Today, Valentine’s Day is my 2 year blog anniversary. Happy blog birthday to me! I was going to write a post about the stuff I’d learnt in the last 2 years of blogging but a week ago, after just a year of procrastinating and thinking about it for far too long, I finally took the leap to self-host my own blog.
The day before New Year’s Eve, I sat down and started writing out my resolutions for 2017. I came up with a list of 16 (yes sixteen!) goals which included everything from running, reading and writing more to less shouting at the kids, drinking less wine and spending less time on my phone. After a good five minutes, I decided to scrap the lot and save myself from the depression of never being able to live up to such high expectations.
But I did decide to set myself some writing goals for both my freelance work and for my blog which I hope are a little bit more achievable.
So it’s a new year and I thought this would be a good opportunity to look back at the best of my blog posts from 2016.
It was a mixed bag for me, I can remember in the spring feeling really motivated and driven to write loads and grow the blog. I was posting regularly and my stats were doing well. Then during the summer and into autumn my freelance copywriting business picked up. I was busy and struggling to juggle this along with childcare and as a result, the blog suffered a bit. It meant that over autumn and winter I’ve been posting far less regularly with an obvious effect.
There are millions of blogs out there and with thousands of new posts being added daily, how can you make yours stand out from the crowd? How can you cut through the noise? What makes a blog post successful?
I’m no expert, but I’ve written a lot of blog posts for different clients. I’ve been writing this blog and reading a lot of others for the past 12 months too. Here are 9 key ingredients that I’ve noticed successful blog posts seem to have:
1. Title. A strong heading draws people into your post. Think about who is reading your blog and what will appeal to them? What would entice you to click through and make you carry on reading?
2. Structure. Don’t make your blog post too long or you’ll risk putting readers off. There’s always a debate about how long a blog post should be. It needs to be short enough to keep readers interested but long enough to enhance SEO. I usually aim for between 400 and 1,000 words. There should be a basic structure that gives an introduction, makes a point and then has some sort of a conclusion.
3. Make it Easy To Read. Break up chunks of text with plenty of paragraphs, sub headings, bullet points or lists. I remember recently giving up reading a blog post because it was one long paragraph from start to finish. I’d gone cross-eyed before I’d even got half way through! I’ve also been dazzled (not necessarily in a good way) by some blogs which have crazy colours, patterns or fonts going on. Help your readers by making it easy to view your posts. I generally prefer to read blogs which are clean and simple in design, and broken down into easy to read chunks of text.
4. Images. Photos and images help to break up the text of a blog post but also add colour to what you are saying. They can help illustrate a point or provide readers with more insight into your life. Make sure your images are optimised to the correct size so that they don’t appear warped. When I first started blogging I had no idea about this and used to stick in an image the size of a thumb nail and hope for the best. Generally images with bigger pixels are better quality and in WordPress I tend to stick to dimensions of about 630 width by about 420 height. Remember to re-name images with a text friendly name to boost SEO.
5. Find Your Voice. The bloggers that I most admire have a very distinctive voice. They write in a particular style whether it be sarcastic, opinionated or with passion. There’s so many blogs I enjoy reading, but here are a few that I’ve got to mention: I love Whinge Whinge Wine because Fran can be quite sarcastic, she writes very plainly at a furious pace that makes me cry with laughter. I adore Absolutely Prabulous because Prabs is not afraid to laugh at herself and this is reflected in her brilliant writing which has me sniggering for ages. I also love 5 Little Doves because Laura truly writes from the heart about her family life, dealing with mental health issues as well as coping with the loss of her baby boy. Her blog has made me truly think about certain topics as well as left me in tears on several occasions.
Successful blogs are not afraid to state their opinion and initiate debate by saying what they truly think. Others are successful because they take a completely new angle or take on a certain subject. Sitting on the fence is safe, but those that take the plunge and speak up about what they believe in, often seem to be the most successful. Sometimes the posts that scare me to hit “publish” are often the ones that work out to get the most views or comments.
6. Make a Point. It’s easy to just chat along about any topic matter for 700 odd words, but the most successful blog posts always seem to make a point. They may make readers nod their head in agreement, they might make some readers think, or they may fire some people up and cause some controversy like this post I wrote a while back about mums taking their kids to school in pyjamas. Others might be funny and make some readers laugh in agreement. This blog post that I wrote about not getting any of our 4 choice of primary schools for my daughter has been my most viewed post of all time and went viral on Facebook and The Huffington Post. It was successful because it resonated with a lot of other mums out there who were either going through the same thing or were worried about it happening in the future.
