Monday, September 14, 2015

The Dos & Don'ts of Blogging—Blogging for Writers, Part Three

by Edie Melson @EdieMelson


Dos & Don'ts of Blogging

I love to blog, and I try to share my love of blogging when I teach at writing conferences.

I also know that many of you aren’t such fans. Many try to love blogging because it’s a good way to connect with readers and build an online presence. Others, don’t even try to love it, but do it out of necessity. The rest are like me, and enjoy the process as well as the connections it brings.

No matter where you are with blogging, it’s important to do it well. Whether you blog twice a month on a group blog, or daily on your own site, there are some essential dos and don’ts of blogging that I’d like to share today.

Blogging is a great way to build relationships with our audience. 

But a lot of people forget that, just like building relationship in person, it’s never a good idea to talk so much that others don’t have a chance to share their thoughts. 

I often visit blogs where I want to ask the blogger, “Are you blogging or lecturing?” There are things we can do to make sure our posts encourage conversation. And there are things we can do that discourage interaction.

The Dos of Blogging
End EVERY blog post with an open-
ended question.
  • End every blog post with an open-ended question. It’s not enough to ask a question at the end of the post. We must make sure the answer to the question isn’t just yes or no.
  • Make sure the question posed doesn’t have an assumed right or wrong answer. This will shut down conversation even faster than a yes or no question. If we ask a question that has a definite right or wrong answer, very few people will be willing to risk the wrong answer. And after several have answered the question correctly, we’ll find no one else is answering because they feel like everything that needs to be said has been said.
  • Ask readers to share an experience that relates to the post. Sometimes a blog post won’t lend itself to a question. In those instances we can encourage our audience to share their experience.
  • Ask readers to add to a list of suggestions or tips that have been shared. I do that a lot on here. (And I’ll do it at the end of this post.) Again, if a question isn’t appropriate or feel right, ask them to contribute to the topic already introduced.
Avoid using the pronoun you whenever possible.
  • Avoid using the pronoun you whenever possible. This is especially true if the post is pointing out something negative. Using the word you carries a finger-pointing connotation that we want to avoid. For example, in the point above, I would never say, “you must make sure the answer to the question isn’t just yes or no.” Instead, I phrased it, “We must make sure the answer to the question isn’t just yes or no.” 
  • Share your own personal experience. If we’re asking someone else to share, we need to make sure our blogs are a safe place for that. Going first rarely feels safe. So I always try to make sure I share my own experience before asking my readers to share theirs.
  • Always try to answer blog comments. This doesn’t mean every single comment has to be answered individually, although I do try to do that. It’s important that your readers don’t feel like they’re commenting to nobody.
  • Do Keep a Schedule: I’ve said it before and I’ll continue to say it until the day I die. If we expect our readers to come back regularly, we must be dependable. How often would you visit a business if you never knew whether or not it would be open? If we don’t have a new post up when we say we will, it’s like we’re not open for business.
  • Do Include Social Media Links in Your Sidebar: Don’t miss out on valuable connections on other networks just because you’ve forgotten to add social media links to your blog.
  • Do Use Proper Formatting & Images: This means utilize bold headings, bullet points, and images to illustrate your posts. Proper formatting will break up the text and make the blog easier to be read. Make your post scannable. This proves your post’s value and makes it more likely to be read.    

The Don’ts of Blogging
  • Don’t Make Your Post too Long: The ideal post length is between 500-700 words. Any longer and it’s much less likely to be read. Yes, there are exceptions. But those exceptions are just that, and many bloggers I talk to think they're the exception but they aren’t. It’s a hard truth, but shorter posts will up the engagement and readership of 98% of the blogs out there.
Don't Make Your Blog Hard to Read!
  • Don’t Make Your Blog Hard to Read: Make sure the font used is a sans-serif font, like the one used here, which is VERDANA. As opposed to a serif font, like this one: Times New Roman. Also make sure your font is large enough to be easily read. Finally, be careful which colors you choose for your blog.
  • Don’t Use Vague Titles for Blog Posts: Our audience will judge our posts on the expectations we set in the titles we choose. Also, social media is often a world without context. Use this question when choosing a title: If someone were to only read the title, would they know what the post was about? If the answer’s no, then choose another title.
  • Don’t Clutter Your Blog’s Sidebar: The sidebar of our blogs should be organized in the order of importance. If the most important thing to you is having people sign up for updates for your blog, then email and RSS signups should be at the top of your sidebar. If it’s hard for people to find your sign up or your social media links, you’re missing out on building your online audience.
Remember the main purpose of blogging is building relationships. 

