Saturday 9 August 2014

Things I Learned About Blogging Before I Started

I had been debating whether to create a blog for quite a while before I took the plunge, and in that time I got hooked on reading so many different kinds of blogs. I think that being addicted to Bloglovin' has really helped me. Now, I'm definitely not saying that I'm perfect, not by a long shot, but there is the odd thing that I am really glad to have noticed from others, things that I have tried to avoid doing myself. Some of the tips I picked up include:

Be kind

This is one thing that you'd think would be second nature to everyone, regardless of if they blog or not. Sadly it's not. I have had to drop so many blogs from my reading list over the last few months because I have seen some really nasty things happening. Bloggers writing posts calling for their readers to gang up on another blogger because they got the scoop on a story that they wanted to publish first is the first thing that comes to mind. I'm certainly not going to name and shame anyone in this post, but the blogger who committed this horrible act is pretty well known, and her readers did as instructed and managed to bring down someone who had done nothing wrong. It was all jealousy, which is understandable if you've been working on a post for ages and someone else beats you to the punch, but that's not their fault.

Be approachable

If your readers don't feel like they can talk to you, you won't have much of a relationship with them, and without that they're likely to not want to be active on your blog. There is little worse as a reader than investing your time into following and reading someones blog only for them to be stand-offish when you leave a comment on a post. I'm speaking from experience here, one of my favourite all time blogs has just been dropped from my reading list after years because when I left a comment the reply I got back was not very nice. It made me feel as if I was wasting their time by asking a question, they were rude and it left a bad taste in my mouth. That leads me into my next tip:

Appreciate your readers

I think it's really important that we all remember that as much as most of us do this as a hobby, how many of us would continue if no-one ever read it? Imagine putting all of that hard work into your posts only to have zero views, our/your readers are what keep blogs alive and functioning. For those of you that are lucky enough to make blogging your job; your readers, essentially, pay your bills. If you can't show them a little appreciation there's something wrong. People go out of their way to read, comment on and share our posts and a little "thank you" or reply to a comment goes a long way. I totally understand that if you get 100's of comments it's very unlikely that you'll be able to reply to every one, but if you reply to none it will discourage people from leaving any at all.

Spell-check your posts

I can't even begin to tell you how important this one is. You don't have to be perfect with spelling or grammar to be a successful blogger, some of my favourite ones have countless followers and have mistakes in almost every post, but it should at least be understandable. I wrote this post a while ago having a bit of a moan, I was forced to un-follow a few blogs because the errors were so bad that I was spending way too much time trying to figure out what they were trying to say. Everyone makes mistakes, I'm sure there are a few in this post even though I've spell-checked and proof-read it, but you should care enough about your work to try and limit them as much as you can.

Never copy someone else's idea

I know how frustrating it is to have a post idea and have someone else write the exact same thing before you get a chance to publish yours. Just last week I had a post scheduled for Sunday, I had worked for a few days on it, I'd taken photo's and edited them, only for one of the blogs I'm subscribed to to post the exact same thing on Saturday. It was identical so there was no way I could publish mine, it would look as if I was copying hers. We don't know each other offline and have never discussed blog ideas so I am in no way saying that she took my idea, that would be impossible, it was just really bad luck.

Last autumn 3 of the blogs I was subscribed to posted identical posts on 3 consecutive days, 3 of them! That was one heck of a coincidence. After the 3rd one was posted I went back and looked at the other 2 and guess what, they all had the exact same photo, the same product placement, the same background, everything was identical. I messaged the original author and told her what I had found and she informed me that the same blogs had been stealing her posts for months. Needless to say I quickly hit the 'unfollow' button on the other 2.

Make sure your links lead where your readers expect them to

The number of times I have been enjoying a blog post only to click on a link and it either leads nowhere at all, or to a completely irrelevant website is crazy. It's not only annoying but also makes you look unprofessional. If you go to the trouble of thinking of blog posts you should really spend just a couple of extra minutes checking that your links send your readers to the correct place.

Be 100% honest

There have been times when I have been so annoyed with blogs that I have un-followed them, and you really don't want that to happen. This has usually been because they're not completely honest with either their reviews or the fact that they're being paid in some way to say what they are. I know there are laws that say you have to disclose any sponsored posts etc, but I also know that there are some PR's that ask you not to, and it's all too easy for the novice blogger to fall into that trap. On the odd occasion your readers probably wouldn't know if you were being overly generous in a review, or if you flat out lied, but over time they would. When every single review is glowing it makes me wonder if:
  1. The posts are sponsored
  2. The opinions are 100% genuine
  3. PR's have asked you to give a positive review
After all, have you really loved every single product you've ever tried? I know I haven't. Even if you do research before trying something out there will be the odd small thing that you're not totally in love with, so writing that everything you try is 'holy grail' really isn't realistic.

Obviously I'm no expert, these are just a few of the things that I picked up before I decided to create my blog. I'm sure there is someone reading this now who thinks I've done something wrong and will use that to learn from, and that's ok. If we didn't learn from each other we'd all be the same, and how boring would that get?

Do you blog, If so what are the lessons you learned before you started? If you don't, what things do bloggers do that you would like them to change?

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