5 things I’ve learned about blogging so far

I’ve been getting a couple blogging questions lately, and since I’m feeling a touch under the weather (and I lost my voice thanks to laryngitis), I thought I’d tackle some of those questions today!

 

Posting schedules matter, but not really

I’ve read lots of articles about blogging over the last few years, and some suggest an optimum amount of blog posts you should have per week. I hear and respect that, but I don’t think there’s an optimum number. I honestly think it depends on what you can reasonably do in the time you allot for blogging. What works for you may not work for me, and vice versa.

There are blogs I follow that post every day, multiple times a day, every week day, once a week, once a month, and whenever. The frequency of the posts don’t sway me as a reader as much as the content does. And I just realized today that at least half of the blogs I follow have a more flexible schedule. Half of the blogs in my reader don’t post but maybe once or twice a week… and that doesn’t stop anyone from subscribing to their feeds.

And as a reader, I don’t care so much. For those blogs that post whenever, I definitely subscribe to their RSS feeds because I don’t want to miss a post. And for those that post once a day, I definitely subscribe to their RSS feeds because I don’t want to miss a post.

So for me, it’s less about a set schedule everyone should follow, and more about finding a posting schedule that works for you. If you can only post once or twice a week, so be it. And as long as I like the content you do put out whenever you put it out, I’m happily following along.

 

Make your blog pretty – or, at the very least, legible

That’s probably going to come off as shallow, but I stand by it – make your blog pretty. Make it inviting and warm. Make it a place that you want people to visually enjoy when they stop by. There are options for templates and themes for every blog host out there, so take a weekend and make everything look nice and well-cared for.

But even more important than the look of a blog is how legible the content on it is. Lots of blogs now come with the option to change the font. As someone who loves fonts, I dig that as a blogger. As a reader, though, some font choices aren’t as legible as others; some are quite microscopic. And no matter how pretty a blog is, if I can’t read it, I’m moving on.

Truly. Because if people can’t read your blog, not much else matters.

This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use it, especially if it’s your most favorite font ever. But keep in mind that some of those fancier fonts aren’t readable at 12pt or smaller, and readability will vary from font to font, so you may have to experiment. Font A may need to be at 14pt, Font B at 12pt, and Font C at 16pt before they are readable, for example.

So, here’s a good rule of thumb: the fancier, the thinner, or the more delicate the font, the bigger in size it should be. And skip the grungy fonts for your content all together – those generally need to be super big in order to be read easily.

 

Include a search box and an archive list

Here’s why it’s a good idea – it lets people browse through all of your previous content easily, not just what’s on the first few pages. And since you spent time crafting those past posts, don’t you want people to be able to read them again?

Most visitors, myself included, hardly ever make it past page 3 on a blog. I know this from what my stats here tell me. I know this from my own personal reading habits. Unless I’ve got tons of time to browse, I hardly ever make it past the front page. Which means that I’m missing out on whatever good content came before unless I know it’s there or go searching for it.

What if I want to read that one post you wrote that one time? Having the ability to search for it on your blog will make me a happy reader, especially if I remember the title or keywords. And if the only thing I remember is that you wrote right before Thanksgiving last year, I can target November’s posts and work back from there.

Want to go an extra mile? Add a related posts widget or plugin to your blog. I’ve used LinkWithin before and now use nRelate – both will bring up related content based off of title, keywords, and categories, and is an excellent way to give older posts new exposure.

 

Use your own images or learn the proper way to give credit

There’s always a discussion going on somewhere about crediting images. It’s one of those things that comes up every so often, and while I’m not going to talk about it very much here today, my opinion is this: if you’re going to blog and you want to feature other people’s work, you need to learn how to credit properly. No exceptions.

This means tracking down original sources, and if you can’t find an original source, don’t post it. This can mean walking away from a beautiful photo because you can’t find out who took it; yeah, it sucks, but I’d rather err on the side of caution.

Sites like Pinterest and We Heart It are full of credit-less sources and it drives me nuts. There have been so many gorgeous images that I’ll never be able to share because I have no idea where they came from. This is exactly why I watermark or put my URL somewhere on pretty much every photo/image/graphic I make and post, because I can’t control which URL people will pin my photos from.

So, if you need a quick brush-up, check out these posts: Let’s Talk About Photo Crediting on Design For Mankind, Online Etiquette and Ethics (Part 1) on Design*Sponge, and Crediting Photos on {frolic!}

 

Having a blog is like being an art gallery owner…

You get to curate your content.

One of my favorite things about being an art major in college was the day we’d have our class exhibition. I loved being involved with the setting up portion, and my painting professor would let me “organize” the show because I loved decided what should go where. What can I say? Art shows gave me a nice buzz.

