By request - blogging advice

Hello you!

I get quite a lot of emails from readers about starting a new blog or improving their new blog and I wanted to address some of them publicly in case it helps anyone else who may have questions.

(Disclaimer: I don't claim to be the authority on blogging - but I can give you my thoughts on it.)

Some of the questions I've received are:

How did you pluck up the courage to start? I had something I wanted to say, and the urge to do it over-rid the nerves, which gave me the impetus. I didn't expect anyone to follow me, so there was really no pressure at the beginning. Those who followed me initially were my friends, bless 'em.

How did you choose what to write about? I chose what I love. It's that simple! EVERYONE has interesting things about them. You just have to find what lights you up inside and the rest is easy. You don't have to post about just one thing. Everyone is multi-faceted and it's OK for your blog to reflect many interests.

I had been blogging about beauty, my life and health for a couple of years and about a year ago I decided to change the main focus of my blog to plus size fashion. I'd been reading plus size blogs for about a year and wished I had the courage to put myself out there, but I was petrified of haters/crappy comments. For a long time I never really talked about being fat or showed full body photos on the blog, so when I 'came out' as a fatty I was petrified. I could share my mental and physical health, and my deepest thoughts, but my body? Help!

I suppose had a 'soft launch'. I did an outfit post here and there and no one said anything horrible so I carried on. Here I am! I'm SO glad I put myself out there.

How did/do you attract readers? This is the interesting bit. All the while I was an in-the-closet fatty I didn't have very many followers at all. Only since I've 'come out' as a fat blogger have I gained many more readers. The truth is, when you're REALLY being yourself, people are drawn to that.

Here are my tips for how to attract (and keep) readers.

1. The best way to get readers and comments is to visit other blogs and comment regularly. People like people who are interested in them. I don't see commenting on blogs as a 'strategy'. I do it because I love reading what other people have to say or show me, and I like to connect with them. Quite often, the case will be that someone will see your comments on their blog and think 'Aww, that's such a nice comment, I'll go check out their blog!' That is how friendships are made. Be kind, be genuine, and people will read.

2. Make sure your blog has a simple functional design with colours that don't offend the eyes. If your blog is red and yellow like Hulk Hogan's outfits of yore, you're going to give people migraines. There are numerous bloggers out there who will help you with blog design for free or for a small charge. Ask around, or many advertise their design services on their blogs. Some tips though - white text on black is incredibly hard to read, as is tiny text. Stick to two or three fonts overall, and avoid 'fun' fonts. Trust me, they're not fun. Don't autoplay music, even if you think you have the best taste in the world. That's a turn off 101% of the time.

3. Twitter, Twitter, Twitter. Get a Twitter account and use it. Follow the hell out of your peers, talk to them, network up a storm. It's probably the biggest help you will get to get your blog out there. Don't underestimate this. Not all bloggers will be approachable over Twitter, but all the good ones are. I've been blanked quite a few times by well-established bloggers for whatever reason. I tend to find some of the ones who've been doing it for years don't always appreciate newer bloggers, but they are in the minority and it's their loss. One of the reasons I love Mrs Bebe is because she's well up there as an established blogger but is totally approachable and lovely. So go forth and make friends!

4. Have some grasp on the language you are blogging in. Readers will forgive (or may not notice) a few spelling mistakes and minor grammar issues, but if you write 500 words without a single punctuation mark, don't use paragraphs, and Capitalise Every Word Like A Teenager you will make people's eyes bleed. I'm not talking about people whose first language isn't English, or people with dyslexia or other learning issues. I'm talking about people who could have a great blog if they did a tiny bit more work on their English. I've forgotten most of what I learned in English (since I was at school a million years ago) and Fibromyalgia is slowly eating away at my brain, so I often use Google for help. There is a lot of advice available out there, at your fingertips.

5. Take part in blogger round ups which get together a few bloggers of your ilk. In my case, I joined 5 blogger outfit challenges where you do outfit posts to a theme. Every time I've asked the originator of a challenge I expect them to say 'You? Hell no! Why would we want you?!' but thus far everyone has been lovely. It's a great way to meet other bloggers and hopefully make some friends as well.

6. Take the time to comment on the other people's blogs in any challenges/round up posts you're in. I try to comment on every single post in every challenge I'm in. If we're doing a challenge together I see it as a little community and I want to support every member of that. Just be as sociable as you can and you might make friends who'll then want to comment on your blog.

7. Reply to as many of your comments as you can. This is a no-brainer. If people take the time out of their busy day to comment on your blog, try to take the time to reply even if it's only a smiley, a <3 or a 'Thank you!' I always reply to comments. As a blog reader/commenter, I find it sad when I write lovely comments on someone's blog time and time again and they don't EVER reply (to me or anyone else.) Let's play devil's advocate here. We all have busy lives, and not everyone has the time to reply to every comment. But people who never, ever reply? That's just mean. Don't be that person, unless you want people to think you're some kind of one-way-traffic prima donna. That's a sure-fire way to lose readers. If you're lucky enough to have a really popular blog post and you're overwhelmed and can't reply to all the comments, reply at the bottom to let everyone know their comments were heard, thank everyone collectively and move on. It takes 30 seconds, will make people think warmly of you and will encourage future interaction. It's not rocket science. :)

8. Change to a comment system like Disqus where you get an email every time someone comments on your blog. Your readers will also get a notification when you've replied to them, which is a beautiful thing! It keeps the conversation flowing, and that's what it's all about.

So, to summarise.

Also - this is so glaringly obvious that I almost don't need to say it, but I will anyway - you need to have the content to keep people coming back. You've got to have something to show people consistently. If you're doing all the hard work with the points mentioned above, make sure you have something that's worth coming back for. You can have the best looking blog in the world, but if you only post every 3 months, you're not going to have a popular blog. You'll need to work out how many days a week you post (by trial and error) but 2-4 times a week is probably a good start. Get a note pad and write down ideas for posts. If another blogger has inspired you, let them know and even ask for permission to borrow their idea and link to their blog in your post. Everyone loves a generous blogger - you have everything to gain by crediting people who've inspired you. Everyone loves to see their name and blog link in someone else's post, trust me.

Is it worth it? Should you set up a blog? YES. Do it. The connection you have with your readers will make it all worthwhile. The first time someone emails, tweets or Facebook messages you to tell you you're making a difference to their life just by being you? That is golden, and life doesn't get much better than that! Is it a lot of work? Yes. I spend probably 2-3 hours a day on my blog, but I love it and wouldn't change it for the world.

Any questions? Ask away.
Got any tips yourself?

Thanks for reading.

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