In the six years that I’ve been blogging, I’ve learned a number of things about blogging. I thought I would share with you the 10 most critical things that you should never forget when blogging. These are core values and attributes that you should always keep in the foresight of your mind whenever you are working on your blog.
1 – Put your readers first, without them your blog is nothing
Many bloggers make the mistake of not putting their readers first. Sure search engine traffic is great, but without readers your blog just isn’t a blog. Readers comment, they come back day after day, they support you, they promote you and most important for me is they encourage you.
As your blog grows, don’t forget your readers. They helped you to get where you are. They are large part of what makes up your blog.
2 – Never ever plagiarize, especially from another blog
As I became more active in the blogging community I was surprised to find that there were bloggers plagiarizing other bloggers. Let me tell you straight out, there is one real quick way to be blacklisted by the blogging community and that is to plagiarize. Don’t steal other bloggers content and don’t use other bloggers content without their permission. Frankly, I always tried to avoid even making my articles seem similar to theirs to avoid the perception of plagiarizing.
3 – Be honest and don’t lie
Trust is incredibly important when blogging. If your readers trust you, they tell others about you and your blog grows. If your readers trust you, they click through on your affiliate links and buy the products you recommend and you earn money. If you lie and get caught, your readers lose that trust, your growth stops and so does your income.
I’ll share a personal story just to prove that you never know who might be reading your blog. My wife and I were out to dinner one night in the small town we live in. At the restaurant was a couple we had met a few weeks before and enjoyed talking to. We were just chatting about hobbies, work, etc. I mentioned that I was a blogger and earned a decent side income blogging. Maggie, the lady, said she read lots of blogs and asked which blogs I wrote on. I wasn’t fully anonymous at the time, but I also wasn’t openly telling everyone who I was either. I decided to tell her, I mean what are the chances right?
I mentioned that I ran a Christian Personal finance blog. She replied “Really?? I read lots of personal finance blogs. She then went on to explain that she had found this great new blog called “Gather Little by Little” that she had been reading and loved it. *GASP*
I hesitated for a bit and told her it was my blog. Of course she laughed and didn’t believe me. I ended up convincing her that I was indeed the author and she was shocked, as was I. Fortunately what I wrote about was all true and what I said I did, I really did. We’re now really good friends with Charlie and Maggie.
4 – Rarely delete comments
If you don’t have thick skin (read #5), develop it real quick. In my early days of blogging, I deleted comments I didn’t like or that I found offensive. My blog right?
As my readership grew and I started receiving more and more comments, people started noticing that I was deleting certain comments. Those people started calling me out for censoring my blog. They accused me of trying to hide the bad and show only the good. What?? But after I thought some about this, I realized they were right, that was exactly what I was doing.
I learned pretty quick to only delete comments that were really bad and that might question the family friendly environment I had going on my blog. Even in those cases, I usually edited the comment some rather than delete it.
One of the things that makes a blog a blog and that people sincerely value in a blog are the comments. Be respectful of any and all comments. Reply with integrity and professionalism and just ignore the ones that are trying to bait or troll you.
5 – You have to have thick skin
The internet is full of people. Most of them are very very nice and reply with thoughtful and sincere comments. Others though…well let’s just say they can be vicious, mean and cruel. The trick to dealing with these types of people is to just understand and know that some people like attention and will do whatever they can to get it. When these types of people make comments that are offensive or hurt your feelings, you just need to either ignore them or respond in a nice way. Don’t ever make the mistake of lowering yourself to their level, it just makes you look bad.
I always follow a simple rule:
If a comment makes me mad, and I’m feeling inclined to respond immediately with an equally negative comment, I walk away for a while. Just take some time and let your emotions calm down. Once you do, you’ll find you can respond better to the comment.
Always remember that you blog reflects on you and that includes your articles, you comments and your interaction outside of the blog. All of these are part of your personal brand.
Be prepared though, their are some real winners out there and they will eventually find your blog. When they do, well think of it this way: You’ve reached the big time.
6 – Socialize
One of the things that surprised me about blogging was how social it was. Want links from other bloggers? Get to know them by spending time talking to them. One of the best ways I found to get to know other bloggers was to participate in social media (you can find me on Google+). Socializing with other bloggers helps you to know them and helps them get to know you. Once you are socially active, you’ll start getting links and recognition from other bloggers and sometimes even big ones. Links from large blogs can really drive a large amount of traffic your way.
