How To Write a Blog So That People Will Read, Part 2

This is the second bit of a mini-series on blog writing. If you missed the first installment, you can find it here.

There are endless how-to posts about blogging out there. A quick online search for “How to write a blog” turns up 723 million results, and I do not pretend to have the be-all, end-all guide. I encourage you to read other posts on the topic to find what works for you. In this space, I’ll share what has worked for me, both as a reader and a blogger.

1) Watch the length of your posts. This is a brilliant bit of advice from Angelique at Sappho’s Torque. I agree. I prefer to read posts that are 1200 words or fewer under normal circumstances. 700 words is even better. It’s not because I have a short attention-span and am easily distracted (Here, kitty! Can I braid your hair?). It’s because shorter posts are frequently better-written. Not always. Not always. Not always. I follow some blogs that routinely pass the 2K mark, and I stick around because they are stellar. But more often, shorter posts tend to get to the point quicker and more clearly. In the words of good old Polonius, brevity is the soul of wit.

2) Understand that not everyone is going to like you. And that’s… okay. (I feel like I’m channeling my inner Stuart Smalley here.)

And that's...okay. Photo credit

And that’s…okay. Photo credit

It’s also the hardest thing for most of us to accept. We want to write something brilliant, something that will resonate with everyone. But think about it. There are seven billion people on this planet. That’s a lot of resonance for one blog. The better goal to aim for is that each time we hit “Publish,” we make someone (someone, not somebillion) laugh/think/smile/start a conversation.

Negative comments happen sometimes. I have both read and written posts that hit someone’s nerve. The bigger your audience, the more likely you are to make someone mad. Comments can be unkind. It’s up to you to handle them in good grace, and to define what “good grace” means to you. Do you delete those comments? Allow but ignore? Allow and respond? You decide. But my best advice is to grow a thick skin and let it slide.

Sometimes, worse than spawning a giant poop storm,  a post is ignored completely and quietly dies. I bet every blogger out there has a post that didn’t get the attention they thought it deserved. It happens. But if one person got one thing out of it, maybe that can be enough.

3. Make your blog visually appealing. First impressions are everything. A blog appeals to me when it’s easy to find what I’m looking for, but it’s not an information over-load. Some things are a matter of taste, of course. Here are some suggestions for layout.

  • Three must-have widgetssearch, email follow, social media follow. Sometimes a post you wrote sticks in someone’s mind. Make it easy to locate. Also, an email follow button is appreciated. Clicking “Follow” at the top of a blog means that blog shows up in someone’s reader where it can get buried really fast. Give folks the option of appearing in their email inbox where they are more likely to see (and read) it. Social media widgets give readers more options for how to follow you.
  • Choose a theme that is easy to read. No white text on black, please. Or that deadly “Google blue.”  Show old eyes some love. WordPress has so many themes to choose from, and you can give them a tiny test-run before you commit. Many are free.
  • Consider carefully the location of your widgets. Nine times out of ten, widgets that run down the sides of the page are more useful than ones clustered at the bottom. It’s a cleaner look, and the widgets are more obvious. I followed one blog for a year before I realized the widgets were all at the bottom of the page.
  • Limit the number of posts that appear on a page. On WordPress, go to WP Admin>settings>reading, and then choose how many posts should appear. 10 or fewer is best. When a reader has to load every post you’ve written, it takes forever. Slow-load means fewer readers.

One blog I love is Peas and Cougars. If you visit Rae’s site, you’ll see she has an attractive header and image widgets on the sidebars that are pastel and not too distracting. There’s plenty of white space and just enough going on to make it interesting.

4. Lift the seat before you pee. Whoops. Wrong…list… my bad.

5. Blog about what interests you. There is nothing more appealing than someone sharing something they really love. I love a fanatic. One of my favorite Tweeters is passionate about sports.  I don’t know a futbol from soccer (see what I did there?), but she does, and her enthusiasm (and sometimes rage) is entertaining and contagious.

