Warning: Blogging is addictive!

I have so much fun teaching my introductory and advanced blogging classes here in Perth, and interestingly the most common feedback I get even months after the classes is that blogging is addictive! My main reaction to that is – phew, I’m glad it’s not just me! – and I’m also glad to spread the joy to others. A little concerned about spreading an addiction, but it could be a worse one, I suppose.

Recently I interviewed some of my past students who these days run fantastic, successful blogs, and I thought I’d share some of their thoughts on blogging as well.

A Taste of Travel


Jenny from A Taste of Travel has worked in the travel industry for many years, but started blogging only recently to keep her family and friends up to date with her travels – until it became an addiction! In Jenny’s words:

Since I started blogging, there never seems to be a spare moment in the day! There’s always something to do for your blog – Writing, commenting, emailing, organizing, learning, using facebook and twitter or just thinking about the next post. But I love it! Does this mean I’m addicted?

Hmm … probably, Jenny, yes it does!

From Mum to Me

Shannon from the parenting blog From Mum to Me decided to start blogging as part of her career change into freelance writing.

I see blogging as the equivalent of attending the gym regularly for someone who wants to be a professional athlete. You limber up your mind and fingers, you get to practice and hone your craft, you meet like-minded people, you discover new ways of doing things, you receive feedback and ultimately, improve.

The Ponder Room

Glennys from The Ponder Room began blogging under a pseudonym but was eventually brave enough to “come out”, so to speak. She’s now been blogging for a year and has this to say:

Already blogging has: given me the discipline to write every week; helped legitimise my scratchy scribblings; opened doors that I would have been way too scared to knock on; introduced me to some amazing people around the world; led to a small international profile, some paid writing assignments, a second and third book; and extended the market for book sales. Most of all it has enabled me to give back to people who have inspired me, and helped me realise that sometimes the inane thoughts inside your head can make a difference if you dare to let them out.

Margaret River Correspondent

Cath from Margaret River Correspondent says she’s proud to call herself a blogger (me too, Cath, me too!). Blogging has been a great development for her:

A couple of years ago, I started blogging to get google ranking for another website. I would take myself off to a cafe in Fremantle with my little doggies for breakfast, polish off my eggs and enjoy my latte’s reading and researching for the blog. I just loved it. Even though I live alone, I started to feel connected to the wider world through writing. I discovered something I enjoyed, and stimulated my mind.

Suggestions for would-be bloggers

My suggestion would be to learn a bit about blogging before you started. Amanda’s course was great- I was so out of touch with social media that she even had to join me up to Facebook!! (Jenny, A Taste of Travel)

Be clear about your goals, set ground rules from your first post, invest in some strong coffee, good chocolate and don’t drink and blog. (Glennys, The Ponder Room)

If you are considering blogging, go running, skipping and hopping to it right away … I took Amanda Kendle’s UWA Extension class and gave myself more control over the finished product and had a fabulous time learning how. I really like the aspect that I can engage Amanda, outside of class, to help with the finer points if I want to go that way. (Cath, Margaret River Correspondent)

Don’t wait for it to be perfect before you get started, you will find your voice over the first few posts, even if it feels unnatural at first. Make sure you are really happy with your blog name before you get started: it should be catchy, easy to remember and descriptive (or at least pique the interest of potential readers). (Shannon, From Mum to Me)

Advanced blogging course – handy links

Hi advanced blogging gang,

Here are some of the links we’re going to use (or I’m going to talk about) during our advanced blogging course. You can always come back to this post later to revisit and reread anything you find particularly useful.

What have you learned from blogging?

Allison Tait is an Australian magazine editor and journalist turned blogger – her blog is called Life in a Pink Fibro because, well, she lives in a pink fibro house. Her helpful post 12 things I’ve learned in my first year of blogging may sound familiar to you, or may give you some ideas on how you can develop your blog.

What to write

A great way to organise your ideas and plan your blog posts – which helps to ensure you have a steady flow of posts, not a drought and flood situation – is to set up an editorial calendar and revise it regularly (weekly, monthly). Darren Rowse wrote a helpful and straightforward post about this: Developing an Editorial Calendar for Your Blog. (There’ll probably be quite a few links to Darren Rowse’s Problogger site today – why send you somewhere else when I can direct you straight to the best in the business?)

And another one from ProBlogger – Setting Personal and Professional Boundaries for Your Blog.

How to write

What does a reader see first? Usually the title (and that might be all they see on a feed reader or social media link). So, your title should be good. Check The Five Worst Ways to Title a Blog Post and try to improve your post titles.

The topic of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is now huge (there are entire careers available in it) but the second half of Darren Rowse’s Search Engine Optimisation for Blogs post is probably what’s most useful to you.

Correct spelling and grammar is also important. A major US online shop (Zappos) fixed up the grammar and spelling mistakes in all their customer reviews and had a huge increase in sales. (It was done via crowdsourcing – another interesting online invention!)

Getting and keeping readers

Using the Link Within widget is free and so effective. My blog page views increased by a third after I installed it and my statistics showed that nearly all of this increase was from Link Within clicks.

We will talk about “best of” posts and creating hubs of your work, and the example I’ll use (sorry for tooting my own horn) is the Country Guides from Not A Ballerina.

Building a community around your blog

The most important way to do this (IMHO) is to interact with similar blogs. They are not the competition – they are your friends! There is plenty of room in the world for more blogs similar to yours! If you don’t know any or can’t find them easily then start searching through Google’s Blog Search and start commenting on those you like. Importantly – comment in a genuine way, not with a two word comment hoping they’ll click on your link and see your blog.

Promoting your blog

Link-ups and blog hops I’ll mention:

The other links I’ll show you are:

Blog design

There are numerous ways to improve and “fiddle” with your blog’s design. Graphic stuff can be cheaper than you’d think – have a look at Fiverr to see what people will do for $5! There are also lots of Australian bloggers who’ll do blog design work for lower budgets – like Melissa at Suger Coat It or Chelsea at Aqua Poppy.

You can learn some more details about ideal font types and sizes, colours, images and so on from this post on 16 rules for blogs or this one with 26 design tips – they’re both full of really useful ideas for designing your blog effectively.

Goals

I’m a firm believer in needing written goals to ensure you make good progress at a task, and I post about them at least annually on my blog (more often on some). If you’re looking for goals for your blog there is a huge list at the Blogging Bookshelf – 101 Different Blogging Goals – something for everyone!

If you are interested in creating a profitable blog and/or making a product (like an ebook) to sell from your blog, these references might be useful:

 

Blogs from today’s participants:

Using blogs in the classroom

There are so many great ways to use blogs with students – here are some blog posts, slide shows and videos that will give you plenty of inspiration.

 

Tips for bloggers

Here’s a collation of some useful pages I’ve found on blogging lately. You can also see regular links coming up if you join my Facebook page.

  • Some useful tips on improving your About page, since it’s often a frequently visited part of your blog
  • How to keep your blog safe from hackers, spammers and any other nasty guys
  • Timeless and reasonably standard but still must-do methods to promote your blog
  • Privacy, setting boundaries, and basically the best question to consider before you start blogging: how much will you tell?