Don’t make the mistake of not recognizing the importance of relationships. Like any other business, blogging is more than just running the business, you have to market yourself and participate in the blogging community to help grow your blog. I’ve met a bunch of really great friends through blogging, and while I’ve never met most of them in person, I consider some of them great friends.
7 – Write often
Write and publish articles as often as you can. On my personal finance blog, I published an article a day. Some other bloggers I was working with published 2 and 3 articles a day. Their blogs grew more quickly than mine. Why? Search engines hasve something called bots. Bots visit your site and look for new content. When they find it, they index that content so it shows up in the engines search results pages. The more often you publish content, the more frequently those bots visit your site and the more articles you have in the showing up in the search engines search results pages. Those search results pages equal content.
Additionally, people visit blogs to read content. If you’re publishing often, people visit your blog more frequently and tell others about your blog more through social media. More people reading your content, the quicker you grow.
Now not everyone has the time or ability to publish 2 articles a day let alone 1 and some of you may only be able to do 1 or 2 articles a week. That’s okay, just know that your blog will still grow, just not as fast as a similar blog publishing content more often. The important thing is to establish a routine. As your blog grows, your readers will have expectations about how often and when you will publish articles. Set a schedule and stick to it. If you publish once a week, always publish on the same day at the same time, that way people will know when to visit your blog.
When I was writing on GLBL, personal things would come up and I would occasionally skip a day or two. I would get emails from readers worried about me because they know I published an article a day. My readers were awesome.
8 – Relate to your readers and be personal
GLBL grew quickly and many of us in the blogging network I was in spent a great deal of time discussing what made some of our blogs grow and others not grow.
We all felt like the blogs that shared a more personal side of the blogger grew more quickly than bloggers that didn’t share personal details. My articles were often about some personal experience or story that happened to me related to personal finance. I shared stories about my kids, my family and my friends. My readers really enjoyed hearing about my life. Yea I know, I couldn’t believe it either…but they really did!
Some of my most popular articles were story articles. One in particular was incredibly popular where I shared the story of going to a homeless shelter with my kids one evening and the life changing experience it had on all of us.
Don’t be afraid to share personal stories and details about yourself. Doing so helps your readers connect with you and relate. Also, don’t be afraid to admit your mistakes. Those were also some of my most popular articles. Everybody makes mistakes, and seeing that someone running a popular blog makes mistakes too just makes people not feel so alone or stupid.
Relate to your readers and they will reward you for it. Be real.
9 – Grammar, spelling and readability matter
Grammar and spelling are my #1 biggest weakness when it comes to blogging. Grammar wise I’m pretty good, but my spelling is horrible. While you might not think it’s important, your readers will call you out in a heart beat for a typo or spelling error. Also, making numerous spelling or grammar errors reflects on how professional you are.
If you struggle even in the slightest with grammar or spelling, I strongly advise you to come up with some way to get help or mitigate your weakness. As an example, here’s what I do: I write the initial draft, save it and let it sit for a few hours or even days. Then I come back and I completely re-read the article. This step in and of itself finds most of my grammar or spelling errors. I also occasionally ask my wife or a friend to proof read my articles as well.
Don’t under estimate the importance of grammar and spelling, it will bight you.
(yes I know it’s bite…just seeing if you were paying attention)
10 – Blogging is a journey
I’m not sure why I didn’t recognize this early on, as with most things in life, blogging is a journey. You won’t spend a year blogging and find out that one day you just suddenly know everything there is to know. There are constantly new things to learn. The internet changes extremely rapidly and just trying to keep up with the change is challenge enough.
As you just dive in and start blogging you’ll learn things as you go. Your writing will become better, you’ll learn little tricks, learn about cool software that will help you make your blog better, you’ll learn techniques for attracting visitors and techniques for writing articles that are successful on social media. You’ll continue to learn and grow and it won’t stop. I’ve been blogging now for 6 years and I still learn new things about blogging every day. I love that aspect of it actually.
