In the past six months, I have read or at least paged through about a dozen books on blogging and writing for the web, because I’ve been really focused on creating a better online presence for me and my writing.
A few of these blogging books—Blogging for Writers by Robin Houghton, The Productive Writer by Sage Cohen, and even Blogging All-in-One for Dummies—helped me figure out why I feel compelled to keep a blog and what I hope to get out of one.
But beyond asking their readers to think about big questions, most of these books suggested a basic formula for writing a successful blog:
- Pick a niche/focus/topic about which you like to write.
- Figure out who your audience is.
- Pick a blog name (shorter names work best) and a service like WordPress or Blogger.
- Post as often as you can, because you’ll grow your audience faster that way.
- Pay close attention to search engine optimization.
- Keep your posts short and use a lot of bullet points and list posts and big shiny images, because people just don’t want to read anymore.
I’ve been there, done that, and that formula doesn’t gel with my tendencies.
I don’t assume that I’m going to be the next Neil Gaiman or Seth Godin, and I’m not one to throw puppy out with the bathwater (I’m never having kids, so it’s more likely I would be bathing a baby dog than a baby human).
Things like figuring out your audience and picking a good title are important for any kind of writing. I’m not always good at either one, but I’m practicing. Having a blog or two is a great way to get into the habit of thinking about audience and writing catchy titles, because it’s easy to get real-time data on the impact your posts have.
When I launched this latest blogging endeavor, I decided I was going to strive for best blogging practices, but that ultimately I would do what I felt was right for me. That means writing sometimes long posts, not always (or ever) using a picture just for the sake of using a picture, and not posting every day just for the sake of pumping out new content.
But as with English grammar and creative writing, you have to know the rules before you can break them effectively. Or, put another way, the spirit of the law, rather than the letter.