Wednesday, 12 November 2014

10 tips on how to write a blog (and what I can learn from my own ramblings)

After a year of thinking 'Google + - WTF is that?' I actually managed to post something today, and wonder of wonders! - got a comment back. The lady in question is a single mum, like me, and is looking to set up a blog, but is unsure where to start. She needs pointers.

Now, I am no expert and believe me, as I typed the title into this post, I did it with tongue firmly stuck in cheek and a healthy dollop of irony. My blog looks like my house; a bit tatty and dirty, half drunk bottles of gin hidden behind chairs. Think charity shop rather than Boden. I'm certainly not up with the latest trends. But I continue to write and some people pop in and visit from time to time, so I thought - you know what? Maybe I have picked up some knowledge along the way that might be useful to others.

Well, here it is. See what you think.


1. What will you write about? Why are you writing?



Think about it. Are you using this as a personal outlet? Just somewhere to spout, offload? Or do you want to really attract readers? Or both? Focus in on one category - your USP, if you like - and stick with it. 


2. Will you be yourself? Or anonymous?



This is important. If you're anonymous (like me) you are free to say a lot more - but the worry of being 'outed' is constant. You also can't promote your blog to your family and friends, which is a MASSIVE disadvantage. You have to be a good secret-keeper.

I was found out a few months into my writing. I had stupidly sent someone an email from my blog account, and my recipient had of course gone off and Googled the Fuck out of my email address. I was absolutely gutted; I had to shut down the blog, and start again with a whole new identity.

So writing anonymously has its difficulties; however, if you write as yourself, there will be no-go areas, so you may find yourself constrained and frustrated.

Choose carefully, Obi-Wan.


3. Think of a name for your blog



Consider this carefully, because it will be yours forevermore. There will be no switching when you get bored of it (unless you close the whole blog down); it will become part of you.

It sounds odd. But it really will.


4. Sign up with a blogging platform



In the UK, Blogger and WordPress are the most popular choices. Mooch around both and see which one feels best for you. Both have pros and cons - Blogger is owned by Google and I was recently informed that a Blogger site will do better for SEO (Search Engine Optimisation - how people find you), but WordPress seems funkier and more flexible. They are both pretty good - and are free!


5. Think about whether you want to 'self host' 



This means buying your own domain name and paying an amount for an external organisation to host it for you. You don't have to make this decision at the start though; I signed up with Blogger initially (and my URL was www.thesecretdivorcee.blogspot.com) but after a few months it seemed cleaner to have my current URL. My lovely new hosting company - www.swbroadband.co.uk - did the switcheroo for me and the passage was painless.


6. Post regularly, but always have something write about


Don't feel like you have to post every day. You may start off with plenty of material but after three weeks - unless you are Katie Hopkins, who seems never to be short of a word or two - you'll be as dry as the Gobi Desert. Make sure you post once a week if you can, and include links (great for SEO) and images (for reader interest). If you include other people's photos, also reference them. Don't include photos of other people's children unless you have express permission to do so.


7. Check your writing


Read it through for typos and to make sure it makes sense. At times I've posted late at night what I thought was a MAGNIFICENT piece of writing on some subjectorother, only to wake up and realise what a terrible pile of worthless and mis-typed crap it was. If you're writing late at night, pause before posting. Read it again in the morning. And THEN hit the Publish button.

8. Be sociable


Link up to Twitter (first), Facebook (second), then Instagram, Google + and anything else you have time for. Interact as much as possible. Respond to anyone who leaves blog comments. Join appropriate forums (for example, the Mumsnet Bloggers Network, who have been super duper lovely to me). You won't have time to do everything you want to - so find your balance and do what you can. Important: don't kick yourself for not having enough time. Just do what you can.

NB I have only half managed to use Twitter and have only just discovered Google +. I kick myself all the time. 

If you have the chance, go to a blogging event such as Blogfest or Britmums Live. If you're shy like me, it's shockingly hard to actually physically meet people, but it's THE BEST way to network, learn about blogging and really feel like you're part of a vibrant blogging community.


9. Stats, making money, and the whole commercial aspect


I check my stats constantly. TRY NOT TO. Also, try not ask other bloggers about their stats, because it will only depress you. Much better to motor on, promoting your posts through social media and just hope that they strike a chord with your audience. My most popular post ever is Ten Thing I Wish I'd Known Before Leaving My Husband. I can't tell you why; it's a mystery to me. I think it was picked up by Mumsnet as their Blog of the Day and perhaps I was just lucky that lots of women were considering jumping ship at that particular time.

As you gather readers, you may find that you are approached by commercial organisations to review products. Only do it if it fits with your blog; don't feel pressurised to review a zimmer frame, for example, if you're writing a baby blog. (Unless they're offering loads of money - then sell your soul in an instant and squeeze it in where you can.)

