If you're new to the blogosphere, and if you're like me, you're jumping into it headfirst without doing your research. Because I'm one of those people who likes to figure things out as I go along—for me, blogging has basically been a trial-and-error process. And now, after blogging for nearly three years, do I regret that? Yes. One of the things that really turned me away from research was that I was so overwhelmed with where to start. My amazing sister-in-law gave me a book about blogging, and amazing points for starting my own blog, but in typical fashion, I didn't want to read through an entire book in order to learn how to blog.
So if this is you, let me give you some advice, blogger to blogger, so maybe you can learn from my mistakes.
1. Take your time in naming your blog.
If you suddenly decide to create a blog and just make up a random name so you can get started, you're more than likely to change the name later, causing a lot of confusion. Be patient, make a list of options, brainstorm with your bestie. But be careful and choose a name you know you'll be happy with for a long time. I've thought about changing the name of Twin Thoughts several times; I honestly don't know if it's as catchy as I'd first thought, or if I even like it that much anymore. but the more I think about it, the more I realize that I shouldn't. Because Twin Thoughts has been Twin Thoughts for nearly 3 years. If I wrote an entire blog post explaining why I changed it, that post would just get buried beneath all the dozens of other posts I'd write later, and I'd probably lose some followers over it simply because they don't recognize the blog name and think that they followed the wrong blog by mistake.
So, stick with your title and set your mind on it, or create a new blog. But don't go make a new blog. Because if you don't like the title you have, there's a good chance you won't like your new one a few years down the road. (plus the aforementioned confusion.)
A tip for coming up with your blog's title, though—don't make it long. Twin Thoughts actually started out as Twin Thoughts: The Ramblings of a Country Twin. Catchy, huh?
Wayyyy too long. And fortunately, I realized that early on and simply shortened the title to Twin Thoughts, having The Ramblings of a Country Twin as the subtitle . . . tagline . . . whatever you want to call it. Then, of course, I became discontent with that tagline and it eventually evolved into The Writing & Rambling of a Farmer's Daughter. It sums up both who I am, and what the blog is
2. Pick a theme and stick with it. When I started, like I said, I had no idea what I was doing. I created a cute-looking blog that I was thrilled with, and it looked much like this one:
But I was so excited about blogging that I wanted to have fun and change my blog's look. So I changed it. And I changed it again, and again. It was so much fun! But the problem is, I kept changing my blog's look a lot. Is this a bad thing? Not necessarily, but you really need a look that captures the heart of your blog, not just what looks cool. A fresh look is nice every once in awhile, but don't overwhelm your followers with an overload of new designs! They might think they followed the wrong blog if you suddenly changed it! ;) Plus, if you're concentrated too much on what your blog looks like, you tend not to pay as much attention to the quality of the content.
So what I'm saying is, no, changing your blog's look isn't bad. But don't make a habit of it.
Speaking of content, if you decide to change that, that's a whole other ball game. Going with the previous point of keeping your title, if you want to change your entire blog—both content and title—then I would say, by all means, make the new blog.
But for Pete's sake, don't be fickle, people!
3. Keep it uniform.
If you're constantly changing the format of the posts, or have different fonts for everything, it tends to give the appearance of a lack of organization, and who wants to read a disorganized blog? That's something I've struggled a lot with on my blog. My header was one font, my gadget titles another, my post titles another, my graphic fonts another. Now, here is where I give you just my personal preference. You don't have to have the same fonts for everything. No, really, you don't! Do I think you should? To some extent, yes. You want your blog to look as neat as possible, right? (if that's not the case, then maybe you should stop reading this post . . . ) If so, then yes, using similar fonts is my recommendation. Do you have to use similar fonts for everything? Well, no, I mean, like I said, this is just my personal preference. Maybe it's just the graphic designer coming out in me, but when I check out a new blog, I like it to look like the blogger has her mind all made up on what her blog is: fonts matching, graphics similar (but I mean, if you make gorgeous graphics, you might persuade me otherwise, like this young lady right here), text breaks the same (if you're gonna use asterisks, great, if you're gonna use an image, great—just don't use both), font sizes the same, etc.
One thing about graphics, though—I wouldn't recommend what I did. I started out with no graphics, then random graphics, then uniform graphics, then a different kind of uniform graphics. My point? I changed my mind. A lot. Not recommended, peeps. Like I said, it tends to show a lack of organization—or at least, in my case, it did. ;)
4. Make your blog reader-friendly.
Imagine if you were a visitor to your blog. What would you want to see? People may want to get to know you a bit better before following you—put up an 'about me' page ASAP. Don't have time to write up an entire page? Simply make sure your profile, or a short bio, is on the sidebar! I would actually recommend doing both, as some people want to know the general idea before taking the time to read an entire page about a person whose blog they may or may not follow. Have a picture with your bio—it doesn't have to be of your face, but simply a photo that gives your viewers something with which they can connect you. A picture is worth a thousand words, and people like visual aids with what they're reading.
(Ha, listen to me, talking about visual aids while having a measly handful of pictures in the middle of my post . . . )
Seriously, though. Imagine what you'd want to see, then apply it to your own blog! Dark colors may look cool to you, and that's great—if you like it, go for it! However, it's a natural tendency for people to be more attracted to bright, cheery blogs rather than dark ones. If it reflects what your blog is about, then by all means, do it! But which are you more drawn to out of these two?
5. Create and stick to a schedule.
There are two main benefits to keeping a schedule. First, it keeps you accountable. If you have a deadline, you're much more likely to keep posting than if you simply post when you feel like it. Keeping a schedule is hard. Very hard. Goodness gracious, I know it—that explains my unexplained hiatuses throughout my blogging life. But keeping a schedule helps you develop self-discipline, as well as forces you to actually be punctual (unlike this person *points to self*).
The second reason is that people like someone who actually has order in their life—or, at least, looks like they have order in their life. They like to know what they're getting, and when to expect it. Honestly, if a blog doesn't post regularly, I'll sometimes unfollow it, depending on the content.
6. Don't overdo on the labels.
Honestly, I feel like that's one of the biggest mistakes I've made with my blog. I've made so many labels when all I needed was a few—rather than 'About Me, My Family, My Twin, Ramblings,' etc., all I need is 'My Life.' People would get the point instead of trying to wad (or maybe even drowning) through all the labels I have. It keeps things organized, you might say—well, let me say that if there's a whole bunch of labels on a blog, there's no way I'm going through them all. And please, people, don't use Cloud format! I understand that some of you like it, and that's fine. If you think it looks good, go for it. But look at this:
Compared to this:
And you tell me which Label gadget is easier to read.
(but seriously, folks, don't use that many labels.)
7. Participate in the blogosphere.
I can't stress enough how important this is. Sure, you'll gain followers as you go along by yourself in your own little corner. But to really become established in the blogging world, follow other blogs. Comment on them. Make your presence known. A lot of bloggers will check out the people that comment on their posts! Not only will this give you traffic to your blog, but it will also introduce you to people that you can relate to. Getting to know other bloggers is so much fun, and reading others' posts will help you develop your own voice in the community in which you're trying to establish yourself. You want followers? Good, but it goes both ways. If you're participating in any form of social media, you know that the best way to gain followers is to go find others with blogs/accounts similar to yours, and follow them. Now, with blogging, you don't necessarily have to follow as much as comment and interact.
Does it seem like I'm repeating myself? I feel like I keep repeating myself. But seriously, it's true. Ask other bloggers. You don't get followers by doing nothing.
Are you a new blogger or a veteran?
What are your tips on blogging?