I usually don’t feel competent or comfortable giving blogging advice – my blog doesn’t hang out in the “how-to” category much (unless we’re talking about something insane like how to make a Breastmilk Smoothie or a Presidential Christmas Gift list). Out of my 1,200+ posts, only one (before this one) has ever been on the topic of blogging itself.
But last week, I really stepped out of my comfort zone and spoke on a blogging panel organized by See Jane Write. The organizer, Javacia, was kind enough to give us a list of possible topics beforehand. So to quell my nervousness, I made ridiculously geeky copious notes (of which I geekily shuffled through the entire presentation). Some of these topics we discussed and some we didn’t, but I wanted to go ahead and publish my notes in hopes that they may be useful to someone.
I really wish I had been taking notes on the stellar advice of my fellow panelists, Jen and Laura Kate and Trish from Birmingham Mommy – those girls are awesome!! But I wasn’t that coordinated. So since I don’t have theirs, mine will have to do. And go visit their blogs – you won’t regret it!
Choosing a Topic and Platform
Is a topic or niche for your blog necessary?
If you have a sustainable, passionate topic, go for it! (Ask yourself: can you write about this subject forever?) If not, there’s nothing wrong with a variety show. I love keeping it fresh and surprising my readers with varying topics – they never know what they’re going to find when they click on my site.
And sometimes, NOT having a niche helps have a wider reading audience.
Three Main Choices: Blogger, WordPress.org, WordPress.com
- Pros: Easy to start, easy to understand, easy to customize, easy to code, free.
- Cons: VERY buggy (and they don’t care much to fix them), considered “immature” (who cares?), not dynamic.
- WordPress.com: (only one I haven’t used – not an expert)
- Pros: secure, moderate to start & understand, free.
- Cons: not dynamic, not customizable, no widgets, cannot have any sidebar ads.
- WordPress.org (this is what I use now):
- Pros: most dynamic, widgetable, customizable, professional platform.
- Cons: Expensive (you have to buy your own domain and hosting), you’re responsible for hosting & backups, hard to start & understand, and apparently easy to hack.
- Net: If you’re planning on being a professional blogger, use WordPress.org. Otherwise, use Blogger. There doesn’t seem to be any value added in using WordPress.com over Blogger.
- Also, if you use WordPress.org, invest in using Vaultpress for your backups – they do a stellar job and offer great service if you ever have a problem with your site.
How did you get into blogging? When did you start and what prompted you to do so? Even though it was my dream and plan from the time I was a little girl to become a stay at home Mom, it was a very difficult transition for me. Going from a very fast-paced career as a small business accounting department manager to “so my job is to sit on this couch and hold a screaming, non-responsive infant. All day long.” was bizarre. I was lonely, I didn’t know what I was doing, and I needed an outlet.
Blogging allowed me the social interaction I missed, the opportunity to document my child, and, therefore, appreciate the moments more, and gave me an objective goal – something to feel like I’d accomplished something by the end of the day.
When I first considered blogging, though, I thought no one would want to read about my life. But after realizing I enjoyed reading other Mommy Blogs, I decided to give it a try. I was immediately hooked. The name of my blog stated the purpose of it: Grasping for Objectivity in my Subjective Life.
Getting an Audience
- Use your social network (Twitter, Facebook, etc), but don’t abuse your social network (Don’t let your only statuses be links to your blog). Invite your family and friends to read – there’s no easier, more loyal audience to place as your blog’s cornerstone.
- Be reciprocal – if someone visits your blog and comments, go to their blog and get to know them! Respond to their comment by email if you can, but visit them as well. They want you to be as interested in them as they are in you. Readers will almost all eventually wander off if you ignore them. Plus, the main fun in blogging is the relationships.
- Comment, Comment, Comment. But be relational – don’t comment just to get a comment back – comment to become friends. Many bloggers will abide by the be reciprocal rule and come visit your blog.
- Find a like-minded blog community and get involved in it. I did this with 5 Minutes for Mom – I remember when I first started participating in their site – I felt like a tiny piece of sand on a huge beach – but now I’ve met them in person multiple times, have worked for them at BlogHer, and write for them from time to time. There are many of these types of networking sites available .. BlogHer, SITS, Alabama Bloggers, Birmingham Mommy … find one that fits your blog’s niche.
