How to Succeed at Blogging: Part Deux

Time to ring your bell and let your blog be known!

Did you know that you have less than ten seconds to impress a reader when they visit your blog? If a reader’s eye isn’t immediately drawn in and their attention captured, they will leave your page faster than you can say “Minivan Moms Rule the World!The key is to get them to stick around.

We discussed it yesterday, but a good design will pave the way. Think of your blog design as the architechtural structure of your house. It’s the bones – the frame – and it immediately tells the reader, this place is cool and inviting or that’s the scary house that all the kids dash past.

You want to be the former, just so we’re clear.

Pops of color and an easy readable layout are key. Do your readers need an advanced degree to navigate your blog? If so, it’s probably time to scale back. It’s not about showing off all the design tricks you know – it’s about simplicity and functionality.

Want a few examples? I thought so! These blogs are fun to look at, easy to navigate and create an online atmosphere that makes you want to stick around and read more:


The Nester

Angie Smith

How to be a Dad

And the list could go on and on. There are a lot of good examples out there so if you want to compete, you’ll need to invest something – either your own time if you know graphic design or, if you’re like me and you think that only people who have been sprinkled with magic fairy dust can navigate the jungle of html, you hire the job out.

Now, if design is your home’s structure, then writing is your floor plan. It’s the walls and the rooms that fill out your home and there are a few things you should always remember when writing a blog post.

First, brevity is key. My time is precious to me and is my number one commodity. If I click on a blog and the post appears to ramble on and on for eternity, I will leave without reading a single word. I simply don’t have time to dedicate long periods of reading at the computer.

And neither do you.

There is no hard, fast rule for how long a blog post should be and obviously they will vary, but my rule of thumb is to always try and keep a post 800 words or less. I do this because I know that as soon as I cross that 800 word mark, I’m losing your attention and I really want to honor your time by writing concisely.

Sometimes I go over, but not by much. If I hit 1,000 words I edit heavily or split the post up into a series.

The trick to writing an effective blog post is to lay it out in such a way that readers can skim it quickly. This means short paragraphs, zippy one-liners that are set apart, italics for emphasis and bold to break up the monotony. And every once in awhile, just for fun, THROW IN ALL CAPS FOR GOOD MEASURE.

Finally, if the design is your structure and writing the walls – photos and video are the beautiful pictures and decorations that make your website feel like home. Use large photos that capture the readers’ eye and draw them in. The better the photography, the more likely someone is to stay and browse awhile.

Video is also an amazing tool to engage your audience and it’s one that I don’t utilize enough. I have big plans and lofty ideas, but have yet to take the time to execute. If you love being on camera and editing video, though, then vlogging may be a good outlet for you to consider.

Check out Jim at Busy Dad Blog. There’s a guy who knows how to utilize video and photography in a way that keeps us all coming back!

Obviously there are some rules to how all of this works. Many of them are unspoken and some are painfully obvious. First, don’t plagiarize. This seems like common sense, I know, but it happens and it will destroy your integrity and any trust you may have built among your readers. Write well and make sure your words are your own.

Second, give credit where credit is due. If you got a blog post idea from someone else, link back to them. Don’t do this in order to get your back scratched in return. Do it because it’s the right thing to do. This also applies to using photography that’s not your own. Always cite where you got your pictures from if they aren’t your own.

Finally, be consistent. If you know you don’t have time to write every single day, then choose two or three days a week that you know you can maintain and post consistently on those days. People like predictability and they are more likely to keep coming back if they know they’ll be greeted with new material when they show up.

I’ve now exceeded my 800 word mark so I will end with this. Blogging is fun, so have fun with it! Make us smile, make us think, encourage us to dig deeper and dream bigger. Invite us into your rockin’ house here on Blogger Blvd.

Okay, I seriously need to wrap things up. How cheesy was that?!

Tomorrow? How to make money blogging.

How to Succeed in Blogging Without Even Really Trying

Monday night I participated in a live Spreecast hosted by Janice and Susan on blogging and the ins and outs of why we participate in this crazy online world. There were so many great questions asked and I thought I’d offer a few of my thoughts on the business of blogging.

I’ve been at this blogging game for a little over four years now and while I do not claim to be an expert by any stretch of the imagination, I have picked up a few tips and tricks along the way that have been useful for me and, perhaps, they will be useful to you as well.

