Lake Atitlan, Panajachel, Guatemala

“Reading and writing are acts of empathy and faith. Guard that trust carefully — in this rapidly changing business, it’s the only sure thing.” ~Erin Keane
"Never give up. And most importantly, be true to yourself. Write from your heart, in your own voice, and about what you believe in." ~ Louise Brown

"Write something to suit yourself and many people will like it; write something to suit everybody and scarcely anyone will care for it."
~Jesse Stuart

"A writer's job is to take one thing and make it stand for twenty." ~ Virginia Woolf

Friday, May 20, 2011

Ten Tips for a Better Blog

So after a major move, no internet (except my Blackberry), and a forced hiatus from visiting and commenting on blogs, I have been on a blogger binge this week.

Which brings me to reflect on ten tips for a better blog-- from someone who has a lot of blogs to choose from and limited time to read them (which is probably all of us who have been here longer than 3 weeks)--

1. Don't start your post with "Sorry I've been too busy to post here lately." That's boring. Also, hearing about your cold or your kids' or your coworkers' colds is boring. Descriptions of common colds and flu symptoms always send me running to the next blog down the line.

2. If you are involved in a blogfest that I'm involved in, I'll click to see what you're doing. If not, I'll move on. No offense, it's just about connecting with common interests.

3. I know the general advice is "keep posts short" but sometimes longer is better. Sometimes short is too short. Like, What? That's it? I wrote a post about homeschooling on my other blog that was one paragraph-- total cop out, I still feel bad about that one. I totally checked it in. Some topics need more treatment. My homeschooling experience was definitely one that did.

4. Edit posts and take out the wordy phrases and boring bits. A writer's blog should be well put together. I'm all for relaxing the strict rules of grammar and punctuation when blogging, but edit out those unnecessary words that make a post a hard- to- read time suck.

5.Then there's the captcha phrases, word verif, and comment verification. We all have our reasons for doing what we do, and there's a couple blogs I will always follow even with comment verif (Hello Old Kitty, I heart you), but it creates a distance. And captcha slows everyone down and also eats comments that may be lost forever. Want more comments? Then get rid of anything that slows down your potential commenters! Blogger catches spam really well now, so why worry?

6. I don't want to hear music. Not on a blog. Not at all. Unless it's Robert Smith and the Cure singing Piggy in the Mirror.

7. Too busy is bad for business. Too many gimmicks on the sidebar take time to load, are distracting and look cluttered. They direct attention away from the important part, which is your post, your writing, who you are. Do those swimming fish say anything about you personally, or are they there just to hypnotize me and make me sleepy? And Google ads are just plain annoying.

8. Wallpaper. Really? Wallpaper is outdated everywhere people, even in houses. Especially the flowery, busy stuff that looks like it was taken from a class on scrapbooking. No, your blog is NOT the cutest blog on the block.

9. Anyone who wants more traffic should search Copyblogger or Problogger for tips. Or find a blog you like that fits your audience and do what that person does. Only still be you.

10. Be yourself. Have fun and enjoy the experience without stressing over numbers (stats, followers, comments, views). Work on content, visit other blogs, put yourself out there and like-minded people will find you.

So those are my Ten Tips, anything you want to add? And while we're on the topic, what is your biggest pet peeve with blogs? Go on, I'm listening.

56 comments:

  1. Not quite a pet peeve yet, but I wish more people would bold their posts. A lot of us older readers could use the extra help in reading what you write. Thanks. Barbara at http://lifefromtheroots.blogspot.com/

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  2. I usually pass on busy and confusing blocgs without a clear theme. But I think I'm also guilty of following too many. I end up just visiting my favorites most of the time.

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  3. Good tips! My pet peeve is one you covered -- websites that are slow to load, for whatever reason.

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  4. Mine is word verification like you already mentioned. These are excellent tips, Karen. Thanks.
    Karen

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  5. I visit my faves most of the time...and avoid anything flowery, busy, with background score like the plague.

    I also visit back people who comment on my posts...in fact they are my priority!

