Blog School Prefect: Allison Tait : Life In A Pink Fibro
Blogging is not writing… and 9 other tips for writing your best blog
In the nearly three years I’ve been blogging, I’ve written 655 posts. It would be more, but I decided, after two years of blogging six days a week, that I needed to cut back. It wasn’t that my habit was out of control or anything. Oh no. I can stop any time I want. Really. More that I realised I could direct the extra 100,000 words or so that I’d save into other projects. Like an entire novel. Blogging uses a lot of words. A lot of thoughts. A lot of ideas. Which is why I thought I’d put this post together. With 10 great tips – mine and others – for writing your best blog. Note I say your best blog. Because your best blog and my best blog are two completely different animals. But we’ll get to that.
1. Blogging is not writing. When I started my blog on a dare in January 2010, I thought that blogging was just writing on the internet. I could do that. I’d been writing professionally for more years than we need to discuss here. (You can read my first post here if you’d like to see it in all its glory – I still think the first post is the hardest.)
Unfortunately, it took me a while to work out that blogging and writing are two different things. Not completely different. Blogging does, by its very nature, incorporate writing. But there is so much more to it.
When you write a blog post, it’s not just about you. The minute it goes out there into The Great Wherever, it becomes public property. And The Great Wherever will write back. What with all the popping into other people’s blogs that you do, and all the popping into yours that others do, you become, well, neighbours. And neighbours interact. Just like in the good old days when one, gasp, actually spoke to the people next door, so it is with blogs.
My point (and I do have one)? Be personal, be intimate, but don’t put anything on your blog that you don’t want your neighbours gossiping about.
2. The story is at the heart of everything. You’ve heard people talk about how ‘content is king’. It’s true. Put your best self out there every day and people will come back for more. One very good blogger I know puts it this way: “I write my blog every day as though it’s the first day that every reader will visit it. What do I want them to see?” Write a great story and the SEO and all that other technical stuff will look after itself. (See point 4 about getting closer – get close enough and the keywords come naturally.)
3. Get Close. Intimacy is the key to good blogging. I’m not talking about revealing every detail of your life (though feel free to do this if you so desire). More to strip back your writing ‘voice’ to its bare basics. The easiest way to do this, I find, is to try stream-of-consciousness blogging. Write it all down exactly as it first appears in your mind. Every word. Don’t try to edit it as you go – you can do that later. Don’t try to make it sound ‘writerly’. What you’re looking for is the essence of you. Blog the way you talk. It’s that simple.
4. Get closer. The biggest mistake that many bloggers make, from my perspective, is trying to tell the whole story. Nobody needs the whole story. What they need is the one moment that tells the whole story. The angle is important. If you find that your posts are rambling (and, really, short is usually better on a blog), hone in on the best bits. Just tell those.
5. Think about your audience. While most bloggers say they blog for themselves, the truth is that there is a contract in place in a blog – you write, someone (hopefully) reads. If that weren’t the case, you’d be writing in a diary with a combination lock on the front. With that in mind, you need to allow room for those readers (invite those neighbours in!). Leave some space in your posts to allow your readers to find the universal heart of what you’re writing and to share their experiences. This is also the key to getting those comments that all bloggers love.
6. Blog smarter, not harder. Annabel Candy, the brains behind Successful Blogging, believes that you need to give your writing its best possible chance through clever formatting. “Online, you never know what people will read first, or even which page of your blog they’ll arrive at first,” she says. “That’s a challenge, and bloggers should bear it in mind when they design their blogs.
“Remember too that readers tend to scan information online. So blog post formatting is crucial. No matter how good your writing is, if the formatting or layout is bad, people won’t read it. Simple tricks like including sub-headlines or bullet-pointed lists are easy to learn and will keep readers happy.”
7. What you say versus how you say it. In the ‘content is king’ debate, there’s often discussion over which is more important, what you say, or how you say it. I asked Darren Rowse, the Problogger himself, for his verdict:
“I think it’s both,” he says. “What you say is of vital importance – it needs to be useful to people in some way. I find that the best content is content that solves a need that somebody has. That need might be a big or important one like ‘I need to know how to raise my child’. Or it could be something a little more frivolous, like ‘I’m bored – entertain me’.
“How you say it is just as important though – in some ways, I think it is often what lifts good content to being great content. Your style or voice as a blogger is something that for most people comes over time and is hard to teach. Some bloggers just seem to be born with it (Mojo), while for others it develops as they experiment with different approaches to writing and see how others respond to it.”
8. Proofread your work. I know the temptation is strong to simply put the full stop on that last sentence and hit Publish. But try to resist. Check the spelling. Make sure the last sentence has a full stop. Ensure you have no extraneous words (as I often do) where you’ve changed your mind halfway through a sentence and haven’t quite deleted the earlier version. A good blog is a clean blog. It really does matter.
9. Posting every day is not as easy as it sounds. Blogging experts will tell you that you must post frequently and consistently in order to find an audience. What they don’t mention is that posting every day and not writing about what you had for dinner can sometimes be very difficult. I think it’s a matter of finding your own rhythm and posting to it.
10. You do what you do. My mum is a very wise woman. One of her best pieces of advice ever? “You do what you do.” Always useful in those moments when you’re second-guessing yourself. Looking at everyone else. Wondering why they seem to be more popular/cool/successful than you. Slanting green-eyed looks at the person next to you. Or the one across the room. Wondering if what you’re writing/saying/doing is … enough.
You do what you do. Nobody else does what you do.
Trying to be someone or something else is never the answer. The only voice that will work for you is your voice. Have confidence in that voice.
Allison Tait writes fiction, non-fiction and features. You can find more posts about writing on her blog Life In A Pink Fibro. Since she cut back on blogging, Allison spends a lot some of her time on Twitter and Facebook. Her first novel, Talk of The Town, is out through Pan.
(Buy the typewriter in the top image here!)