7. Be True. The most successful bloggers are those who are true to themselves. They write from the heart and connect with readers by letting them see more about their lives. Readers feel like they get to know the writer and care what happens to them.
Be yourself and let your personality shine through!
8. Write With Care. Yes bad spelling and grammar can put me off as much as bad writing in general. But so too can those blogs that are trying too hard to impress, you know the ones with the long unnecessary words which ramble on. I think the blogs that work best are those that write as if they are in conversation, just chatting to a friend.
9. Think About Your Ending. Don’t just stop abruptly. What do you want your reader to do? You can always ask for more comments or ask people what they think.
There you have it! My 9 ingredients for what I think makes up a successful blog post. Do you agree? Are there any more factors that you’d add to this list? Which blogs do you love and what special ingredients do they use to make their blogs successful?
I’ve recently read a few posts about bloggers feeling down and fed up about their stats not increasing. I had a week like this as well where I questioned what I was doing and why my stats were staying flat.
I think it’s a common theme amongst bloggers, with many having feelings like this. So I thought I’d list the reasons to blog beyond the stats. Why you should keep going even if no one (or few people) are reading:
- Better Writing – By blogging frequently, you are honing your writing skills and becoming a better writer. All serious writers (my mum is an author!) say that you need to write on a regular basis to keep your skills fine-tuned.
- Keeps Your Brain Active – Blogging and writing regularly keeps your brain active and improves your creativity. If you’re anything like me, you’re constantly on the look- out for new topics and subjects to write about. It makes you look at things differently. I’m always thinking about different angles and how different news items or the things my kids say might be used for a blog article.
- It’s Cathartic – If something’s on your mind or bothering you, it can be very cathartic to write it down and get it all out! I wrote this piece when I was having a bad week and I know of several other bloggers who write about very emotional topics which seem to help with their healing process.
- Meeting & Networking – Blogging involves a lot of reading and commenting on other people’s blogs. This leads to networking and even friendships that you wouldn’t have necessarily made. Networking can in turn lead to :
- Opportunities – Blogging can create opportunities. It can open doors to possibilities that range from reviewing products or the chance to speak to some of your favourite brands about writing for them. I started my blog as a way to showcase my writing style and skills to potential freelancing clients.
- Read More – Through the blogging community you read more. I’ve read so many interesting and different blogs. Reading more is not only a good thing but you tend to read and consume faster. Reading widely can lead to more ideas for your own posts. I’ve written a couple of blogs after reading other people’s posts that have inspired me to write my own take on a subject.
- Developing Your Style – By reading other people’s blogs and writing your own posts regularly you are developing your own style and your own voice. I’ve read some very funny and sarcastic blogs, others which are chatty and informal and others which are serious and informative or advice driven.
I’m sure there are other benefits that could be added to this list. The point is, that there are plenty of reasons and advantages to blogging which we should all take time to remember when we get a bit bogged down and focused only on the number of people reading our work!
If you can add to this list of reasons, do let me know in the comments below!
I’m having a low week. I’ve had a few things that have brought me down a bit and as a result, I know seem to be finding the other things; the things I normally do without question, a bit of an effort. Because I’m feeling low, I can’t be bothered to do anything. I’ve lost my Mo-Jo and I seem to keep asking myself “What’s the Point?” a fair bit this week.
- Funeral. I knew that my Nan’s funeral on Tuesday would be tough. I was reading a tribute to her and so I was really nervous about it beforehand. I wanted to do a good job for her and for my family. I’d been so focused on getting through doing the speech that it wasn’t until it was all over, later on that day that the sadness of losing and missing my Nan really hit me. I’ve felt a bit weird since then.
- Freelancing Work. My self-confidence has taken a bit of a knock with my freelancing work these last couple of weeks. I’ve had a few different issues going on that has set me back. I seem to have put in a lot of work and effort for several different prospective clients recently, and it all appears to have been for nothing. I know that this is part of what being a freelancer is all about, and perhaps normally I’d take it all in my stride, but I’ve struggled with it this week and really questioned whether I should bother to keep going with it at all.
- Blogging. I mostly really enjoy blogging. I like the process of writing and sharing it with others. I enjoy meeting other bloggers and reading other people’s blogs. But sometimes, like this week, I’ve really started to wonder “What’s the Point?” My stats are staying relatively flat, and I’m not really sure where I’m going with it in the long term. Should I even bother to keep going with it all? Blogging takes a lot of time and effort and I’ve found it hard to keep the momentum going this week. I’ve really been questioning whether it’s all worth it this week.
- Mum. My mum’s got to go through some horrible tests at the hospital at the end of this week and I suppose no matter how much she tells me not to worry, I do!
