3 Terrible, Stupid Things I Used to Do on My Blog

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I’ve been blogging since 2005, and that means I’m sort of an expert… at least an expert on what not to do. As I’ve tried to figure out what works and what doesn’t work, I’ve seen that I tended to make some really big, terrible, stupid mistakes because I fancied myself a pure, idealistic writer who does not bow to the conventions of the blogging world.

After changing a few things in my approach to blogging, I thought I should confess my mistakes so that you can avoid making them too.

 

Titles Don’t Matter for Blog Posts

I used to think that writing was all about writing amazing stories and sharing super-helpful ideas. If you spelled out the basic ideas clearly, the discerning reader would SURELY recognize my genius, brilliance, and value. These savvy readers don’t demand click bait. In fact, they’re most likely sitting by their computers right now just waiting for me to post something amazing.

But oh gosh, if Buzzfeed has taught us anything, which I highly doubt, it’s that people LURVE click-bait headlines. I should have totally titled this post: “You won’t believe what I used to do on my blog!” or “I teared up after reading the second sentence” or “This is better than tap dancing kittens on YouTube.” You get the idea. You were probably clicking all over those fake headlines just now even though you knew I was making them up and they didn’t have any hyperlinks. Admit it.

While we don’t have to give in to the Buzzfeed headline writing buffoonery that is ruining the Internet for the sake of advertising clicks, titles still matter a great deal. Every serious blogger I know spends a lot of time on their titles. These days I begin my blog posts with a title that plainly states the focus of my post for the sake of personal clarity, but then hack it to pieces and work through a bunch of different options before picking one.

Here’s the thing, there’s a ton of stuff out there on the Internet, and you really, really can’t afford to put up a bland headline that’s something like: “Musings on Stuff I Like.” First off, never, ever use the word “musings” ever again on your blog. In fact, WordPress developers, we need to add a mandatory plugin to the next build that automatically deletes blogs that use the word “musings” in contexts other than Greek mythology. But back to my point, please, for the love, spend some time writing a good blog post title. If you love your little blog posts as much as you say you do, then you need to give them good titles. Otherwise, very few people will be tempted to read your precious little posts.

 

I Don’t Have to Be Vulnerable on My Blog

Blogging used to be about ideas for me. In fact, it was all about ideas for about the first six years or so. I’d rant and rave about things from time to time, but I spent so much time believing that people just wanted to read my little nuggets of wisdom that I rarely inserted myself or my “feelings” into my posts.

I don’t know how I could have missed this for so long. I mean, yeah, people want to read smart ideas, but it would have helped if I wrote with the voice of a real person and share a little bit from my life.

Having said that, I also feared being one of those bloggers that shares all the things from his/her personal life online. I’m not quite in the Ron Swanson school of personal privacy where I’m tossing my cell phone in the sewer and burying gold bricks in undisclosed locations, but I find it really hard to determine when I’ve crossed the line from being authentic and real (in the sense of, “Keepin’ it real… yo”) into overdramatic over-sharing that violates the privacy of my family.

I can see now that vulnerability is essential for writers. Writers really do have to face our demons and set down at least part of that battle on the page.

Writers have to take risks. We don’t have to over-share or compromise the privacy of ourselves or loved ones, but we have to take big, vulnerable risks if we want people to care about our work. We have to work on stepping up to that line that divides authentic vulnerability from over-sharing, wherever it is, and give it a firm poke—just like old school Facebook.

And even if you aren’t particularly vulnerable, you have to at least care a lot about your topic. I’ve labored for hours over posts that I thought had tons of great ideas, only to see a passionate post I’ve dashed off in 20 minutes become the most popular post on my blog for all time. I’ve you aren’t personally invested in your writing, then your readers probably won’t be either.

 

Announcing “Here’s My New Blog Post” on Twitter

No one cares that I’ve just posted a blog post. No one. Probably not even my mother most days, especially if my titles are terrible. And yet, I used to complement my vanilla blog post titles with tweets that I plunked down like dry, crumbly, bland wafers.

One day I saw someone quoting from my blog post on Twitter, and I was like, “That’s awesome! I should try that!”

Now, some bloggers go a bit overboard with the Twitter quotes. They highlight the tweetable parts of their posts in bold, set up “Tweet this” links on their posts, or create little lists of tweetable quotes.

OK, I’m not here to judge anyone. This is personal confession time, and I’m confessing that I’m terrible at tweeting from my blog. Do whatever you like. I’ll just say that I saw some folks doing that, and I was like, “Oh come on! Just write something good!”

What can I say? I was born in the wrong age. I’m all “Get off my lawn!” with these new fangled marketing tactics. Even using a typewriter feels a little edgy some days. But back to my main point about the Twitters…

***

TWEET THIS –> “Even using a typewriter feels a little edgy some days.” @edcyzewski

***

I’ve still seen that people want to share helpful little quotes. Even if I tend to think in 1,000 to 2,000 word chunks, it won’t kill me to share a quote or two from my latest blog post if folks could find it helpful. Mind you, I don’t write for Twitter and may God banish me from all NHL arenas for life if I ever do. I’ve just realized that my resistance to posting a blog post quote on Twitter wasn’t all that smart of me

***

TWEET THIS TOO!!!  –> “I don’t write for Twitter and may God banish me from all NHL arenas for life if I ever do.” @edcyzewski

***

 

In conclusion, I’ve made some really huge, terrible, stupid mistakes as a blogger. These are all pretty basic, simple, run of the mill blogging tips that you can find all over the Internet. And still, there are tons of bloggers like myself who have resisted them. It’s time to get with the program. Adopting a few best blogging practices won’t hurt… too much. We may even get a few new readers along the way.

