After blogging for over 2 and 1/2 years, I can definitely say that I’ve learned a few things about the subject. I started out “green” just like a lot of you new bloggers out there. I had to learn how to do posts, how to spruce up my blog and make it look all purdy, and how to add gadgets and widgets and all those other things that make blogging fun.
(all of these images were found online under Google images…pretty funny & a reminder not to take blogging too seriously)
So, in light of all of that, I thought this would be a good time to share with you new bloggers out there. And there are a bunch of you! I see new blogs every single day and am amazed at all the new ones on the block now. So, we all have to start somewhere. I’m going to share some hopefully good tips for you to take and use to perhaps make blogging easier for you and fun too.
Many of the things I’ve learned have been trial and error. I can’t tell you how many emails I sent in those early days, trying to figure out how to do something, so I would ask another blogger “how do you do that?”. Everyone was so kind along the way, so I would like to pass on some of that to you “newbies”.
I changed my blog around so many times that first year, trying out backgrounds, headers, adding widgets, and so on. Now that I’m on my own domain and with WordPress, I can look back and see how far I’ve come. And hopefully, I can share some of that with all of you. Figuring out HTML is a whole ‘nuther subject and one that I’m just beginning to conquer just a little bit. It was scary at first, but once you learn some of the basics, it all gets easier.
1. Writing posts in Windows Live Writer: I did a whole post on Windows Live Writer earlier this year. Another blog friend told me about it and it made posting blogs and uploading pics SO much easier and faster than writing in Blogger. I have now moved my blog over to WordPress (I have all these options built-in now), so I don’t need to use Windows Live Writer anymore, but if you are still on Blogger, I would highly suggest you download this wonderful tool and use it. You will be able to get much larger pics without all the hassle of changing codes or anything. I learned how to do that too with my pics before I started using WLW, but once you start with it, you will never have to change any code again for your pics to be larger. You can drag them any size you want and they will stay. Not to mention, you don’t have to worry about loading them a certain way or if you want to go back and add a pic in blogger, it messes everything up. You can load them and then move them around in WLW before you ever send them over to Blogger. Read all about it HERE.
One little tip about WLW. Once you get it loaded on your computer, you will then need to link it to your blog. Click on the Blog tab at the top and you’ll see Add Blog Account, you just put in your blog url and follow the steps to get your blog linked up with WLW, then you’ll be all set. When you write a post, you will have the option of Publishing right then, or you can Save to Draft, as well as Send Draft To Blog. Once you start playing with it, it’s easy, I promise! I usually Save to Draft first and then Send Draft to Blog, since most of my posts are done ahead of time.
2. Letter Verification: This is #1 on my Personal Pet Peeves. If you are a new blogger, I would highly recommend that you TURN OFF the comment with letter verification. Your readers will be SO frustrated constantly having to type in those letters to leave you a comment. And it is totally not necessary to do that. If you feel you need privacy and some form of control over spam or bad comments, then just simply have all comments moderated. That way you can delete anything that shows up that you don’t want posted. Putting the letter verification thingy up there is just plain NOT necessary and makes people jump through some aggravating hoops just to leave you a comment. You may find that people will not leave as many comments if you continue to keep this on your blog. I know it certainly makes me think twice about leaving one. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve typed in those letters, only to have to do it again….sometimes twice. Don’t chase your readers away by doing this! PLEASE! I see SO many new bloggers with this feature turned on and you may not even know it’s on there. Go and check your comments and see how you have them set up.
3. Music: If you are a serious blogger and want to be taken seriously, turn off your music. Now, there may be some exceptions to this and this is just my opinion, so take it for what it’s worth (about 2 cents :). I know some who have sort of a theme music going on their blog and that I can see. But, for you to have random music blasting all the time on your blog, it just makes me get off really fast if I go to a blog with blaring music. Chances are, your readers will not have the exact same taste in music that you do. But, if you’re just having fun with all your friends, then do what you want about the music situation. You won’t see any long-standing blogs with music for the most part.
4. Have fun, be friendly, and be yourself: Have fun with blogging! The best thing I can tell new bloggers is to be patient, get out there and meet a lot of people. Comment, comment, comment all over blogland. There are a TON of new blogs out there in the time that I’ve been blogging and it is really overwhelming to try to meet all the new ones even when we are all in generally the same niche: mom blogs, homemaking blogs, crafty blogs, decorating blogs, thrifty blogs, cooking blogs, etc. It’s gotten impossible for me to keep up with all of YOU who come to visit me. I hate that, but that’s just the truth. I keep up with almost 200 blogs on my Google reader and I can’t even read all of those consistently. So, please understand how hard it is to stay up with everyone. But, if you are a new blogger, the best way to get known is to keep commenting. Strike up a conversation and talk to those that you’d like to get to know. If you keep talking, they will notice you! Be friendly and you will make friends! That’s a simple one, but it works.
Don’t try to be someone you’re not. Just be yourself, that’s one of the best things I can tell you. We are all made differently, with unique personalities, so let yours shine. No one can be YOU better than YOU. If you are passionate about what you’re blogging about, it will show. Blogging can sometimes feel competitive and a little bit like a High School popularity contest. But, that is part of putting yourself out there. Again, just be true to who you are and your blog will be uniquely yours.
