Read These First: 51-75
As a writer one of your most important tasks is to create and maintain a working blog. In the next three posts I want to share with all of the secrets that got me to Top Ten Blogger status in less than a year. Some of these lessons were hard for me to learn, some were easy for me to learn, and still some (I am embarrassed to say) I find myself having to re-learn over and over again.
I am sharing my secrets with you today in the hopes that they will help you improve your own writing blog and make it a place that not only enriches you and your readers, but gives you all you could ever need to make you a healthy, happy, and connected writer.
Read These First: 51-75
50. TRY THINGS OUT, AND THEN SHARE IT WITH YOUR READERS
I’m learning that the best bloggers are “try-ers.” By that I mean that great bloggers TRY things. They don’t just complain or play the victim. They take ACTION. Even if they fail, great bloggers share their experience with their readers, teach their readers what they learned and then go out and try something else.
49. BECOME YOUR OWN GUINEA PIG
Because they are always trying new things, bloggers are also cousins of The Mad Scientist. So, if something is plaguing you, use this personal crisis as a chance to teach your readers something. Experiment with different solutions to your problem, and then share with your readers what worked best for you and what didn’t work out at all.
(By the way, using your own life as an experiment is the fastest way to becoming an authority on new subjects.)
48. REALIZE THAT BLOGGING IS NOT ABOUT YOU
I hate to break it to you, but it isn’t. Most readers don’t want to hear about your personal, ever day life UNLESS it tells them something about their OWN lives, or makes them laugh, or makes them think, or–you get the point. Remember, your blog still has to GIVE your readers something, or else your blog is just about YOU. And a blog that is just about YOU, doesn’t get you regular readers.
47. REALIZE THAT BLOGGING IS ABOUT YOU
There I go, contradicting myself again. But what I mean to say is that just because blogging isn’t about you, doesn’t mean that you should keep YOU out of it.
You are writers, so you all know about character. Realize that YOU are a character in your blog. Let your character shine through, then. If you often make snarky comments in real life, add some snarky comments in your posts. If you tend to get spiritual every once in a while, get a little spiritual on your blog. This will give your blog its own unique flavor.
46. BUT STAY PROFESSIONAL
Avoid inappropriate language. If you really want to curse, you can substitute it with something else like: “friggin’ ” or “frack.” (It’s actually kind of humorous when you do this, by the way.) Avoid personal attacks against people. Don’t be a bully. Nobody likes bullies.
45. SPACE OUT
44. HAVE A SIGNATURE
I end each one of my posts with the phrase “much love.” (Oh yeah, and there’s also this other thing that I tend to do. You know, the thing with the brackets?) It’s small, but I think it helps people identify me. Its sort of like Johnny Carson’s golf swing or Conan O’Brien’s string dance. You know, that little quirk that you and only you do that your readers always remember you by? It’s like a digital birthmark that makes you instantly recognizable among a line-up of other bloggers.
43. FALL IN LOVE WITH LISTS
Personally, I LOVE LISTS. I look forward to the end of the year just so I can read all the Top Ten lists that people put out.
Something about lists really helps people sort out information in their heads. Plus, their fun! Read as many Top Ten lists as you can and use lists to help you write your posts. Lists help make your posts clear, organized and easier to read.
42. SHOOT PEOPLE
I’m just kidding. But it got your attention didn’t it? Practice writing titles and posts that grab people’s attention and you’ll get people hooked to your content. The best place to start is to ask yourself what would grab YOUR attention.
41. USE METAPHORS, SIMILES, AND ANECDOTES
You should always enlist the help of metaphor and simile to drive your point forward. Again, most writers know the power of metaphor in fiction, but they seem to forget this tool when they write a blog post. Metaphors are powerful tools to help elaborate your point. (See this trick in action in Amanda’s recent post). A little personal story can also help people understand you. It also helps using metaphors, similes and anecdotes that are timely and relevant to your readers. Which leads me to:
40. USE POP CULTURE REFERENCES
Study people like Conan O’Brien to see how referencing current events can really excite people. Topical references make your post refreshing and new.
