout as well. Some themes make it hard to read what you’ve written because of the way they group your text. And be careful of themes with animation because even though they are fun and quirky, they might take away from your content. (A personal pet peeve of mine is the balloon theme. It’s cool that the balloons move and all but they block the words and I find myself scrolling up or down trying to get them to move out of my way. I curse at the balloon theme.)

3. People are lazy.

Profound, I know. More than likely, though, you didn’t bother to read all of what I said in number 2. Well, unless you were really interested in themes. Why? People are lazy, and big paragraphs are intimidating. If you want someone to listen to what you have to say, divide it up to make it more reader-friendly. Also don’t make any one post too long. Unless it is a story that really keeps your attention, it is likely people will start skipping down to the end to try and get the gist of your post. And you don’t want people just skimming your blog. You want people to actually read what you took the time to put down in writing.

4. Don’t let your use of pictures get in the way of what you’re saying.

Annoyed Husky

Annoyed Husky (Photo credit: Chris Hagood Photography)

Have you ever read anyone’s blog where they put in a whole bunch of pictures in a post that are only vaguely related to what they were talking about? And even worse, when they make the text group in weird places that

Annoying Orange: Kitchen Carnage

Annoying Orange: Kitchen Carnage (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

just make it exhausting to try and get through? I have, and it is really annoying. I hope we’ve all learned something here, because this point has hurt me to make..

Grumpy Cat

Grumpy Cat (Photo credit: Scott Beale)

5. But that being said, don’t be afraid to use pictures for emphasis.

If you look at all the posts on “Freshly Pressed”, they all have pictures. It’s kind of a highly-recommended pre-requisite to getting freshly pressed, in fact. Oh, but make sure the pictures are cited. As one person commented on one of my posts, “plagiarism is for squares”. And an easy tip to help with that, if you go to Dashboard>Users>Personal Settings, you can let Zemanta look for pictures for you when you’re writing a post, and it will automatically cite the source so you don’t have to worry about accidentally plagiarizing.

6. Reblogging, videos, and other media.

Sometimes you just can’t seem to find the words to say what you are thinking. On days like that, there is nothing wrong with posting a cool video, or an article you found interesting. Just don’t use this as a fallback so that you can post every day. A few high-quality posts are better than a bunch of so-so posts.

7. Use of names to protect privacy.

I’m all for being anonymous and protecting the privacy of the people you’re talking about. Instead of just using their initials (“C and R and I were going to the movies, but R was fighting with G, and C is friends with G, which made things complicated…”) give them a name. A real name. It makes reading sooo much easier. But don’t give them a that’s-obviously-a-fake-name kind of fake name. (ie. “Watermelondrea”, “Obamaniqua”, “Sha’nay nay”…or anything else in this ridiculously funny video) (Seriously, watch it, it’s gold. I don’t mean that in a racist way if anyone finds it offensive I apologize!) Err…what was I….oh right, names… And when in doubt, keep their first initial so you can keep track of who’s who. Or write it down. That’s even safer.

8. Widgets.

This is a crucial step. If you don’t know what widgets are, head to your Dashboard and check out the options it has there for you. Widgets make your blog pretty and interesting. In a lot of ways they can also make your blog easy to navigate. You can use your widgets to control what people are likely to click on. I like having my recent posts and posts people liked a lot easily on display. Don’t just use widgets to fill up space, though. No one cares that Akismet has caught 99% of the spam that has found its way to your blog. Use only widgets that add to the experience of navigating your blog, and think about the order you want them to appear, too. You don’t need to make your widgets the same as everybody else’s, but think about why people used which and why they are in that order.

9. “About me” page.

Everyone needs this page. It should be easily accessible from your main page, too, because the first thing I want to know when I read something I really like is “who wrote that?”. This is one page that no matter what else you say on your blog, should be 100% you. From the type of language to the style of writing to the actual content. If you’re weird, be weird. If you’re chill, be chill. And pleeeease don’t write it in the third person. It ends up sounding like an obituary written in the present tense, and it creeps me out because I wonder who is narrating your life. Like I said, no matter what type of content you post, be yourself on this one page. You don’t need to hide who you are, and if you try to, people will be able to tell. Be honest. Say what you want to say. Post a picture you like of yourself. If you want to have a photo shoot with your webcam, do it. People want to know the person behind the words. Why not let them know the real you?

