Welcome to my new “How To Blog” series! In this series, I’ll try to put my knowledge to good use and shed some light on the basic of blogging. You will learn how to set up a self-hosted blog, what are the must-have plugins, how to attract readers, how to monetize your blog etc. I’ll publish a new “How To Blog” post every Saturday.
Do you have a blog? Yes? Good. Cause I’m a pretty curious woman (some would say it’s an euphemism…) and I love to browse blogs. Chances are that if you ever left a comment at my blog, ever sent me an email or just showed up here, I visited you. I have plenty of feed in my RSS Reader and I’m pretty quick to click on the magic “subscribe” button. But I’m human too — not all blogs attract me.
Basically, there are three things that are likely to catch my eye when browsing the web for blogs:
- Something original
- Something easy to read
- Someone friendly
Yes, I’m that picky.
But let’s be realistic: there are thousands of blogs out there and not everyone can stand out. First lesson is, you have to be a little bit original.
- An interesting layout like Encore Seraphine, a funny view on the world like Mattress Police or Johnada is all you need. Just give me something. I’m tired of seeing the same Blogger/ WordPress default template, barely customized. I’ll usually pass on these blogs. Granted, not everyone is into Photoshop and coding. But you will need a personal touch, whether it’s a customized header or a funny “about me”. And with hundreds of websites to help you tweak your blog, you don’t really have an excuse anymore.
- For some, keeping a minimalistic blog is a statement. Which works very well as long as they have something to say. Look at Kung Fu Chewy: this bad boy didn’t customized his blog much (although he has the minimum: a President Bush “days left in office” countdown — don’t laugh, I have a Mozilla extension on my browser for the same purpose!), but he writes well and always has funny stories. Basically, he has something to say and in this case, his layout doesn’t matter that much.
Lesson number two is equally simple: you have a written medium, please make it accessible.
- The font, for example. It seems somewhat fashionable to have a very dark background and white font. It does look good. Until you tried to read and focus on the post for more than in a minute, which is about the time it takes to become cross-eyed and see white spots everywhere. Granted, I don’t have the best eyesight but I shouldn’t be able to read your blog without going blind. Period.
- Think I’m tough? Okay. I made that very same mistake when I first started to blog. I used a white font on a dark blue background (the one I now use as the blog’s wallpaper). A few people complained and I decided to add a post background (light blue) with a dark font. Did wonders. Now I’m not saying this white font/ dark background never works, it does on some blog. I’m not talking to you personally. But generally speaking, try to think of your readers: who likes to focus like crazy when reading a post? Can you make you readers’ live easier? If the answer is yes, just do it. Likewise, mixing up font colors or font sizes in a post might look supercool, but it might also makes it really hard to read. In a word: be nice to your readers!
- Oh, since we’re at it, one last thing: mind your &?%$ widgets! If you make my Firefox crash, I probably won’t be back. Some blog take forever to load, thanks to a bunch of useless things in the sidebar. Seriously, how many widgets can you fit in one sidebar ??? Don’t add up videos, pictures, stream etc. Think of those who have a slower computer. Likewise, I don’t mind music on a blog. But I do mind be greeted by ACDC and not being able to stop it. Example of blogs which are artistic yet super friendly to read include Times Journal, Video Store Blues or The Rain In Spain.
And finally, the third lesson: be a friendly blogger. Sounds obvious, but some people behave in the blogosphere the same way they behave when there is only one slice the chocolate cake left — they fight, they are impolite, they only think of themselves.
- Indeed, blogging is a two way thing. You need readers in the first place, so be nice to them. What’s being nice? Acknowledging them when they comment, for example. You can either reply to their comments, visit their blog, drop a quick line… it only takes a minute. Once in a while, you can also “reward” blog you like by linking to them: in this post, I decided to illustrate my points with some good blogs from my RSS feed. I’m sure the owners won’t mind! You can also organize contest, have a weekly “link love” post, a review once in a while… This is about acknowledging you’re not the only one in the blogosphere, that you enjoy other people’s work as well. One example of a friendly blogger who is good at networking is RennyBA’s Terella… check him out, you’ll see. This guy sent me a troll all the way from Norway a few months ago when I won his contest!
- The key is to share and exchange. If you only goal is to make tons of money or be famous, you’ll fail, because you can’t really do that alone. You need readers, you need subscribers, you need people to click on your ads. Remember, the internet is a small world after all, so behave!
Meanwile, I’ll see you guys next week for another “How To Blog” post!