A Few Tips for Bloggers

I sometimes get emails from newer bloggers asking for tips for building a successful blog. I’m flattered that they consider me a successful blogger with wisdom to impart – I’ve only been blogging for eighteen months, after all! – but I’m glad to share a few things I’ve learned along the way.

First, make sure your blog is easily readable. This may seem like a no brainer, but if your text is too small, or if the colors class, or if the site navigation is confusing, you’re going to have a problem gaining readers.

Next, and I can’t underestimate the importance of this point, write, write, write, and write what you love. If you worry too much about what people want to read, or if you try to force things that don’t come, you won’t enjoy blogging and you won’t come across as, well, you. Seriously. First and foremost, write for yourself.

That said, you should choose a niche of sorts. What sort of blog do you want it to be? What range of topics do you want to cover? You can blog about more than one thing, but if the topics you blog on vary so much that there is no predictable pattern at all, you may have problems gaining readers. Finding a niche and defining your blog is a good thing.

Next, remember that slow and steady wins the race. Sometimes you really need to ignore your stats and just write. It’s important to build up a healthy body of content, and also, the more you write the more chance that something you write will go viral, or at least get passed around and gain you some writers. So just write.

And finally, if you want to gain readers you need to network, network, network. How? It’s actually really not all that complicated. See, there are any number of people out there who might like to read what you write, but they won’t if they never find you. So how do you help them find you? First, comment on the blogs you follow, and always make sure that clicking on your name will take someone to your blog. If someone finds one of your comments interesting or informative, the odds are that they will click on your name to find out more about you. Second, link to and/or respond to other bloggers’ posts. This will notify other bloggers of your existence (they will get pingbacks alerting them to your posts), and they may become readers and then link to and/or respond to a future post of yours that they find interesting. Third, do guest posts for other blogs if possible. This will make more people aware of your presence, and may gain you more readers. If you want to do guest posts, my advice would be to find a blog that covers your same content area and regularly posts guest posts and then pitch a post idea.

Anyway, those are a few of the things I’ve learned about blogging over the last year and a half. If you want more, I highly recommend this post of tips by Dan Fincke. And as always, feel free to leave comments offering additional thoughts!

  • http://nwrickert.wordpress.com/ Neil Rickert

    Excellent advice. That’s how I got started blogging.

    Let me comment a little on writing for yourself. That is the way I viewed my blog. But, of course, I was not writing to myself. I was writing for all of the people out there who might read it, all zero of them.

    The thing about this is that writing up what you have to say, in a form that you want to present to others, can already help you clarify your ideas. So, even if there are zero readers, that clarification is a benefit that you gain.

  • http://www.fidesquaerens.org/ Marta L.

    On the networking aspect, I have two specific suggestions to offer to flesh that topic out a bit. First, be on the lookout for blogging challenges, where a well-known blogger will invite other folks to take up a particular topic. For instance, Tony Jones runs a #proggod blogging challenge where progressive Christians were invited to say a few words on some broad topic. (I’m sure the atheist blogosphere, or whatever other corner of the interweb you want to blog in, has similar challenges.) Usually the person running the challenge will round up a bunch of links at the end of it, and will post it on their blog. They may even read it and comment. This is a great way to get your work noticed, but that’s only half the benefit. It also gives you a usually fairly concentrated list of similarly-minded bloggers righting on a similar topic. You can read and comment on their posts, maybe connecting your post to theirs and linking to yours.

    Which leads me to my other suggestion. If you feel it’s appropriate you might want to include links to specific, relevant blog posts in your comments on other peoples’ posts. This is a bit of a sensitive point, because you don’t just want to piggy-back on other blogs to get people to read your own work. But if you come across a post that’s relevant to something you’ve written in, I do think it’s appropriate to enter a link saying “I elaborated on this point over at my own blog [link]here[/link], in case anyone’s interested.” in your comment. But do be careful, as you don’t want to use someone else’s work as a way to get yourself noticed.

    One other thing: if you’re on social media use it. I participate on FB regularly, and have made a handful of friends-of-friends connections. I post links to my blog posts there and get people to read it who wouldn’t see what I was blogging about otherwise.

    Of course, I’m just a fledgling blogger myself, so I can’t promise these ideas are good ones – it’s not like I’m getting hundreds of hits on a post or anything. But they make sense to me, and may be worth trying.

  • http://yeswesam.wordpress.com Sam

    Thanks for posting this. Finding a niche is certainly the hardest part, because I find myself in a situation where there are thousands of different topics I want to write about.

    I do notice some of my favorite blogs veer from their main topic from time to time… Greta Christina posts about fashion, JT Eberhard posts about football and video games… but they are still *primarily* atheism blogs. I guess I need to find my own niche.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/wwjtd JT Eberhard

    Pro tip:

    Write every day for six months. If, by that time, you’re still doing it, then it’s the writing that is important to you rather than the readers, and you’ll never burn out whether it’s two people reading you or two million.

  • http://allweathercyclist.blogspot.com/ JethroElfman

    My last night shift I noticed your posts showing up daily at 5 am EST. Do you have a utility which puts them up at a regular interval for you, or is that just the start of your regular day? shower.breakfast.dress the kids.post the blog

    • http://Patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

      Oh, good point! I actually write my posts ahead of time and schedule them to go up around the same time each morning. At any given time I have posts scheduled out in advance – right now I have posts written and scheduled through Tuesday for instance, and I’m really excited about the one that will go up on Sunday. There are downsides to this approach of course, most specifically that if something time sensitive comes up and I want to blog it, that may mean rescheduling posts, etc. however, there are times when I’ll write four posts in a go, and I fear that I just post all of them at once they won’t all get read as well as if I only post once or twice a day. Also, on the days I lost twice its generally because I had a scheduled post ready but then decided during the day to write and post a second. Of course, everyone does this differently. I just tend to think my readers want slow and steady rather than quick spurts with time in between.

  • http://exconvert.blogspot.com Kacy

    Great tips! I read Dan Finke’s post as well. I couldn’t help but think, “Wow, he considers 200 hits a small audience, and I consider 200 hits a good day.” I just try to write for myself, and hopefully have an engaging conversation in the comment box. I figure if I don’t enjoy blogging for one-hundred readers, I won’t enjoy doing it for thousands of readers. I love your advice to ignore the stats and just write. This is perhaps the healthiest approach.