Top Ten Tips for New Bloggers

The Blogoverse has a new citizen and that is a very good thing. Since March, Pam has been blogging at Pass The Honey. pass the honey Pam and I recently started a Facebook conversation about blogging and how to make the most out of a blog. As I started my response to her, I decided to share my thoughts as a blog post.  Pam does have some specific questions, but I am going to share some “basics” first with my top ten tips for new bloggers and save my answers to the specifics for a later post.

Make A Date With The Page

This is the single best piece of advice I have ever been given about blogging. All of the credit goes to Nametag Scott. He advised me to “pick a frequency and stick to it, whether you feel like writing or not.” I prefer a less ambitious frequency to a more ambitious. For example, I blog every Sunday and occasionally create a post on an additional day. If I felt pressure to post three times a week, however, it would be difficult for me to keep that up. “Perspicacity will post every Sunday” also helps readers know what to expect.

Choose A Platform

I began blogging on Blogger and eventually changed to WordPress. For me, the move has been for the better in several key areas. My spam problems (and “anonymous commenter” problems) have been virtually eliminated by the use of Akismet. My ability to use Google Analytics has been enhanced (maybe it’s just as easy with Blogger but I did not start using Google Analytics until I had switched to WordPress).  I find it easier to work with images in WordPress than Blogger.

Quality Writing Matters

No matter how you write (or how widely you distribute your blog), poor writing will hurt your blog and your audience’s receptiveness to future content. Do you want to read mediocre writing? (That said, the main reason I blog is to flex my writing muscle, so I know that some of my writing will be better than other pieces. As with anything else in life, take the time to pay attention to your content rather than posting just to post. (Conversely, I can paralyze myself with worrying about a piece of writing’s readiness. There are times we you just have to press “publish.”))

Think About Images

Different bloggers have different thoughts about images, but for me a post feels almost incomplete without at least one image. I know as a reader I prefer to have a visual to accompany the words. One source of visual content is (wait for it…) our own lives! Here is a post that presents some great tips for creating your own visual content for your blog. Sources of free photo content that does not require permission from the creator are plentiful. I like Morgue File and a WordPress Plugin called PhotoDropper which literally drops in a photo you choose from its collection and attaches the appropriate credit to the post (it is only available for WordPress, though).

A favorite image taken with my iPhone.

A favorite image taken with my iPhone.

Be Accurate

I suppose I worded this one pretty bluntly, but if you are going to write about facts, get them right. I once hosted a giveaway for Jason’s Deli on my blog and stated that there had been a “parade of short-lived establishments since Banjo’s Barbecue had vacated.” There had not been a “parade,” there had been one (not sure where my memory pulled the “parade” from) and a commenter called me on it. Unfortunately, that was when I was still on blogger and the commenter was anonymous (although I am pretty sure I know who it was). The frustration is I would like to have followed up with them personally but could not due to the anonymous comment. (I did make a correction to the post, however.)

Say Yes to Yoast

If you want your posts to be found, one component that is important is your SEO (Search Engine Optimization). A fabulous tool for making your post more “findable” by search engines and the like is the WordPress SEO Plug-in from Yoast.  Among several useful features, Yoast helps the blogger create a “meta description” that is most attractive to potential readers. Let’s take my World Book Night 2014 post, for example. When I first published the post, the meta description was a mess (it appears in the “snippet preview”): WBN Yoast I went into Yoast and made some adjustments (the text in the “meta description” box): WBN Yoast Two

Get Permission

There are protocols that you should follow as a blogger. Certainly if you are going to use an image, give credit to the creator and obey all copyright laws. But “permission” extends to other areas of blogging too. If you are going to excerpt someone else’s writing, link to their original work or credit them prominently and (if it is an extensive excerpt) let them know in advance (or at a minimum send them the link afterwards).

Get The Word Out

I have read various estimates of how many blog posts are published in the world daily. Suffice it to say the number is high. There’s no way you could read them all. For that reason, it is important to make sure your blog gets in front of people.  This is an area where I could certainly make improvements, but for now here is what I do.