Don’t make the mistake of trying to learn everything there is to know before you start, you’ll never start. Just dive in and begin, learn as you go. One day you’ll be like me and look back on your early articles and think to yourself “What in the world was I thinking…”
Are you a blogger? What things would you recommend new bloggers not forget? What important advice can you share that would benefit others. Join in and add a comment!
3 incredibly irritating things you will have to deal with as a blogger
I’ve been blogging since 2006 and while 99% of the time I love it, I have learned that there a few things I find incredibly irritating and painful to deal with. Unfortunately, these are things that you as a blogger will also have to deal with. These things will interrupt your plans, try to ruin your day, and often just make you really angry.
All of these things will happen and there isn’t a whole lot you can do to prevent them from occurring. What you can do is understand and accept that they will occur, often at the worst times, and when they do, undertand how to deal with them.
A troll will find you
I’m not really sure why and I doubt even the most educated of psychologists can explain the behavior, but eventually a troll will target your blog. Perhaps they are jealous, angry, lonely, bored … who knows?
I was targeted by a blog troll about a year after I started my personal finance blog. This person would disagree, in the most disrespectful way possible with pretty much everything I wrote about. Why? Just for the sake of disagreeing and stirring controversy.
My big mistake was responding. Yes, I admit it, I fed the troll … for far too long.
Once I realized this person was intentionally trolling me, I started deleting the comments and blocking them. Only to find another set of comments the next morning from the same troll, angry because I tried to block them and accusing me of censorship.
While it took me far too long to figure this out, the best strategy for dealing with the troll? Ignore them. Once I did this, a few weeks later the troll just disappeared. Of course another just showed up a few weeks later, and another after that…
The good news is that if you get a troll, it’s a sign that your blog is doing well. See, trolls like attention and only attack blogs and posts that get a decent amount of visibility. When you finally get a troll (and you will), the bright side is that having a troll is a good sign you’re successful. I know, sad, but true.
Tip: Ignore the troll and they will go away. So very easy to say, but so very hard to do. But trust me, it works.
Check out Rand Wilson’s recent video on this same subject.
Your site will go down – at the worst time
Not only will your site go down, it will go down on a critical day when you’re linked from some big website or blog.
I spent almost a week crafting a blog post I was planning to publish on Get Rich Slowly. For those of you not familiar with the personal finance blogging space, Get Rich Slowly is one of the “big boys”. I must have proofread that post 50 times, before I finally got the nerve to send it to JD Roth via email. I didn’t expect to hear back from him, but it was worth a shot.
A week or so later, I received a reply letting me know that my article would be published. I was thrilled!! I immediately crafted up a “Welcome Get Rich Slowly Readers” post that I would publish at the same time my guest article went live. The day came and my guest post went live (I was blogging anonymously at the time under the pen name glblguy , GLBL, or Gibble as Lynnae McCoy so named me). I hit the publish button for my “Welcome” post and pulled up Sitemeter to start watching the big traffic rush.
Not 10 minutes later, I started seeing error messages: “DB Connection Error”. Dreamhost, the terrible company I was hosting with at the time, had some big database issue that was impacting a very large number of their sites. Something to do with their storage arrays. Regardless, my site was down.
I opened a ticket with Dreamhost, only to be told that they were aware of the issue and working as quickly as they could. 8 hours later, my site came up. But even then was up and down for a few hours after that. I lost a significant amount of traffic and exposure. I was livid, but there was really nothing I could do.
While this was certainly the worst outage I’ve ever had, I’ve definitely had others since. I did end up moving to Media Temple, which has proven to have a much higher up time, but even they’ve had issues that caused my sites to be down. The internet runs on computers, and we all know, computers aren’t perfect.
Ok, so Macs are really close to perfect, but I digress…
The bottom line is, your site will go down. Sometimes in the middle of the night when it doesn’t matter, and other times at the absolute worst possible time. Know that it will happen, be prepared for it and accept it.
Tip: The single most important thing you should be spending your money on is high quality hosting. If your blog is down or slow, you are literally turning people away at the door. Invest in high quality hosting upfront and know that it’s going to cost you, but in the long term it will save you.
