Blogging Basics – Part 4 {Content #2}

Hi! Thanks for stopping by and welcome to part 4 of my new Blogging Basics series!

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…you’re an absolute Blogging Newbie
…you just started blogging and you feel like you could need some helpful tips and tricks
…you have been blogging for a while but somehow feel like you might have missed out some vital steps
…you have been blogging for years but somehow you have trouble getting people to read your blog and subscribe

Last time I told you some blogging basics on your blog’s CONTENT. Since that post was getting wayyy to long (so much to say about content – yes, it’s important!), I decided to split it into two parts. Here’s the second one!

blogging basics pt 4

Part 4: Content (continuation)

#10 Avoid plagiarism & copyright violation.

Don’t copy ideas from other blogs. If you really like something and want to write about it yourself always reference, quote and provide a link back to the original source. It’s not only about infringing copyright but about being fair and respecting the ideas of others.

Besides, just copying is such a bore. Be creative, be innovative!

#11 Shorten your paragraphs.

Write in paragraphs. The shorter, the better. Writing in 500-1000 word blocks scares away readers. Using subheadings helps break up long text blocks. Pictures are also great for splitting a long text into shorter paragraphs. They also improve your posts layout a lot.

If your blog post becomes wayyyy too long, consider breaking it up in Part 1 and 2. Having sequels also helps getting people to come back to you blog.

#12 Picture quality matters.

As mentioned in my post about Layout, picture quality matters. Using pictures in your blog post is a really good thing. Looking at a magazine or website, the eye always wanders over the pictures first.

Use a good camera and try to improve your photography style over time.
Good photos are the icing on the cake for a good blog post. Be careful however a bad photo can ruin the best writing.

#13 Using pictures as cover for your posts/ photo captions.

When possible, I always try to use a cover picture for my posts. As mentioned before, pictures are a real eye-catcher. If you’re using a post teaser plug-in (what I really recommend, no more scrolling like crazy!), it’s helpful to get people to click on your article.

Good pictures always are a good hook.

#14 Get attention.

Nail your headlines. Keep them short. The title should consist of keyword phrases upon which the column is focused. It should be easy to understand, clear, content relevant and interesting.

When I started blogging, I liked having headlines that were some sort of quote, a book title or name of a movie related to my post’s content. I still think it’s nice but it’s also really distracting. People are more likely to read an article when they know what it’s about.
Having keyword phrases in your headline is also really helpful for search engine optimisation. Search engine optimisation (sometimes called SEO) is how search engines like Google look for your blog.

To support a good headline, you can use pictures as post cover. It’s also nice to include captions. You can easily add them with Photoshop or other software. Choose a nice, legible font and add some spice to your headline.

#15 Use keyword phrases when linking up.

I don’t always think of it myself, but you should try to use keyword phrases or action words for links instead of “click here”.

Always make sure the links you set up work and open in a new window. Otherwise, you run the risk of people forgetting how to get back to your blog.

#16 Proofread! (!!!)

Always, always, always proofread your posts.

I know. Sometimes you just want to get done. You have spent enough time on editing the picture already. But high quality content won’t be high quality if it’s full of spelling mistakes and grammar errors.

Sure, sometimes tiny errors hide somewhere in the text. That happens, and it’s ok.
But if your posts are teeming with spelling and grammar errors, your readers will have the impression that you just don’t make the effort to read your own writing or that it has been written on the fly. Why should they spend their time reading what your not taking the time to write.

What helps is writing your blog posts a week before publishing them. This gives you more than enough time to proofread and edit.

#17 Stay true to yourself.

I think it’s really important to be who you are. Refocus your content and get inspired, but:

Do not blog about things you do not feel comfortable with. If you write something and you really don’t enjoy it, that comes through in the writing.

Create a blog you’d enjoy reading. Create a blog you would love. Write articles you would love to read and share.

Blog from your heart.

Read Part 1 {Get People to Look at you}
Read Part 2 {Layout}
Read Part 3 {Content #1}
Read Part 4 {Content #2}
Read Part 5 {Invest your time wisely}
Read Part 6 {Grow your traffic}
Read Part 7 {Make your blog legal}

Liked it? Have feedback? Please do tell me!

And stay tuned…Part 5 of my Blogging Basics is coming up next week! The next part will be all about time management! x

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Blogging Basics – Part 3 {Content #1}

Hi! Thanks for stopping by and welcome to part 3 of my new Blogging Basics series!

