This is part 1 of the Your Best Blogging Practices. Be sure to check out:
- Your Best Blogging Practices Part 2: What to Write and How
- Your Own Blogging Best Practices Part 3: Getting Your Words Out There
We can get obsessed with the search for The Best. The Best School. The Best Car. The Best City. The Best Diet. The Best Dog Breed.
The implication in that never ending quest is that there is only one The Best. And it is The Best for everyone, everywhere, all the time. And behind that implication is insecurity. “I don’t know what I want. I don’t know what is best for me. Please, O Great Expert, tell me what is Best.”
When I was working as a freelance book editor and teaching classes in self-publishing, I ran into this all the time. Authors had done some research and found lots of advice. Unfortunately, much of it conflicted and none of it asked what seemed to me to be the most basic question: What do you want?
I have created blogs for myself, my employers and clients. I have given (usually solicited, sometimes not) advice to friends and family. I hardly consider myself an expert, but I do know a few things and I have even more opinions. Let me share the mix of marketing and editorial strategies I use when I am creating a new blog. Some may work for you. Some probably won’t. Feel free to question and disagree and take what you need. I hope these questions and the tips to help you answer them will get you started on creating your own best practices.
Why are you blogging?
There is no right answer as long as it is an honest answer. Some people blog to keep up with family and friends. Some people use their blog as an online journal. Nothing wrong with that, but most blogging tips (these included) are meant for people who are trying to position themselves online as an expert.
You might not think that includes you, but think about it. Are trying to showcase your writing, your art or your opinions? Are you a college student or recent graduate creating an online presence other than party pictures posted on Facebook? Are you running a start-up company or freelance business? Do you have a hobby or belief system you are passionate about and want to share with the world? Then you want people to see you as an expert of some sort and you should be blogging differently than someone who wants to share pictures of the cat and kids with grandma and grandpa.
Who are you blogging for?
Know your audience. Who do you want to see your work? Future employers? Customers? Other writers? People looking to be entertained? Again, there is no wrong answer, but you should know who they are, what they are looking for and where they hangout online. Keep them in mind as you go through the next steps. We will come back to visit them at the end.
One word of encouragement: “Know your audience” is Marketing 101 advice. But as a blogger, you have an advantage those professional marketers don’t. You are part of that audience. You are most likely blogging about something you do or are passionate about. You know the audience: They are you. Start with where you go for your opinions, entertainment and information and work out from there.
What platform should you use?
I am going to come clean here. I am a huge fan of WordPress. It is powerful, cheap (free if you don’t want to get fancy) and easy. It is used by professionals and amateurs. Almost all the examples in these three posts are powered by Word Press. I didn’t do that on purpose; that’s just the way it turned out.
WordPress also makes it easy to see what other folks are blogging about. You can search on key words and phrases and find blogs you might want to follow or engage with, but more on that in Part 3.
If you are using another platform, great! Let me know what you like about it.
How often should you post?
Set a schedule that is realistic for you, but will also stretch you a bit. To determine what that is, time yourself from beginning to write a brand new post through publishing the final version. How many times a week or a month can you realistically do that? And by realistic I mean how you really work, not how you think you should work. Generally, it takes me three hours to get a blog post done and up. That includes getting sucked down an internet rabbit hole while finding a link or checking a reference. It includes taking phone call, making coffee and staring into space, because realistically, that’s how I work. I can set a tighter schedule and berate myself when I continually fail to keep it, or I can just figure all that into my schedule. I choose to do the latter.
Here’s a good rule of thumb: once a month is probably a minimum. If you want do it more than twice a week, you may want to look into bring guest bloggers on board or blogging with another person or two. Here’s a good example of three people sharing a blog.
Once you have determined your personal schedule, add it to your to-do list, build into your weekly/monthly schedule or set reminders. The intention to write that often not enough, you have to make space in your life. It will be tempting to just write when you feel like it. Resist that temptation. A writing schedule is good discipline and makes it easier to write. It also makes you look reliable to your audience.
Don’t announce your schedule on your blog, that will lead to endless “I’m sorry I haven’t written” posts (see what not to write in Part 2), but do have a “blogging partner” or someone close to you that will encourage, and nag you.
Here’s the key to a publishing schedule: Regular but infrequent is better than spotty.
Next: What to write, what not to write and how to write it.