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  6. All great advice. I hadn't thought about wallpaper looking dated. I have a graphic designer friend, the one who's going to be doing the visuals for my book trailer. I may see if he can come up with a simple, but striking, background design for my blog.

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  7. Wonderful tips. I agree with all of them. Only one I'd like to add - light printing (usually a small font) on a dark background especially if I can't even see where the comment, etc... buttons are unless I highlight them with my cursor. Don't you people WANT us to comment? I've really tried to make my site simpler in the past year. Hope I'm getting there. I know young people can handle several events going on in their view plane at once but I cannot.

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  8. Good point, Jan. To that I'd add that everyone should double and triple check every page and function of their blog after each change to the deisgn, layout, and colour. I spent the better part of a day re-designing my blog as I saw combinations that made the blog difficult to read or comment on.

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  9. Great post! Except--I love my wallpaper. And it is totally scrapbooky.

    I can handle the word verifications and what not. But what I can't handle is entering an email to comment. I've never commented on a blog that asks for email.

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  10. These are all great tips, Karen. I've really simplified in the last few weeks and I'm working on taking it down a little more. I do like having a wallpaper, though. It feels like a part of my personality to have something in the background. But, I've tried to keep it really simple, too.

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  11. Great tips! Excellent for the newbies. I'd like to add that I cant stand bright coloured text. That horrible neon purple with a black background, for example. Seriously. gives. Me. an. epileptic. fit. ...

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  12. I think I violate several of your rules - like my gadgets, like my wallpaper (never seen another blog with it), and I'm a man of few words.

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  13. Great advice. Rules are made to be broken, of course, but you won't go far wrong following these. Thanks!

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  14. Awwww I heart you too lovely KarenG!

    I seriously don't have any peeves about blogs I follow - I love em all - yay!! Take care
    x

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  15. Most of my posts are too long; I have the tendency to get really excited about what I'm writing and I want to get it all in one post. I need to work on editing it, but I'll still probably have long posts every now and then. One pet peeve is when people use small font that's difficult to read, especially for me because I'm nearsighted. I don't want to have to squint while I'm reading, though I do wear contacts.

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  16. Great tips. I don't know if I have wallpaper or not. Probably do. Not really sure what that is.

    And recently the captchas have been irritating me. Probably because I have so many more blogs to read than I used to, and I'm in a hurry to post a comment and move on.

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  17. Rules are made to be broken, I like that. There are some pretty successful blogs that have broken many of the rules, probably do to strong elements that outweigh the weaknesses.

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  18. Interesting post, Karen.
    My blog is really just my online diary and I mainly use it to connect with other writers. I tend to write mainly Magpie tales now to kickstart new ideas and characters for stories I am working on. I agree with a lot of your points, I just changed my own blog recently as I couldnt even read my own posts, with white writing on black background.

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  19. Word verification is my enemy Grrr. It takes to much time and now that Blogger has spam blocker I'm happy. Thanks for the tips.

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  20. Oh no Karen, accept for the verification everything applies to me. I'm so depressed and so attached to my gadgets and template. This is gonna be painful. Gall stones painful. :(

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  21. Every thing in moderation, great post Karen. I don't really have many pet peeves except the music.

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  22. I hate word verification. I rarely watch videos. I never listen to music. Too many gadgets on a blog can be overwhelming.

    Depends on what we want our readers to focus on; and what we want to provide for them. Followers come first, IMHO! I recently re-did (that's me) my blog and deleted all those pics that slow the upload (though I didn't have very many). I'm trying to streamline my blog so it looks like a WordPress one. I still can't figure out WordPress!

    ProBlogger is one of my favorites. I read something today that was awesome--and now I can't find it. I'm going to start keeping a log each day of where I go.

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  23. Ann, I have streamlined mine as well, had to get rid of awards. It's a work in progress and whenever I visit copyblogger I learn something more on how to improve.

    Summer, moderation is the best policy!

    Wendy, well all I can say about that is your posts are so brilliant that I don't even notice the gadgets,etc. Yours is one I never miss.

    Kerri, me too grrr!

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  24. I don't mind Word Verification so much (although I took it off my blog before the A-Z Challenge) but the wallpapers people use sometimes get on my nerves, too. Some of them are quite pretty, but my browser takes a relatively long time to load them, especially if they're over a Blogger template.