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…you’re an absolute Blogging Newbie.
…you just started blogging and you feel like you could need some helpful tips and tricks
…you have been blogging for a while, but somehow feel like you might have missed out some vital steps
…you have been blogging for years, but somehow you have trouble getting people to read your blog and subscribe.

Last time I told you some blogging basics about your blog’s LAYOUT.

Today’s blogging tips are all about CONTENT!

blogging basics pt 3

Part 3: CONTENT

Whew! When I started writing this post, I didn’t know there was sooo much on my mind I had to write down. There is only so much our attention span can bare.
This is way I decided to split this post into two. (Please don’t be disappointed, the second content post is coming up soon, soon next week!)

 

#1 Find your focus and define your goals.

When you start your blog, you have to think about what you want to write about on your blog. Like readers having a specific goal when they start looking for information, you need to have a specific focus and a certain aim. You have to define your own niche.
Think about the things you enjoy writing, doing and sharing.

Do you love so many things that you can’t break it down to one? Sometimes it’s not possible to be strictly just “a food blog” or “a sewing blog”. Think of a clever way of combining your interests to make them interesting for the reader.

But stick with one niche. If you love crafts, but also love to share your creative writing pieces, poems, etc, maybe you need two separate blogs.
Always be focussed and always be consistent.

#2 What is your target audience?

You also need to ask yourself what kind of crowd you want to address and attract. With setting your focus and goals, also think about your future readership. Do you want your blog to be a “mom blog” or maybe you want to address only your friends and family?

This is especially important when you want your blog to be read by a broad audience. For example, my first language is German, but I decided to write my blog in English. Not only because I live in London and blog about it every once in a while, but also because there are so many readers out there that otherwise wouldn’t be able to read what I write.

I always advise people to “do some research” and to study their favorite blogs to get an idea what focus, structure, personality, etc means.
But be aware that just because your favorite blog does thisandthat, this doesn’t mean you have to do it to get people to read your blog. For example, just because “Favorite Blog” posts giveaways every week or has a daily feature, you don’t have to.

#3 Life posts, yes. –  But it’s not all about you!

Obviously, this advice doesn’t apply if you answered the last question with “friends and family”. If your blog is your (semi-)public diary of your year abroad, then it obviously IS all about you. If not…

Life posts are still great! They are often fun to read and show readers your personality. When you have a regular readership, they often start wanting to know more about you. And life posts are a nice way to  get a little glimpse at your personal life.
But it’s not all about you.
Find the right balance. Especially in the beginning, it is most likely that people aren’t as much interested in what you’ve been doing over the weekend. They want to be inspired and want to learn from you.

Without having known your blog for a while, a story about your latest family get-together can be quite boring or uninteresting. Especially when that’s all you write about.
So don’t overdo it with your personal posts and try to link them with your reader’s interests.
For instance, if you really want to blog about having been at your best friend’s wedding, why not share some pretty pictures of the table decoration or your fun DIY wedding gift?

#4 Use your visitor stats and analytics.

It is really useful to have Google analytics or other services. Not only to count your page views, but also to get statistics about your visitor’s interests. (When using plug-ins like jetpack, make sure you switch off counting your own clicks!!)
You might want to think about posting more of the sort of content that gets the most clicks. People love your monthly feature? Maybe it pays off having it every two weeks or weekly?

Again, don’t think in black-and-white terms. Just because something isn’t looked at, doesn’t mean it’s bad content or rubbish.
When your readership is still growing, maybe you have to wait for a certain feature to establish until you have a big enough crowd of followers.
Have patience. It takes some time to get readers who, for example, are not only interested in tutorials and free patterns, but also in more personal or specific blog posts.

But keep the question in mind: What do my readers want?

If necessary, never be afraid to refocus your content.

#5 Be innovative!

Readers will get bored if you only post link lists all the time.
I know, blogging is time consuming and sometimes it’s easier to collect ideas of others.

But: Be creative, be innovative! Try things yourself, make up a fun craft idea or improve some others, but DO something yourself. I know you can do some really awesome stuff!

But if you don’t show your reader what YOU can, they will soon wander off to all those lovely other blogs you posted about.

#6 Be persistent!

The best way to keep readers coming back is to update your blog as frequently as possible. If your blog is just a static site that gets updated every six months, you might still get clicks, but readers won’t be coming back.

Quality content is really important. But quantity also is.

What helps with persistence:

#7 Have some cool blog features!