Some blogs have a focus topic tight as a laser-beam. I always know what to expect when I visit. Others are a mixed-bag, always full of surprises. Both can work well. Alexandra began her blog taking photos of her exotic cat. Later, she began adding posts and a shop to raise money for homeless cats in her country of Montenegro, where there are no cat programs or shelters. She handled her focus-change neatly by adding a menu bar at the top of her page to help readers find the posts that most interest them. To learn how to create a menu, go here.

So that’s it for this week. Next week, I’ll post a part 3, and then we’ll talk about blogging and social media. If you use Pinterest or Instagram to promote your blog, please  let me know. I may go out on a limb and offer a guest post position on these two, since I don’t have direct experience myself.

49 thoughts on “How To Write a Blog So That People Will Read, Part 2

  1. Lot of good stuff here.

    I agree with you strongly about sidebar versus footer widgets for email subscription and other info.

    I chose a theme that forces those things to the bottom without some hardcore code manipulation I have no idea how to perform. It’s a problem.

    At any rate. Sound advice here, I think. I’ll look forward to Part 3.

  2. Lovely suggestions!

    Amen to the no “white on black”. There are several blogs I would visit more often if they didn’t do that – it actually strains my eyes to try to read. Damn aging.

  3. I love this series! I agree with these 100%. Maybe 200% about blogging about what interests you. If you have passion about something, no matter what it is (ok, unless maybe it’s something hatey? Passion about hatey topics = no bueno) that comes through in your writing…and passion is so contagious. Not in a bad way, but in the best of ways. The kind of way that lights candles all through the darkness.

  4. Another great post. I find the font and size of the type are also important to me. I blog and read blogs exclusively from my laptop and these old eyes are not as sharp as they used to be. Recently I purchased a premium theme because I needed larger type and a better font.

  5. Great tips! I especially like the tip about having an email follow option. There are a few blogs I have followed but have never seen again. I think a lot of newbies set up their blog with very little knowledge of what works and what doesn’t, then never view their page as others see it again. That reminds me, I really should do that myself.

    • I knew nothing about nothing when I started. It was always helpful to have someone say “Do this, and here’s why.”

      The more ways we have for people to stalk us, the better off we are as bloggers! I never knew people loved their readers more than email follows until I read the comments today.

  6. ALL are amazing points but #2 and #4 are my favorite.

    It’s definitely hard when you first start blogging when you realize that sometimes you just won’t get likes or comments but if you’re truly blogging about what makes you happy or what’s important to you, that won’t matter. If you’re living in and proclaiming your truth, you’re bound to find someone who disagrees with you but as long as you’re there, you’re doing your job as a writer.

    • Stay tuned. I’m going to host a blog hop where we can feature posts that for whatever reason fell off the radar almost before they were on.

      #4 is actually an important life-hack. “How not to die a painful death.”

  7. This was sucha helpful post. I have already put some of your tips to use, changing the look of my blog a bit. Just curious, how important do you this it is to be ‘self-hosted’?

    Also, I literally lol’d at number 4. 🙂

    • Are you asking if it’s important to be self-hosted? If so, my answer is no. I follow many, many blogs that are free through WordPress or Blogger (fewer on Blogger because it’s hard to leave a comment over there).

  8. More good advice! Thank you. My secretary has a lot of trouble reading blogs that are not dark text on a white background. She has been wondering whether we should change the theme of my blog because the text might be too hard to read (white background, but a sepia-colored text in a light font). But it’s hard to settle on the right theme.

  9. Heather — thank you for your insight!! I’m a new blogger and have learned much from following your blog even without the specific instructions (but those help too!)

  10. Every blogger needs an inner Stuart Smalley. Nail on the head with that one! The conversations you’re running in the comments are delightful, too. 🙂

  11. Pingback: How To Write a Blog So That People Will Read, Part 3 | Becoming Cliche

  12. I’d add to limiting the number of posts per page, limiting the dimensions of photos you use…. I found out my header (and custom fonts) were making my page load like death, and a minor adjustment to both (default font, max width of 900 pixels) fixed the problem.

    Great list!

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