  • Make sure there is a place on my blog where people can subscribe by email
  • Participate in Triberr, which amplifies my reach by tweeting out my posts via other bloggers (and vice versa)
  • Participate in Linkups, where bloggers share their posts and agree to comment on others’ posts (a favorite linkup of mine is the SITS Girls Saturday Sharefest)

Talk Amongst Yourselves

Although I blog to flex my “writing muscle,” I would be lying if I didn’t say that comments rock my world. I love to know that people are reading, and I have had some great dialogues via my comments section (as well as heaps of support at various times in my life). “Comment to others” goes in the category of “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.” Share generously on others’ blogs and hopefully many of them will do the same for you. Likewise, respond back when someone comments to you.  Creating a community around your blog (or at least a sense that you’re having an ongoing conversation) is, to me, an important piece of blogging success.

Use Google Analytics

Google Analytics helps you understand how many people are visiting your blog as well as a host of other metrics related to your readership. While it’s easy to get unnecessarily wrapped up in these metrics, it is also helpful to know if anyone is reading (and how long they’re staying, how frequently they’re returning, etc.). I also need to be able to report my Google Analytics data when I am applying for various sponsored post opportunities.

Top 10 Tips

BONUS!

Enjoy it. There is hardly any mistake you could make that would be a fatal flaw. Writing block happens; typos happen. Life gets in the way of posting. Pam, you’re a year away from retirement and, to quote you, “I want an exciting life and I will try my best to have it.” Something tells me you’re going to succeed, and I for one can’t wait to read all about it on your blog!  Pam’s blog can be found at Pass the Honey (link here). Stop by and say hello!

(Lastly, Pam was Tenley’s (my daughter) English teacher last year. Thank you for making her senior year one in which the joy of words was alive and well!)

Dear Blogger-To-Be (A Mama Kat Writing Prompt)

This week, Kat’s writing prompt number five (which random.org “assigned” me) instructed us to write about this:   If you were to go back to the moment you decided to start a blog, what ten blogging tips would you share with yourself?  I don’t necessarily have ten tips, but there are several things I would do differently.

What Should I Call This Thing?
I just went back and read my first post, which I posted on May 18, 2008. I had forgotten that I was inspired to blog by the audiobook Julie and Julia. When I sat down that day and hastily created a blog, I had to think up a name quickly. I chose “Momforlife” because, clearly, I will be a mom for the rest of my life. As my blog grew and changed, however, I did not like the fact that the name “Momforlife” made it sound like I was solely a “mommy blogger,” especially when I wrote business-oriented blogs. That is why I eventually changed the name to “Perspicacity.” (The story behind the name is in this video (with my apologies for the horrible cinematography!)) I would have thought through my blog name when I established the blog.

What Platform Should I Use to Blog?
I started blogging on Blogger because …. it just seemed the easiest option at the time. How could something called “Blogger” not be sufficient? As my quantity of blogs on Blogger approaches 300 and my number of followers approaches 200, I am concerned that a switch to a different platform may be disruptive and no one will be able to find me (and that I won’t be able to figure out how to transition my history to the new platform). But I know what a pain it is for me as a reader to make comments on Blogger blogs, and I love comments, so I’d like commenting to be less problematic. I’m also still miffed at Blogger for those days it stole from me in May 2011 and the fact that the heartfelt post I had written about my childhood best friend reverted back to the half-finished version. I would have gotten some reliable advice on which blogging platform to use.

Is Anyone Reading This?

When I wrote those first posts back in 2008, and as I kept blogging into 2009, I think I had some expectation that the blogosphere would just “become aware of me.” Not because my blog was that amazing, but I just thought if I would write stuff, someone would read it. I know now that it does not work that way. Being a blogger who wants to be read requires some self-promotional capabilities, and that you do your share of interacting with other bloggers. I was fortunate to get some great advice from a friend about using Twitter to promote a blog. Between Facebook, Twitter, Linked In, link-ups, and getting to know other bloggers through patiently commenting and engaging, I got to the point where I could anticipate a few comments with almost every blog. I have also discovered more recently that I had underestimated the role YouTube can play in expanding your social media presence.  I would have developed a more systematic strategy for promoting my blog.

Design

I am bored with the design of my blog. I like it better than the template I originally used, but I want pictures of green felt-tip pens! I want pictures of me! I want people to see my blog and know immediately that they are in Big Green Pen territory. I did some barter work with an individual who was helping me with design in exchange for my editing assistance on some of his work, but I never felt completely “in sync” with him and I did not devote the time necessary to tweak his proposed design. Which gets me back to Square One. I would have secured a design resource I trusted and/or taken a full day to patiently work through the process of incorporating my felt tip pens into my blog presence.