Blogging is the same way; it’s just another medium where I get to decide a theme, a purpose, an idea, then tailor posts and photos to match (or vice versa). And I think curating your content is a good thing, whether it’s editing your own posts, cutting out what doesn’t work, or saying no when something doesn’t feel right. Because if your blog is an art show, what are you going to put in it? Everything you can think of, or specifically chosen posts that follow a theme?

 

 

What about you? What are some things you’ve learned since starting to blog?

 

 

19 Responses to 5 things I’ve learned about blogging so far

  1. Rowena says:

    I found myself nodding along as I read this post. I was involved in a discussion yesterday on the difficulties of blogging and for me it’s time and putting out consistent quality content. It’s a challenge to blog to a schedule but then I realized that I can dictate when I blog and content is more important than frequency. I think staying true to yourself as a blogger is also important. I only blog about topics that truly interest me rather than what would generate buzz.
    Rowena recently posted Eye Candy : Kim So Yeon for Arena Homme Plus & CosmopolitanMy Profile

    • Brandi says:

      Hey Rowena!

      I definitely agree, you’ve got to stay true to yourself as you blog. That’s why I stay away from things like food or decorating or house renovations or weddings – not that they don’t interest me, but I honestly can’t speak much about any of those topics!

      And you’re totally not alone when it comes to time to blog. Not everyone can blog every day, and honestly, I’ve been thinking a lot about switching off that schedule myself lately. I hope you find a schedule that works well for you!

  2. Hazel says:

    I remember that halfway through my blogging history I tried to take all the CopyBlogger etc. advice to heart, and make my blog conform to their ideas, but wrestling my little posts into their format just stressed me out in the end.

    And when it comes to reading others’ blogs, maybe I *am* being affected subliminally by subtle tactics, but from what I can see about my reading habits, it boils down to this: if I like the topics, I’ll follow the blog *G*

    • Brandi says:

      Hazel, I agree – CopyBlogger and other sites out there have a ton of good info, but ultimately, it’s up to you how you approach blogging. All of that advice used to stress me out, too, till I realized it’s okay to do something different!

  3. Libby says:

    I have to agree with all of this Brandi. The posting schedule but not really rang true for me. I did a blogging course a couple of years ago run by a well known blogger (you know how I am about naming names) and she said to be a successful blogger (well there’s a loaded statement just there) you have to post at least once a day and it’s better if you do more. This person is a full time blogger with no children unlike me. I tried to post once a day and it just created unnecessary pressure on me and to be honest I think my blog lost its way a little. I totally agree with you, the blogs I like are the ones I enjoy reading. One of my favourite bloggers can sometimes go months between posts and I still love what she has to say. Including a URL watermark is an awesome idea – I’m going to pilfer than one if you don’t mind. And no you are not shallow for saying it should look pretty – that is the most common comment I get about my blog – how it looks. It really should make you want to stay a while. OK I’ll stop writing now… sorry for the rant.
    Libby recently posted Circle logos :: help me choose threeMy Profile

    • Brandi says:

      Yeah, I think giving advice like posting once a day only works if every reader has the exact kind of schedule and lifestyle the blogger does. For me, I don’t have children or a family of my own, and I work from home, so I have lots of time to spend blogging that others just flat out don’t. I *know* this lifestyle just won’t work for others! There’s no point pretending that everyone can do it, because honestly, if I did have a family and kiddos, or even if I had to go into an office for work, things would be so different around here.

      That said, I think people suggest posting once a day to get into a routine, which I can totally understand. But I disagree that it’s a must-do to grow a blog – I think blog growth is connected but not completely tied to posting every day. Growth has more to do with marketing and connecting with others, too, I think.

  4. I’m having a little blogging crisis at the moment, I keep getting little signs like this! This is a great to-the-point summary of some of the main issues. Everyone’s different, bloggers and readers alike. Everyone just has to do what works and feels right for them with schedules.
    Great post Brandi
    Kellie // 74 Lime Lane recently posted {crush} oh chalet’s tiny paintingsMy Profile

    • Brandi says:

      Oh, Kellie! I hope your blogging crisis is small – and yeah, I say that for totally selfish reasons because I love reading your blog. :)

      But I’m glad this post helped a little. If you need to vent, I’m here!

  5. KJ says:

    I use a posting schedule to discipline myself.

    I agree with the font recommendations. You should also note color. Light color fonts on light backgrounds do not work. Yellow is always a difficult color to read unless it is on a dark back ground.

    Never making it past page 3… I would add: do not select the option to have one post per page. In the Bead Soup Blog Hop I always page back and found it really frustrating on the blogs that were one post per page. In addition, I do not like snippits that require that I click again to read the post in full.

    I read a lot of blogs and these are the things that I have noticed.
    KJ recently posted Busy, Busy, Busy…My Profile

    • Brandi says:

      KJ, I totally agree – I need a posting schedule to stay on top of things. Otherwise, I’ll ramble and post so infrequently!

