25 Tips for Bloggers: Established, New, and Pondering
The tips you will read in this post are responsible for causing this blog to reach the top 10 out of all Christian blogs on the Web.
I started blogging in 2008. Almost a decade before that, some of my friends tried to persuade me to start blogging. But I resisted.
My reason: I didn’t have enough time.
Well, I still don’t have enough time, yet I’ve managed to blog for over three years now. And looking back, I wish I had heeded my friends’ advice and started earlier. My bad.
You see, I love blogging. In fact, I enjoy it more than writing books. It’s far less tedious, takes less time, and affords instant feedback.
I also view it as a major way of influencing people with my message on the deeper Christian life. It’s not quite as powerful a tool of influence as a book or a spoken message, but it’s close.
While I’m still learning the craft, I’ve discovered some valuable tips about the art of blogging that I’d like to share with you. They are . . .
1. Get the Right Hosting Company, Domain Name, and Blog Platform. Buy a domain name that uses your own name (e.g., JoeyBudafooko.com) or the name of your blog. This will make your blog easier to find and spread. (JoeyBudafooko.com is easier to share and remember than JoeyBudafooko.wordpress.com.)
If you don’t already own a domain name, I recommend BlueHost to buy one. I also recommend BlueHost to be your blog hosting service. It’s excellent in service, stability (which is huge), and price. In addition, they have an awesome affiliate program. Finally, I suggest you start a WordPress blog. WordPress is the best platform available and it’s super easy to use. Click here for easy steps on how to start a blog in less than 10 minutes.
Once your blog is set up, I recommend Jeremy Myers if you need any help. He’s a great resource.
2. Create an Appealing Design, Theme, and Name. Cosmetic appeal means a lot on the Internet. So use colors and graphics that you (and others) find appealing. I recommend StudioPress Themes. These blog themes are beautiful, inexpensive, and very powerful. Make sure the name of your blog reflects what you write about mostly. My blog is called “Beyond Evangelical.” I write on seven topics that relate to Christians who are moving beyond modern evangelicalism. My blog matches my Website and Twitter page. So they are all easy to recognize. Go for consistency in your blog look and name. First impressions are important.
3. Blog Often, But Not Too Much. If you want your blog to succeed, you should blog at least 2 times a week. If you can blog 5 or 6 days week, that’s even better for gaining traffic in the beginning. By the same token, blogging too much will overwhelm and turn off some of your readers. Blogging 2 to 5 days a week – once a day – is recommended.
4. Be Concise. The most viewed posts are between 300 and 800 words. Try not to go over 800 words. Most of my posts are within that range. However, some of my posts are longish because they are reprinted essays, interviews, or tips on a given topic (like this one). If you have a long post, break it up by using numbered or bulleted points. Or turn it into a series. Master the art of compression.
5. Use Subheadings, Numbered Lists, Bullet Points, and Short Paragraphs. The attention span of the average Internet reader is quite short. So make the content of your posts digestible. Using subheadings is a great way to do this. Paragraphs should be short as well. So cherish the line break. Using numbered and bulleted lists makes your posts easy to scan. When it comes to blogging, brevity rules. Thus edit ruthlessly. Reduce as much as you can. And cut until there’s nothing left to cut.
6. Use Proper Grammar and Spelling. Misspelled words and bad grammar communicate that you’re not terribly educated, and hence, people shouldn’t take you seriously. Typos are inevitable. But poor grammar and misspellings hurt your content and message. Blogs are casual. So it’s fine to use incomplete sentences, ending a sentence with a preposition, etc. Poor grammar is when a post is written so badly that readers have to work to understand it. If you aren’t sharp on this, get someone to edit your posts before you publish them.
7. Discern the Difference Between Notifying and Self-Promoting. People who follow you on Twitter want to hear what you have to say. So most of them will want to know when you’ve written a new blog post (or if you are reposting an old one from the archives). BUT . . . tweet it once or at the most twice, then leave it alone. (If you tweet the same blog post twice in a day, put 5 to 8 hours between the tweets.) Tweeting a post that you’ve written over and over reeks of self-promotion, and you will lose readers.
The same is true with your Facebook wall. Because it’s your wall, it’s fine to notify your friends about a post you‘ve written. However, I suggest you simply post the title with the link or frame it with a question (e.g, “Looking for advice on how to blog more effectively?” Link). Saying things like, “You’ve got to read this post I’m launching on Tuesday. It’s a must-read!, etc. etc.” will turn off many readers. You don’t want to call a piece that you have written a “must-read.” Let other people decide that (Prov. 27:2).
I would also advise against posting your blog posts on forums like Facebook groups. Many people will see it as using a public venue for self-promotion purposes. Your Facebook wall is different because people have friended you voluntarily, so you have every right to inform them about your newest work. But to post on a public venue where people are not signed up specifically to follow you is poor taste, in my judgment. And some people will view it as spammy.
