Raising the Bar: Weblogging Success Tips

First of all, let me state something âÂ?¦ I don’t write a weblog, I’m not a blogger in any form. Between writing for Associated Content, keeping up 3 websites, and generally trying to enjoy myself outside of the Internet, I don’t have time to write a blog. That doesn’t mean that I don’t read them; I am, in fact, an avid fan of several blogs and through the years that I’ve had the opportunity to watch the underground sensation become more mainstream, I’ve also been able to see what makes a blog stand out and become successful.

How successful has blogging become? When it was first mentioned on National Public Radio, weblogs hit a tipping point. No longer is blogging an underground, trendy thing for techs to do, it’s become something with the power to transform journalism. Several newspapers, including Time magazine and The Times of
London have reported on blogging, proclaiming them an outlet of the future.

Long before the dot-com boom, blogging began busting at its virtual seams with sites that generated traffic numbers that often rivaled the up-and-coming dot-coms. These were largely self-contained communities that garnered traffic with witty dialogue and, sometimes, useful insight.

Somewhere along the way, though, the quick commentaries started to lack enthusiasm. Instead of remembering that they should make their viewers want to read, many bloggers started including such fascinating entries as, “Today, I ate a cheese sandwich.” Really, now âÂ?¦ who cares?

There are a lot of things that a weblog can be. Used by professionals like doctors, lawyers, and scientists, weblogs can be a repository of information and discovery. Used by the writer who truly cares about their craft, blogging turns into an experiment in literature with essays that explore points of view and voice. Several really nice weblogs have been written by mothers who impart words of wisdom and entertaining anecdotes about the perils, pressures, and presents of being a parent.

My point is simply this: If you’re a blogger, or are hoping to turn to blogging for your own creative and/or intellectual outlet, let’s raise the bar. Here are some tips that I’ve garnered over years of watching weblogs come and go, and by instituting just a couple of them in each post you make you’ll be driving your work toward success and a lasting readership.

Weblogging Success Tips

The following tips are definitely not the magic pill to your weblogging success – they are simply the strongest points that I have found in years of reading and loving or hating certain blogs. One thing that I’ve noted is that often the ones I love best are the ones that stick around – because if I like them, someone else out there does too, and it shows.

Focus: Write for a Reason – If you already work on a weblog, think back to when you got started. What drove you to begin putting virtual ink to electronic paper and write?

Regardless of whether you’re just beginning your blog or trying to repurpose, know why you’re writing. As a writer (after all, no matter what else you are, once you begin a blog you are a writer), you’re an artist. Artists who mean something to their fans are passionate about what they do. If you remember what drives you, writing about daily concerns or your work life, your hobbies, or just your innermost feelings, you can write passionately. Give us, your readers, the details – teach us why what you’re writing about matters. No detail is too small, and most of us aren’t as technical in your craft as you are so every explanation is something we can become fascinated with.

Blogs that bore us bore the authors as well. If you don’t really care about something, don’t write about it. If your job bores you, it will bore us – unless, of course, you loathe that coworker in the next cubicle with a rich, vibrant, and enduring passion âÂ?¦ because then we’ll want all the gory details.

One final word on writing for a reason âÂ?¦ write honestly. Don’t try to hide, and don’t leave us hanging. When you write about something that you feel passionately about, it can be tempting to flee into sentimental, familiar expressions and clichÃ?©. Find the strength to be honest, express your passion with a style that is uniquely you, and you’ll never forget why you’re writing in the first place.

Consistency: Write Often – You don’t have to write constantly, and you don’t have to give an in-depth essay every time you make a new entry, but you must write often. Fifteen minutes a day adds up to a year’s worth of blog entries that could fill a book – seriously.

The thing is this � as a writer, you have to remain faithful to your reader. Also as a writer, your first and most important reader � is yourself. Beyond yourself are (hopefully) going to be a growing number of fans who come to visit your blog and expect updates. If you are consistent, readers decide that you are trustworthy and like you even better. More importantly, though, by making sure that you keep religiously to a once-a-day or once-a-week posting, you prove to yourself that you are trustworthy as a writer.

Elimination: Keep Out the Clutter – Remember that reading something on a screen takes more effort than it does on paper. Keep your sentences short and to the point, and your paragraphs easily digestible.

Everything in your blog should be nice, tight, and clean. The focus of a blog is your thoughts – unless you simply have to show off with a huge selection of features and design elements, choose just a few that will highlight your writing instead of distract the reader from reading.

When you have a day that no inspiration hits you, go back through your posts and read your work. Revise it, take some time to think about the craft of writing. Are you showing your reader something, or trying to tell? Give description, paint a picture, but keep it tight and tidy.

Expertise: Give Us the Facts, Jack – If you know your facts and have spent some time on doing your homework, you have an opinion. C’mon, give it to us. State it clearly, and then tell us why you came to that opinion. Why should we care?

If you don’t know that you’re right, and haven’t gotten all the facts straight (and given them to your readers), your writing will become boring and hesitant. If you’re writing because you’re trying to discover your own opinion on something, state that from the start – but still, give your readers the facts that you’re digesting.

In other words, the truth matters. Show us the right answer, never lie, and then give us the facts so we can form our own opinions. Your readers will appreciate the effort.

Relax: Find Your Voice and Use it – Don’t worry too much about the “correctness” of your writing. If you’re writing honestly, passionately, and often, your readers will overlook errors in punctuation and spelling. Your only job here is to write clearly and with all your conviction.

While you write, forget about your audience. Seriously, this is not advice you’ll be given in any other form of writing, but when you’re blogging âÂ?¦ forget about your audience. Relax, write with energy about the things that matter to you, and your audience will find you. Enjoy the visitors you get, but don’t try to figure out why some people aren’t reading your work – a blog is a personal thing, a glorified “public” diary âÂ?¦ with more passion than the average diary.

In other words, don’t take yourself too seriously.

If you’re taking so much time working on your blog that you forget to live, work, and play, your writing will suffer. The moment that you start stressing on why people are reading your blog, instead of relaxing and focusing on why you enjoy blogging, you’re going to start dreading your next update.

Finally, don’t worry about those who disagree with you and don’t take bad reviews to heart. Ideas are what matter here, and though there will always be nasty critics, they will come and go. Your passion, your desire to express yourself, is ongoing.

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