10. Blog etiquette.

Etiquette (Casiotone for the Painfully Alone a...

Etiquette (Casiotone for the Painfully Alone album) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A friend recently introduced me to the concept of blog etiquette by saying “they followed me so I felt obligated to follow them back”. Don’t let someone else following you lead you to have a long list of people you follow but never read. If you check them out and genuinely like their style and their blog, definitely follow. But don’t follow people just because you feel some sort of weird pressure to. The same goes for people’s comments. You don’t have to answer every single comment. But also remember that someone took the time to comment on what you had to say, and sometimes comments will really spark your imagination. Let them know if you enjoyed what they had to say, or if it has sparked a conversation. People like knowing when they impact someone’s life for the better.

Phew that was a long read. Hope some of it is helpful! Rock out!

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About janinerussell

The transition to adulthood; reflecting on the past to create a better future.

18 responses to “[More] Tips For Creating a Better-Than-Amateur Blog”

  1. Christa Simpson says :

    Thanks for tip #5. Very helpful for a new user. Me!! 🙂

  2. travels with mary says :

    good stuff, thank you!

  3. norwayhannah says :

    Really enjoying your blog. Keep writing boldly!

  4. Ritu KT says :

    I really appreciate the time you took to write this post and the other one (Which got Freshly pressed). There are a lot of things to learn in the beginning like I had no idea about Zementa. Thanks again!

  5. purpleperceptions says :

    Hey Janine, how are ya 🙂

    This was a really really useful post to read. Have to say, I’d never really seen the widget bit carefully before (tbh that reminded me of the annoying widget screen that would pop up on my mom’s Samsung phone, so I automatically gave it a mental blerrrrgh).

    Also the part about the following, thanks for clearing that up. I wish there was some way of saying thanks individually to each person following though. It seems snooty that someone’s following my blog, and I’m not saying thanks. 😮
    Anyhoo, thanks for the post, and have a great day! 🙂

  6. Arlene says :

    Excellent Tips! Thanks for taking the time to put it together. I definitely agree with the long paragraphs … guess I’m lazy, but a long blog post with lots of big paragraphs better be VERY interesting or I’m totally skimming 🙂

  7. an0nym0usbl0gger says :

    Your blog has really given me insight and inspiration as a new and fresh blogger. This particular entries has given me ideas to help spread my topics out a little bit to make it easier for me to find things to write about. I hope that one day eventually I can have as many followers as you. We can really make a difference if we can find a way to get people to listen. Hope to read more of your thought provoking entries.

  8. elbablogs says :

    I’m enjoy your post…Thanks…

  9. Happylovejoy says :

    Agree..tip #5 is very helpful..thanks!

  10. rani-amanda says :

    Reblogged this on meandmyspicylife and commented:
    So useful for those who want to improve their Blog. Just like ME.

  11. Roberta McDonnell says :

    Thank you for this very helpful article. I particularly like the way you have gotten so much useful information into a nicely readable format – with an informal and friendly tone as well. Inspired! Thanks again, Roberta 🙂

  12. sarahwriteshere2010 says :

    Dear Ms. Russell,

    Thank you so much for including the tip about Zemanta in your blog. I realize that there are probably a hundred other blogs with useful information however YOURS was the one I read.

    Yours was also the one I cursed. I looked at that picture of you and swore under my breath because you are both a better writer than me and younger than me to add insult to injury. These would have been unforgivable offenses had you not written such a helpful post. Many thanks.

    Sincerely,

    A technological luddite and fellow writer

    • janinerussell says :

      Hahaha, your comment made me laugh. I had never thought of the world of writing as competitive before… here I thought we could all mutually get along! 😛 Luckily there are so many different directions you can go as a writer that it doesn’t matter how good other writers are, unless they’re doing the exact same thing as you. And we probably have a lot more in common than you’d think. I checked out your blog, and am looking forward to reading more of your work.

      I’m glad you enjoyed the post. Good luck in your writing endeavors!

      Janine

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