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  25. I don't like to hear music or see Google ads, but word verification and (short) apologies don't bother me. I'm not drawn to blogs with ugly templates either, but if the posts are superb, I can over look it.

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  26. Great advice. Blogs are a way to connect with people, not showing rooms for your every thought. If it's not fun to read, people aren't going to read it.

    My biggest pet peeve? Long blog posts. Like you said, it's good to give a topic its space. But there gets to a point, usually around six hundred words, where I realize I haven't understood what the person is trying to say and there's nineteen more thick paragraphs to go.

    But that's just me.

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  27. Woot! on the music. I do not like it when music is playing on a blog, unless there is a specific, easy to see mute/pause button. But I am right there with you about The Cure. XD

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  28. I think of a blog as somewhat of a self-portrait and rather enjoy the diversity, except for the background music. I'm cautions about e-mail subscriptions because they tend to post more often. It all becomes too much.

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  29. Karen, I just came from ProBlogger and, well, one testament talked about earning money because of high medical bills...he said he had 'private insurance, Medicaid..." In order to be on Medicaid one can't have private insurance as Medicaid is for the really poor. In the end, I guess it all goes back to what is the blogger's objective?

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  30. Kittie, That's why I prefer Copyblogger for good tips. Problogger has some good stuff but it's really all about convincing people that they can make money by blogging.

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  31. Hi Karen. Well now I know why you rarely visit me, ha ha. I just came across to say hi and I got an eyeful. My pet peeve is word verification and another, the wordpress blogs where you have to fill in 3 fields before you comment. I tend to think 'is this worth it?' and often leave without leaving a comment. Some wordpress people use auto fill and I tips me lid to you. More peeves? I hate music as it's never what I like. I hear you on wallpaper, but I don't like clinical looks either. I've just got colour on L'Aussie, got out the steamer and ripped down the wallpaper.

    Denise<3

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  32. Good one! Except for the captcha thing.I took that off for the A to Z challenge and was about spammed to death. Sorry, gotta keep it- unless you have a better program that works for Wordpress?

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  33. ...great post Karen! I don't mind seeing the playlist, as long as its set in "pause." This allows us, the loyal reader, to view the type of music our host enjoys and probably writes to. And if curious, we have the option of hitting the play button if we choose to. Its a better option than opening a page and being pounded in the face with an unexpected barrage of heavy metal:)

    EL

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  34. Hi Karen .. thank goodness you like long posts! But I agree sometimes too long - I hope mine are amusing and entertaining ..

    Word verification and captcha are awful I agree!

    I'd love it if everyone had pop out comment boxes - as I have to go back into IE (from chrome) to comment here - on my other machine that I don't use that often it's ok .. don't understand why it happens - but pop out comment boxes make it easier to drag it to the post to reply in full .. which I like doing.

    The other thing is WP blogs and the comment subscription verification that comes into my email box - irritates me totally ..

    Now I'm going to read what everyone else has said ..

    Glad the move has gone ok .. cheers Hilary

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  35. Thanks for saying what I've been wanting to for some time. The gadgets have to go. We're writers not artists. We show with words. There are so many blogs I would love to read but they have like 300 or more things to 'load' before 'done' and I can't wait that long.

    I've tried to keep my own blog as streamlined as I can for viewing and downloading. As for content, I'm afraid I do tend to run-on a bit.

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  36. I'm with you in regards to the music. I can't tell you how many times I've jumped out of my skin when someone's playlist starts blasting. As for my posts, I try to remember the following: A blog is a published piece. So put your very best work out there and make sure the content is something you won't mind reading about yourself in 20 years.

