Behind the scenes blogging, part 3

What’s a blog without content? Writing is the core of your blog, so it’s important to take some time to consider your blogging style: what you want to write and how you want to express yourself. This is just as true if you’re at the start of your journey, wondering how to start blogging, as if you’re an experienced blogger looking to improve your blog.

1. Don’t be someone you’re not

While it might seem fun to put on a mask and choose a style that isn’t your own, you may find that this technique tires you out quickly. That isn’t to say that you can’t choose a blogging style that’s different to your normal one — we all have multiple facets to our personality, after all! But if you’re a serious person at heart, pretending to be bubbly and outgoing might not be the best choice for you; if you’re naturally effervescent, why not let that shine through?

Don’t be someone you’re not
Don’t be someone you’re not

2. Write to your target and your goals

As I said in the last article in the series, one of the first steps in knowing what to write is knowing who your audience is. Just like you wouldn’t use the same language or tone when speaking with your grandmother as you would with your best friend, your writing style will be modified by knowing who you’re talking to. Take some time to find out who is reading your blog, or who you’d like to read it, and create a mental picture of your ideal reader. Then write as if you’re speaking directly to that person.

It’s also worth considering why you have a blog. Is it to educate, to drive traffic to your business, to entertain? Make sure each post you write achieves these goals.

Chris Guillebeau“I try to write posts that are helpful or interesting to my readers. Asking “why would someone care about this?” is always a good exercise when drafting a post.

I also write posts that I want to write. In the long-run I have to remain motivated, and if I allow myself to get pulled in a particular direction just because it’s popular, I’ll end up disillusioned at some point. I’ve been doing this for eight years now, and I don’t want to get disillusioned!”

Chris Guillebeau, entrepreneur, author, and founder of The Art of Non-Conformity

3. Write badly until you write well

For the first few months, you will probably not write so well. Perhaps because you aren’t in practice, or because you’re still finding your blogging style, or for a whole host of other reasons. That’s fine! Just keep writing, keep publishing, keep going, and you’ll improve over time. In a few years you might look back at your early efforts with a cringe, but don’t worry about it!

However, I highly recommend you spend time checking your work for spelling and grammar errors. Making sure your work is correctly edited makes it easier to read — that’s why we have grammar and spelling rules, after all. Plus, many people are turned off by multiple errors — they may forgive a typo or two, but lose respect for writers who consistently fail to uou’read their work.

Personally, I always write my blog posts in a word processor that has a spelling/grammar check, before copying and pasting them into WordPress. The JetPack plugin has a spellcheck component that might be useful if you do all your writing directly in your WordPress area, or consider copying and pasting the whole post into a service like PaperRater before hitting publish. This article also has some great tips for editing and proofreading your blog.

At the very least, walk away from your post for half an hour or a day and read over it one more time before publishing it — you’ll probably pick up one or two mistakes.

Write badly until you write well
Write badly until you write well

4. Learn what your audience likes, and write more of that

Use Google Analytics to find out which of your posts are the most popular, and write more posts of a similar type. Perhaps your audience really likes how-to guides, or maybe they want more personal stories. This doesn’t mean you should give up on the other article types, but perhaps give precedence to the popular articles for a while.

You could also run a poll on your blog or Facebook page to ask your audience what they want more of. We did this a year after we started our travel podcast, and were surprised to learn that our listeners wanted longer shows with more personal stories. Considering that when we started the episodes were 2-5 minutes long and full of impersonal advice, this meant a lot of adjustment (and more work!) but listening to our audience meant we now have a much better format.

5. Be prepared to change

Over time, you will change and so will your audience. Don’t feel like you have to stick to writing about something just because you were writing about that when you started your blog. If it no longer interests you, leave it behind and write about what you ARE interested in.

Dave and Deb“We travel a lot so we write about our travels and experiences. We choose destinations that appeal to us. Reasons for going could be because we have never been there before, there is an adventure we want to do or a sight we want to see. We plan everything out quite meticulously now that it is our profession and we think about the stories we are going to write about before the trip. We then plan our itinerary around the articles or videos we want to make. It’s just like going on assignment for a magazine. The story is often planned before the trip.

That doesn’t mean we don’t have spontaneity. We have a lot of surprises when we travel and leave a lot of time to find stories and experiences organically. The beauty of having your own travel blog is being able to write about what you like. I think it is important to have fun writing for a blog because you have to do it every day.”

Debra Corbeil, award-winning travel blogger at The Planet D.

6. Don’t publish just for the sake of publishing something

Many people say bloggers should publish every day, or 3-4 times a week. If you want to do this, go right ahead, but I wouldn’t recommend it! With such a full schedule, it will be hard to create quality content, and quality is infinitely better than quantity.

We used to publish four times a week on our travel blog, but many of the posts were just there to fill space — like our weekly “travel photo” post. These posts didn’t add value to our blog and didn’t bring in traffic, and I recently spent far too much time removing them from the site and asking Google to deindex them.

Go back to point #2 — remember who your audience is, and write something that has value to them. If you can’t write a post that has value, you’d be better off not publishing anything that week than posting a low-quality article just to fill space.

Don’t publish just for the sake of publishing something
Don’t publish just for the sake of publishing something

7. Write what you like — but be aware that everyone has an opinion

Although you should pay attention to what your audience wants to read, remember that it’s your blog, you can write what you like — you have a right to your own opinion and can choose to express it in your blog. However, if you write about issues that people feel strongly about (politics and religion spring to mind) be aware that they also have a right to their opinion, and you might receive some strongly worded comments or emails in reaction to your posts. You may also receive some completely undeserved hateful comments — Young Adventuress does a yearly roundup of the best hate comments she receives (here’s the most recent one). You can choose to delete comments, or not, as you like — it’s your blog, and you can set the rules. Personally, I like to steer clear of divisive issues, but I’ve still managed to rub people up the wrong way in what I thought were inoffensive posts.

Tools

Sometimes coming up with topic ideas can be a challenge — or you might have the opposite problem: too many ideas, too little time! I suggest you keep a list of ideas on your phone or computer, or even in a notebook, and choose the topic that most inspires you when it’s time to write a new post.

  • If you know the general topic, but want specific article ideas, check out Answer the Public for a spectacular list of ideas.
  • Portent’s content idea generator can also help with that.
  • After the article is written, craft a great headline with the help of Coschedule’s Headline Analyzer
  • Add some images to your post — use your own whenever possible, or use stock images when your photos aren’t quite right. Be careful not to use copyrighted photos. Pixabay‘s a great source for images in the public domain.
  • If you want to create Pinterest pins and featured images, head to Canva.

Get started!

Whatever you choose to write about and whichever blogging style you favour, get started! Find a regular time in your week to write your posts, and keep a list of ideas whenever they spring to mind. Personally, I like to write the bare bones of my posts on my phone while I’m out — on a bus, waiting for someone I’m meeting, on a lunch break. Then I fill in the gaps when I’m back at my desk. You’l have to find the right time and place for you — experiment until you find it!

How can we help you?

If you’re starting a new blog and need some help, we’re here for you. We love seeing small businesses succeed online, and we created our managed WordPress hosting and maintenance package to make things easier for small business owners and bloggers — check it out to see if it’s for you.

Behind-the-scenes blogging

This article is part of a series about how to start blogging for success. If you’d like to receive a notification when subsequent posts are published, please enter your email address below.