It's our job to make visitors feel welcome.
To build those relationships, we have to be good hosts when it comes to our blogs and make our readers fee welcome. We have to make it a place where people want to visit and want join the conversation. 

What makes you feel welcome when you visit a blog? What turns you off? Be sure to leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

Don't forget to join the conversation!
Blessings,
Edie

TWEETABLES


If you've missed the previous posts in this series, here are the direct links:

Blogging For Writers

13 comments:

  1. Thanks Edie....Your tips on choosing a title were very help to me. Often times, I would choose a "cutesy" title. It makes a lot of sense that the title, at least for a blog, should give reference to what the blog is about. Your list of do's and don'ts have helped a lot.

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    1. Sheryl, for those of us who love words, choosing literal titles can be tough. But it will definitely payoff with Search Engine Optimization. Thanks for sharing! Blessings, E

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  2. Thank you Edie. Your information is always pertinent to me. I need to make more bullet points. If you ever need a blog to critique to educate others you are more than welcome to use mine. I have seen improvement in my blog by following your advice, but it still needs work. Thanks again for all the help you provide.

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    1. Cherrilynn, I never considered critiquing a blog live. I like that idea! I'll contact you to schedule it for the end of this series!!! Thanks so much! Blessings, E

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  3. Edie, your blog is my top go-to site. I find it so helpful to this very green blogger. I am pretty much clueless when it comes to doing anything with my blog besides posting. I'm on Wordpress and I haven't found the time to figure out how to implement all of your tips. I feel like I just crawled out of my "I hate technology covers," so it is a challenge for me. I don't understand widgets, sidebars, top posts, etc...

    I love the open ended question suggestion and will utilize that right away! It seems like people are reading, but not commenting, and I think I've found the missing link!

    Thank you for your tips and encouragement!
    Trish

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    1. Trish, it's sooooo easy to get overwhelmed. Don't try to implement everything at once. You're doing the right thing by taking things slowly. Be sure to let me know if you have any specific WordPress questions. I can help with that too. Blessings, E

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  4. Thanks, Edie. I realized I forgot to answer the above question at the end of your post. What makes me feel welcome is the wounded still a little raw, when the words bleed. If I feel a person's pain and let their blood stain me to the point I can't get that blood stain out, Then I feel like there has been a collision of souls. A knitting together of kin. Don't hide when you write, tell me you're dirty. Cry broken. Then drag me to the cross with you. Don't pretend you've arrived ahead of me. Don't point out our sin without thinning your own forest. Take me in with metaphors that sing to my soul. Work at writing like we work out our salvation in fear and trembling. I wrote a comment on The Write Practice Today that made my hands shake. Don't think whipping out a string of words in a matter of seconds wrapped in a timer will even knock on my soul. I can't know you then and you really don't want to know me. Sort of like when we think we know Jesus when we read someone else's one page devotion and try and fuel every relationship on that. When really we were meant to study steady...study Jesus and let His words wash us as we meditate on them, hating to leave that place where we are kissed by holy. I want to know what that is like for you and how he washed you in blood and scrubbed you raw in mercy. Share it with me till I feel the bristles.

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  5. Hi Edie. Thanks so much for all the info and reminders. After five years of blogging and a long break, I'm trying to get going again. Although I like my home page, I'm wondering if I need to update it. I'm no longer a newbie to blogging but I still am such a novice, maybe the disclaimer is appropriate.

    I'm looking for a Christian Writers Group in or near Wilmington, NC. Do you know of any Christian writers in this area?

    Sure miss you and Vonda!!!

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    1. Liz, we miss you too! I'll check and see what I can find about a writers group. Will you email me privately with your email address so I can let you know what I find out? ediegmelson@gmail.com

      I'll also take a look at your blog. I usually update my site every year or two. It's not required, but I can't seem to stop myself. Blessings, E

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  6. These are more useful tips and some I forget to use. It's always great to read them again and do my checklist to see if I am following what readers want. Thanks!

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    1. Barbara, it's hard to remember everything. I think a checklist is a good idea. I have one I use. Thanks for dropping by, Blessings, E

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  7. Edie, thanks for the advice. You mentioned choosing the right colors for blogs. Do you mean we should avoid text colors that might be unseen by color-blind folks, or something else? Like design colors overall?

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