You need to blog regularly and nothing keeps you blogging more than having a regular feature. It doesn’t have to be daily or weekly in the beginning. I started off having two weekly features (10 things I love, 5 tips for the weekend), which was quite a lot of work for a blogging newbie without a proper routine. Instead of quitting one, I decided to slow down a little. The features are now monthly. And when I have the time, I try to write them every second week.

When you have daily or weekly feature, there’s a bit more pressure, since it’s more likely that people come to your blog just for reading that post and may be disappointed, if it’s not there when you promised it.

So better you start slowly. If you like, your readers like it and it fits into your schedule, make it more frequent!

#8 Find your own voice as a writer.

It takes some time, so don’t panic if you’re just about to write your second blog post. When you have been blogging for years never thinking about it, you might already have developed your own personal writing style.
Find your own personal tone in the way you are writing. Show a bit personality (as much as you feel comfortable with).

#9 Be inviting and engage your readers in conversation

Don’t just have a one-way-conversation. Always blog like you’re talking to your readers. It will be much more inviting and welcoming!
Things you can do to engage your readers in conversation:

– ask questions
– ask for help (yes, you don’t have to pretend you’re perfect!)
– reply to comments (so important!)
– always let them know how much you appreciate them!

Read Part 1 {Get People to Look at you}
Read Part 2 {Layout}
Read Part 4 {Content #2}
Read Part 5 {Invest your time wisely}
Read Part 6 {Grow your traffic}
Read Part 7 {Make your blog legal}

Liked it? Have feedback? Please do tell me!

And stay tuned…Part 4 of my Blogging Basics is coming up next week! The next part will be a continuation of this post – so even more tips on content! x

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Blogging Basics – Part 2 {Layout}

Hi! Thanks for stopping by and welcome to part 2 of my new Blogging Basics series!

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…you’re an absolute Blogging Newbie.
…you just started blogging and you feel like you could need some helpful tips and tricks
…you have been blogging for a while, but somehow feel like you might have missed out some vital steps
…you have been blogging for years, but somehow you have trouble getting people to read your blog and subscribe

Last time I told you some blogging basics on HOW TO GET PEOPLE TO LOOK AT YOU.

Today’s blogging tips are all about LAYOUT!

blogging basics pt 2

PART 2: LAYOUT

#1 Investing time in your layout is important

Invest a LOT of time in your layout in the beginning. Yes, I know, it can be annoying, but people won’t look at your blog, if it’s not attractive and a lot of good content might be unnoticed if the layout is not appealing enough. Try to do as much as you can with optimizing your blog’s layout before you send people a link to it. You might lose readers/subscribers from the beginning, if your blog looks like it still need a lot of improvement.

#2 Have an interesting layout

Take your time to think about what kind of layout you want to have. Do you want it to look serious or more kitschy and cutesy?

If you really don’t feel competent enough to create your own header, buttons, backgrounds etc., there are a lot of options to use existing themes. The disadvantage is, that they often are not customizable and will annoy you in the long run.

Another possibility is piecing together your site from smaller templates (for posts, for the sidebar, for comments, etc.) and thus avoiding taking over a complete and fixed layout. A really useful website that provides free downloadable templates for headers, backgrounds, sidebar tags etc. is shabbyblogs.com.
Allie Browns Layouts as well as Aqua Poppy Designs have supersuper cute blog layouts you can use!

The blog guidebook has some useful tips on how to create a header with pic monkey.

There are several websites that provide free fonts for download. Dafont.com is really useful. For more girly fonts have a look at Kevin and Amanda’s beautiful free fonts!

BUT:

#3 Use fonts cautiously

Don’t get too crazy with the fonts you use in your pictures, as they might just become hard to read.
And don’t get crazy at all with the font of the actual text on your blog. The font has to be installed on your reader’s computer to be displayed. If you use some edgy font you found on some website, chances are you are one of 10,000 people in the whole world who see the site the way you intended it to look. Stick to standard fonts that everyone has, even if their aesthetics are questionable.

#4 Think about your blog’s structure before starting

Do you want to use different pages or rather use different categories on your sidebar?
Will all pages be static or do you want to have a blogroll page with your newest articles?

It makes a lot of sense to think about it before you start. Sure, you can change your structure later on, but it will be much more complicated once you’ve already produced content.

If you already started blogging, don’t be afraid to change categories and page names.
You can write a short article on what you changed and where one can find all the different information now.

#5 Make it easy for people to find the information they are looking for

Use an easy navigation structure. Drop-down menus are often not very helpful.

Make sure your readers can search the whole website. Include a search function and put it as far on top of your page as possible.