5. Be patient in growing your blog. This is one of the things I see too, lots of blogs all trying to get noticed, make a name for themselves, and grow big. It may or may not happen, you just have to be patient and it probably won’t happen overnight. It’s taken me over 2 1/2 years to grow my blog to where it is now. There are many blogs who are bigger than I am and some of them grew much faster than I did. That is just the way it is in the blogosphere. Most of the time, it takes time and effort put into a blog for it to grow consistently and most blogs do not explode in growth the first year. Time, grasshopper, it takes time! Plus, with all the new bloggers out there, I think it’s even harder to get noticed and to build a successful blog takes much effort and time. I can’t tell you the hours I spend behind my blog to make it all work. Lots of hours! But, it’s fun and I love it!
6. Add your Email: Encourage interaction with your readers by adding your email address in your Profile or sidebar. Most people just want to be friendly and they may want to just email you a question or comment about your blog. It’s fun to get emails, so don’t be afraid of that. This is a community.
Edited to add: Also, sign up with Sitemeter (I have it on my blog) or one of the other stat counters to get an accurate count of who is visiting you. Google Analytics is also another great thing to add to your blog. You can find that in My Account under Blogger also. You’ll have to add some code to your blog, but once you set it up, you can go in and look at all your stats and get an accurate count of who is visiting, where they came from, and if they landed on your page from a Google search, it will tell you that too. Good information to know!
7. Learn How to add a Permalink: Most of you have probably participated in linky parties before and I do a lot of them myself and I still see a lot of folks who just don’t understand the permalink thing. When you are participating in a party and want to leave a permalink, here’s what you do: type up your blog post on your blog and once it is posted “live”, then you can get the permalink by clicking on the blog post and highlighting and saving the url address. That is what you will paste into the party box, along with your blog name. There are other ways to get the url address too, but this is the most direct for me. It’s easy once you give it a try. I can’t tell you how many people still don’t understand this simple process or they don’t take the time to read and do it correctly. Everyone who hosts a party will love you and thank you for learning to do this right.
8. Taking pics for your blog: As a new blogger, I knew nothing about taking photos for my blog. It was all definitely trial and error and if you look back on my earlier posts, you can see how far I’ve come. Thank goodness! I’ve also upgraded my camera, but I still don’t own an expensive one. Mine is a Canon Powershot A570IS and cost less than $150, but I have managed to get some pretty good pics with it. One thing I learned early on is to turn off the FLASH! Such an easy solution, but it really makes all the difference. You’ll have to learn h0w to keep very still while you’re shooting so that pics will not be blurry, but my camera works pretty well without the flash and I don’t ever use a tripod. Your pics will look SO much better. And post your pics as large as you can (see Windows Live Writer above)! Your readers will love that. Don’t you love to open a blog with big, beautiful pics?? Yeah, me too!
9. Learn how to do “live” links in your blog posts and sidebars. I still click on some blogs that have the whole string of url addresses in their sidebars or blog posts. That is so messy and there is a really easy solution to this. Every blog post will have an icon for “live” (clickable) links, all you have to do is use it. If you want to make a word or sentence “live”, all you have to do is type it out, go and grab the link url where you want the link to go to once it is clicked on, come back and then highlight that word or words, click on the Globe icon on your blog post bar and it will bring up a box so that you can paste in the url for the link. Easy, peasy! So, if you haven’t learned how to do that, do so pronto. The same thing goes for your sidebars. You can paste in live link urls to your sidebars too. Just play around with doing that and you’ll get it. If you have questions about anything, there is always someone around who will answer it for you. Myself included, I’ve answered many questions about blogging how-to’s along the way.
10. Google Reader or Bloglines: If you haven’t signed up to read blogs in a reader yet, you will definitely want to do that. It saves a ton of time to get all the blogs that you subscribe to in one spot, so that you can click on there and immediately see who has a new post up. It’s so much easier to keep up with your favorite blogs this way. I now use Google Reader, but started out with Bloglines. I found that Bloglines didn’t update properly for me all the time, so I switched. Adding a subscription and feed option to your blog will help your readers too, so do that also. If you don’t understand that or know how to do it, I can help you. Blogger has their own feed service, under Feedburner and it’s really easy to get installed. You can also receive blog posts by email and that is another option. I like to offer all of these options to my readers, so you can all pick and choose the best method.
I also want to take a minute and just say a BIG THANK YOU to all of you who take time out of your busy schedules to come by and read my blog. It means the world to me and without all of you out there, I wouldn’t be doing this. I have so much fun with it all and it has taken me places I never dreamed I’d be. So, I just wanted to tell y’all how very much I appreciate all of you out there who consistently support my blog, the ones who leave comments AND the lurkers. I love you lurkers too! How about throwing me a comment occasionally?! :;
Susan, over at Between Naps on the Porch wrote a nice, concise post on blog tips and she goes into even more details than I did here, so check that out for more particulars on how to add widgets and other things on your blog.
Also, check out some new blogger tips on styling your blog from Donna at Funky Junk.
I hope this helps all of you new bloggers a little bit. Blogging has been SO much fun for me and if I can pass on some of my knowledge to you newbies, I want to do that. There are always more things to learn and I’m always on a quest to learn new and exciting things to make my blog better too. Sometimes it’s totally overwhelming and over my head, but I keep plugging away at it.
Two really neat success stories are two blogs that I’ve been following since they started. One of them, Young House Love, just celebrated their 2 year blogoversary and they just did a post on how they got started and how their blog has exploded in this short time. They’re a fun young couple in their first house, sharing their remodeling and DIY projects and their blog took off like a rocket. If you’ve never visited, go over and take a look, as they are a very inspiring young couple.
And my friend, Layla, from The Lettered Cottage, has had tremendous success with her first year of blogging and has really taken off too. You can definitely see when someone is sharing their passion and these 2 definitely do that. Heart and soul combined.