I’ve been blogging in one form or another for just over 12 years. I’ve gone through several platforms, site iterations and changes of direction; which have all supported reaching a point where I can provide some advice based on my own experiences.
I wouldn’t consider myself an expert (I’m constantly learning), but since starting back in 2009 — initially, with no concrete idea about what I was doing — I can definitely say I’ve honed skills over time that have fostered a knowledge about blogging that may be of some use to those who are new to this endeavour.
Here are my 12 tips to help you blog more confidently …
Be Consistent, But Be Flexible
Cultivating a consistent blogging schedule that allows you enough time to write, edit and publish quality content helps to build readership; never post something because you feel like you have to (sometimes the motivation/inspiration/time just isn’t there). Sometimes work, family life or studying can bring blogging challenges so don’t be too hard on yourself. Learn to be flexible during hectic or overwhelming times; understand that reducing your output for a while or reposting updated, older content is a completely reasonable adaptation to develop.
Presenting clear, knowledgeable, well-researched information will help build an authentic voice your readers can connect with. All your skilled work, sharing personal experiences or calls to action — whatever content you’re exploring — will be undermined if it’s unreadable. Certain colour combinations employed to differentiate text from post backgrounds can be very visually disruptive even for sighted visitors; not to mention the lack of accessibility this creates for the visually impaired. You don’t have to avoid using colour in your site design, but you do need to ensure there’s appropriate contrast. I recently had to leave a site because the red text/green background it used made it impossible to look at.
Alt-text is a written description that appears in place of an image if/when it gets blocked or fails to load; allowing search engines to better crawl and rank your blog. Most importantly, it enables screen-reading tools to describe the graphics, illustrations or photos to visually impaired guests; this is accessibility 101 so make sure you use alt-text for all your site images.
Make Use Of Keyword Research
Keywords are related to the questions or terms search engine users utilize to discover the information, services or products they’re looking for. Researching keywords allows you to find which phrases if incorporated into your writing, will increase traffic through organic search engine results; commonly referred to as search engine optimization or SEO. You can use free sites like WordStream to discover which keywords to use in your writing that have a high, medium or low search volume (number of times it was searched for). Other keyword research tips include:
- Do not only employ high search volume words/phrases in your posts because they have a lot of competition when being indexed by search engines. Use targeted terms that you have a chance to rank for; go for a mixture of low, medium and high keywords instead.
- Avoid keyword stuffing; filling your post with a significant volume of unnecessary keywords. Not only does it interfere with readability (sentences often make little sense or repeat themselves too much), you can end up being penalized by search engines who detect it as spam.
Improve Site Loading Time
Patience is a virtue that can be tested when site pages/posts take too long to load because images files are too large. Help create a smoother, faster experience for your readers by using compressed images; specifically compression that doesn’t reduce quality when file downsizing — a great free resource for this is TinyJPG. If your site loads easily, you’ll reduce your bounce rate (visitors leaving after only viewing one post); they’ll be able to navigate around your site, visiting more pages without difficulty.
Use Quality Images
After putting so much effort into including alt-text and compressing image files; it would be a wasted opportunity if you didn’t ensure quality graphics and photos are being used. High calibre imagery makes your content look more interesting and well organized; here’s a post I wrote about 5 of the best free stock photo sites for bloggers you can use. There are also online design tools/sites like Canva that will help produce clean, crisp and engaging visual content. Additionally, this may be an unpopular opinion, but I’d advise against using GIFS in your blog posts. They are often poor quality, low resolution and extremely distracting/visually disruptive; GIFS are best suited for use on social media.
Figuring Out Your Niche
Don’t panic if you aren’t absolutely confident about your blog’s niche, that will come with trial, error and time; it’s all part of the process. To assist you with figuring this out, get into the practice of tracking your site’s most popular posts. Check out the analytics on your dashboard and see where engagement is at its strongest. This will tell you what delivers people to your site and can aid decisions concerning what content to include/focus on.
Make Navigating Your Site Intuitive
Visitors want to be able to move around your blog with ease and will become discouraged if they have to spend time multi-clicking their way through pages and posts to seek out what they’re looking for. Here’s how to support intuitive site navigation:
- Most recent posts should be obviously displayed, preferably on your Home Page.
- Have a site search box widget on your sidebar and/or footer area so people can quickly find specific content.
- Have your contact information, social media sharing buttons and ways to follow your social media accounts clearly displayed.
- Use internal links in your posts so readers can find more of your writing on a related topic.
Audit Your Content
It’s good practice to update older posts with current information and recent links. This allows you to promote and reshare your content and for search engines to crawl for relevant content to re-drive traffic to your site. It’s also fundamentally beneficial to check for and fix errors like broken links. It’s crucial for a positive visitor experience that the links you provide still work and that clicks to your blog from other sites do not return a ‘404 not found’ page; here are some of the best tools to check for broken links.
Protect Your Site
It might seem like a bit of a hassle, but I highly recommend implementing two-factor authentication (2FA) to secure your blog from unauthorized access. Blogging is a labour of love so you should safeguard it from being hijacked; you may think you won’t be targeted, but this can happen to anyone. If your site offers 2FA, sign up for it. You should also enable comment moderation or spam detection to limit/prevent your site from being flooded by spambots or accounts that link to harmful websites/content.
Promote Your Site
Using social media to highlight, share and champion your accomplished work is well worth doing; join blogging and writing communities on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest. There are many post sharing blog accounts on Twitter like Bloggers Hut, TRJ For Bloggers and The Cliqué Bloggers RT, for example.
Be Active Within The Blogging Community
The blogging community is typically a very welcoming and encouraging place. Make sure you become a part of it by visiting, liking and commenting on other people’s sites/posts. Share the work you enjoyed on your social media accounts and cultivate a genuine interest in what others are doing; they will likely return the favour. You can’t go wrong with being actively supportive, interested and connected to other creators.
There is so much more I could add to this list — I’ll probably do another post on this topic — but these are some of the most valuable things I wish I had known when I first started blogging. I hope you found them useful!
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