#6 Less is more

Have a clean layout, sometimes less is more!
You want the content to pop out!

Do you really think the pink background with the blue dots is such a good idea? Sure, it’s cute but especially backgrounds that are too eye-catching can be very distracting.

Too much sidebar clutter can be really distracting and may look unprofessional.
You can use the sidebars for showing a picture of you or your blog button, follow options and a few navigation items, but try not to overuse them. Especially, if your main content column looks too small compared to your sidebars, consider using only one of them – that is usually enough for most blogs.

#7 Use tags reasonably

If you’re using a tag cloud for helping your readers to find content related to a specific topic, then try using your tags reasonably. Be consistent in assigning tag names and don’t use too many. For example, instead of using “cute  handmade christmas presents” or “Apple Cake Recipe”, use more general tags like Christmas, DIY, handmade, recipes.

#8 Don’t be afraid of the technical side of things

You might want to take some time and familiarise yourself with the basics of HTML and the like. Most of the stuff you can learn online really. It takes a while if you’re not used to it, but it can be really helpful in customising your site and in solving some annoying problems with how your posts show up.

If you can’t solve a problem yourself, Google is your friend. There are many forums that know the answers. Also, only use what’s appropriate. Just because you learnt how to produce blinking text, doesn’t mean you should include it in your page.

# 9 Picture quality matters

Always try using high quality photographs. It makes such a difference! People appreciate good pictures and photographs and those are also more likely to be shared or end up on Pinterest.
Think about getting a decent camera if photographs are an integral part of your blog posts.
Also, enhance your picture using Photoshop or open source software like Gimp.

#10 Layout no go’s you should avoid:

1. Using dark background and light text works for some websites, but for most it doesn’t.
Be cautious in choosing text and background colour. I think it’s always better to use a text colour that’s darker than the background and a background colour that is more light and subtle. You don’t want your reader to end up having a bad headache after reading your blog!

2. Automatically playing music or videos. Most people REALLY do not appreciate automatically playing music or videos on blogs. The site takes longer to load and if you’re already listening to music on your computer, it’s nothing but annoying.
Some people have automatically starting videos on their sidebar, mostly for advertising purposes. If you’re trying to make money with your blog, think about only accepting ads that won’t chase away some of your readers!

3. Horizontal scrolling. Whereas vertical scrolling on a blog is totally fine, horizontal scrolling is just annyoing and some of your content might be hidden.
Many screen resolutions in use today still have a width of 1280 pixels or less. Hence, you shouldn’t make your screen much wider than 1000 pixels. If you go a bit lower, you can also easily support resolutions like 1027 x 768. An alternative is a so-called responsive layout which uses the entire width the user’s resolution provides. These layouts can look good on a smartphone as well as a full HD widescreen. Obviously, they are technically a bit more involved, but WordPress’s new default theme Twenty Twelve is a good example that can be used as a starting point.

Read Part 1 {Get People to Look at you}
Read Part 3 {Content #1}
Read Part 4 {Content #2}
Read Part 5 {Invest your time wisely}
Read Part 6 {Grow your traffic}
Read Part 7 {Make your blog legal}

Liked it? Have feedback? Please do tell me!

And stay tuned…Part 3 of my Blogging Basics is coming up next week! The next part will be all about your blog’s content! x

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Blogging Basics – Part 1 {Get People to Look at You}

Hi! Thanks for stopping by and welcome to part 1 of my new Blogging Basics series!

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…you’re an absolute Blogging Newbie
…you just started blogging and you feel like you could need some helpful tips and tricks
…you have been blogging for a while but somehow feel like you might have missed out some vital steps
…you have been blogging for years but somehow you have trouble getting people to read your blog and subscribe

INTRODUCTION

 “Blogging tips – great!
Wait, what? Didn’t you just start blogging? What do YOU know anyway?”

I know.
There are millions of blogs that have existed for years now and probably know much much more than I do after blogging for half a year.
And there are probably hundreds that have already written about How to grow your blog, How to grow your traffic, How to this and How to that.

I started reading such Blogging Tipps when I started, but soon was completely swamped with all that information about Twitter, Pinterest, Search Engine Optimisation and so on. I hadn’t even decided on a layout yet! I missed the simple stuff. The “How to start”-stuff.

During the past six months I learnt a lot. But most lessons I learnt the hard way. And as soon as you get more traffic, the first subscribers and blogging becomes part of your every day routine, you begin to take everything for granted. Very soon you tend to forget how it all started, how you struggled in the beginning and that some months ago you were without the faintest idea of how to insert that stupid link.

