I am glad that what has essentially been a rather difficult year has come to an end and (like most others, I am sure) I’m in a reflective mood. I had prepared several posts that reviewed the various events of the last twelve months, but I decided to combine them.
At times, I can be extremely lazy.
A year ago this blog didn’t exist. I created it in April after spending years writing random thoughts in various notebooks, which I never finished – Paperchase was making a fortune from me and my bedroom cupboard was stacked with beautiful books that all contained one or two pages of (often repeated) scribblings. The Bloke, my partner of four years, directed me to WordPress and thus Suzie81 was born. I chose the name quickly and without much thought – my name and the year I was born – I didn’t have any expectations, other than perhaps a few nerves about it being discovered by people that I know, I had no plan, theme or any idea of what I wanted to write about – the important thing was the process of writing itself.
In the last eight months my little blog, and my life, has grown beyond all expectations. As I write, I have gained over 3,000 followers and my posts have received over 70,000 views. Compared to some, this is tiny, but I have been absolutely gobsmacked by the response that I have received. I’ve been spoilt with nominations for numerous awards, I was Freshly Pressed in November and for the first time in years I have a project that I never seem to get bored of – I love every minute of it and can easily spend hours at a time reading posts and writing my own. I have found something that I genuinely want to do. I’ve met some amazing people, formed small relationships with them and I have started to get to know a little about their interesting lives.
For me, blogging has involved trial, error and experimentation. I’ve tried things that have been successful and lots of things that haven’t, and if I were to go back to the beginning I would change quite a few elements of the way I originally started. I have posted this sort of thing several times before over the last few months, but I hope that by sharing my successes and mistakes it can be useful to some of the newer followers I have gained recently.
A theme is not necessarily important, but a title is.
I hate the name of my blog. With blogging, as with life, I am impatient and hastily chose a name so I could get started quickly and as a result I am now contemplating changing it to something more representative of myself and my writing. Take a little time to think about who you are and what message you have, and choose a title that will draw others in. However, despite what seems to be common opinion, the content of your blog doesn’t have to have a specific theme – I’ve written about everything from books, films, politics, my daily adventures and things that I have experienced, to opinions on controversial topics, things that amuse me and I have taken the opportunity to post photographs that I have taken. Whatever you choose to write about, you will always find others that share similar interests.
Choose a layout that is easy to follow.
As with my title, I dislike my layout. It has taken two or three changes to get an idea of what I actually do want, but I wish I had taken more time to do this in the beginning. Choose your layout wisely – I have read hundreds of posts that are very difficult to read because of a clash of colour or font, with no links to other posts, and this discourages me from continuing further.
Quantity versus quality.
I originally felt that it was important to post as much as possible, as often as possible and in a way, I still stand by this. The more consistent you are in your approach to blogging, the more likely that your traffic will increase. There are no set amount of times you should post – I follow bloggers that post daily (sometimes three or four times daily), weekly and monthly. However, avoid posting something just for the sake of it. When I first started I was excited and desperate to release all the different thoughts that were swimming around in my head, but upon reflection I should have slowed down and thought about it a little more. I reviewed my earlier posts about a month ago and was genuinely disappointed by what I saw, so I am now in the process of deleting some and re-writing others. Out of the 550 posts I have churned out this year, I think that about 10% of those are what I would consider to be of an acceptable standard, with a further 10% that need editing. Content is king.
Read, read and read again.
I’ve lost count of the amount of times I have published something and then noticed mistakes. Take time to actually read what you’ve written before you post it. Incidentally, while we are on the subject, avoid writing like you would on Facbook and Twitter. I’ve said this before, and I may sound snobbish for doing so, but I switch off the minute I read ‘lol’ and ‘so, like.’
Credit where credit is due.
Use images – it will make your site far more interesting. Make sure that your images are of good quality and are relevant to the topic of your post or you may confuse your readers. If you use something that you haven’t created, make sure that you credit the person who did. I still occasionally forget to do this. However, I would like to add here that I personally do not wish to see harrowing images of cruelty – I appreciate if a blogger is discussing a particularly heartbreaking subject, but these images stay with me for a long time. I’ll read a post about dog fighting and what can be done to stop it, but I don’t want to see pictures of it. This is one of the reasons why I rarely use Facebook.
Blogging is hard work – building traffic.
If you have your sights set on becoming a professional blogger, be prepared to really work for it. Unless you create a post that goes viral, your blog is not going to be a success overnight. Or over a year. Or two. Or even five. Your blog will not be viewed by 50 million people simply by pressing the ‘publish’ button. If you are a stat whore, (as I have become) the number of views you will receive will depend on the way you promote your blog:
- Meet other bloggers. Read their posts, chat, get to know them a little. WordPress offers Daily Prompts, Weekly Writing Challenges, Weekly Photo Challenges and a Community Pool that provides fantastic opportunities to meet others who are covering the same topics. However, if you wish to build more of a relationship with others, avoid the ‘follow to get a follow’ policy. I have noticed that this started to creep in recently – I instantly move away upon pleas for follows, likes and reblogs. I follow a blog because I like it, not because they have asked me to.
- Tag your posts properly. The tags should relate to the content of your posts and will help you reach readers with similar interests. When I first started, I only used two or three, now I use between eight and twelve.
- Use a catchy title. These will instantly grab the attention of a passing reader.
- Use other forms of social media and include an email button. Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Linkedin… all are extremely useful for promoting your blog to a wider audience. I don’t have a Facebook link and only recently joined Twitter, and if I were to do this again I would establish these links earlier.
- Host ‘Blog Parties.’ Invite bloggers to share their favourite post and encourage them to meet others. However, you should only do this when you have a larger following or you may end up being sorely disappointed. Trust me.
- Share the work of others. There are some bloggers that have been extremely generous when promoting my posts and as a result I have gained lots of new followers. I like to return the favour by reblogging posts from some of my favourite blogs. I have also invited lots of guest bloggers to write post for me, and have guest blogged on other sites.
- Take the time to respond to those that comment on your work. As my following has grown I have found this increasingly difficult but I try to reply them as often as possible – a lovely comment boosts my confidence in my writing and I always try and say thank you. Avoid any trolls that may come your way – I’ve had little experience with these but I have seen others who have received quite a bit of backlash, mainly due to the jealously of others at their successes.
Bloggers enjoy a debate.
When discussing a somewhat controversial subject, invite others to give their opinion. Questions as simple as ‘What do you think?’ at the end of a post will encourage readers to join in. I’ve had lots of really interesting discussions as a result of this.
Most importantly, enjoy what you write about.
I’ve slugged away at many posts that I haven’t been happy with and as a result I haven’t received the response that I wanted. Your passion for your subject will be evident to your readers and will encourage them to read on. Isn’t that the point of writing in the first place? Again, content is king.
What do you think? Have you got any useful hints and tips for new bloggers?
You can also find me on Twitter @Suzie81blog