At the same time, realize that there are a handful of people who will always read bad motives into your heart, even if those motives aren’t present. As I’ve said elsewhere, whenever someone judges the motives of another person, they are simply revealing what’s in their own hearts. But you don’t want the charge of self-promotion to be justified.
8. Don’t Obsess Over Statistics. Some bloggers I know are constantly measuring their traffic to the point of insanity. My advice: Keep track once in a while to measure your blog’s visibility and test the effectiveness of new plug-ins, but don’t obsess over it. Be faithful, and leave the results with God.
9. Never Copy & Paste Someone’s Blog Post on Your Blog or Facebook Page. This is just bad etiquette. Bloggers who write quality posts spend hours crafting them. It takes a lot of time and energy to put out a first-rate post. Consequently, for someone to just copy and paste it on their blog, Facebook wall, or discussion forum (which takes seconds) is regarded by many as inconsiderate and lazy.
The blogger who crafted the post will likely feel cheated and robbed. If you like someone’s post, it’s best to excerpt a section of it and then provide the link so readers can view the entire post. This also allows readers to interact with the author about the post if they so choose.
Also, if you post an excerpt of a blog on Facebook or Twitter as a quote, be sure to put the link to the entire post as well. Excerpts are out-of-context soundbytes. As such, they typically lead to misunderstanding (at best) or hostile criticism (at worse). People need to see the whole context of a post if they will completely understand it. So be careful to add the link if you do any quoting.
Finally, if you enjoy a post and want to spread it to others, it’s best to “like” or “share” it (for Facebook) and “tweet” it (for Twitter). See the Like, Share, and Tweet buttons below this post as an example. It takes a second to click those buttons, and people can see the entire post for themselves and comment on it if they like.
10. Use Titles That Are Magnetic. Writing good titles is an art. The title of a post is either going to grab your readers or cause them to lose interest. Make sure the title fits the post, but be creative. Good title-writing is a skill. With time and practice, you’ll hone the craft.
11. Speak To Your Readers Directly. It’s best to use “you” when you are writing your posts. Talk to your readers as if you are having a conversation with them over coffee. This personalizes your posts and makes them more readable.
12. Don’t Talk Too Much About Yourself. Most people are naturally self-absorbed. Thus your readers are more interested in themselves than they are about you. The exception to this is if you’re a celebrity. Then they want to know how many times you floss your teeth! If you’re a Christian blogger, self-absorption is no virtue. So stick to your content and keep self-references to a minimum and in balance. Not too much, but not never at all.
13. Allow Engagement, But Moderate Comments. I realize that not everyone is able to allow comments due to time constraints. Fortunately, I’ve been able to allow them up to this point. Allowing engagement is great for several reasons. However, if you receive a lot of comments, you would be wise to moderate them. The Internet is the Wild Wild West. People can anonymously trash someone if they want. This makes blog moderation a necessity.
Unfortunately, I’ve watched some bloggers allow anyone to post anything they like without any kind of moderation. The result: Some Christians get smeared. This is plain wrong. It violates what our Lord taught, “Treat others the same way you want to be treated.” You wouldn’t want a blogger to allow a comment that attacks your character on their blog.
Your blog should be a platform for edifying conversation, not a venue for promoting the sins of evil communication (Eph. 4:29). All readers should feel safe there. Most bloggers I know responsibly moderate their comments, and some have explicit rules for moderation. You can take a look at mine here (I don’t moderate the comments myself). Some bloggers I know don’t even allow comments because of this problem.
14. Participate in the Conversation. If you allow comments on your blog, try to respond when necessary. You may not have time to respond to every comment. But do your best to respond to the comments that contain questions directed to you. Strive to be a good, accessible host. Your readers will appreciate it.
15. Don’t Post a Link to Your Own Blog While Commenting on Another Person’s Blog. When you visit someone else’s blog and make a comment, don’t add a link to your own blog like: “Check out my post on such and such [with link].” You will be perceived as a spammer. Some bloggers even engage in “drive-by” self-promotion. They aren’t regular commenters to a particular blog, yet they’ll make a quick comment on a post that’s usually generic (“great post!”), then they’ll promote their own blog (“come check out my blog at …”).
Most people who are Internet savvy view this as explicit spam. Therefore, you’d be wise not to engage in it. Of course, if you make a comment (without pointing people to your own blog), and someone specifically asks you a question on a topic, it’s no problem to post a link to your own blog if it contains the answer. In such cases, you’re simply answering a direct question. Even so, most blogs allow you to put your blog url in the comment box before making a comment. So let that suffice.
