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What I Wish I Knew Then

I’ve been blogging for almost two years, and here is a list of things I wish I had known when I was starting out.  If you have any tips to add, please leave them in the comments.

1.  Build your blogroll slowly.  Blogrolls are like rabbits; they have a way of multiplying at an alarming rate.  So add to your blogroll cautiously.   It should be an honor to be on your blogroll, so keep your standards high.  I only add to my blogroll after I’ve been reading a blog for months, and I’ve usually emailed with the blogger quite a bit "behind the scenes".

2. Invest in a personalized design.  I can’t stress this enough.  At the very least, it gives your blog an identity.  I have several readers who use the same free template, and I have a hard time keeping them straight in my mind.  Your blog will be more memorable if you have an original design. 

Besides that, it gives new readers an instant snapshot of your personality.  Much like the clothes you wear, your blog design tells people something about who you are and what you’re about. 

3. Keep your design simple.  You don’t want your design and sidebars to detract from your content.  And black type on what background is ALWAYS easiest to read.  There are some blogs I cannot visit because they use light type on dark backgrounds.  It makes me dizzy.  No matter how good your content is, if it’s difficult to read people aren’t going to stick around.

4.  Write well.   I recently read somewhere to treat every blog post as a job interview.  Don’t be so eager to post every day that you compromise the quality of your writing.  This is definitely a case where "less is more".

5.  Edit.  And edit again.  And before publishing, it’s always a good idea to read your post out loud to yourself.
(Yes, your family might think you’ve lost what little semblance of
sanity you had left, but trust me — you won’t BELIEVE the corrections
you find when you read it out loud.)  And please use spell check for goodness sake.

6.  Use paragraph breaks frequently.  There’s nothing worse than trying to read a blog post that is one giant paragraph.

7.  Be generous with comments and links.  If you desire to grow your readership, participate in the blogging community.  Join blog rings, leave lots of comments, participate in carnivals.  Or better yet, host your own carnival!

8. Be yourself.  Your readers can tell if you aren’t being authentic, and no one wants to hang around someone who is fake. 

9.  On the other hand, don’t feel like you have to share every aspect of your private life with the World Wide Web.  On the contrary, internet security is important.  It’s a good idea not to divulge your exact location, and many bloggers use nicknames for themselves and their family members.  You will also need to decide whether or not to post pictures of your children.  This is a hot topic and one I can’t cover comprehensively here, but there is lots of great information to be found if you search for it.

10.  Above all, HAVE FUN!

What would you add to this list?  What’s the most important thing you would tell a blogger who is just starting out?

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38 thoughts on “What I Wish I Knew Then

  1. This is actually a very good list! I think what I tell most people is to be HONEST and be YOU. Don’t write what you *think* we want to read about- be real. I’ve found that some of my most popular posts were ones I thought were really lame and no one was going to read!

    Steph

  2. Thanks for this list. It has been really helpful. One of the things that kept me from blogging was that I knew my writing wouldn’t always be perfect. I’m paranoid about having huge grammatical errors and misspellings.

    Also, thanks for the reminder to be honest.

  3. Great list! I think the most important thing on your list is to be yourself and write what you want to write.

    I’m terrible about the blogroll thing and I always waver back and forth about it. I try to rotate what blogs I list because I only want to have a really short list on my sidebar. I guess that is one of the things about blogger that I don’t like and I should link to a post instead….

  4. You pretty much summed it up perfectly. The only thing I would recommend if anyone didn’t feel ready to spend money on a customized blog design, would be to take advantage of templates that have custom image headers. WordPress has several. You can upload any pic to the header to make it your own. Mine is an example of this. It’s worked fine for me as a beginner blogger. Maybe in ’08 I’ll have a designer like Jules do some magic for me…I love her work.

  5. This is a great list! I agree with everything you said, especially being yourself and honest. I sooo agree about paragraph breaks and making it as easy to read as possible. Pictures add a lot too, I think.

  6. What great advice.

    I wanted to ask you how your SIL got you your personal stationary with your header on it. How do you do that? I would like to do mine this way too. Can you help?

  7. Great list- I need to start reading my posts out loud. I’m totally guilty of not editing my posts thoroughly enough and my husband will call and tell me later.

  8. What a wonderful list of tips! I would add…
    1. Write regularly. If there isn’t fresh content at least once a week (and that’s minimum!), I usually don’t go back to a blog.
    2. Use pictures. All text is too boring.

