Successful Blogging in 12 Simple Steps

the spring blog

One of the things I have learned a year of blogging is to take sound advice. To improve my craft I turned to Sunshine Coast blogging guru Annabel Candy and her e-book Successful Blogging in 12 Simple Steps. It's a geat mix of creative and technical advice, all of it very accessible and practical. And since it would be miserly not to, I'm here to share a couple of Annabel's points that have changed how I go about blogging.

Blogging is a fantastic source of inspiration and entertainment, but it can also take up a huge amount of time and money if you let it. When I started The Spring a little over a year ago I set myself the task of figuring out the techy stuff needed to build a webpage. Now in my second year of blogging, there're a whole different set of skills to master. My goals now are to make the blogging process more efficient, to hone my writer's voice, and of course I'd love to be engaging with a much bigger audience. Sound familiar?

Substance First, Then Style

Most of us don't aspire to be professional bloggers, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't try to create stronger blogs. After all, the most fun part about blogging is interacting with readers, and readers don't stick around weak blogs for long. Be honest about why you blog, what you want to blog about, and who you want to reach. With those questions answered, only then can you really determine if the visual design of your site is fulfilling the brief of drawing the readers you want into the content your provide.

Sometimes Spending Helps You Save

If you plan to pay for web design help in starting up or making over your blog, carefully plan the way you want your site to look and function before getting a professional on board to help realise the vision - it's a combination that can ultimately save you a lot of time and money. I didn't follow this advice. I've clocked up hours (and hoursfiddling with the design of The Spring myself. But I was a graduate student and not exactly time-poor, so that strategy made sense for me. The one thing I have paid for recently is a high quality Wordpress theme - Thesis. It's so good-looking and easily customisable, my only regret is that I didn't have it 14 months ago. It would have saved me so much heartache messing around with my old freebie CSS stylesheets!

 Put Yourself Up Front

I have thought this so many times reading other blogs, so I was glad to see a whole section devoted to the issue in Annabel's book:  If your readers have to scroll anywhere to seek out information about Who you are, Where you are, What you're writing about, or How to follow you, your blog design needs sorting out. Stat. Blog readers are looking primarily for a connection with a blogger;let them know who you are up front so they can start liking you immediately.

But When it Comes to Social Media, Put Others First

Social media - really Facebook and Twitter - are essential for building a blog following. Yeah, obviously, but how? Blog updates, competitions, and redesigns should all make their way onto your social media feeds, but the majority of your time on these forums should be spent engaging with other people. Don't talk about yourself all the time, reach other to others, and retweet other bloggers' posts you liked. Pretty soon they'll return the favour and open up their audience to you.

Comment Like a Pro

We all loooove getting comments, and leaving them on other sites is the best way I've found to make new bloggy friends. But writing 'cool post :)' just doesn't cut it. Putting some thought into commenting helps you truly engage with other bloggers and build a community around what you're doing - and that is the key. So tell an anecdote, let them know how you found their blog, be specific about what you liked in their post, ask a question and they'll probably click over to your site with an answer.

Get In The Game

If you're not using Google Adwords, building up internal and external links, streamlining your permalinks, and using Analytics to find out more about who your readers really are (you might be surprised where people are tuning in from!) you could be missing out on some opportunities to win more readers over to your blog.

Stay Fresh With Honest Feedback

Apparently, between 60-80% of blogs are abandoned in the first 30 days, and it's no wonder considering it takes the average blog 12 months to build up a decent loyal readership. Blogging takes perseverance, and the topping up of one's inspiration and dedication every now and then. Find another blogger to be your 'blogging buddy' - someone who will give you honest feedback on your posts and let you know someone out there is paying attention. I also like the idea of setting up a survey to find out what your blog's readers really gravitate to on your site. When you discover your blog's strengths through the eyes of your readers, it'll help you play better to them.

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{UPDATE} Annabel is offering a 35% discount off her e-book and audio-book to The Spring's readers! Just punch in the code "35off" at checkout to score!

Catherine Roberts