What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made as a blogger?

 

Interview with Lisa Delay on A Path to Publishing

Spirituality expert, comedian, and writer extraordinaire Lisa Delay kicks off the blog tour for A Path to Publishing today with her interview of me. She asks some great questions that should give publishing hopefuls some helpful ideas and a good idea of what they’ll find in the book.

Do you have your own publishing question? Drop by Lisa’s blog and post it in the comments. Between the two of us we’ll try to answer it.

Over the following week other bloggers will be posting on the book, conducting interviews, and possibly even hosting a giveaway or two.

My thanks to Lisa for her help in spreading the word. Make sure you check out her various endeavors:

http://lisadelay.com
http://lisadelay.blogspot.com
http://LifeAsPrayer.wordpress.com

http://twitter.com/lisacolondelay

How to Improve a Blog Post

Bloggers are always told that the most important step in drawing readers is writing great content. “Content is king,” as they say.

Even if you have a great idea and some excellent writing skills, here are a few ways to improve your blog post:

Let It Sit

Whether a few hours, days, or weeks, it often helps to distance yourself a little bit from a post. You’ll be better prepared to work on your introduction, transitions, and conclusion. A second draft ALWAYS makes a blog post better.

Write Content People Care About

Step back for a moment and ask, “Why does this post matter?” If it doesn’t, rewrite it so that it connects with the needs and interests of your readers. Adopt an angle or include information that is relevant and of interest.

Edit and Condense

You said it in four sentences, but try saying it in two. While you’re at it, show your readers some respect by catching all of your grammar and spelling errors.

Use Lists and Bold Font

Write your articles so they are easy to scan, but still provide enough content for those who want to take their time reading it. You typically have a few seconds to catch a reader’s attention.

Write a Better Title

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A Courtship with Twitter: The Why’s and How’s of Tweeting

When I give presentations on blogging and social media, I often hear folks expressing concern over the difficulty of finding readers for their blogs. I know the feeling. You’re going through all of this trouble to post something special, and then no one shows up to read it.

It’s one step removed from having a conversation with yourself.

I’ve heard lots of people unfamiliar with Twitter deride it as a silly exercise in narcissism. For those new to blogging and social media, it’s either intimidating or simply beyond their comprehension.

However, if you want people to read your blog, to learn about your work, and to hopefully pass it on to others, Twitter is an indispensable tool that you’ll learn to love once you figure it out. By signing up and then learning a simple program such as Tweet Deck (or HootSuite), you’ll soon find yourself tweeting the praises of this service. Here are a few reasons why you need to start tweeting:

It’s Easy to Follow and Connect

Start off by following all of your favorite bloggers and authors. Also do searches for those with similar interests. Using a tool like “Twitter Local” will enable you to search for users in your locale.

Following them is as easy as a click, they’ll receive an e-mail that you’re following them, and they may even follow you back. Over time you’ll notice mentions and “ReTweets” (RT) that are particularly interesting, and now you have other interesting folks to follow. After you have a few followers, sign in to Mr. Tweet to get recommendations of others to follow.

It’s Easy to Share Information

OK, now you’re on Twitter and you have a few followers, but what’s next? Did you just finish a blog post and begin to worry that no one will read it? Copy the link to your post, type something like this into the status update in Tweet Deck: “New blog post ‘Title’”, and then paste the link in there. Tweet Deck can shorten the link for you automatically.

Once you send it out there, you’ve just alerted folks to your blog post. About three to four hours later post a reminder tweet that your blog post is our there just in case anyone missed it. If someone loves your post, they may Retweet it and share it with others.

It’s a Community

As you post your own updates, share links, and send out blog post alerts, you’ll find yourself in conversations with other users on Twitter. You can either reply with a public comment or you can send a private direct message to someone who has reciprocated your follow.

You’ll find your network of friends and colleagues expanding, your knowledge of blogs and other valuable information growing, and your own work reaching new readers. I find that I rarely check my RSS subscriptions these days since I’m already following my favorite bloggers in Twitter.

The Love You Take…

Twitter is only as good as your last tweet, so be sure to write up valuable updates, share solid content, and ReTweet generously when you find something excellent. Twitter is one of those services that can become a huge waste if you don’t manage your time and content wisely.

As the Beatles said, “The love you take is equal to the love you make.”

Put into it’s proper place, Twitter is an indispensable networking, marketing, and friend-making tool that in many cases thrives on excellence and generosity. For bloggers worried about finding readers for their posts, Twitter is the perfect place to spark the conversations all writers long to have.

How Twitter is Changing my Blogging

I signed up for Twitter because I heard it’s a great way to keep track of news and to share information. So far it has delivered. I find helpful links, share my own, and interact with the 60 or so people I follow.

The hardest part to get used to is the 140 character limit for each post, or “tweet” as they call it. I eventually conformed, and have since loaded the Firefox TwitterBar plug in to make it easier to post throughout the day. I also loaded an extension to my Windows Live Writer that automatically sends updates to Twitter about my blog posts. Connecting Twitter to Facebook means I don’t need to post the same thing twice.

As I use TwitterBar, I have actually learned to tweet well below the 140 character limit. Suddenly 140 characters seems luxurious.

Now I’m beginning to wonder if a word limit would help my blogging a bit–force me to condense my thoughts into brief posts instead of rambling down the page. While there always will be a place for long blog posts digging into important topics, Twitter hints that we can say just as much with a lot less.

200 words seems about right.

This post was originally published on www.inamirrordimly.com.