I make a deliberate attempt to not blog about blogging. It feels very insular and a little bit self-indulgent. It’s not that I don’t have anything to say about blogging, far from it – I did actually register a blogging-related domain name a few months back, with grand plans to start a separate blog all about blogging, but that hasn’t come to anything (yet!). It’s just that I don’t feel it’s necessarily of a lot of interest to my core readers. This week, however, I am going to be a little bit self-indulgent. The lovely Kate, who lives over at the Kate Takes 5 blog hosts a regular weekly “listography” linky, and this week her theme is “top 5 tips for bloggers“. I have read through quite a few of the contributions that she has had so far, and there are some great tips out there. I still don’t think of myself as a particularly established blogger, but I am getting to the stage where I feel I have some useful stuff to give back to the community, and so I would like to share with you my top five tips for bloggers.
1 – Register a domain name
No matter which blogging platform you use, I think it’s hugely beneficial to own your own domain name. It gives you your own identity, and also means that you can move your blog to a different platform or host in the future without breaking any existing links to your site that are out there. Domain names are not expensive, and if you’re not technically minded there is always someone out there willing to help point you in the right direction with any configuration that needs doing. Which leads me nicely into my next tip…
2 – Join in with the community
There are an ever-increasing number of blogging communities these days – from “formal” organised networks, through forums and Facebook groups all the way to very “informal” ones which are simply like-minded bloggers chatting with each other on Twitter. There are some amazingly supportive people out there, and it is really worth taking the time to find the communities, make friends and settle in where you’re the most comfortable. These communities allow you to find people at the same “level” of blogging as yourself, as well as more experienced bloggers who can help with any questions you might have. If you’re a new blogger now, in a couple of months another new blogger will arrive, and you’ll be able to share some of your knowledge with them. Almost all of the bloggers I’ve had contact with have been friendly and approachable, and I’m frequently amazed at how generous they are with their time and knowledge. And knowing a few people online makes the face-to-face events easier. Which leads me nicely into…
3 – Meet up with other bloggers “in the flesh”
I was really nervous about attending my first blogging meet-up last year, but when I got there I had a great time! So much so that I now go out my way to meet up with other bloggers where possible. There can be small, regional meetups, PR events and then there are the larger blogging conferences, and all of those offer a great opportunity to get together with other bloggers, get to know them, share ideas, and just talk! In all online communities there can be accusations of “cliques” or even unpleasant public disagreements, and I have always believed that if you can meet up with other people and put a face to that online avatar it diffuses a load of tension, and makes for much more pleasant relations. If you do have the chance to attend one of the blogging conferences then you won’t just get the chance to meet other bloggers, you’ll have the opportunity to attend educational sessions and learn things you never knew you never knew about blogging! This year there’s going to be a great selection of events to choose from, from large events in London to smaller, regional events. If you get the chance to go to one, take it with both hands (and if you see me there, please introduce yourself and say hi!)
4 – Success won’t come overnight
It does, of course, depend how you define “success”, but if your definition involves doing well in any of the blog ranking systems, or getting lots of cool stuff to review, don’t expect any kind of “success” in your first year of blogging. I see a lot of newer bloggers getting disheartened when they’re not doing as well as more established blogs in the rankings, or getting the really choice PR offers that the high profile bloggers get. It takes a while to establish yourself, to build your audience, and to build your credibility. The reason that you see other bloggers doing well is that they’ve been working very hard at it for a long time. Try not to compare yourself to them – that way madness lies. If you put all of that out of your mind and just focus on producing great content and joining in with the community you will see your success improving month on month. Personally I keep a spreadsheet which tracks all sorts of stats about my blog – not just my ranking position but visitor numbers, subscribers etc, and you can bet at least one of those stats goes up each month, which allows me to be a little more chilled if one of my rankings drops.
5 – Dare to be different and find your niche
There’s a LOT of blogs out there. And a lot of them are very similar. Certainly in the world of parent bloggers there can be a lot with similar themes (family stories, product reviews etc). With so much content out there, it’s worth taking some time to work out what YOUR blog is, and what makes you different. Some blogs differentiate with their writing style, some with their content. I remember a very experienced blogger once telling me that your first year of blogging is the time to experiment “because no-one’s reading then anyway!”, and I agree. My blog has changed styles a lot over the last year and a half, and I feel like I’m still discovering what makes me unique as a blogger. Don’t be afraid to try something new – if it doesn’t work out you don’t have to do it again.
There you go – my top five tips for bloggers. I hope you found them interesting and useful. If I could give just one piece of advice to any blogger it would – just enjoy it! Blogging is an amazing hobby, and you get to do some great things and meet some amazing people. Enjoy the ride!