This is something that a blogger can do that no other writer can do: write in real-time. A reference to President Obama busting his lip over Thanksgiving break will remind readers that you’re literally writing your blog at the exact time their own lives are unfolding before them.
You and your reader are two points across this universe and mentioning a current event creates the shortest distance between those two points–a line. This line creates just another connection between you and your reader. Plus, mentioning current events also helps to mix things up, sort of like having James Franco and Anne Hathaway host the Oscars this year. (Pop culture reference: CHECK.)
39. FOLLOW YOUR GUT FEELING
Scientists are now discovering that there is ACTUALLY such a thing as a “gut feeling,” and that this gut feeling is RIGHT more often than not.
You see, your unconscious works to assesses the situation around you. It measures this present situation against a large range of past events. Using the information gained from the past and measuring it up against the present is how your unconscious comes up with a decision that then arises up in your stomach as your “gut feeling.”
For example, you don’t need to “reason” whether an approaching tiger is dangerous or not. No, your unconscious has seen a tiger before, and it knows that this animal eats animals like you, so your unconscious will quickly send a signal to your “gut” to run the heck away.
We trust our unconscious to tell us what to do in these “primal” types of situations and yet we don’t trust our gut to tell us what to do when it comes to our work, our relationships, or anything else in our day-to-day lives. But the truth is, your “gut feeling” is a biological tool that you need to listen to whenever it flashes a STRONG red alert.
For instance, a negative “gut feeling” about a post you are currently writing SHOULD NOT BE IGNORED. It could mean that you are on to a better post if you just wait a bit longer. Or, it could mean that you need to trash that post completely.
38. GODZILLA SMELLS LIKE FEET AND RUM PUNCH
This has nothing to do with anything. I was just being random. Oh yeah: you should be random. It keeps things fun, interesting, and knocks away all that boring seriousness that comes with trying to be a UBER professional blogger like:
“Oh, ho, ho! I’m a blogger. Let us talk about serious things in which serious lists must be made and I must use my serious voice. Ho! Ho!”
(Apparently when I try to be serious I sound like Santa Clause. Which reminds me:)
37. BE FUNNY
That’s right. Make ‘em laugh! Laughter’s good for the soul. Even a slight chuckle is worth gold. If you want to be funnier, watch masters like Chris Rock, Jerry Seinfeld, Jon Stewart, Homer Simpson, Jane Lynch and George Lopez in action.
Also, don’t be afraid to bomb at first. That’s how you get funny. Trial and error. You gotta be okay with having a joke bomb.
Trust me, not all of my jokes are funny. Most of them are bad, but for the very few that are hilarious, that’s what I live for. Here’s one for you:
QUESTION: “What’s brown and sticky?”
ANSWER: “A stick!”
HA! Oh mercy.
36. ADD SOME MUSIC AND SOUND
Wasn’t it more exciting to read the beginning of these series of posts while listening to the overture of 2001: A Space Odyssey? Movies and TV shows always drive the mood home with that right soundtrack. So add some music to your post once in a while to help set the mood.
35. LINK BACK TO OLD POSTS
It’s actually not that annoying if you don’t do it ALL the time. And it’s helpful to new readers who might have missed some great stuff, or to regular readers who let some posts slip under their radar. In those cases, linking back to old posts is actually appreciated.
Also, I like the way that blogging allows me to connect to ideas I introduced before. This “inter-link-tuality” helps people follow the development of my ideas overtime, and the way in which some ideas connect or add to others.
34. USE POWERFUL IMAGES
A picture is worth a thousand words–and potentially a thousand views. Spend more time than you think is necessary for picking a photo for a post. Make the photo a powerful symbol for what you are about to write.
Use Flickr: Creative Commons to find images that are free for you to use as long as you give credit to the photographer.
33. MAKE YOUR POSTS OPEN ENDED
My rule is that you need to have a mandatory question at the end of each post. Or if not, at least write something that is thought-provoking enough that people will be moved to comment.