- Talk and interact with other bloggers on Twitter.
- I also have a secondary blog, B-Sides, which is where I put things that I want to document about my family but that would probably be boring for non-grandmothers. This keeps my main blog from becoming overcrowded.
Monetizing your Blog:
- Set ethical guidelines for yourself and stick to them. Your integrity is much easier lost than gained.
- Don’t compromise your writing for the dollar – i.e., don’t significantly change your writing style, topic, or ethics to make money – it will steal your joy of writing and you will find yourself wondering why you started writing in the first place. If making money requires you to lose the reason you started blogging, then it’s not worth it.
- Focus on your writing and building relationships with your readers, not money. If you focus on the money and try to blog to make money, you you will never get there. If money is the reason you’re blogging, do something more profitable with your time – because you can make a lot more doing other things!
- For every dollar you make, you are selling – and potentially cheapening – some part of your blog. Make sure what you are selling is worth the money that you’re making. Some ads cost you little (sidebar ads, footers on particular posts), but some ads cost you mightily (“tricky” links within posts, taking your readers to something that has nothing to do with the post. This will sour your readers toward you). Just because the money is good doesn’t mean it’s worth it for what you’re giving to the advertisers.
- Don’t do ads that only pay you when your readers click on their ads (i.e. Google Ads) – you will never win. Accept ads that are commission based on the number of total hits your site receives or even better, pay an upfront, annual fee.
- Have a media kit stating your site overview and stats, your policies and guidelines, and your advertising rates. Send this back to anyone inquiring about buying ad space on your site.
- Ads paid upfront are almost always negotiable – if they offer you one price, you can counter-offer and will usually get it.
- The Blogher Ad Network is a great place to start. It’s almost always listed as closed, but if you email them, they’re often open to taking new members.
Finding time to blog regularly: if you begin to make time for it, it will become a part of your schedule. Not very helpful, but true. My blogging time is during my kid’s naptimes and my husband’s running time.
Tips for generating ideas:
- If a crazy idea pops into your head, nurse it, water it, fertilize it. If you find yourself overanalyzing something ridiculous, do the same. Some of my best posts were random observations that I found myself speaking out loud before I thought about them, then realized they’d be really fun blog posts. Examples: Carnivorous Creations, Mom Jeans, Mommy Scouts.
- Find interesting and unique ways to tell a story. Don’t just tell it, but craft it – weave it. Fit it into a creative framework. Examples: Kiosk Warfare, The Placenta Post.
- Go on adventures. Do crazy things. It will give you plenty of blog content and a bit of fun. Examples: Uncles Joe’s Tot Locker, I Adore My Husband Even When He’s An…
Beyond the Blog – generating opportunities, particularly writing opportunities • Network, meet people in person, accept menial jobs at first – they will lead to bigger ones, get involved in networks. I’ve stayed fairly true to my blog, so I didn’t have much input on this.
30 Second Elevator Pitch – I stink at this. I’ve never had a good one. The best way I can think to describe my blog is a variety show of the minutia of my mind.
How long is too long for a blog post? I try to keep the majority of my posts under 700 words (unlike this one). I try never to go over 1,500 words. However, my most popular post ever was over 2,000 words, so if it’s good enough, break the rules.
How do you get ideas for posts and what do you do when you’re facing blogger’s block? I have spurts of ideas. I can go a week without a single creative idea, then get four in one day. I just try not to panic and wait for them to come to me.
As I mentioned, I also occasionally am given ideas from others – my husband and even my readers send me things they think I should blog about. I love this – it feels like receiving a bonus check in the mail!
I also don’t force writing – if I have nothing to blog about, I don’t blog.
How often do you blog? In general, how often do you think a blog should be updated? On average, 5 times a week. When I started, I blogged 2-3 times a day, then settled into once a day, then gave myself Saturdays off, then when I got pregnant and was horrifically sick, let myself off the hook for a daily schedule.
I like the freedom of knowing that if I don’t have anything to blog about today, I don’t have to blog and my readers won’t freak. I think a blog should be updated at least 3 times a week to maintain interest and a loyal readership.
Any tips on making time to blog on a regular basis? Let things stew in your mind all day long so that when you sit down at the computer, all you have to do is type.
Let me know if you have any questions or would like for me to expound on any of the above topics – I will answer any and all questions in the comments section.