Some jerk will steal your content
Having your content stolen and republished on some lazy jerk’s site that is trying to make a quick buck is another sign that your blog has reached the “big time”. On my personal finance blog my content was stolen almost weekly. Unfortunately it’s recently started here on Side Income Blogging as well.
See, there are these lazy good for nothing jerks out there who like to set up websites that subscribe to your blog’s RSS feed. These sites then republish your content on their blog (commonly called scrappers).
The big problem is, these lazy jerks often pay some SEO guru to get their site to rank high in search engines, so the scrapper ends up out ranking you for your own content and make money from it. Fortunately for us, Google has recently done some things with the Panda updates and with authorship that really help this, but it still occurs.
Let me tell ya, I go after these jerks like bees on honey, every single time. I didn’t care how small their site is or how much of my time it takes – I am ruthless about it. I work very hard to build up my blogs and work hard on my content. I am not going to allow some freeloading thief to get rich from my hard work. Not gonna happen.
Oh, and a pet peeve of mine, and forgive me as this might seem a little harsh:
There is NO excuse for stealing someone’s content.
I see “bloggers” republish content from other bloggers every so often, claiming they were just trying to promote the author’s great article. They’ll claim they didn’t mean to steal the content and thought it was ok since it was a blog.
Uh…sorry, but common sense should tell you this is wrong. I mean, would you copy an article from your local paper, magazine, or from a media site like CNN and repost it? No, of course not, because lawyers would be all over you and you may face copyright charges. Someone’s blog is no different and I really don’t get how people would think they are.
Here’s how I handle scrappers and content thieves:
- I send them an email telling them to take the content down. That email includes a link to the content on their site, and a link to the content on mine. I explain they are infringing copyright law and that they have 48 hours to remove the content or I will escalate my efforts. If they scrapped my images too and are linking to the images on my site (this commonly happens when they scrape your RSS feed), I redirect their image request to an image that says something like “THIS IS STOLEN CONTENT”. If the content is not down in 48 hours, I proceed to step 2.
- I file a DMCA take down notice with their hosting company and domain name provider. In the DMCA takedown, I include a link to my original article, and the copied article. 95% of the time, this does it. If the content isn’t down in 48 hours, I file another DMCA and I email the hosting companies support to make sure they got it. I will escalate this to the head of the hosting company if the content isn’t removed.
- If that doesn’t work, I’ll have an attorney send them a letter. If I reach this point, the letter almost always does the trick. Attorney’s are expensive though, so I don’t like to take it to this level. I’ve only had to do this twice.
For sites housed in foreign countries, much of the above won’t work and these jerks know it. So they will ignore you. The good news is that most of these jerks make money using Adsense. If they ignore me and run Adsense, I hit them where it hurts. I report them for Adsense Terms of Service violations.
You do this by visiting their site, finding an Adsense ad and clicking on the small arrow often in the bottom right hand corner. Right now it says “Ad Choices”, but Google changes this sometimes. That link will take you to a page where you can report the site for violating Google’s terms of service. This works, as I’ve received a number of very angry and harsh emails from the scrappers because they’re Adsense account was banned.
Don’t let people steal your content and take it very seriously.
Murphy’s Law states: “Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong“.
Yes, this applies to blogging as well. Knowing this certainly doesn’t make you feel better when it happens, but it does help you plan for it. Here’s just a few tips to help you mitigate your impact:
- Keep multiple and frequent backups of your blog. This single item has saved me SO many times, I’ve lost count.
- Keep the support contact information for your blog and any other pertinent information handy. I keep my information in Evernote so I can access it anywhere.
- If you aren’t technical, foster a relationship with someone that knows WordPress and blogging that you can rely on when you get in trouble. If you don’t have anyone like this, I would be more than glad to be that person for you. I do this for a number of my clients.
- Set-up Google alerts so you can see when people mention or link to your blog. This is often a great way to spot stolen content.
- Review your site on Copyscape fairly often or sign-up for their alerts.
- Most importantly – When a troll leaves a nasty comment … when you get an email from some reader calling you stupid or worse…when your site is down and it’s out of your control … just walk away. Go play with your kids, or talk to your wife. Go for a walk, play your favorite game or read a book. This kind of stuff happens to all of us. Just walk away and calm down. Your blog, and it’s challenges will be there when you come back.