16. Think Through the Ramifications Before You Post. Once you click the “publish” button, your post becomes visible online for the whole world to see. Including people from other countries, friends, ex-friends, enemies, family, you name it. So ifyou don’t want someone – anyone – to see your post, or a particular statement in it, don’t post it. Make the changes necessary first. Never underestimate the reach of the Internet—even for blogs that aren’t terribly popular.
17. Make Sure Your First Paragraph is Strong. By “strong,” I mean compelling, grabbing, interesting. Most readers will decide to read an entire post based on the title and the first paragraph. So you can’t afford to make it weak.
18. Rarely Use Exclamation Points. There was a time when an exclamation point (!) communicated passion and emphasis. For many people today, however, it communicates anger. So use them sparingly. Too many exclamation points is distracting to readers. I learned this from my own mistakes in this area! :-)
19. Keep Your Posts on Message. If your blog is about the art of giving atomic knee drops, then focus the vast majority of your posts on that subject. All my posts are related to one of the seven themes related to moving beyond evangelicalism. Your readers will want consistency in your message. So keep your posts on point.
20. Never Defame Another Person. Defamation of someone’s character is a serious matter. Not to mention that it has legal ramifications. Scripture exhorts us to “malign no one” (NASB); “speak evil of no one” (NKJV); “slander no one” NIV (Titus 3:2). It is the nature of satan to slander and gossip. The Lord will never lead you to do this. If you’re angry or upset with someone (or a group of people), resist the fleshly urge to use your blog as a platform to defame them.
21. Link to Others When Appropriate. If you are mentioning another post or article written by someone else, be sure to link to it. Mentioning it without a link is a violation of web etiquette, and it won’t reflect well on you.
22. Create a Series. When you have a ton of material on a specific topic, and it’s too much to fit into a single blog post, create a series of posts on the topic that build upon one another over a period of days. (Blogging Through Bonhoeffer and Beyond Evangelical are examples.) However, for every post, be sure to link to the next post in the series. Failure to do this will frustrate your readers.
23. Keep a Blog Queue. I have to do this myself or else I’ll forget the influx of ideas that come to me for new posts. Inspiration can hit you at any moment, so keep a pad and pen handy at all times. (I use a Day-Timer compact wallet that contains pen and pad; so I’m always armed to jot my thoughts down.) Convert your written thoughts into a blog queue. This has been an enormous help to me in my blogging journey.
24. Mix It Up. Change the pace of your posts using audio, video, interviews, reviews, stories, essays, numbered lists, surveys, etc. Try to build variety into your posting routine so that you don’t bore your readers. On this point, many blog “experts” advise you to always use an image for your posts. Speaking as a “non-expert,” if you have the time, use images. But if you don’t, no worries. My custom is not to use images because it takes too much time to find the right photo, resize it, upload it, etc. I only use images on some of my posts. Your mileage may vary.
25. Resist Discouragement. The blogger’s chief enemy is discouragement. The harassing questions that race through a blogger’s mind are all the same: “Who is reading my posts?” “Am I making a difference?” “Does anyone care?” “Is blogging worth my time and energy?” “I could be watching reruns of 24 right now instead of editing this post!”
I’ve watched a few bloggers crash and burn because they didn’t have a clear vision or commitment when they first set out to begin blogging. So before you put your hand to the plow, count the cost. Blogging successfully will take a lot of hard work. Readers (and subscribers) don’t appear overnight. Blogging requires time, energy, and a devotion to write consistently.
Some people say that everyone should blog. Who says? Why would every human being on the planet be obligated (or “called”) to blog? You may disagree, but I personally think it’s unhealthy for a person to feel pressured to begin a blog if it’s not in their heart to do so.
My 13-cent advice: Take up the task of blogging only if you desire to and you thoroughly enjoy writing. Otherwise, it will be a hard road ahead—a burden rather than a blessing. So a good question to ask yourself is: “Why do I want to blog in the first place?” (You can see how I answered that question myself.)
Keep in mind that even if you have the coolest looking blog on the Web, few people will read it unless they find the material you write valuable. And writing great content takes time, a lot of thought, and energy. So once you’ve decided that blogging is for you, and you’ve counted the cost, roll up your sleeves and get to work. And don’t look back. Strive to write killer posts. But even if you write great content, you aren’t going to please everyone. So follow your own compass.
If you decide later that you missed the mark and should cancel the blog, no harm done. But don’t take it up or quit it unless you’re pretty confident on both ends.
Once you’ve applied all 25 tips, I recommend you get Bryan Allain’s excellent book, 31 Days to Find Your Blogging Mojo (only $4.99 USD). It’s a great supplement to this post. It will give you additional ideas, all peppered with a good dose of humor.
See also Advice for Authors
What should be added to this list that I left out?