In the spirit of community building, I want to share a few tips and tricks that I’ve learned about blogging. I LOVE reading emails and getting to know some of the folks who read this blog, and in the past few months I’ve gotten several emails asking about the formatting of this site and in particular about which blogging template I use. So I want to share my top 5 tips on blogging – from the presentation and design of blogs, to ideas on how to contribute to the herbal blogosphere. And if any of you have any tips and tricks of your own, then I would love to hear them! There are so many lovely herbal blogs out there, and what better way to improve our skills on blogging than through sharing information.
1. Make it Beautiful
Design is my favorite part of blogging – creating a site that completely reflects your own aesthetic and point of vue is so rewarding. There are lots of different blogging sites out there with free templates that are easy to understand and simple to use. I’ve used both blogger.com and wordpress.com, but I’ve always felt limited by what the pre-fabricated templates could do (I’m a bit of a creative control freak). I’ve spent countless hours trying to customize pre-fabricated templates, and always ended up frustrated and disappointed with the outcome.
So, I was thrilled when I discovered The Thesis Theme for WordPress, and my entire blogging experience changed for the better. I am now a massive fan of Thesis, and would never use anything else! There’s a one-time fee to buy the template, but it’s totally worth the money since using Thesis will save you A LOT of time.
Thesis is very user friendly and there are lots of free online tutorials that can help you create the site you want, and an interactive forum where you can ask questions. In order to use Thesis, you have to have a domain hosting company (I use and highly recommend JustHost) and then install wordpress.org (not wordpress.com) onto your site. Then you’re ready to start creating!
2. Write About What You Know
My favorite blogs are those written from personal experience. Anything written from a unique point of vue makes the blog post more interesting to read and, well, unique. You can’t really replicate your own opinion. I’ve definitely noticed a difference with my own blogs – those that were written from personal experience or from my own point of vue get a lot more views than those written about information I learned in school.
I recently told someone that I’m a blogger, and heard the reply – “you know that blogging isn’t supposed to be all about you, right?” It was a pretty obvious statement, but it really helped to put into perspective how blogging has evolved; what was once a simple personal online journal has become a much broader communication forum with massive potential – the undiluted sharing of knowledge, ideas, theories, and opinions.
I really like these blogging tips by super blogger Simple Mom. I especially like how she says to “write like you” and “keep your readers in mind.” Even though you’re the writer, it’s important to keep in mind what kind of topics your readership would enjoy. Blogging is not a solitary experience (even though it can sometimes feel like one) – it’s a conversation with your readers.
Consistency is definitely the key to successful blogging, and I certainly struggle with this one. In a perfect world, I would write a blog post 2-3 times a week and update my twitter, facebook, and pinterest sites daily. But with a super active 11 month old baby and (up until one month ago) a retail store to run, I’m lucky to have found the time to even write twice a month! My goal is to post a blog once a week, so we’ll see how that goes…
3. Learn What Works
Following the traffic that your site generates can either be very exciting (like for this post) or somewhat discouraging with less successful posts. Either way, following your stats can get a little addictive. When I first started blogging, I would check my site stats several times a day. Now I check them every couple of weeks just to see how things are going. It’s really nice to know that people are reading my blog posts, and makes the whole solitary experience a little less lonely.
The best sites for blog stats are google analytics, quantcast, compete, and comscore. I mainly use analytics, which is very user friendly. Some sites (such as quantcast) let you make some of your information public, which is good if you want to attract advertisers with your impressive stats. WordPress also provides some basic info on how many pageviews and readers you’re getting.
Increasing visibility is pretty important when you’re blogging. The first step is to register your site with google. Next is to tag each post with keywords so that they come up in search results (you can do when you post your blog). An important way to increase visibility in search engine results is with SEO (Search Engine Optimization), which I don’t really understand, but I’m starting to learn about. You can also buy space on google with AdWords, which will ensure that you always come up at the top of the search results when certain words (or combination of words) are typed into google.
4. Promote What You Love
Money is an exchange of energy, and it’s natural to search for ways to compensate your time while you do what you love. That said, advertising can definitely cheapen your site and diminish from your content when it’s not done thoughtfully. Since I write about herbal and alternative medicine, I like to promote companies that either sell herbal products or promote alternative lifestyles. The more seamlessly you can incorporate advertising into your blog, the more effective it will be, and the more you’ll be able to preserve the integrity of your blog. There are three common ways to generate income with advertising: pay-per-view, pay-per-click, and affiliate links.
The most common way to feature pay-per-view and pay-per-click ads is with Google Adsense, which allows you to specify the type of ads that interest you and the kind of website you run. The downside is that you don’t get to choose which ads you want to feature on your site, and some of these ads can be unrelated to your blog content, as well as annoying and invasive.
Affiliate links are a more discreet and tactful way to promote selected companies on your site. I’ve found that the best affiliate links for alternative or holistic companies are with ShareASale. There are also a few companies that have their own independent affiliate programs, such as Mountain Rose and Plant Healer. I subscribe to them individually because I like these companies. Another good affiliate program is through Amazon.
A less common way to generate income is to lease advertising space on your blog to specific companies that are relevant and appealing to your readership. This requires some initial legwork, but can result in a more fulfilling and effective advertising agreement. You can also register with marketing agencies, such as Federated Media Publishing, that will act as a broker between your site and the advertising companies.
5. Make Friends
As a blogger, it’s so important to build friendships with other writers so that you can support one another and build awareness of each other’s work. It’s also a great way to share ideas, build community, and get inspired.
Here is a fantastic (and quite thorough) list of herbal blogs that can help you get to know other members of the herbal blogging community. There is also an excellent master herbal article list that categorizes online herbal articles and blog posts by subject and showcases some of the best herbal content on the web.
It’s always very nice to receive and write comments on blogs, as well as to send emails to other bloggers. Plus it’s a good way to let people know that you’re a reader. Since I’m still relatively new to the world of blogging, I absolutely love hearing about any tips and tricks that other bloggers might have, as well as getting feedback on posts I’m writing. I’m pretty sure most other bloggers feel the same way. There’s something really fun about opening mail – virtual or not. Happy Blogging!!