I have received a number of questions lately on blogging–how to start, how to meet people, how to grow your blog. I am by no means an expert on this topic, but I am happy to share what I have learned along the way, from my own experience, from others, and from the comments on my original post, asking for Blogging 101 tips.
I thought about breaking this overview into a series of posts (it is a lot of information), but in the end thought it would be more helpful all in one place. This information is obviously focused on quilting/sewing blogs, but I think there are takeaways for other blog genres as well. And I apologize for breaking 2 of the most important blogging rules–too much information in one post and no pictures!
Please let me know if you have any feedback/thoughts/anything to add in the comments. And make sure to read the last section. Even if you have to skip some to get to it. It is probably the most important part! (And it is labelled “Read This!”) Thanks!
The two most important things you can figure out are your blogging goals/purpose, and who your audience is. Answering these questions (on paper) will provide you with direction and purpose, and will help decrease frustration. If you want to blog as a business, but only journal your projects, you will be met with a lot of frustration.
Some questions to ask yourself:
Are you going to write a lifestyle blog? A quilting blog? A DIY blog?
Is your primary focus a journal/scrapbook for you and/or friends?
Do you like to quilt and/or sew for fun and would like to use your blog as a platform to connect with the larger community? [If you want to connect with the larger quilting or sewing community, for example, try linky parties, quilt alongs, or community linkys such as the Small Blog Meet at Lily Quilts]
Do you really just like to write? If so, blogging more frequently will probably be more satisfying than blogging sporadically
Do you want to quilt/ sew and blog as a business? If you do, but don’t engage with the larger community (writing tutorials, collaborating with other bloggers, etc)., you will likely meet frustration
Remember, audiences can grow or shift as your personal style/goals grow and shift
Be patient—it takes time to grow an audience
Don’t forget to HAVE FUN
Some suggestions for posts include:
Share useful tips and/or short cuts
Review products or books
Share finished pictures of your quilt/project
Share progress shots of your quilt/project
Post about a pattern you are using, where to find it, and any modifications you made
Share mistakes or frustrations
Share machine quilting ideas, tips, tricks, frustrations, how to fix standard problems, etc.
Write about other hobbies and/or family, recipes, knitting, fitness, travel, books, etc.—many experts say that if you write a niche blog (for example, a quilt blog), at least 75% of your posts should be about quilting/sewing
Share creative process posts—including how challenges and choices can expand creativity
Include Galleries and/or tabs that help a reader easily find your work
Try to post regularly, because it gets you in a habit. For example, write a weekly post–I usually share a “Favorite Things” post as well as a “Vintage Quilt Sunday” post. Or write a regular post and link up somewhere– Finish it Friday, WIP Wednesday, Fabric Tuesday, Make A List Monday, etc.
Beware of just posting lists—lists of things to do or things you have done—they can be a turn off to some people
Use good grammar and spell things correctly—proofread before you hit “post”
Be you—let your personality shine
Be real–it is okay to show the messy/real life behind the blog
Keep it positive—you don’t need to spend a whole post on someone who made an unkind comment or corrected your grammar. It never ends well.
A well organized, well designed blog can attract readers and then keep them there. Consider hiring a designer if that is something important to you
Have an “about” page—somewhere where readers can learn about you–Debbie made a great suggestion. Make sure to include your name somewhere visible. It is nice to put a name with a blog!
Post a picture of yourself somewhere on your blog
Use easy to read web fonts— and use 1 font per blog post. Suggested ones include: Cantarell, Century Gothic, Helvetica, Garamond, Trebuchet, Caecilian, Abadi condensed, Times New Roman, etc. (From Melissa Esplin’s 2012 Sewing Summit Class)
Include a search button and a “subscribe by email” button
Write in short paragraphs
If you can, save all of your images the same size (i.e. 500 pixels wide). If not, then center your photos, and have your text be left justified (don’t center text)
Make it easy for people to find past work–an online portfolio, easy to access categories in your header, or photos in your sidebar—make your blog easy to navigate and easy to browse—you want people to stay for a while
Also, make it easy for people to contact you. Include your email address in an about page, or via a contact me button, etc.
Photos are important! Include at least 1 picture with each post
Make sure your pictures are well lit (use natural light if you can)
Don’t post blurry pictures, or pictures of wrinkled quilts
Use the same photo background if you can—it will help “brand” your photos and make them recognizable as yours (i.e. brick wall, white wall in your kitchen, deck, etc).
Use large pictures instead of tiny ones
Determine whether people can “pin” things from Pinterest from your blog. If they can, make it easy for them.
