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Ask Me Anything: Blogging

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I’ve had a few questions about blogging over the last few months so I thought I’d tell you my top ten blogging tips. I’ve been blogging since, um, 1998 (!) so I’ve learned a few things along the way.

1. Find your voice

I quite often get asked how to get more blog readers (lord knows why) and my answer is always, blog regularly and be interesting! Obviously, one man’s interesting is another’s why are you blogging about your lunch/stupid outfits/endless knitting etc. etc. Thing is, you can’t appeal to everyone so instead be yourself and find your niche. You might lose a bunch of followers if you shift to posting about the things that interest you, but you’ll likely pick up some new followers who will be much more likely to comment on your posts and share your links. Plus it’s so much easier to write about the things you enjoy. By far the most popular posts on my blog are the Tokyo Shopping Guide posts. That was a labour of love for me, but it paid off big time as people who come for information quite often stay to read my newer Japan posts and check out my products.

2. Schedule Schedule Schedule!

If you’re not using the schedule feature then you’re making a lot of work for yourself. All the main blogging services let you schedule posts for future dates so you can sit down on a rainy day and pile up posts for the weeks ahead. If yours doesn’t, you should move your blog! I would even go as far as to say you should never post something without scheduling it first, even if just for an hour’s time. Having a buffer where you can realise it’s full of typos, remember that other thing you wanted to mention or can swap it for a suddenly more urgent post can be a lifesaver.

3. Don’t over-promise and don’t apologise!

How often you blog is entirely up to you but try and keep to a regular schedule and start small. You might have noticed that I started off posting 3 times a week and now I’m up to 5 once I knew I had more posts ready than I had room for and it was sustainable. By scheduling posts ahead, you’re covered if you need a break from blogging and there’s nothing worse than a blogger apologising for the lack of posts, promising more and then disappearing again. Most people would rather read one post a week on a specific day than 2 posts on Monday, 1 on Thursday and then none for 2 weeks. The only time you should apologise for absence is if you have an exciting story – eg, you cut your hand open, your baby arrived way ahead of schedule or you got whisked off on a surprise holiday. And if you’re apologising because you failed to post about that project/trip/event then stop telling people what you’re going to do until you’ve already scheduled up the posts.

4. Think of some (ir)regular features

Visit any long-running blog, especially a monetised one, and they’ll almost certainly have regular features, usually on specific days. There are global prompts like Day in the Life, Illustration Friday or Tunesday Tuesday or you can think up your own ones like outfit drawings/photos, interviews, 5 blog posts you enjoyed etc. Mine include weekly round-ups, on-demand product of the week, Japan links, outfit drawings and these  Ask Me Anything posts. While many people give these day-themed titles, that doesn’t mean you have to do them every week, but if you’re stuck for something to post, these are a great way to fill in some spots on your schedule.

5. Start a virtual (private) scrapbook

Whenever I spot something interesting that I might want to blog about later, I save it. I clip posts in my RSS reader, I clip web pages and images to Evernote, I send articles to Instapaper to read later and I’d be lost without the Notes app for random urls and ideas. Whenever I’m stuck for ideas, I have lots of inspiration to check through. It’s great for things like link round-ups and wishlists since it can take a while to find related things. One thing I don’t do is share things publicly that I might want to blog about. If I heart that cute thing on Etsy or share it on Twitter then chances are someone else will pick it up and it’ll be old hat by the time I get around to it. This is more of an issue for Super Cute Kawaii since there are lots of blogs posting kawaii products.

6. Design is worth nothing without content

Which is to say, if your blog looks amazing but you never post anything, no-one is going to visit. But I can point you to at least 5 incredibly popular, well-respected blogs I read regularly that are using a bog standard Blogger template straight out of the box (and many more who’ve made newbie mistakes like making the site too wide, sore on the eyes or hard to read on mobile devices). If you’re not a web designer, just find a clean, simple template – if you can add a nice banner image even better. Once you’ve got yourself some readers and a better idea of your aims and subjects, then I would definitely recommend you update to a more personalised design. There are some great affordable designers out there (like me!) who can help you find the perfect design.

7. Don’t fret over images

Unless you’re a professional photographer,  no-one is judging your photographs. Photo apps like Instagram and A Beautiful Mess are awesome for bloggers as you can snap something quickly on a gloomy afternoon, add a filter or fun text to make it look not quite so terrible and get your blog post up. Putting off your post until you get perfect photos generally turns into procrastination. Sure, you need good photos for your shop or a tutorial but for everything else, just get it online. If you don’t have a smartphone or a decent camera, find a nice photo on Flickr to cheer up your posts. As long as you’re using Flickr’s sharing embed code, you’re providing a credit and link to the photographer and anyone who doesn’t want people to share their photos can turn those options off. Whatever you do, don’t use random images you find on Google, Tumblr or Pinterest. If you have to, then Google’s reverse image search is great for finding the source of these images so you can credit them properly.

8. Promote your posts (but don’t spam)

While I get lots of visitors via random googling, the best chance of strangers finding your blog is if you tell everyone about it. If you use sites like Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook and Instagram you should find a fun way to share every post. There are lots of auto-posting services out there but nothing beats the personal touch. Posting the link with a little bit of commentary and an image is far likely to get you a click or a share than a plain autoposted link, plus some of us filter those out! However you do it, make sure you’re also posting other interesting things and don’t post the same link more than twice or people will start to unfollow you. Similarly, make sure you have sharing buttons on your posts so readers can easily share posts they like. Your blogging platform should have this built in, or AddThis provide an easy to use service.

9. Don’t monetise before you’re ready

Making money from your blog sounds like an awesome idea, and getting paid to write about stuff you love is pretty amazing. However, don’t jump the gun. Once you start accepting advertising or partnering with businesses for giveaways or sponsored posts, you now have to run your blog like a business. That means you have to blog regularly, keep your audience interested and promote your posts on social media. At Super Cute Kawaii, I have to come up with ideas for 2-3 new posts every week, deal with submissions, organise giveaways, write sponsor features for advertisers and find new daily content for our Tumblr. It’s an actual part-time job and we can’t just skip a couple of weeks because we want to go on holiday or don’t feel well – we owe it to our advertisers that they get a regular amount of visitors eyeballing their ads. I have seen so many other daily blogs fall by the wayside since we started – make sure it doesn’t happen to you!

10. If blogging doesn’t work, do something else!

Blogging isn’t for everyone and it can take a lot of time and effort. If you’re struggling, then find something that suits you better like Tumblr, Instagram or Facebook. Far better to share quick things twice a day than spend days agonising over a blog post.

Thinking of starting a blog?

If you’ve been thinking about starting a blog then I always recommend WordPress. It’s free and easy to use, with lots of great templates and all the features I mention above are built in. Plus, when you’re ready to expand, you can move to the self-hosted WordPress on your own site, which gives you even more control over the design and features but with a backend you’re already familiar with. If you’re brand new to blogging, Tumblr is also a great starter blog – it’s super-easy to use, there’s are lots of free themes available and it’s easy for people to like and share your posts.

I hope that helps some of you. If you have any more questions about blogging or anything else, Ask Me A Question!

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