Starting a blog for the first time can be a daunting experience. Even if you are familiar with writing in other forms, blogging presents different challenges in the form of both a digital platform and the more personal topics often shared.
Here a few of my tips to help you on your way.
There is more than one answer to the question of length. Many marketing experts recommend an average length of around 350 – 600 words. There are a couple of reasons for this. Firstly, Google likes content of over 300 words on a single page and will reward you with slightly better search engine optimisation (SEO) as a result. Secondly, the average person has a relatively short attention span when reading online, so limiting the length to less than 600 words will ensure that you don’t outface your readers.
However, Google also likes longer posts of between 1000 – 1500 words. It is my personal opinion that not many people will read a post of this length, but not everyone agrees. The real answer is know your audience and create something engaging to read. Make good use of images, headings etc. to make the content more readable. This blog post is just under 1200 words long. Only you can say whether you have found it useful and engaging enough to read to the end.
Break the rule – We’re not robots. Your readers are human. What will really help your SEO is regular visits to your page from readers who are interested to see what you have posted next. If you are inspired simply by an image and one word then post it.
Think manageable chunks
A solid block of text can feel like too much for even the most enthusiastic follower. There are many ways to break your writing down into more manageable chunks. The most commonly used are numbered points (Louise Mason – 8 Reasons to be on LinkedIn) and relevant headlines (Claire Davies – Motivation for a business blog)
As often as you feel inspired is my rather ambiguous answer. It is better to post a well written blog once a month than a half-hearted one every week ‘because you have to’. Likewise, posting nothing one month and then three all at once the next isn’t ideal either.
Use images well
A great image will help to tell your story, inspire more engagement from readers and give you the opportunity to show yourself to your audience. From a photograph of your hands working clay at your potters wheel to a live action shot of you speaking at a networking event – images can feel quite personal without having to be too invasive.
Include a call to action
Finish the post with a couple of sentences encouraging readers to share their thoughts, opinions and experiences on the topic. If you want someone to make a phone call or drop in for a visit then tell how and where to find you.
Don’t expect to do it all at once
I’ve said it before and I will say it again – even the best writers need a process of drafting and redrafting. This takes time. I find that leaving at least a couple of hours between each draft allows my mind to refocus, making it more likely that I can spot a terrible sentence or spelling mistake.
Once you are happy with the content do one last proof read before hitting send. Particularly look at the areas that you know have been heavily edited as it is so easy to leave an extra word or letter behind. It can help to look at the copy in a different medium, try printing it off and make a note of any corrections that come up. If you do spot a mistake after pressing send don’t panic, simply return to the post and hit edit. That is one of the joys of working in a digital rather than printed format after all, being able to make corrections after the fact.
Think Like A Writer
Find the right spot
Stephen King reportedly wrote his early novels balanced on a children’s stool in the laundry room, and JK Rowling created Harry Potter moving around her favourite coffee shops. Find the right spot that works for you.
Create a routine
Before sitting down to work I will make a pot of tea, lay out a small bowl of snacks and make sure the light isn’t too bright in the room where I am working. (I can’t write if I feel that I’m being denied food!) Not everyone needs this sort of activity before writing but it can help to create a little routine that tells your brain it’s time to write now.
Paper or computer?
This really is a personal choice. Some people really struggle to write if they are working in the wrong medium. Play around and see what works best for yo
Plan or dump?
There are generally two different approaches to writing. Some of us are planners, and some of us are dumpers. If you have been struggling to get going then it might be because you don’t understand what kind of writer you are. Personally I’m a splurger. After reading a few relevant articles on the subject I sit down at my laptop and splurge all of my thoughts out onto a word document. When I start a piece I often have no idea where it is going to end. A friend of mine will spend time sitting and noting down thoughts, create a skeleton of her article with bullet points and know exactly where it is going to start and end.
Carry a notepad
Get into the habit of noting down ideas as and when they come to you. Too often an idea will vanish before you have chance to sit down and write it up – lost into the ether for ever. A notepad can also be a good place to explore ideas that you’re not sure about, or simply write down feelings and emotions as when you wish.
Talk to people
Ask your intended audience about the issues that are bothering them. What are the topics that are being ignored and which ones are they sick of hearing about?
Good writers generally make really good people watchers. I love listening to discussions at the bus stop, the GP waiting room and supermarket queue. You might be surprised at the inspiration that can come from waiting to go to the loo at Marks and Spencer.
Stephen King believes that is impossible to be a good writer if you are not a regular reader. When you are working with a new platform this can be very helpful. Get online, find and follow other bloggers who you enjoy reading and will appeal to your audience. Magazines, newspaper articles and non-fiction books can also be a good source of relevant reading material.