In recent posts, I've looked at the six reasons why writers should blog, and how to get started with creating your own blog.
In this post I'd like to look at a few dos and dont's of good blogging. These are my own personal recommendations - do you agree or disagree? Do you have any other 'pet peeves' you'd like to add to this list?
Do give your blog a name that has longevity
In my previous post on blogging I recommended you use your own name as your blog title, not a single book title or something cutesy. Want to know my reasoning? Read here.
Don't use a header that takes up the entire page
Yes, we're sure that big picture you're using as a header is very pretty, but you want readers to see that this is a blog, not just an image that takes up their entire screen.
Do blog consistently
Whether you choose to blog once a week or once a month, try to be consistent so blog followers / readers know when to expect your next post. (This falls under the heading of 'Do as I say, not as I do'!)
Don't cut and paste from Word
This is an especially big no-no if you have a Blogger blog. Word documents contain all sorts of hidden formatting that can make the formatting of your blog posts go screwy. If you need to cut and paste from a word document, ensure that you are creating your post in HTML mode, not in regular Create mode.
Don't make your blog posts too long
Remember that attention spans are getting shorter and shorter. Faced with an epic 1,000 word post full of unbroken text, most blog visitors will simply say "hell no!" and leave without reading. While you want to offer value (so your blog post should ideally be more than 2 lines) if you find your post is getting long, split it into 2 or 3 shorter posts. My recommendation for ideal length is about 300 - 400 words per post.
Do use illustrations
Readers are attracted to visually appealing posts that contain illustrations or even videos, so liven up your posts with images. Remember to give credit to the source of the image, and ensure that the pictures are positioned so as not to obscure the text or sidebars.
Don't rely on Google for your images
Many of the images that pop up in a Google search are copyrighted, so use them at your peril! For safe images that won't land you on the wrong end of a law suit, search for copyright free images on pexels.com, pixabay.com, or unsplash.com.
Do use hyperlinks
These are the clickable links that lead to other websites. Having people click on share links from your blog can have a positive impact on your SEO (search engine optimisation). However, ensure that you enable external links to open in a new window, so the link doesn't take the reader permanently away from your blog.
To make a link clickable, highlight the text then click on the paperclip icon in your menu, and then enter the URL when prompted. There's nothing worse than finding an interesting link in a blog post, then having to jump through hoops to reach the site.
Remember to check that the links are active and don't lead to dead pages on the web.
Do use embedded hyperlinks
When adding a link on your blog, ensure that its a link like this: Writing Coach blog, rather than this: https://www.writingcoach.co.za/single-post/2017/11/10/Six-reasons-why-writers-should-blog
Rather choose a relevant piece of text and create an embedded, clickable link than simply copying the entire URL into your post.
Don't make your reader jump through hoops to comment
Back in the halcyon early days of blogging, people commented on blog posts. Today, getting a reader to invest themselves enough to comment is tough work. Don't make it even more difficult for them by asking them to give blood or their first born (or fill out endless Captcha requests) in order to leave a comment. Sure, you're worried about being spammed, but spam comments are really easy to delete. And DO enable commenting on all your posts!
Do tag your posts
All the major blog providers give you the option to add tags and categories to your posts. Don't ignore these. Using tags not only helps visitors to your blog to find the posts that most interest them, but also improve your visibility / searchability on search engines. So for example: if your blog post is about research you've done on wine making in Tuscany, tag the post with keywords like wine, Tuscany and research.
Don't plaster your bog with paid advertising
Tempting as it may be to make a little extra money from advertisers by having adverts plastered all over your blog, or popping up when the reader least expects it - please don't! For the two cents you're likely to earn, you're way more likely to annoy and scare off potential blog followers. You are not a corporation. You're an author.
Finally, DO choose a clean, uncluttered design
Take a look at the images below. Which one appeals most to you, and which makes you want to run a mile? Yes, your blog should reflect the type of books you write (so you might not want pastel flowers all over your blog if you write erotic thrillers) but ensure your blog is appealing.
In my next marketing post, I'll discuss blog content: what should you write about?