I’m reading this back and realise that I sound like an incredibly miserable, grumpy old cow. I promise, I’m not normally wallowing quite so much in my own issues!
I realise that there are definitely far worse problems out there than these, but I think sometimes when one issue gets you down, any other little problem that you might normally deal with, suddenly seems to magnify so that you think you can’t handle it. All of a sudden, it becomes harder to buck yourself up and keep going.
I seem to have asked myself “What’s The Point?” many times this week. But I’m not going to do anything drastic, I’m going to have to accept that this week is a bit of write off and I’ll make a huge effort to get back on track next week.
Does anyone else have weeks like this? Any suggestions to help get you through would be gratefully received!
Last week it was my blog birthday. I can’t believe I’ve been blogging off and on for a whole year! Inspired by a new blogging friend Dr Juliet who shares the same blogging birthday as me, I thought I’d jot down a few things that I’ve learnt along the way.
1) Finding My Voice: I initially started the blog as a way of showcasing my work as a freelance copywriter from my freelance copywriting website. Initially I started blogging purely about marketing and copywriting trying to target businesses and potential clients. That didn’t last long as I felt the need to inject some personality and talk more about things that relate to me. Even now, whilst my blog is much more personal, I’m still finding that I can strike a different tone of voice with different posts. I’ve quite a dry humour so I enjoy writing the humorous posts, but I still write some serious ones too.
2)There’s still so much to learn: Even thought I set up my blog a year ago, I dipped in and out and pretty much abandoned it over the summer due to personal family reasons. So it’s really only been in the last few months that I’ve dedicated a lot more time to it. I’ve been posting more regularly but that’s just the beginning. I started getting involved with linkys and through this and interacting a lot with other bloggers I can see that I’ve still got a long way to go with regards to promoting it, design, images, community, affiliates, self-hosted site, plug-ins, SEO and ultimately working with brands or making money. After a year, I’m very much still a newbie!
3) It Takes Dedication: It’s not just a case of posting up a blog and hoping that everyone will go and find it. You have to work at growing the blog. You need to post regularly and then promote it. And then engage with others to get them to come and read. Commenting on other blogs alone takes a lot of time but is rewarding and means you learn more. Ultimately, the more you put in, the more you get out.
4) It’s Addictive: I’ve found that the more I post, the more I want to blog. It’s a bit consuming, I keep seeing possible blog topics everywhere and I have to struggle to remember them all to write them down! But essentially, I love doing it. I’ve always had this desire to write, whether in a diary, a monthly magazine column, for work or just lists, but with blogging, I feel like it’s easier to do, it’s mine and I enjoy writing about whatever is going on in my head. I love the buzz of having other people commenting on my blog, whether they agree with me or not, it’s a good feeling to be engaging with others about something I’ve written.
5) Design Matters: I’m not a designer but I want my blog to look good. It’s a constant work in process. When I first started out my blog was very basic. It contained just the posts with very little visuals. Any images I incorporated were small thumbnails, I had no idea about which dimensions I should use. I look at some of the other blogs out there and fall in love with how sleek or quirky and professional they look. I’ve still got work to do on this!
6) You Have to Promote Yourself: Again, another thing I’m not particularly good at. I tend to post my blogs fairly regularly on Twitter, but not on Facebook as I’m very aware that I might be annoying the hell out of a lot of people, many of whom are my friends. I think I need to take the plunge and set up a separate Facebook page really. I’m not really involved in Pinterest or Google+ too much either.
7) I’m Hoping for More: I enjoy writing blogs and interacting with others but I’d be a fool if I said I didn’t want more. I’d love to be one of those people that make money out of their blogging and working with some favourite brands. I see some of the giddy heights that other people have got to and it’s truly inspiring. I know it takes a lot of hard work and a lot of hours. Only time will tell, I guess!
8) The Community is Vast, Scary and Friendly: There are so many blogs out there, it really can be quite overwhelming and on my down days I think, “What’s the point?” “Why is anyone going to bother with little old me?!” I guess the answer to that question lies in point number 4! Reading and engaging with some of the well-known and established blogs can at times feel completely intimidating. But that’s purely my problem because I stupidly compare myself to them. I know that I have to keep on doing my own thing and going down my own road. The truth is that most people I’ve met through blogging have been nothing but lovely, kind and helpful.
So happy birthday to my blog! There’s been ups and downs over this past year. I’ve learnt a fair bit already and I’m looking to see what happens in the next 12 months.
Are you a newbie or an old timer blogger? Anything I’ve missed out or that you would add? I’d love to hear your thoughts and any advice for this “baby” blog, always welcome!