      Your comment absolutely nailed it – colored text! How could I forget?? Light color text totally doesn’t work – yellow, and pink, too. And I’m with you on the one post per page thing, or having too many posts per page so that it takes forever to load.

      Such good advice in your comment, I think I’ll have to a reader’s suggestions post and link back to you!! Thank you!

  6. Cindy says:

    Brandi, oh what GREAT points you make here. And the way you describe them just makes sense!
    You raised the issue a while back about watermarking and I absolutely agree! I’ll admit I’m getting a bit frustrated with seeing bloggers use images from Pinterest to make their posts interesting or pretty, but simply stating “Pinterest” as the source – especially if clicking on that image doesn’t bring you to the original source. Someone out there took a lot of time and care to make that art of photo and I doubt intended for it to be used on another blog without proper credit. Now I read a comment in a string on FB that adding a watermark to a photo negatively impacts how the photo is ranked in search engines… something to that effect. I didn’t quite get that and need to research it. I am trying to watermark more often myself; I think it just makes sense.
    And I totally agree with blogging in a schedule that makes sense for you individually. If you don’t have anything to share, than no need to make up “filler” posts just to keep a new post going daily just to have a new post up. I think people are afraid that they will fall away from the radar. But like you said, signing up for a blog feed is the solution for catching those that don’t post frequently.
    Thank you for sharing your words of wisdom! :-)
    Cindy recently posted A Show and a Tell (winner announced)My Profile

    • Brandi says:

      Cindy, I’ve heard that, too, about watermarking negatively impacting how a photo is ranked in search engines. I have no idea how that all works, but even if I did, I don’t think I care that much – honestly, between having a photo bumped up in search engine rankings versus protecting myself? It’s a no brainer for me. Watermarking is not a perfect solution, but it gives me some measure of comfort, so I like doing it!

      And yeah, I can totally understand that feeling of dropping off the blogging radar if you don’t blog every day. But your blog is a great example of how you don’t *have* to blog daily to have a great following! And not everyone needs the extra pressure a daily blogging grind can give – I find it kind of fun, personally, but have been thinking a lot lately about dropping back to 3 or 4 days a week instead of 5. We’ll see.

      Thanks as always for your thoughts!!

  7. Cory says:

    Thank you for the great points you have made here. As someone very new to blogging I always appreciate the wisdom of the experts! I hope to be blogging and running my own business for many years to come and your advice will definitely help to make this happen.

    • Brandi says:

      Hey Cory, thanks for stopping by! I’m glad this post helped and gave some food for thought. I think the most important thing about blogging to figure out why you’re doing it. Listen to advice but don’t be afraid to ignore it if it doesn’t fit – since you’re the one who’ll be blogging, everything you do has to work for you!

  8. Sweaty says:

    Brandi, you’ve mentioned good points here that people often missed when giving advice about blogging. I like that you brought up the topic of aesthetics, because at the end of the day, first impressions do matter :) Your current subscribers, or people who have known you before, might not care about the design and fonts in your blog, because they already know that you’re a good writer and they like the content of your blog. However, for those who are visiting for the first time, I believe it’s important to have an appeal that would differentiate you from the thousands of blogs out there he/she can choose from. The last thing you want is to have people skip your blog just because they can’t read the fonts.

    I also agree with you regarding the archives! Thanks for sharing those plugins–I’ve got to check them out!
    Sweaty recently posted Get Excited!My Profile

    • Brandi says:

      And you know something, friend, that surprised me? A lot of my readers visit the blog versus reading in a reader! Maybe that’s not surprising or necessarily true (since it’s been a while since I asked), but it caught me off guard – I thought reading in a reader would be higher, but it’s not. So, yeah, having a good looking site is more important than even I thought!

  9. Nice blogging tips Brandi, my favorite topic. lol As far as a blogging schedule,
    I think consistency is what’s important. Choose what works for you and your readers and try to be consistent but nothing’s written in stone. I should have had a new post up today but a three hour ordeal booking a flight on a horrible website changed my plans. Things happen but fortunately we determine our blogging schedules.

    I love the art gallery analogy, that’s a pretty cool way to look at it.
    Brian D. Hawkins recently posted Where Are Your Inbound Links?My Profile

    • Brandi says:

      Thanks, Brian! I agree, consistency is good. I know for me, a schedule helps me keep focused and keep on blogging – but I have the time to do that. For artists with full-time jobs, I think they have to choose how they spend their free time carefully. Blogging consistently, though not necessarily daily, is a good way to look at it!

  10. Lee Koopman says:

    I’ve been reading your 12 posts of the year, a recap and since I just discovered your blog when Erin had her Color Challenge, I see I have missed a lot. I really like this post. I subscribe to blogs because I like what the people have to say but I notice a lot of bloggers caught up in “stats” and “likes” and followers. I blog because I like a record of what I have been doing (and I like blog hops). This post is a great post for any blogger to read and I am going to pass it along. Thanks.

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