Topics

When I first committed to blogging weekly, every week’s topic was going to be a report on how close I was to reaching my running goal of breaking thirty minutes for a 5K run. Then I started expanding on other things, posting Wordless Wednesdays, and writing to Mama Kat prompts. I wrote rather candidly about my teenager and my work. Now that the teenager is sneaking peeks, I find myself backing off of writing about her. Now that my supervisor has counseled me that my blogging about work may be undermining my credibility, I find myself censoring the work-related comments a bit. I am my family’s only breadwinner and the carrier of our health insurance – as much as I like to write about work, as cathartic as it is, and although I stand behind every word I have written and every visual I have used, I can’t jeopardize my family any worse that it already is by writing or videotaping something that would be perceived adversely. It’s not that I would have done anything differently about which topics I chose, but this “topics to avoid” issue keeps rearing its ugly spectre and I am grappling with it weekly.

Step Away from the Keyboard and Talk to Them

When I committed to blogging weekly, after a complimentary “rent Scott’s brain” session with Scott Ginsberg, my main priority was to “flex my writing muscle.” Then I discovered other benefits of blogging: it was therapeutic (and cheaper than therapy!); I am a different, more uninhibited person behind the keyboard than in a face-to-face conversation; I could make peace with things and people that I had not gotten closure with. But the problem with baring your soul to an individual through a blog is that for the blog to do any good they have to read it and you can’t make someone read your blog. As was the case with the people who I used to supervise, writing about them a year later, giving them a copy of the blog in a gift bag along with a memento, was no substitute for the 30 minutes I should have taken along with some a few pizzas. Sometimes you just have to look people in the eyes for what you have to say to matter.

Mama's

Mirror, Mirror, on the …. Blog? (A Mama Kat Vlog Prompt)

Mama's
Last week, when Kat added a “bonus” vlog prompt to her traditional list of five writing prompts, I bit. This week, the “bonus” was there again! I haven’t figured out, if we keep getting these “bonuses,” how I am going to balance vlogging with writing, but for this week at least, I wanted to make some technical improvements to last week’s vlog (like fixing the lighting so my face showed up — you know — the basics!).
My 11 year old showed up as I was editing and showed me how to make the pictures go by faster, but after my tutorial, I forgot to do that and published …. so this week you can see my face but still have to sit through 7-second-long pictures (more time to read the witty captions, right?).
Without further ado …….. my answer to this week’s vlog prompt ……… show us where the magic happens! Tell us about your blogging process!

The End!

How Much Longer Will I Be Blogging About My Children?

                                                        

Little_green_felt_tip_pens_biggerBy the time I finished composing my comment to Liesl Jurock’s Mama’s Log this morning, I realized that I had drafted my blog for tonight. Although I had seen the topic of “Have Mom Bloggers Gone Too Far?” a few times this week, I had not really paid attention to the renewed chatter the topic of mommy bloggers had gotten.

The topic crossed my radar screen when Kat blogged about the pros and cons of being a semi-generous sharer regarding how much of her life (and her family’s images/identifying information) she shares with her followers.

The topic crosses my mind every time I am on Jess’s A Diary of a Mom page and happen across the link to the explanation of her choice to use pseudonyms for her children, in order to give them as much online anonymity as possible.

The topic crosses my mind when I am casually conversing with friends about social media; some don’t like putting pictures of their children on their blogs but don’t mind putting them on Facebook. Some people bestow pseudonyms on their children in a practice that is apparently more prevalent than I realized. The choices are numerable, and the bloggers I know cover a wide spectrum. 

Liesl’s position, which I am hopefully summarizing accurately, is this: She writes. She parents. (She has a supportive spouse and a solid marriage). She infuses her experiences with her son (with his real name) throughout her blog, because to do otherwise would result in a) her losing a vital outlet that helps her figure it all out, and b) those of us who read her work losing a link in the “we’re all in this together” (apologies, High School Musical) climate that helps us stay sane.

Here’s what I said in response:

Hi Liesl, I am glad you wrote this. I had seen a bit of the “mom blogging controversy” over the last few days. When I read blogs by some moms who have thousands of followers, I do think (occasionally) about the exposure their children are getting, especially in pictures. Maybe someday I’ll be blogging for thousands -right now it’d be a banner day to blog for a hundred.