    I’d love for you to post a more in-depth discussion about the pros and cons of divulging personal information and publishing family photos.

  9. Also, I agree with those of you who mention using pictures in posts. I forget to do that, but I notice on other blogs how much more I enjoy them with pictures.

  10. Great advice. I’m new at this blogging stuff, but I agree that it is best to be yourself. I would add to not worry so much about how many readers you have. If you are doing all of those things on your list and writing because you enjoy it, readers will find you.

  11. Thanks for the great advice. If only there were a few more hours in the day to do all of them 110% of the time ๐Ÿ˜‰ Ah, tis the life of being a mom (and well worth it).

  12. Since I am one of the newbie friends you helped, thanks a million for all your advice!! I have learned a lot and really enjoy it! By the way, what is a carnival? How does it work? And is a post considered more interesting or better if it has a link in it to somewhere or someone else?

    And, I have your bows still from Target. When are we going to the outlets?

  13. Thanks for this – I am trying to get more readership, etc. on my blog and I really appreciate the hints. I am not quite ready to “invest” in a custom layout yet and I currently have light type on dark background. I guess I will have to change that soon so that you will read mine every once and a while! ; )

  14. Amanda – That’s very interesting. And I don’t even realize I’m doing that. But I do love the community and I try to ask a lot of questions so that I get participation! It seems to work. ๐Ÿ™‚

  15. Good good list! The problem is with #4. Just how do you know when you’re doing it well? Just hope and pray, I guess? ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Seriously, I admire your blog! The thing you didn’t list that you do well (and I haven’t quite grasped) is foster community. You post about your posts…almost like part 1 and 2 based on your comments. That makes people (me) want to come back b/c it’s not just a chapter in your story–we get to experience it with you!

  16. I would also suggest (as a newbie) that you should always be writing (or thinking like a writer), even when you are not at the keyboard. Your post about what your daughter said about Santa is a classic example; some of the most simple things that happen in life are short-but-sweet snippets from your day. Keep a notebook handy for thoughts, too.

  17. I would also suggest (as a newbie) that you should always be writing (or thinking like a writer), even when you are not at the keyboard. Your post about what your daughter said about Santa is a classic example; some of the most simple things that happen in life are short-but-sweet snippets from your day. Keep a notebook handy for thoughts, too.

  18. I would also suggest (as a newbie) that you should always be writing (or thinking like a writer), even when you are not at the keyboard. Your post about what your daughter said about Santa is a classic example; some of the most simple things that happen in life are short-but-sweet snippets from your day. Keep a notebook handy for thoughts, too.

  19. I would also suggest (as a newbie) that you should always be writing (or thinking like a writer), even when you are not at the keyboard. Your post about what your daughter said about Santa is a classic example; some of the most simple things that happen in life are short-but-sweet snippets from your day. Keep a notebook handy for thoughts, too.

  20. I would also suggest (as a newbie) that you should always be writing (or thinking like a writer), even when you are not at the keyboard. Your post about what your daughter said about Santa is a classic example; some of the most simple things that happen in life are short-but-sweet snippets from your day. Keep a notebook handy for thoughts, too.

  21. I would also suggest (as a newbie) that you should always be writing (or thinking like a writer), even when you are not at the keyboard. Your post about what your daughter said about Santa is a classic example; some of the most simple things that happen in life are short-but-sweet snippets from your day. Keep a notebook handy for thoughts, too.

  22. I would also suggest (as a newbie) that you should always be writing (or thinking like a writer), even when you are not at the keyboard. Your post about what your daughter said about Santa is a classic example; some of the most simple things that happen in life are short-but-sweet snippets from your day. Keep a notebook handy for thoughts, too.

  23. I would also suggest (as a newbie) that you should always be writing (or thinking like a writer), even when you are not at the keyboard. Your post about what your daughter said about Santa is a classic example; some of the most simple things that happen in life are short-but-sweet snippets from your day. Keep a notebook handy for thoughts, too.

  24. Great list- someone should write an article about this!! snort. It was funny reading the first list item and having a vague recollection of having read it before!

    Before I forget- can you email me a mailing address for your copy of the magazine? It comes out in just a few weeks!

  25. I recently started blogging and today I happened to stumble on your page. Thanks for all the great advice. It was as if the post was written to me! Now I just need to get my web designer on all the ball to spice up my page!

  26. thank you so much for this, I have been blogging for a little bit but I am sure some of these tips will help me get some readers.

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