Blogging is rewarding and fun, but it’s a lot of work to create an audience-centered blog with loads of great content that attracts followers. It’s easy to get overwhelmed as you get started. There is a lot of good advice out there (I know because I’m always looking for it) on how to get started, but here are 15 best practices that are truly and simply essential. If you follow these 15 core practices, you will be establishing your blog’s solid foundation. Here we go:
1. Know your audience
You have to know who you’re writing for. This is key to generating good content that will interest and benefit them. If you have a mixed audience demographically, that’s okay, as long you still need to have an ideal reader in mind. Let’s say your blog could appeal to 30-something women, but it’s really aimed at college-aged women. Write for the college women.
2. Post awesome content
Your posts should be meaningful to you first and foremost, or you will not be engaged, and your audience will know that your heart isn’t in it. Endeavor to always give your audience something of value: solve a problem, entertain, inspire, be revealing …
3. Post regularly
Weekly or bi-weekly is considered a typical minimum, but there are successful monthly blogs too. Posting weekly will be a challenge for you at first. My students will vouch for how hard it is to write a blog a week for four weeks in a row, which is why I give them a break between posts three and four.
4. Establish & maintain credibility
Your About page details, the quality of your writing and information and your overall look all factor into how a reader perceives you as credible or not. (See the Stanford Credibility Guidelines for 10 research-based guidelines.)
5. Address your About page to your readers/audience
Your About isn’t just about you; it’s also about your audience too. Tell them the story of your blog. Why did you start it? Why are you qualified to be blogging about this topic? What do you want them to get out of it? What problem are you trying to solve or what issue are you trying to bring to light?
6. Link to outside sources and experts in your posts
Linking is an essential feature of blogging. Think of it as your bibliography for any information you include that you are getting from another source. Linking to other sources enhances your credibility and gives your reader options for more information. Always embed links in text (called anchor text) directly and avoid “click here,” which is old fashioned now.
7. Have a good design with clear navigation
If you’re working with a free template to start, you might not have full control over all features, but do be sure that the font style is not hard to read or too decorative. Your font size should be at least 12 pts – sans serif usually preferred. Choose a color scheme that fits your topic and is not too bright. Very dark or bright backgrounds with white/light/bright text can be hard to read. Trust me, it’s very easy to tinker constantly with your blog’s design, but your content should come first. Content is King. Design is King, Jr.
8. Title your posts to convey a benefit or reward
Generating really good and compelling titles is an art. It takes practice. New bloggers are often pretty bad at titling posts. Use the Clark Guide to help generate benefit-oriented, interesting titles, and you’ll soon get the hang of crafting juicy titles.
9. Format your posts for scannability
“Chunk” your content for scanning with: left alignment, short paragraphs, use lists/bullets when you can, embed links, include images and other visuals. (Don’t underline text–it might look like a link.) You don’t want several paragraphs in a row with no visual interest. See my post on scannability.
10. Be consistent in voice and tone
Write in a personal and active voice. Don’t be afraid to show some love and appreciation to your readers and/or to reveal some personal information.
11. Engage with your audience
Invite your readers to leave you comments and then reply. This two-way conversation is what separates blogs from websites. Remember, blogs are social media.
12. Be error free in your writing
Proofread. Print your posts and read them aloud. This is the single best way to catch mistakes. If you can’t print, read aloud from your screen. Get a blog buddy to read your posts.
13. Make your blog visually appealing
Have good quality visuals that are copyright usable, relevant, not generic, and sized correctly (giant images are a common problem). You should have least one to two images per post. Customize your blog header with your own photograph or create one using Canva.
14. Practice good basic SEO habits, but don’t get obsessed
Long-form blogging provides lots of opportunities for keywords to be picked up by search engines, but you don’t have to stuff each sentence or paragraph with keywords. If you know your audience, you will naturally write with keywords that will resonate.
15. Promote your posts on your social media
Ask your friends and/or family to share your blog posts via their social media (unless you’re writing about them). If you don’t want to use your personal social media to promote your blog, you need to establish social media accounts for your blog on the sites that your audience is using.
There You Have It!
I hope these 15 core practices will help you focus your efforts and help you get your blog started. Let me know how you’re doing by leaving me a comment, and remember, successful blogs are built bird by bird. You will get there if you don’t give up. Believe it!