Okay, bloggers and wannabe bloggers! I’m about to tell you the truth. It might come across a little harsh, a little overboard, or a little snarky, but that’s blogging for you! These are the hard truths I’ve come across in 15 years of blogging. But I’ll do something unconventional and give you the bottom line up front: If you love what you’re blogging about, it will all be worth it.
Here are the harsh realities, my best blogging tips, and hopefully a few helpful nuggets for your blogging career:
1. No One Wants to Read Your Diary
Sorry, folks! Are you already calling your online diary a blog? No worries! Just start to change your perspective in your next post. The reality is, most blogs (including mine) started as online diaries, journals, and daily accounts of the random stuff people did way back in the early 2000s. (And maybe the late 1990s!)
But people read books for a story. People read blogs for advice. Don’t confuse the two! What worked in 2003 won’t work now. Your blog needs to give advice, tips, hacks, and other helpful info these days. Unless you’re already famous, dead, or using a specific literary style effectively, no one wants to read your diary.
My own “dear diary” posts are still on the blog. You’ll find them (and a little more helpful info) on my Japan Page!
2. Consistency is to Blogging What Location is to Real Estate
This is actually good advice for life. Very few people can write and publish new blog material at random and be successful. People need to know what to expect from you—new material every day? Once a week? Once a month?
But almost more importantly than that, people do what they’re in the habit of doing (including you). If you’re in the habit of not writing, you won’t write often, and you’ll eventually find that you’ve gone months without posting anything. Figure out a reasonable expectation of yourself for how often you’ll post, and put a process in place so that you’ll actually achieve that. If you’re the one in a million blogger who can post randomly and see success, great! But the reality is, you’re probably like me, and you fall into the other 999,999 bloggers. Consistency is key!
3. Pinterest is an Underestimated Hero
You know where I get most of my blog post views? Is it Facebook? Twitter? Instagram? Search engines? Nope! It’s Pinterest! Ever since Pinterest went public several years ago (as in stock trading public, not on the Internet public), my views have increased by hundreds. Not dozens. Hundreds! It’s not at all uncommon for me to get 300-400 views from Pinterest in a day.
By comparison, I might get 10 views from Facebook on a good day, and I average about 1 view from Instagram per month. Instead of devoting so much time to other social media, give yourself a break and figure out how to harness Pinterest!
One of my most pinned posts: The Best Hawaiian Souvenirs
4. People Will Judge Your Post by Its Title, but Google Will Judge It More
I used to see blog post titles from other bloggers that had the words “Ultimate Guide,” “The Only,” “The Best Ever,” etc. I thought that was ridiculous. How could it be the “ultimate guide” to Africa? There are 50 countries in Africa! They’ve been to ALL of those countries? They’ve been to every city? They’ve tried every restaurant, every accommodation, every safari? How can they write an “ultimate guide” if they’ve done anything less than that?
But then my literal little mind found out bloggers were doing that for Google. Google wants to show people sensational articles, not things like, “What to Eat in Africa.” I used to try to give my posts concise, informative, honest titles that I thought people would Google. Now that I’m wise to Google’s game, though, I just give Google what it wants! Did I mention once I started writing “ultimate guides,” my views quintupled? QUINTUPLED.
More here: How Blogging Changed the Way I Travel
5. You Can’t Use Just Any Photo You Find on the Internet
I used to ask on my socials every so often if anyone had a specific photo I could use for an upcoming blog post. You know why I stopped asking? Because the vast majority of people would reply, “Just Google it” like they thought they were being helpful. DON’T DO THAT.
As a Professional Communications major in college, I took an ethics class that scared the figurative pants off me. You could get sued for ANYTHING. You cannot mess around with copyright infringement and plagiarism without consequences. Always use your own photos whenever possible. Photos you find on the Internet are likely copyrighted (not copywritten—pet peeve!), and when the owner finds out you used it without permission, they can sue you for whatever they want.
If you feel like you need to use a photo you didn’t take, you MUST ask permission, give appropriate credit, and know the rules, even for “free” stock photos. Ain’t nothin’ free, y’all.
6. Lists are Easy to Write and Read
The conventional “wisdom” used to be that if you deigned to make a list, you were not a good blogger. You were lazy, a sell-out, not creative! But y’all, any blogger who’s still blogging successfully will tell you: Lists are what people want!
Think about it. Would you rather read a long article that’s flowery and well-written, but has no headings to denote each point or recommendation in the article? Or would you rather read a top 10 list with headings, bold words to show important information, a concise paragraph or two with information about it, and maybe a link to more information? We all want it laid out simply so we can go about our lives.
People read a book for a story; people read a blog for advice. I’m sure you write beautifully! But blogs should prioritize function over fashion.
One of my most-viewed list posts: 10 Things to Do in Cheyenne, Wyoming
7. Your Socials Can Kind of Be About You
Your social media can be about the more nuanced parts of your life, sure, but if your goal is a long-term following, you still need to give others a reason to keep following you. Are you offering something they want, like applicable advice? Are you interacting with them so they feel included at your Instagram party? Are you asking their opinions? How is following you on Instagram making their life better?
Oh, and Instagram is not the new blogging—you own your blog; Mark Zuckerberg owns Instagram, and it could all go away tomorrow. That means you’ll lose everything. Your blog that you pay for is your actual possession. So if you want control over what you’re allowed to post and how long it stays available, get a blog.
We’ve all done them: The Ultimate WORST Things I’ve Done for Instagram
8. There are No Rules–Find What Works for YOU!
The truth is, what works for someone else may not work for you! Your blog has to stand out, and if it looks exactly the same as someone else’s, why would they go to your blog instead of theirs? Don’t be afraid to go out on a limb and try something new, but make sure you can then take a step back and be objective. Ask friends and family for honest opinions, then discern which ones you need to consider.
Bottom line: Make it work for you, but be willing to adjust as needed so it works for your readers.
Read next: Blogging Ideas to Help you Get Creative
Want more? Check out my Writing and Publishing Page for all my blogging and writing tips!
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