32. DON’T REPEAT WHAT OTHERS ARE SAYING
If the topic is out there, chances are your readers have read it. The writing blog world is actually not as big as you may think. Since your readership will be reading more than your writing blog, chances are they may have already read everything there is to read about one specific topic. That’s why blogging can get challenging. You need to come up with issues that not everyone is addressing.
If you stand out among the other bloggers, it’s just another reason for readers to keep coming back to you.
BUT, if you DO run out of original ideas, focus on creating a new twist on a popular issue that’s out there. So I guess, yeah, sometimes you have to–
31. REPEAT WHAT OTHERS ARE SAYING
The truth is, there are TONS of lists about how to be a good blogger out there in the blogosphere. I hesitated making one myself for that very reason. But then I realized that part of blogging is sharing your unique perspective on an issue, and also tipping your hat off to others who have said something that you agree with.
As long as you are not copying a blogger word for word, and as long as you are providing your own, personal twist on the issue, every now and then I think it’s fine to repeat a popular issue that other bloggers have already addressed.
30. LINK TO OTHER BLOGS
People will say that linking to other blogs helps drive traffic to your blog. I guess that’s true, but, personally, I find that linking to other blogs is probably one of the most exciting parts of blogging, in and of itself.
Think about it: imagine finding a kindred spirit all across the blogoverse who has written something you identify with and have found enormously helpful. Wouldn’t that be great?
It is great! Finding something you are willing to share with your readers is such a wonderful feeling, and sharing it doesn’t feel like a hassle at all, it’s almost like:
“Why wouldn’t I share this AWESOME article? Everyone should read it!”
By the way, here’s an AWESOME article written by fellow Top Ten Blogger Carol Tice: “How One Writer’s Blog Hit The Top Ten.”
29. REALIZE THAT YOUR “COMMENTS SECTION” IS AN EXTENSION OF YOUR POST
Your post is only about two-thirds of the content you will be writing. The rest of your content comes when you respond to feedback and answer any questions your readers may have. You need to be as careful and as thoughtful replying to each one of your comments as you are in writing the content of your post.
DON’T FORGET TO REPLY TO EACH COMMENT YOU GET.
In fact, I usually take it a step further and go to the commenter’s blog and leave a comment on their current post.
Remember: blogging is a dialogue, NOT a monologue.
28. CHECK YOUR SPAM FOLDER
You know that regular reader you haven’t heard from in a while? Check your spam folder. Your “lost” reader is there, filed among comments about car insurance and weight loss programs. (Akismet and other spam filters will sometimes accidentally mark real people as spam. So make sure to check your spam folder often.)
27. LEARN ABOUT THIS THING CALLED “BRANDING”
Here is a must-read article by Leo Babauta, writer of Zen Habits: “Branding 101: How To Promote Your Blog Like The Big Guys Do.” Time Magazine consistently names Leo’s blog one of the Top 25 Blogs in the world, so I think he knows a thing or two about the tools you need to build a great blog. This article of his is pure gold. Every blogger must read it.
26. PLAY WITH BATMAN TOYS
I used to love playing with my Batman toys as a kid. My favorite part was creating a story with the action figures and then building up a huge amount of rising action. I would set up this climax and right before Penguin was about to drop Batman into the toxic sludge, I would say:
“We’ll be right back after this commercial break!”
At that moment, I’d take a break from playing. But the whole time I was on my break, I would be so eager to come back and see what actually happened to my little action figures.
I didn’t realize it then, but I was practicing building suspense and anticipation. Suspense and anticipation create excitement, and excitement is what will keep your readers tuned in to your blog.
All you have to do is watch Oprah, the master of the “We’ll be right back!” technique, to understand what I’m talking about. If you study The Queen of All Media, you’ll see how her and her staff create a lot of excitement and buzz around each one of her episodes.
Learn from Oprah, and companies like Apple, and let them teach you how to make your posts something your readers will want to “tune in” to.
Now, are you ready for The Top 25 Ways to Become a Top Ten Blogger?
I know I am. But before we get into all that–
We’ll be right back after this commercial break.
What’s your signature? What unique topic can you address that no one else in the blogging world has addressed yet? What popular topic could you put a new twist on?
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