Before I forget, I want to share the blogging basics I learnt in the past weeks and months. The things I found most helpful and wish I would have known from the start.

blogging basics part1

PART 1: GET PEOPLE TO LOOK AT YOU

What’s the point of blogging, when there’s no one to read your blog? Well, it’s not that there is no one. There are millions out there that could be potential readers of your blog, but they don’t know yet that you exist. That’s why you have to get people to look at your blog and to remember it.

#1 Have a good blog name.

Take your time to think about your blog name. Don’t necessarily use the first thing that comes to your mind. Was it just your first idea because you’ve seen something similar before? Or maybe there is a catchier version of your idea? Think about your name really hard!

Your blog name is important, because you will be stuck with it for a long long time.

Pick a name that says something about your blog’s content or is interesting and creative. Make it memorable!
Do you want to describe yourself or your blog? If your blog is a personal blog, pick a personal name.
For instance, some of my favorites are “Adventures in Dressmaking”, “A Matter of Style”, “Trash to Couture” or “A Fashionable Stitch”. These names include some information about the blog’s content and aren’t boring at all.

A Beautiful Mess” is less obvious, but it’s creative and the oxymoron (combining contradictory terms) makes it even more interesting.

Be inventive! When you have an idea, google it. Sometimes names are already taken. Don’t take a name that’s already out there. Don’t be “Trash to Couture #2”. This only leads to confusion and makes it look unimaginative, especially when you copy a name that belongs to a well-known and popular blog.

#2 Blog URL should match your blog name.

Your blog URL should match your blog name. This is important if you want people to find your blog. People are most likely to remember your blog name instead of your URL. If the two are the same, it’s easier to find your blog on Google, Bloglovin’, in bookmarks etc.

Therefore it’s worth getting your own server. Not only that you have so many more options to customize your layout, but a “Thisblogisnotforyou.com” is more memorable than “thisblogisnotforyou.wordpress.com”.

Which link is more likely to be followed? “suzy89.blogspot.com” or “sewing-suzy.com”?

#3 Have a memorable and easy-to-read URL.

Your blog name will be more memorable when it’s easier to read. If it consists of more than one word, it might be reasonable to use hyphens or underscores to break up a hard-to-read name/URL. There are some that work better with and some better without hyphens/underscores. “Abeautifulmess” or “Sewingsuzy” works fine without separating the words, whereas “suzysawesomesewingtips” would probably look better with hyphens.

However, using hyphens is usually discouraged, because it’s somewhat associated with spam website. And once people know your blog, and they type in your URL themselves then readability doesn’t matter any more anyway. So the hyphenated version is mostly useful if you want to advertise your blog by posting the URL somewhere. If you want, you could get both the hyphenated and the unhyphenated version and redirect the former to the latter. This way, you can give people the easily readable version if they don’t know your blog yet. And for anything else you can use the version without hyphens.

#4 Invest time in your “About” page.

Your “about”-page is the flagship of your blog and the place where you can tell people why spending time on your blog is a good thing. It doesn’t need to contain all personal data about you. Instead it should summarise what your blog is about and what its aim is.
You also should tell people a little bit about yourself. Why are you doing what you do? What is special about you and your blog?

The “about”-page is one of the most visited pages on every blog.
I didn’t really care about it for the first few weeks until I realized that more and more people clicked on it.

People rarely follow your blog because of a single post they liked. That might happen, but most of the time people want to know more about a blog before they decide to follow it. People are more likely to enter their email address if they know a little bit about you and your blog.

Make it look interesting. Include a picture of yourself. If you want to stay anonymous, take a picture of something related to your blog, draw something etc.

Be critical. Revisit your “about”-page every once in a while. If you don’t like it anymore, change it!

#5 Do some “research”.

Before you go on to make decisions about layout, content and social networking options – do some “research”. What blogs do you love and admire? Look at the blogs you love. Don’t copy, but study them!
What makes it so unique? What so special about it? What parts of it do you like, what do you find annoying? Get inspired!

Read Part 2 {Layout}
Read Part 3 {Content #1}
Read Part 4 {Content #2}
Read Part 5 {Invest your time wisely}
Read Part 6 {Grow your traffic}
Read Part 7 {Make your blog legal}

Liked it? Have feedback? Please do tell me!

And stay tuned…Part 2 of my Blogging Basics is coming up next week! In the next part I will share some helpful tips for your blog’s layout! x

 

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