7 tips for beginning bloggers

I don’t pretend to be a big-time blogger, in fact I am far from it. But I have been at it long enough, have enough total posts written, and am getting a big enough readership that I fairly often get questions about getting started with blogging.

As with many other questions, I suggest Googling this topic, as it will bring up websites with much better info than most of what I will say here. But here are a few tips from my limited perspective.

1. First, and the one that has taken me longest to learn, is that it’s about content, content, content. Many bloggers worry about selecting the right blog template and making everything look just right. I understand this. I cannot afford to sink a lot of money into my blog and I am not able to code the things I see in my head for my site. This is frustrating. But people don’t come to my site for amazing visuals. And unless you’re a photographer or web designer, they won’t go to your site for that reason either. Write good content and post good content on a regular schedule. Michael Hyatt suggests minimum three new posts per week. I shoot for three but between working three jobs I sometimes can’t even get to that level. So I make sure to do at least two and reach for three or more. Determine what you would like to do. Then determine what you can do. Then do what you can and always shoot for what you’d like. But don’t get distracted. Write, write, write.

2. Expect your blog to cost you something. I paid $99 for the theme I use (Standard Theme 2), and under $30/year for my domain name and a fee to WordPress. You can go with a free Word Press account, but it won’t be long until you start having dreams for your blog that will take you beyond what you can get for free. For those who want to keep a blog but are computer illiterate or close, I recommend http://www.typepad.com/. When I have money to sink into my blog monthly, this is what I will probably use.

3. Learn what your readers expect of you and then give it to them. I write primarily about counseling and spiritual topics and both types seem to be well-received. What I know would turn my readers off is if I stopped offering these two types of content. These are my “sweet spots.” I think my readers will accept other things from me (posts on movies, music, and other random topics) as long as they know I will continue to write about emotional and spiritual well-being.

4. Find your sweet spot. I write about spiritual and emotional health as well as anyone I know, and probably better than most. What about you? What do you write about as well as anyone you know and probably better than most? What unique perspective do you have? What can you say in a fresh way? What frustrates you about most of what you read in your chosen area? Your sweet spot is in there somewhere.

5. Don’t underestimate how much work it is. The more I get into writing the harder I realize it is. You can’t sit around and wait for your muse to show up. If you do this you will write five articles a year, and probably all on the same day! Decide how often you will write and then sit down and write until you have something you can post. You won’t feel great about every post, and neither will your readers. The sooner you can become okay with this the better off you will be. I believe it was J.K. Rowling who said, “There’s no such thing as a finished book. Just a final edit.”

6. Be realistic about results. This post is my first new post in five days. As of this moment, 63 people have visited my blog. When I first started I was lucky if four or five people would read a new post I wrote, and I pastor a church of 200 people. It can take a very long time to get the wheels turning. Now my blog draws about 100 readers per day and the majority of those are people who have never read my blog before. There are about ten to twenty search terms people can enter on Google that will bring up one of my posts in the top five or ten. That’s good progress. And like anything, you will get out of it what you put into it. I could make progress faster, but I am trying to make the best possible choices about writing given how little discretionary time I have. We all must make those choices and then work within them. If you expect to get high up in Google searches, you will have to write regularly, write good content, and learn about SEO. I know — you just want to write. Me too. But even more than I want to write, I want my writing to be read. SEO helps you get your work to stand out on the Internet.

7. Finally, treasure your readers. People have nearly unlimited choices about what to do with their time. I have realized that if someone decides that checking out thefallencleric.com is a good way to spend a few minutes of their day, that is a blessing. Every blogger wants more readers, but be sure to love and value the ones you already  have. Respond to their comments as much as possible. Interact with them. Discuss issues, but avoid arguing with them. Take the high road.