You can install Google Adsense (Google Ads) yourself (a walkthough here), which will start making money, depending on how many click throughs or impressions you get. I was initially rejected by Google because they thought I was a porn site (obviously) but I wasn't incensed because I had been approached by another organisation with a commercial offer. Six months later, with many contracts signed and the code installed, I am still waiting for this organisation to pull their finger out and actually get me on board. 

Moral: write because you love to write. Not purely to make money.


10. Write for others


Do guest blogs. Host linkys. Become guest writers on other sites. There is SO MUCH you can do to get your name recognised - if you have the time, motivation, energy. 

Tip: if you work and have a family, like me, you'll go through ups and downs. Sometimes you'll feel like your blog is going swimmingly, you're being asked to write this and review that, and the stats are up...but equally there will be times when ideas are thin and your energy is low. Recognise that this is natural and just part of the normal ebb and flow; and you'll be back at full throttle given time.

Good luck!

Oh, and because I said you should include images for reader interest, here is a nice but completely irrelevant photo of some cows that I took recently, entirely for your pleasure.














18 comments:

  1. Hi, good tips there for new bloggers, especially pausing on the name-my S15S alter-ego occasionally lets people know what she's thinking before I do.

    I'm also chuffed I'm not the only stats-obsessed blogger (as if)...it's like binging on junk food; every once in a while, normally around 10pm when the haze of the day has worn off), you just have to peek at the numbers!

    Oh, and lovely photo of the cows: Tip 11, only use photos you have the rights to!

    Good to meet you at the Blogfest Techie Table (as the only other non-WP blogger)....love your writing style.

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    1. Thanks so much for commenting! Lovely to meet you (albeit briefly) at Blogfest too. xxx

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  2. oh i really do love seeing your posts, you really are one of the best writers, so dont stop adding your posts to my link up lady!

    I am going to share this with my friend who wants to set up her own blog but has no clue where to start!

    Thanks for linking to #singleparentlinky

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    1. Aw Claire - thanks so much! What a lovely thing to say. I'm very grateful to you for setting up the linky and will certainly keep contributing. xxx #singleparentlinky

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  3. Good tips. Now I'm wondering whether I should think about something like Google adsense... It kind of seems crazy not to try and make a bit of easy money eh? :-) Or maybe its not so easy... Since Saturday I've thought of a load of questions I should have asked at the techie tips - questions about CSS, how my photo formatting has changed since going self hosted.. Basically I was completely ill-prepared - I'm not quite sure what I really wanted to get out of the day (and I'm still not entirely sure what I want out of my blog ultimately). Nice to meet you and a handful of other people whose blogs I love too though X

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    1. YES! I need to know about CSS. (No idea what it is... Chocolate Spread Synchronisation?)

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  4. Great tips. I can't seem to get into a posting rhythm. Sometimes life's too busy to write or too dull to have anything to write about! I have no idea a bout adsense, I'm too lazy to try and monetise my blog :-0 #binkylinky

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  5. Fab tips! I think when you are passionate about something, it becomes easy to write, the more you write, the more you write! Thanks for linking up to #brilliantblogposts, please add my badge or link back if you can, thanks!

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  6. Brilliant tips! I wish Id spent more time reading things like this before diving in with both feet. I'm just twittering to network so it's goos to know that's all you really do, i'm tottering on google. I love the cows photo, much appreciated x #binkylinky

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    1. Ah - you're welcome. Good luck with the road ahead. xx

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  7. Great tips. Thanks for sharing. I love blogging! I find it therapeutic! I agree with Honest Mum, the more you write the easier it gets! Thanks for linking up to the #binkylinky

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  8. Great post, Lottie! You know more than you think you know, young Jedi. I especialy agree with the point about only give the time you have - though I must advise you to stop disregarding your own advice and kicking yourself ;) (She says, writing a blog comment at nearly midnight! Go to bed, self!). x

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  9. Great tips for a new blogger like me :) I have just started my blog and will attempt to follow these points :D

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  10. Love the cows photo! The tips are nice too. I would have gone anonymous but its too late for me. There are so many posts that I cant publish and is just part of my private entries cuz my mother is reading my blog and I dont want to make her worry of my present state. #binkylinky

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  11. Wonderful tips as usual Lottie. Out of curiosity - as I'm also anonymous - how do you do the whole blogging event thing. I'd like to, but don't want to out myself. (Oh...and as for the email thing, I keep that compeltely separate so I never have to worry about it. I did accidentally use my first name in a blog email once...but now have a sig so it never happens again).

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    1. Thanks Liv - you're so kind! It was a fairly big deal to decide to attend Blogfest, but I went as 'Lottie' and, as I don't know any bloggers 'pre-blog', I thought I'd be pretty unlucky to meet someone I knew there! It was weird though, and I felt like I was wearing someone else's clothes.

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    2. That would be weird. There's one in the neighboring metropolis, but I'd be scared to death to run into someone I know.

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  12. some great tips there. I certainly find a good image like your cows helps ;-)

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