For those of you who are new to blogging or still thinking about setting up a blog, here are some of the "Best Blogging Practices" I teach my students in my Blogging for Beginners class at the San Francisco Writers' Grotto. Have a great Thanksgiving next week. I'll see you on November 29!
1. Bookmark Your Blog
It's easy to forget the URL for your blog dashboard, so be sure to bookmark it. On my browser toolbar, I have one bookmark for my blog and one for my dashboard, so I can quickly add new posts or update pages. Make sure you store your passwords somewhere, so you never get locked out of your blog!
2. Set Up Google Analytics
If you’re using Wordpress.com or Blogger, your blog stats are probably already incorporated into your blog. Other services like SiteMeter and StatCounter are good, too. But nothing compares to Google Analytics in its depth and breadth. Install it as soon as your blog is live because you don’t want to lose months worth of valuable data about your readers. You can use that data to track which of your posts are most popular and to write more posts like those.
3. Write Great Posts
Write posts that are 500-800 words, at least once a week, preferably on the same day, staying focused on your topic. Write posts that are informative, engaging and entertaining. If you’re good at humor, use it. Otherwise do some research and tell us something we don’t already know. Quote other sources, and link to articles and other blogs. If you’re going to simply tell us your thoughts, make sure they’re REALLY entertaining or engaging because you have a lot of competition out there and you need to keep your reader’s interest if you want them to come back.
4. Write Great Post Titles
Titles with numbers in them (10 Blogging Tips for Authors!) tend to be popular, but those can be overdone quickly. Think of titles, though, that are either informative (Writing Contest Landmines to Avoid), Clever/Funny (Do you do it for love or for money?), or grab the reader in an emotional way (Do you worry that you’ll never get published?). Remember that your goal is to post the title on Twitter and Facebook and have people retweet and repost it. You want your titles to be as retweetable as possible.
5. Think Twice Before Posting Excerpts of Your Work
Don’t bore people by posting long chapters of your work. If you want to post your work, quote a paragraph within the context of a larger blog post, post it under Writing or Excerpts on a separate page, or link to content that is posted online. Don’t post too much that isn’t already published. People can plagiarize it, and your work can become devalued if you give too much away for free.
6. Ask a question
A great way to get people to comment on your post is to ask a question at the end of the post. But don’t just say, “What do you think?” and don’t undermine your authority if you’re selling yourself as an expert on a topic. (ie If you’re an expert on rock climbing, don’t write a post listing the best places to climb in California and then ask “What do you think?” Think of questions that will spark conversation instead.)
7. Don’t Apologize
If you have been absent from your blog for a while, or you don’t feel your post is up to snuff, don’t apologize. Always appear as professional as possible. If you need to take a break from blogging to finish a manuscript, simply write a short post beforehand explaining that you’re taking a hiatus and will be back on such and such a date. Otherwise readers will check your blog each week, see that you’re not blogging, and remove you from their RSS reader.
8. Follow the Six-to-One Rule
In all social media, whether it be blogging or Twitter or Facebook, follow the 6-to-1 rule. Six posts that are informative and entertaining, one that promotes your work. If every post says, “Buy my book” or "Read my blog," people will stop reading.
9. Respond to comments
I once attended a local blogger networking event and met many local bloggers. I visited their blogs the next day and commented on each one. Not one of them responded to my comments, and none visited my blog in return. I never read those blogs again. Social media is all about being social. Unless you have 100 comments per post, respond to the comments people leave on your blog. Start a dialogue. Make some friends. And take the time to check out their blogs, too. If you like them, add them to your RSS reader. If you don’t, that’s okay. You took the time to visit them.
10. Comment on others blogs
You should not only visit other blogs, you should comment on them as well. Otherwise, how will that blogger know you exist? This is the number one way to build an audience for your blog before your blog gains some traction and you begin guest blogging and publishing your work elsewhere. You can't expect others to comment on your blog if you don't take the time to comment on theirs. And be sure to leave interesting and insightful comments, not simply, “Great post.” Write something that will spark a discussion. For a post on How to Write a Good Blog Comment, visit Nathan Bransford’s blog.