First, start by knowing why you blog. Are you just wanting to keep a family journal for long distance relatives to see and participate in? Do you want to gain a larger audience? Do you have a message you want to share? Do you have a business that you want to promote? It helps to write out exactly what you’re wanting to do with your square of internet real estate.

For example, my goal for this blog is to simply tell stories. Sometimes they are about my kids, sometimes my husband, but most times those stories are about me. Story telling is, and always has been, my creative outlet. I try to keep things light as much as possible because Lord knows there is enough heavy in this world to drag us all down. But on those occasions when life gets overwhelming and humor isn’t quick on my finger tips, I share deeply and honestly.

That is my mission. I know it and I’ve embraced it and I feel much more confident in my blogging.

Second, know where you want to go with your blog. Do you just want to stay small and private? That’s fine! Embrace it. Do you want to work with brands and review products? Go for it! Do you want to grow your audience and reach more people? Great! There are a few things you need to do to make that happen.

  • Write well. The prettiest design and catchiest title cannot make up for excellent writing.
  • Market yourself and make contacts. This is an area that I’ve really struggled with. I am not good at networking and marketing, much to my husband’s chagrin. But it is so necessary and there are different ways to do this. From blogging conferences, where you can interact with others face to face (gasp!) to Facebook and Twitter, there are a lot of ways to promote what you’re doing, but this leads me to my next point.
  • Don’t overmarket yourself. Don’t make every interaction about you and your blog. It’s annoying and a turn off. And please, please, please – do not leave comments on other people’s blogs promoting your own blog. That’s obnoxious and won’t gain you followers. (Unless, of course, it’s during an online event such as the Ultimate Blog Party in which such promotion is expected and welcomed.)
  • Offer to guest post for someone else. Many larger sites offer the opportunity for guest posters and it’s a great way to gain exposure.
  • Be nice. Don’t gossip online…about anyone. Not your mother-in-law, your husband, your siblings or another blogger. The same rule we teach our children applies to blogging, “If you don’t have something nice to say then, ‘Shh!’ Say nothing.” Don’t forget that your words live forever on the internet.
  • Interact with your readers as much as possible. When I have time, I try to visit the sites of the people who comment on my blog. I don’t always have time to comment back, but I do when I can and when that person comments again on one of my posts, I feel like I know a little more about her (or him). Make friends in this space because that’s what we’re here for – interaction and support.

The title of this post is completely misleading and basically a flat out lie, by the way. You can’t succeed in blogging without trying. Everything worth pursuing takes effort, right? Put in the effort, have fun, and don’t forget that there’s a whole lot of life to be lived offline. Blogging is an outlet, not life itself. Don’t allow those two things to get mixed up!

There are a few more things I’d like to say on this topic so I’m going to write another post tomorrow. There are things you can do in your posts specifically that keep readers engaged and wanting to read more and I’ll share those things along with a few more tips. On Friday we’ll discuss how to make money blogging.

If you have any specific questions for me, you’re welcome to leave them in the comments section or email me at kellistuart00 (at) hotmail (dot) com.

Let’s party like it’s 1999

Normally I don’t jump on a lot of linkys because they intimidate the heck out of me, but I just adore the ladies at 5 Minutes for Mom and couldn’t resist partying with them this weekend. Especially because I get to party at home in my fat pants and without any make up.

However, there is currently a cold Margarita sitting right here next to me so this party’s about to start hoppin’!

This post is for all of you fellow partiers that are joining me from 5 Minutes for Mom. You can read a lot about me and my family on my About page, but I’ll add a bit here as well.

I’m Kelli and this is my blog. Obviously. I am a story teller and humor is both my defense mechanism as well as my outlet for simply enjoying this wild ride called life. The pages of this blog have evolved over the last four years as I’ve grown and matured as a mom, a wife, a writer and a friend. When you come here, I hope you laugh and walk away encouraged.

I try to keep things light-hearted around here, but every once in awhile life throws a curve ball and my posts become a little…heavy. Last summer, our family moved from St. Louis, a city we loved and adored, to Tampa, Florida. We love Tampa, we really do. It has a beach. Like an actual beach…not a patch of sand dumped in front of a pond.