If you would like to take your photography to the next level, take a class, either online or in person. Community colleges and art centers often have great classes.
Tutorials are everyone’s favorite!
A good tutorial starts with a good idea, then clearly written directions with illustrative pictures or drawings
Many people like tutorials in downloadable pdfs, so they can take them with them
Leave comments when you like something or visit a new blog—easy way to make friends
Don’t focus on negative comments on your blog—be confident in yourself as an artist
As a blogger, reply to comments as time permits. Let your readers know whether you try to reply to all comments
Put your email address on your blog profile so people can reach you, and so you won’t be a no-reply blogger (a no-reply blogger means that your email address isn’t associated with your blog profile, and if you leave a comment on someone’s site, they can’t send you a reply because they don’t know your email address)
Don’t use distracting backgrounds, music, or flashing graphics
Don’t use more than 5 colors on your blog (in your header, font text, etc).
Don’t use a giant header (graphic at the top of the blog that says your name). You want people to be able to see a post immediately when they land on your website
Don’t include too many buttons in your sidebar, especially flashing ones
Don’t use white text on Black background or fonts that are hard too read—too small, too light, script fonts, etc.
Avoid multi-colored fonts in your text
Avoid huge watermarks on photos
Avoid grammar mistakes
Avoid excessive giveaways
Avoid truncated posts—posts that you can’t read in a blog reader like bloglovin’ or Feedly, but that you have to actually click over to the blog to read—or at least be aware that you will lose a lot of readers if you do this
People don’t like word verification requirements for blog comments—sometimes this is necessary to prevent spam if you use blogger
Don’t say you are a bad blogger if you haven’t posted—post when you want to
Don’t post a teaser about super secret projects, or if you do, people don’t like the word “super secret.”
You can attend blogging conferences and blogging classes, both online and in person. I only have personal experience with the Alt Summit online classes (which were great)–I have heard and read lots of good things about all of these classes/conferences (see below).
The Alt Channel
Any other favorites?
There are so many great blogs out there, and each one offers something different. Some people have a hilarious writing style. Some bloggers consistently make and finish beautiful quilts. Others are authentic–you want to be their friend in real life. Some people offer something quirky and different, others are generous with tutorials. The point is–be yourself–take what you read on the internet and then write what you want. It’s your blog! And make sure not to compare your worst to someone’s best–play your own game and enjoy the journey. As Deborah Moebes from Whipstitch says, “Run Your Own Race.”
Faith Jones: http://www.freshlemonsquilts.com/
Lee Heinrich: http://www.freshlypieced.com/
Ashley Newbold : http://filminthefridge.com/
Anna Maria Horner: http://annamariahorner.blogspot.com/
Holly Degroot: http://www.bijoulovelydesigns.com/
Amanda Jean: http://crazymomquilts.blogspot.com/
Megan McNeilly: http://lucyandnorman.blogspot.com/ (usually on Instagram @lucyandnorman)
Rita Hodge: http://www.redpepperquilts.com/
Angela Mitchell: http://fussycut.blogspot.com/
Jeni Baker: http://www.incolororder.com/
Rae Hoekstra: http://www.made-by-rae.com/
Anna Graham: http://www.noodle-head.com/
Amber Carillo: http://oneshabbychick.typepad.com/one_shabby_chick/
Katie Pederesen: http://sewkatiedid.wordpress.com/
Joanna Figueroa: http://figtreequilts.typepad.com/my_weblog/
Miss Rosie’s Quilt Co: http://www.lavieenrosie.com/
Jacquie Gering: http://tallgrassprairiestudio.blogspot.com/
Allison Harris: http://www.cluckclucksew.com/
Bonnie Olaveson: http://cottonway.blogspot.com/
Camille Roskelley: http://www.camilleroskelley.typepad.com/
Sherri McConnell: http://www.aquiltinglife.com/
Anjeannette Klinder: http://anjeanettek.com/
Lynne Goldsworthy: http://lilysquilts.blogspot.com/
Krista Fleckenstein: http://spottedstone.blogspot.com/ (Instagram as kristafleck)
Krista Hennebury: http://poppyprintcreates.blogspot.com/
Kelly Bowser : http://kelbysews.blogspot.com/
Megan and Heather: http://quiltstory.blogspot.com/
Amy Ellis: http://amyscreativeside.com/
Ellen Luckett Baker: http://thelongthread.com/
A Little Gray: http://alittlegray.blogspot.com/
Elizabeth Dackson: http://www.dontcallmebetsy.com/
Carolyn Friedlander: http://carolynfriedlander.com/blog/