Monday 19 March 2012

Blogging Part One: 20 Basic Tips

This post was originally posted by Ruth Crean on her blog Nice Day Designs, and was republished here to help all the members with their blogs.

This will be a 3 part series dealing with basics of blogging, design, and promotion. Today I'll be doing the basics, I wrote an article last year on this for Etsy Ireland  ,some of the info is out of date because of the changes made this year to blogger, but there are still some helpful tips for total beginners. The following post will be published weekly each Monday, so stay tuned!

Firstly you have to decide if blogging for you, lots of crafts people feel that they have to have one because everyone else does, or that it's hurting their business not to have a blog. Now that we have things like Facebook and Twitter there is really no need to start blogging if it would feel like a chore. It's just as easy to share your new creations on FB/Twitter, and there is not as much pressure to write. So if you like writing, would enjoy getting involved in the community of bloggers, and don't mind putting in lots of work for free then you have found your calling as a blogger. I've been blogging for nearly 5 years now, and I started it because I missed writing. In my day to day life there is no reason for me to write, and between the years of finishing college and starting Nice Day Designs the only things I composed were emails. I don't claim to be a great writer, but it's a hobby that makes me happy, so starting my own blog seemed like a perfect forum for my ramblings.

So now you need to choose who to go with. Most web designers and bloggers will say Wordpress , as it has more potential down the line to make it feel more like a website rather than a blog. I went through a phase of being very frustrated with Blogger, but I've stuck with it over the years. With all the developments they have made in the past 6 months it's an incredibly easy to use site, and might be preferable to beginners. I've tried Wordpress and I wasn't really a fan. but that's probably because I'm so used to Blogger. There is a handy table here to show you the comparison between the two to help you decide. Most established blogs seem to switch over at some point to Wordpress, and to be honest I'm still toying with the idea, but it can be expensive to hire someone to do it. I just found this ebook that came highly recommended to help guide you through the switch over process if it looks like your blog turns from a hobby to a more committed thing.

1. Think about your content, but don't stress over it. When starting your blog think about what you are trying to say overall and who your readers might be. This will help you come up with new posts when you are having an off day. Example this is a craft blog and I wanted to keep my own personal voice. Which means I have a mostly female readership, which in turn will be interested in things like fashion and handsome men! Hence the addition of things like my 'What I'm Wearing' series and 'Hotty but Notty'. Content is key, you will not keep readers if they feel you are writing it as a chore to help promote your business. I've seen an endless raft of blogs like this and I never go back to them.

2. Post regularly and consistently. If you are a once a week blogger then choose a particular day. Don't have 10 posts in 5 days and then nothing for a month.

3. Choosing themed days might help you with get over any writers block. We used this to great effect on the Etsy Ireland Team blog, there was how-to tuesday, and fab 5 friday. You don't need to catagorise your whole week but it's handy to have an old reliable, and it's also nice for readers too as they know what to expect. I'm a particular fan of mags Pretty Boy/Girl Friday.

4. Link as much as you can when you are talking about something. People who read blogs want information. If you are writing about crafts link to your shop, where you got your supplies, and what craft books you are reading. This is done by highlighting the word in question and clicking the link option.

4. When linking always have the option 'open this link in a new window', that means that you are not sending your reader away from your site. It's very easy for a reader to get distracted in that new site and not go back to yours, whereas if they still have your site open in a window they will most likely go back to it.

5. Refer back to old articles on your blog when you are writing, like above I mentioned yesterday's post and also the article I wrote for Etsy Ireland. This will get people interested in your back catalogue.

6. Another handy tool for this is Link Within, that's the little pictures you see at the end of each blog post show you older and related posts. As a blog reader find these really helpful and have often spent a half hour on someone's site reading their older posts. It's really easy to install with their step by step guide.

7. Please turn off the Captcha if you are on blogger! Loads of people hate them and it puts them off commenting. If you are concerned about security then moderate your comments, or what I do is moderate on comments older than 14 days. I have had spam bots post tonnes of comments, but after I made the older posts moderation I haven't had any trouble.