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  37. Great tips, all the way around. Thank you, dear lady. (And Anne, you don't run on!) One thing I'll add, and it'll probably bomb with some readers, is I think it becomes a real drag when the ONLY thing a blogger writes about is his/her book. Such a blatant single-minded attempt to "sell" ANY product becomes very off-putting. Mention the book, yeah. Mention it in every other blog, even. But don't beat us over the head with it. A better way to convince readers they simply MUST read your book is to let them get to "know" you through your blog. Let us fall in love with your style of writing. With you. Just my three cents' worth. (inflation)

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  38. If I go to a blog for information, I want it crisp, clear, clean, and fast. If I go to a blog to better know the blogger, I want the blog to have personality. So I think the way the blog looks, even with swimming fish, needs to be determined by the purpose of the blog. In both cases, I don't want word verification or fill-in-the forms in order to accept my comment. And I HATE Google Ads.

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  39. For me, the problem with word verification is that I tend to move fast. I suspect there's been quite a few times that I've left a comment and left before the verification squiggles came up and therefore my comment never posted.

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  40. Wonderful tips. Keep them interesting, short and authentically you.

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  41. Hi, Karen,
    Thanks for the really great tips! I enjoyed reading them...My grandson, Daniel, is pastor of Bethany Community Church in Washington, Illinois, just across the river from Peoria. Their mother church that they grew from is Bethany Baptist Church. Thanks for the visit. :)
    Love to you, Ruby

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  42. Good list! I agree. The music drives me batty because I'm usually listening to my own music and competing melodies is annoying. I also open a lot of blogs at once, and can't always find the blog to stop the music. Drives me nuts!

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  43. Each to their own, I say. I don't mind captcha - it only takes a few seconds, but I'm wary of those that want my email address - can't figure out why it's needed. As for music, well hearing The Cure is bound to have me clicking away as fast as possible ;)

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  44. Pet Peeves for reading blogs: If it takes too long to load, I may go elsewhere. And keep it simple. My ADHD goes crazy if there's too much to focus on.

    Great list!

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  45. This is a good list. I've always wondered how you can be personal enough while still being interesting. My recent post is very personal, but some aren't very personal at all. I know I get bored on blogs that only tell me about their daily lives, so I TRY to avoid that.

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  46. Can't stand blogs that load up slowly. I normally give up and move on to the next one. Also filling out word verification is not my favourite thing to do.

    However, I do think wallpaper can be nice. I have one of my very own photos of a sunset as my background :)

    Duncan In Kuantan

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  47. Awww I like my wallpaper.

    I am definitely with you on the word verification!

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  48. Great post and tips! My pet peeve is people who only comment on your post if you comment on theirs first! The "tit for tat" thing is really too much like high school for me.

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  49. I only like music on a blog if it something I can click to play. I wish more people would put their playlist near the top so it can be turned off if its unwanted. If the post contains a video, and I have to scroll all the way down to the bottom to push pause, then roll back up, well, I'm likely to exit out instead. The music is distracting during a blogfest, where you may have several people's music playing at the same time. Frustrating.

    My biggest pet peeve though is unedited posts. I don't mind a few errors in spelling and grammer, but when there is a lot it makes me wonder if the submitted writings are as bad.

    Thanks for allow me my 2 cents worth of a rant :)

    ........dhole

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  50. This is really excellent advice! try to offer somethings of value, and a variety of them (3 pics of Waikiki, quotes, and then 'something' long or short...'sermon/rant' of the day).

    I never understood putting up barriers to comments!!!!!!

    I appreciate, value, & visit my commentators.

    Maybe someone will look at my book's link...or even BUY it! But each visit is a GIFT to me. Thank YOU;




    Warm Aloha from Waikiki

    Comfort Spiral

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  51. great tips. I particularly like your no music rule. I soooooo agree.

    ...I heard wallpapers were coming back ;)
    (PS one day I will have the time to fix the design)

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  52. Great blogging tips. And sooooo true. :)

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  53. I'm with ya on the "lose all the gadgets" thing. Man! I hate WAITING to just get to read the dang post... :p And I think we've pretty much weeded out the word-verify... mostly. Good stuff. Keep crusading~ :D

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  54. Thank you for the compliment Karen.....(whisper on the side: the pressure) lol

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  55. I've met some awesome bloggers that I stopped visiting because their site takes so long to load.
    I actually like some of the wallpaper though (guilty), but not all. Most are over the top. Now you've got me wondering if mine is. I'll have to think about it. :)

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