A few weeks ago I received an email from a fellow blogger who wants to step up her blogging with the ultimate goal of creating a platform from which she can launch into a more creative and self-styled career. She wrote:
"I've been sporadically blogging for the last year and love it, but I want to make it more than just a creative past time. I know that this is a hard road to travel, as it can takes years to create a blog that can be classed as a career, but I love writing, I love being creative and I'm tired of waking everyday and feeling stifled by work that I can't stand."
Sounds familiar? Yeah, a lot of us can relate. The truth is there's no formula for creating 'the next big blog' and very few of us are making a living from our sites. But blogging is a beautiful way to develop a sense of our own creativity, to reach out to others who inspire us, and to carve out a space where we can be uncompromisingly ourselves. I think bloggers who focus on these three goals, rather than worrying only about their stats, are more likely to attract a substantial engaged readership. That said:
"I am turning to your for a little guidance, as I feel that you have a terrific site and seem to be so genuine and approachable. All I'm asking for are a few tips; an insight into how you got started and how you managed your blog so that it has become what it is now."
Well first, I'm flattered. Really flattered. I've been working on my blog for almost 2 years now. It continues to be a lot of work and a steep learning curve as I try to gather the skills I need to realise my own creative vision. I do have a few thoughts on how this reader... along with anyone else... can (i) launch/re-launch an appealing site and (ii) develop a set of good blogging practices to create the best platform from which to launch their creative vision.
Web Design Tips for Bloggers
Decide on your design: Visit your favourite blogs and make a list of all the visual elements that appeal to you. Are you drawn to particular colours? Lots of white space? 1, 2, or 3 column formats? How easy is it to navigate those sites to quickly find the information you're after? My blog's run on Thesis theme for Wordpress because it's super customisable and user friendly so even a web novice can realise their vision (with the help of many youtube tutorials). You can also pay someone to design your blog for you which can be a really good investment. I'd be happy to recommend someone if anyone's interested!
Keep it clean: Right upfront every blog should have a title, an introduction to who the blogger is, social media links, and contact details. If it takes a reader more than a split second to learn what your blog is basically about, the design is either too minimal or too distracting. Too many widgets and moving parts are distracting. Stick to a coherent colour scheme with a white or very pale background, a clear black font for the bulk of your text, and just a colour or two extra for visual interest (I use white, black, grey, and pink for a punch). I generally find blogs that don't adhere to these rules difficult and straining which means I don't linger or return.
Brand your Blog: Your colour scheme, fonts, header image, and the 'feel' of your design (be it modern, romantic, vintage, etc...) all combine to create a visual 'brand' for your blog. It should fit who you are creatively and everything on your blog should develop and bolster that visual identity. Be consistent with your design scheme and feature image or logo (if you have one) across all your social media platforms, etsy shop, business cards, etc to develop an instantly recognisable brand for your readers to follow around the web.
Create Valuable Content
What's your value? Make a list of your passions, the things you know well, and the things you want to learn more about. Generally, the more specific the blog the better, but however you define the scope of your content it's important to be clear about what you have to offer. I knew I wanted to tackle a little bit of everything on The Spring with a focus on celebrating the simple things I do and make to bring more joy to everyday life. I'm an enthusiastic person - I think it's one of my best qualities - and so that's what I try to let shine through on my blog in the hopes that it lifts other people's days as much as whatever I'm posted about has lifted mine. The blog is just a slice of my life, not all of it, but the the part of myself I put out there I hope other people will find compelling energetically and useful in terms of the the information I share.
Is your blog personal or professional? If your blog is personal, have a good think about how much of your personal life you want to expose, how positive or negative you want your site to be (some people do well with angry rants, but I don't really care to read or write them), and most importantly what you want your readers to take away from your posts. If your blog is professional, consider how to offer up tips, inspiration, or entertainment first, and worry about the products/services you're trying to flog second.
A picture is worth a thousand words: To be very blunt... there's blogging, and there's reblogging. A post without images is like a cup of English breakfast tea without a drop of milk... not really worth flicking on the kettle for. Good writing is also obviously important, but blogging is inescapably a visual medium. If you want to be a successful blogger I think it's imperative to invest in a bit of photography equipment and learn the ropes at least a little. Mixing your own photos or drawings with images and collages taken from the net is cool, but the more great original content the better.
For more thoughts on how to create fresh blog content, check out my post here.
Building a Community Around your Blog
Get connected: Every blogger needs to commune with their readers on facebook & twitter at the minimum. How else are people meant to follow along with what you're doing? Definitely register on bloglovin. Get on instagram and pinterest ideally. Start making youtube videos if you're really serious about getting your face and your brand out there!
Be consistent: This one, I struggle with the most. On the one hand, the more regularly you post the better. On the other, each post should have a real purpose and be of high quality. However many good posts you can reasonably produce each week, let your readers know that's what you're going to do, and do it consistently. Post at the same time everyday. I try to drop mine at 6am because a lot of people like to check my blog at breakfast. I also try to promote my post again around 6 as a lot of people seem to drop by on their way home from work.
Comment on other blogs: Building a community takes time. And action. Strike up convos with your favourite bloggers on twitter, facebook, and instagram. Try to leave a comment on five new blogs every day. Most of those bloggers will visit your site and leave a comment in return; some of them will like what they see and become regular readers.
Get a handle on SEO: If you're creating great content, many readers will find you through google searches... to ensure that they do, you'll want to get a grip on the basic ins and outs of SEO... check out my post here if you need help cracking that one!