My absolute primary reason to blog is to keep my “writing muscle” fresh, and to leave my children out of THAT equation would be the most unnatural thing in the world. Therefore, when Sunday (my usual blogging day) rolls around and I search my brain for a topic, if one of my children is part of that topic, so be it. I have found that I am less inclined to write about my teenager, not because she is the less interesting of my two children, but because either she’s not involved in the “blog worthy” events about which I write or because I just don’t glean as much material from her since she’s often out of the house or behind earbuds.


My husband doesn’t read my blog. I sometimes wish he would because utter strangers know more about me (like why I stood in the middle of a major highway sweeping up glass from an auto accident) than he does, but it also gives me (and those followers) a tiny world in which I am quite independent. I can live with that for now, and it’s not like I could force him to read it, AND it’s his loss after all.

I often wonder what my children are going to take to the therapist’s couch with them as adults – I imagine in overcompensating for the things that sent me there, I am creating a bunch of new issues for them. I suppose with my blog, maybe they’ll have written backup instead of relying on their memory banks!

I want to make sure to reiterate that I respect every parent blogger’s choice about how they handle their chlid’s identity on their blogs. 

I suppose if my kids don’t want to be in my blog they can behave like angels 100% of the time, make perfect grades, never get into conflict with their peers, and always make consumer choices that defer to the abject poverty in many parts of the world compared to the relative luxury we have.

Hmmm……sounds like they’re going to be here on momforlife for a long, long time!

Every Problem Has a Gift for You in its Hands – a Be My Guest Post!

It endlessly fascinates me to see how different people can take one specific concept and turn it into something individual and unique.  I have really enjoyed “Be My Guest” month, a month of “mutual blogging.”  As Be My Guest month comes to an end today, Lauren Novo shares her thoughts on the quote she and I both chose to use (and encouraged the universe of Be My Guest-ers to use!):  Every problem has a gift for you in its hands.  (by Richard Bach) 

I became acquainted with Lauren through my coworker Niki Pocock.  When Niki and I talk social media, it seems like the conversation often comes around to Lauren, who blogs at Gen-Y PRogress.  Lauren and I are at very different stages career-wise, but we have found in common a joy in writing and making connections.  Make sure to connect with her.  It will be a gift you give yourself!

“Every Problem Has a Gift for You in its Hands.”


By: Lauren Novo


I’m a firm believer that everything happens for a reason. So in January, when my boyfriend and I flipped off the highway and landed upside down in a side ditch, I knew it wasn’t an “accident.” My car was demolished. But we walked out of the vehicle completely unscathed.

Why? I’m not sure. All I know is that it could have been so much worse.

Still, I had to juggle insurance calls, school and work the following week. I had to squeeze in time for car-shopping, and worried I wouldn’t find anything as reliable as the vehicle I had lost. I was stressed. Even a little resentful.

I tried to stay positive. I was beyond lucky to be alive. But still, I couldn’t help feeling annoyed that the accident was not my fault (a possum, YES a possum, hit the front tire, causing the car to spin out) and yet I had to deal with the problem.

I forced myself to sit down and really face my situation. I knew that as much as I hated the idea, I was going to have to finance my next car. I figured out what sort of payment plan I could realistically afford and went from there. And while I was at it, I looked at the other expenses I would be responsible for in May, when I graduate from Florida State University.

So where’s the “gift” in all this? The silver lining? Besides the obvious—my boyfriend and I are OK—I’m finally starting to see the bigger picture.

As a student, I’ve lived in a bubble. I think about life after graduation in terms of my career all the time, but not so much in terms of financial responsibility. I don’t like thinking about losing health insurance coverage the day I graduate. Nor do I want to worry about cell phone plans and actually having to pay for cable and water at apartment complexes.

But that’s life, and thanks to the car accident, I feel slightly more prepared for it. Now that I’ve acknowledged new and upcoming expenses, I know just how far any given salary will go. I know what I need to survive and I know what I need to feel comfortable.

I’m still as excited as ever about my future. But now, I’m happy to report I have a more realistic view of what that future will entail. And that knowledge and peace of mind are most certainly gifts.

Like what you’ve read? Connect with me on Twitter, LinkedIn and read my blog, Gen-Y PRogress: Lauren Novo’s PR Journey.