But moving is hard and we still don’t feel settled. It feels like we are on the longest vacation ever in the history of all the world. But in the move we’ve found joy and laughter and a reignited passion for one another that I wouldn’t trade for anything else. We are being refined every single day.

I am homeschooling my kids this year. It’s been amazing. It may be the only year I do it, but I have been so grateful for the chance to gather my little ones under my wing and ride this wave of change together.

I am smack dab in the middle of writing a novel. It has the potential to be amazing. Or to totally bomb. I’m not sure, but I do know it’s a story that I’m supposed to tell and my characters are so engrained in who I am that it’s second nature to tell their stories.

My husband is extremely handsome. And that’s not an exaggeration – it’s a cold, hard fact.

I love Nutella. Like, maybe abnormally so. I would bathe in it. Is that weird? That’s weird isn’t it…

I love writing and blogging has been an amazing tool for me to expand myself as a person and a professional. Blogging has opened up a world of opportunity for me (some of it thanks to Janice and Susan who let me write for them on occasion and how grateful I am for it!). I have blogged from Austria, from Montreal and in three short weeks I have the amazing opportunity to travel to Tanzania on behalf of Compassion International.

I absolutely adore my job. Every day I’m in awe of what I get to do. Last night as my husband and I enjoyed a beautiful dinner on a palm tree lined street in downtown Tampa I proclaimed with delighted surprise, “I am an international writer. This is my dream job!”

And by God’s grace I get to do it primarily from my home where I can get up at a moment’s notice and play a rousing round of Pretty, Pretty Princess any time of the day. Because Lord knows I can’t resist my daughter’s huge puppy dog eyes.

It’s nice to meet you. Leave me a comment so I can hop on over to your place. Let’s party like it’s 1999 this weekend!

The Day I Talked with Harry Connick Jr.

I love my job.  Have I ever mentioned that?  I get to work from home in my pajamas.  I get to work as often or as little as I want.  And I get to talk to hunky movie stars on the phone.

How fun is my job?

The best thing that ever happened to me career-wise was joining the team over at 5 Minutes for Mom a few years ago.  I love those ladies.  They have great hearts, they are the hardest workers I’ve ever known and they share amazing opportunities with the team of writers they’ve put together.  It’s an honor to be a part of that and I’m constantly grateful for the chance to further hone my craft, use my journalism a little bit and have experiences I would never have otherwise.

Like next week, when I am flying out to Los Angeles for the premiere of The Lion King: 3D.  That is an experience that never would have been possible were it not for the lovely ladies at 5 Minutes for Mom being willing to share the fun with everyone else.  (I won’t tell you that I was supposed to go to Bolivia for them earlier this month but had to back out due to the move.  I won’t mention that because it still stings a little.)

Anyway, last week I had the opportunity to speak with Harry Connick Jr. and his daughter Kate about their partnership with  American Girl benefitting the Ellis Marsalis Center for Music in New Orleans.  Here is our conversation.

Harry Connick Jr. and his daughter, Kate.As parents, we all want to instill a sense of heritage into our children. Whether we’re starting from scratch, hoping to create a new story for our kids or we’re drawing from the past and passing history on to them, we all want to send our offspring into adulthood with a sense of identity.

For Harry Connick Jr., the desire to share his love for the city of his youth and the culture that nurtured him into the man he is today only heightened six years ago when Hurricane Katrina wiped out New Orleans in one fell swoop.

“I think [passing on heritage] is paramount,” Connick says, “and that’s why I take my family to New Orleans regularly. Growing up in New Orleans, the culture was so much a part of the fabric [of life] down there. It was so interwoven into everyday life that you didn’t even think of it as heritage and culture. It was just part of the norm.”

Hop on over to 5 Minutes for Mom to read the rest and find out how you can be a part of the continued work in New Orleans.

Oh Canada

I’m working on my northern accent today.  I’m saying “Eh?” alot and I throw in “That’s what I’m talking aboot,” every now and then.


Because I’m going to Montreal tomorrow!

The lovely Janice of 5 Minutes for Mom sent me an email last week that said something to the effect of, “Hey, do you have a passport?  Would you like to go to Montreal next week to visit the set of a new family friendly movie that’s being filmed there?”

To which I promptly responded something to the effect of, H#*% yeah!

