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.