8. Scheduling your posts is a great way to get posts written for the week when you have spare time. Monday is usually my blogging day and i space them out over the week.

9.Interact with other blogs, when you read an interesting article, don't be silent, leave a comment. The blogger will appreciate it and other readers will click your link and go to your blog. Try to do this a much as possible.

10. Respond to comments left on your blog. I don't respond to every single one, but when a few have build up I leave one comment responding to a few people at once. If you notice a new commenter visit their site and leave a comment on their blog about something they have written, it's only polite.

11.Give credit. If you are not using your own photos, or if you found a great crafting tutorial make sure to link to the original site, otherwise you are stealing the image/how-to. Most bloggers don't mind if you link to their work without asking permission first as it will drive traffic to their site. Again it's about being polite.

12. Please don't have music on your blog, or if you really want it let it be optional. A lot of people read blogs in the office(when they meant to be working) so the last thing they want is an announcement to other satff that they are skiving off. Even though I work from home I find it annoying and distracting, most of the time I click out of the site.

13. Share your skills. Lots of my favourite blogs are informative by either doing craft how-to's, marketing tips or cookery suggestions. If you have a hidden skill people want to know about it. Do you have an amazing recipe for chili, or a genius list of uses for vinegar? Let the world know about it by writing a how-to/guide.Be careful not to spill all your business secrets though, if you teach people how to make all the products that you sell they might not buy from you. Lupin Handsmade balances this line very well.

14. Don't obsess over you visitors numbers, it can take a long time to get established. It's only in the past year that I'm getting a decent amount of hits per day, and even at that they are fairly small compared to other craft site. Remember to be patient, but also remember to enjoy it and not stress over the figures. In later articles I'll give tips on driving traffic9although I'm no expert!)

15. Use lots of photos, number one they serve to break up the text, at heart we are all children who love picture books. I like to upload my pictures as extra large and centred, this avoids tricky formatting trying to integrate them into the text.

16. Link your images where possible, most blog readers expect this(I know I do). For example when I doing an etsy finds post I link the image to the item(by highlighting the photo and clicking link) I also type in a description and price underneath, and I also link this. I tried using the add caption option and linking this but that means that when you click the image you get an error notice. I prefer to put in the extra effort and link both separately.

17. I prefer having a long list of posts rather than having to click older posts repeatedly. It's totally your preference, but I get get bored if the whole rage has to reload every time I want to read an older article. I limit mine to 15 posts.

18. Intersperse weightier more time consuming posts, like this one, with lighter quick posts like my beardy post last week. Otherwise you will be a slave to your computer and not have a life.

19. Mix things up, don't just blog about one thing. If i just blogged about the crafts that I make I would bore myself and my readers to tears. I have other interests so I share them here, it gives a more personal and fuller perspective about who i am. You never know what will appeal to readers, my most popular post of all time is how hot Dave Grohl is.

20. Don't over share. I'm all for letting people in and showing my vulnerable side, but I still treat this site as a face for my business. I don't talk about my sex life, or bitch about people I have issue with. Your blog, especially  business blog, is about putting your best foot forward.

Most importantly have fun!

Stay tuned next week for part two on the importance of design.

Useful Links:
Blogging Your Passion 
Get a more professional looking blog.
The Backlight-loads of blogging tips
Blogging Myths
50 tips to battle writers block
The Art of the Article

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  1. Loads of helpful advice - thanks Ruth! I'm thinking about starting a blog at some stage so I'll know where to come back to when I do!

  2. I must pass this on to Carla, she writes most of our blog but thank you so much for the tips.

  3. Thank you for sharing this information!

  4. Great source of information This is great timing for me as I just gave my blog an overhaul over the bank holiday.

  5. Great post full of very useful tips. I agree with you, writing fulfills another creative need, doesn't it?
    I have two blogs, one on blogger and one on the Irish site, Fondelifair linked to my other store there. Twice the work but I'm hoping they will reach different people...but I fear one will have to go eventually.

  6. Glad these tips were useful to everyone, make sure to read the other two posts too!