No I didn’t.  I don’t swear…hardly ever.  I promise I don’t!  I might’ve thought it, though…

So yes, I’m hopping on a plane tomorrow morning and flying to Montreal.  I won’t be there any time at all, honestly.  I probably won’t even get to see the city, but whatever.  It is an adventure and I love a good adventure, dontcha know.

I also adore my husband who takes these things in stride and gives me his full support.  I could not do this sort of thing without his awesome attitude.  I seriously have the greatest man on planet Earth.  Plus, well…he’s pretty dang good looking, too.  (He’s been working out – yowza)  And he makes me laugh.  And he’s all mine!  You can be jealous.  S’okay.

So I’m cleaning today and packing and doing laundry and making out lists and writing thank you notes to the lovely people who are helping out with the kiddos while I’m gone.  It’s amazing how much work has to be done when you are leaving for three days.

The next time I talk to you I’ll be in blustery Montreal!  Now that’s what I’m talking aboot, eh?

I should fit right in…

A blogworthy path

When I started this blogging thing a few years ago, I had no idea what blogging really was.  And I didn’t get it.  It seemed like a terrible waste of time (and it sometimes can be) and I didn’t see how it could be interesting at all for someone to read about my life.  I mean, my life isn’t much to brag about.

Then Tia ate Landon’s umbilical cord.

I realized right then that I was going to need some support in this motherhood thing because if I didn’t have people to laugh with I might cry, or you know…vomit.

As I delved deeper into the world of blogging, I somehow found myself a part of a blogger’s guild, where I got to know some wonderful people, like Dana, creator of Mamalogues and radio talk show host extraordinaire.  Or Gregg, who is hysterical and fun and has a multitalented family.  Or Melody and Lisa who would ultimately become my partners in the joint venture that is STL Family Life.  And many other wonderful and interesting people along the way.

Most recently I’ve joined forces with the St. Louis Women in Media group to develop more of a community among St. Louis women in all aspects of media, be it traditional or online social media.  There is so much to learn and there are so many interesting people to meet!  I love it.

It’s been a fun journey, this blogging thing, and I feel like I can finally call this my job, if you want to call it that.  I’m sitting here in my pajamas with a cup of hot tea, so you know…

I confess that sometimes I have a hard time taking seriously the notion of blogging as a career.  But I’m not really a blogger so much as a writer who has found a voice in the online world.  I’m okay with that.  Because it lets me develop my craft in my pajamas with a cup of hot tea.

Right on.

Blogging has given me a confidence in my writing that I didn’t have a few years ago.  The people I work with are so encouraging and so quick to build others up, and it’s been an honor to work alongside them.  Blogging has also afforded me some fun opportunities.  From book editing to public speaking on writing to free swag that comes in the mail, like chocolate.  Sometimes my job can be yummy.

Last week, I was contacted by Janice from 5 Minutes for Mom where I do a bit of contributing.  The subject of the message said, “Do you want to go to new orleans?”  Fast forward to this week when I received my itnerary in the mail for an all expenses paid trip to New Orleans next weekend where I will take part in a Katrina rebulding commemorative project alongside hundreds of volunteers, celebrities (pleasebebradpitt, pleasebebradpitt, pleasebebradpitt), and families who are still in need of help and repairs.  The project is being head up by Rebuilding Together and Fifty for Five and their aim is to repair and renew fifty homes in five days in the Gentilly neighborhood of New Orleans.

Honestly, I have no idea what to expect.  I am extremely excited and equally nervous, mostly because I have no idea what to expect.  But I look forward to a new opportunity and to stretching my wings a bit.  For those who know me well you know that being alone in a crowd of people I don’t know and being expected to talk, conduct interviews, take photos and essentially make my presence known is scary for me.  We’re talking so far outside my comfort zone it might as well be a different planet.

Lucky for me I’m good at faking it and pretending I’m comfortable.

That’s what she said, that’s what she said!

Sorry, couldn’t resist.

So inappropriate.

So that’s what’s happening next week.  I leave in the middle of the night on Thursday (actually it’s a 6:00 am flight, which is practically the middle of the night) and I will be back on Saturday night late.  I am really, really excited and honored to take part in this event and to be able to use my skills in writing to document it.  This little hobby of mine is providing great life experiences while still allowing me to pour time and energy into my family, which is my first passion.  I’m feeling immensely blessed.

Now I just have to figure out what to wear.