A Few More Do's and Don'ts of Blogging ~ THE STARTUP
Back in August, when I was just a wee writer, I published a piece on the do’s and don’ts of blogging.
Surprisingly, given my general lack of experience*, the post has done well and continues to rack up claps and fans.
(*First side tip: Write like you know what you’re talking about, and people will buy into it.)
I’m now seven months into my professional writing journey. I’m older, wiser, more seasoned, and I feel I can offer additional advice. After all, I have to live up to my Top Writer in Advice** title.
(**Second side tip: Use the same tag often enough and Medium may decide you’re an expert in that area, even if you clearly have no business telling others what to do.)
So, let’s get to it.
When crafting your pieces…
DO: Write Authentically
You’ve probably read the best way to gain followers/experience/accolades is to write and publish every single day, without fail. Some might even say to publish multiple times a day. And that’s true. The more you write, the better you’ll get. The more you publish, the more readers you’ll gain.
“Good readers can typically suss out when a writer is disingenuous.”
She’s right. I’ve experienced this personally. More than once I’ve published pieces I knew weren’t up to my standards. They weren’t in my voice and didn’t capture what I wanted to say. But I published them because I felt like I had to publish something. And those posts failed. Miserably.
So yes, write every day (if only to get into the habit and better your craft) and publish as often as possible. But only publish those pieces that truly reflect your genuine thoughts, opinions, and insight.
DON’T: Write What You Think Will Attract Followers
Trying to create work solely for the purpose of attaining followers is a fool’s errand. There’s no way to predict how readers will react to your writing. Articles you think are going to resonate will fall flat, while those you weren’t impressed with will gain traction.
Often, public response to your work has little to do with you or your writing — the day, the time, even other articles published at the same moment can all impact how many people take the time to read your work.
You must write for the love of writing and say what you want to say in your own voice. Do that often, and followers will come in due time.
While drafting your piece…
DO: Let Your Words Breathe
Blogging isn’t like other forms of writing: you don’t want thousands of words clumped together in lengthy paragraphs. Keep paragraphs to three or four sentences, max. (Ideally, one or two sentences are better.)
Allow the words to breathe.
Provide lots of white space.
Let your words sink in.
And when you’re done….
DO: Include Credited Images
Images can add so much to your post: a splash of color, a break in the black and white. The right image can provide emphasis to your words and drive your point home.
I hate when I open a blog post and find just text. I want to see a featured photo with the title. It’s so much more welcoming than just looking at a stark, colorless screen.
To that end, always provide source credit. It’s the nice thing to do, and most publications won’t accept the piece unless the images are credited appropriately.
When choosing images, though…
DON’T: Be Careless
Make sure the visual relates in some way to the text. Remember that readers have dozens of other things screaming for their attention at any given moment. You have only seconds to engage them, so you want to make sure your image and your title (more on that in a sec) are appealing. Don’t mislead readers by using a featured photo that doesn’t reflect your piece, lest you want to break trust with potential followers.
Oh, and please…
DO: Write a Great Title
There are so many articles out there that will give all kinds of equations on how to come up with the perfect headline: use X number of words, always apply alliteration, adjectives are awesome, etc., etc.
Some suggest using CoSchedule’s Headline Analyzer to assist with the process. Personally, I like a title that simply and clearly conveys what the piece is about. That’s it. No magic formula, no analyzing. Just tell me what the piece entails and I’ll decide if I want to read it.
The “Secret” to a good title is:
a.) The suggestion (promise) of…
b.) Something informative, entertaining, or new on…
c.) a Big Topic for the reader.
(And the secret to a good post? Delivering on b while honoring c.)
Follow her lead, and you’ll be golden.
BUT, before you publish, I have to say this one more time….
DO: Proofread Your Work
Mistakes happen; no one is going to haul you off to blogger jail if you let a typo slip in. But repeated offenses might lose you some readers.
I’m especially nit-picky about this.
I’ve seen posts where sentences have literally stopped midway, as if the writer planned to go back and complete a thought but forgot before hitting publish. I’ve seen posts where periods are missing, and words are butchered — to say they’re misspelled would be putting it mildly.
As soon as I see such flagrant errors, I stop reading. I realize we’re not shooting for the Pulitzer here, but if you expect someone to take time out of their day to read your work, at least have the decency to give them your best.
DON’T: Spend Weeks Tweaking One Post
Write your post, check it once or (ideally) twice, and then publish. If you have unfinished drafts because you haven’t completed them, that’s fine. But don’t sit on an article for weeks because your perfectionist nature won’t let you release it into the world.
Be good, yes, but don’t try to be so good that you never let anyone see your work.
Two more final steps before publishing….
DO: Cross-Reference Other Stories
If you’ve published work previously, reference it some way in every subsequent article you publish.
I always try to match the theme or topic of the new post with those that I’ve published before. For example, if someone is reading a post I wrote on migraine headaches, odds are they’ll be interested in my other writings on the same topic.
(See what I did there? I just managed to slip in links to five past articles in two paragraphs. You never know when someone might want to click to read more.)
Point is, you’re never going to be successful if you don’t market your work, and that includes pointing people to other items you’ve written.
And once you’ve published…
DO: Read & Respond to Comments
Eventually you’ll gain readers. Some will leave comments. Respond to them. Let them know you appreciate them.
Writing is a lonely endeavor and it’s nice to connect with others, even if only through a screen. Plus, it’s a nice way to show that you’re a real human with real feelings.
But if you happen to receive a nasty comment…
DON’T: Feed the Trolls
It’s bound to happen eventually. You use all your efforts to create an article and send it out to the world, only to have someone tell you it’s awful and you’re a talentless hack. In response, you get defensive and angry and hurt, and your first inclination is to defend your writing, your perspective, your opinion.
Haters gonna hate. There’s no sense in arguing with someone who is only out to pick a fight. If anything, take pride in knowing your work touched a nerve and sparked something in someone. If that spark set forth nothing but vile rhetoric, that’s on them. Let them stew in their bitterness.
Either ignore the nasty comments or kill ’em with kindness. A simple “thanks so much for your feedback” is a nice way to shut down a troll’s vitriol.
I hope these tips are useful! Best of luck with your blogging endeavors. I can’t wait to read your writing.