But seriously, folks... I have some advice for you. True, I'm not huge, and I've only been blogging for a couple of years now, but I've learned a thing or two. I'm part of a super secret group of bloggers which shall not be named, and some of the rookies have been posting questions lately. I realized I had quite a few answers. But even if you're not in my Super Secret Stonecutters Club, I still want to help you. Voila:
Choose your blog title wisely
If you don’t have a blog yet, and you’re about to start one, think long and hard about your blog title. Make sure it’s memorable. Make sure it’s not taken (just Google it; not too hard). Make sure it’s not too long (mine sort of is). And above all, make sure it’s something that will still apply in a year, or five. Don’t call your blog “Three Kids Under Three,” because that oldest one is going to turn four eventually, and then it won’t make sense anymore. Get it?
...And also each post title
J.D. Bailey of Honest Mom wrote a great post explaining why it’s important to have an eye-catching title for each post. She also used me as an example, because I am so awesome. I swear that’s not why I’m including it. Just go to there.
Don't let a feed reader stunt your traffic
Do you know what a feed reader is? It’s a website, app or browser extension that aggregates all of the blogs a person reads, so they don’t have to type in every address, or subscribe to everyone by email. Chances are, some of your readers subscribe to you through a feed reader. When I switched over from Google Reader to Feedly (because Google Reader is shutting down on July first; get with the times!), I noticed that about 20% of the blogs I read only had the first paragraph showing. To read the whole post, I had to click through and go to their site.
You want your blog to do this. If someone’s reading you in their feed reader, they’re not getting counted as a page view, and they’re not seeing (or clicking on) your ads. Now, don’t quote me on this, but I believe Wordpress does this automatically. At least, every Wordpress blog I read happens to be set up that way. If you’re on Blogger, like me, you can set this up by going to Settings >> Other >> Allow Blog Feed and changing it to “Short” (If you want to be fancy, you can do “Until Jump Break” or “Custom”). This will allow just the first 400 characters to show up in your readers’ feeds. They’ll have to actually visit your site to see the rest.
Stop stealing pictures
Yes, taking a photo from another website (even Google) is illegal. Even if you write “Photo Credit” underneath and link it to the original. If you did not take the picture, and you did not get permission from the person who did, you are stealing, and you can absolutely get in trouble for it. You do have other options for pictures, though. You can make one on PicMonkey for free. You can take your own photo. And if you have zero artistic ability, you can still find free pictures out there. Try this Microsoft Office Site or Wikimedia Commons. Be careful with Wikimedia, though- some pics require you to credit the creator, some don't.
We all hate Captcha
Please, for the love of all that is holy, turn off Captcha. Do you know what that is? The “Please prove you’re not a robot” thing where you have to enter a bunch of nonsensical numbers and letters in order to comment. Have you ever gotten so frustrated with that crap that you just gave up? Me, too. And guess what. It’s on your blog right now, and you’re losing comments because of it. You can turn them off in Blogger by going to Settings >> Posts & Comments >> Show Word Verification >> No.
“But Jenn,” you say, “I’m going to get all kinds of spam comments if I take that off!” No, probably not. But if you’re really concerned, you can turn on moderation by going to Settings >> Posts & Comments >> Comment Moderation >> Always. That way, comments won’t show until you approve them. Want something even better? Get Intense Debate comments, like I did. Then you have the option to add the “CommentLuv” feature, which automatically links the commenter’s latest post. That’s a fun way to find new blogs to read.
Please be cool on blog hops
Blog Hops are great way to find new blogs to read, and get new readers over at your blog. But please be cool. If you participate in a blog hop, read the rules. Read them twice. Make sure you’re doing what’s asked of you. The hosts of these hops work very hard, for you, for free. Generally, all we ask is that you add a button, tweet a link, or read other people’s posts. It’s not hard. Don’t be a dick.
If the hop has a theme, like mine does, follow the theme. Do not link your gazpacho recipe to a blog hop about adoption, and add a hasty sentence at the end to tie it together ("I adopted this recipe from my Mexican neighbor!"). That's shitty.
When you read the other posts, try to comment. Comments are like hugs. But- and it’s a big but- if you can’t think of anything interesting to say, shut up. Sorry, I’m getting a little testy here. But nothing grinds my gears more than getting a comment like “Hi sweetie, great blog, I’m your newest follower from the hop! Come see my blog!” Fuck you, sweetie. You are wasting my time, and now I’m going to actively avoid your blog forever. There’s nothing I hate more than phonies. Okay, I hate Nazis and rapists more, I guess, but not by much.
Other blog hops you might enjoy: I Don't Like Mondays Blog Hop, Honest Voices Linkup, Hump Day Hookup, Creative Buzz Hop, Party With Me Fridays
How to add a button
If you use Wordpress, you need to switch from "Visual" to "HTML" to paste the code into your post. For instructions on adding it to your sidebar, go here.
How to get more readers
You cannot sit in a cave and wait for friends to wander in. That’s not how it works. It’s the same with blogging. If you want to gain readers, you need to come out of your cave and hang out in the town square. The internet’s town square is Twitter. I know. I didn’t want to be a twat, either. But my readership blew up within a month of joining. Just do it.
If Twitter is the internet’s town square, Pinterest is the mall. And let me tell you, I hate the mall. I don’t want to repurpose old nightstands. I don’t need any quinoa recipes. What the fuck do I need Pinterest for? Guess what. Malls have bookstores and magazine stands. Likewise, people pin blogs. Make cute little square pictures for your posts, or at least include some kind of pic, and get on the Pinterest. I get so much traffic from there, I won’t even tell you a number, because you wouldn’t believe me.
This last one… Eh, I don’t feel like coming up with an analogy for it. But the last great way to get your name out there is to read other blogs and comment on them. And again, leave only genuine comments! If you truly loved the post, but have nothing to add, share it on Twitter and tag the author. At least they'll think you're nice. I’ve found some awesome blogs because they commented on mine, and their comments were just so funny I had to read more.
Many have come before me to advise young blogging padawans. Here are a few:
- So, you're a big shot now, and you want to make your own button for people to post on their blogs? Woohoo, look at you. 3 Monkeys & a Martini will teach you how.
- And then you took my advice about joining Twitter and Pinterest, and now you want to connect them to your Facebook page? Ok. My Life As Lucille can help you with that. (Oh, shit, did I mention that you should have a Facebook page? Well, you totally should. That's a given.)
- Kim Bongiorno of Let Me Start By Saying recently gave a lecture at Blogger University about how you should make it easy for readers to share your posts. Or maybe she just posted it on her blog. Yeah, come to think of it, it was her blog.
- Remember a couple of minutes ago (I'm assuming, unless you stopped for a snack break), when I mention J.D.'s advice about post titles? She actually has a whole series of blog tips. And she knows more than me.
- And so does Leslie Marinelli of The Bearded Iris. Another series, and she is also an expert. Go get your learn on. I share her Twitter Truths post with someone at least once a month.
How was that? Are you prepared to go forth and blog now, or did I miss something? Let me know.