Beautify your Blog: week 11 - Bodacious Posts

7:00:00 AM

Hi all, and welcome back to the Beautify your Blog series here at Sew at Home Mummy.

This week we will be covering how to create fantastic posts - just a few tips and tricks I have found helpful over the years. I have been blogging for just over 8 years, both privately and publicly, and have learned several things about the process along the way. This post is more of a guide to encourage self-reflection of your writing style and process. Although I don't have an English degree, I have spent most of my adult life in school and as such, have had to write many a paper. And now I have the pleasure of being married to an academic (and of being his proofreader - I love my husband, but man, he writes some boring stuff...)

As always, I suggest that you start at the beginning of the series, and work your way forward. The very last week of the series I'll be showing you how to import your modified template from your test blog into your real blog.

Here are the previous week's tutorials; please read the disclosure in week 1 and most importantly, how to back up your blog, also in week 1.


Sew at Home Mummy

1. Start Here
8. Sidebars (Pt 1)
9. Sidebars (Pt 2)



Let's get started for this week.

Layout and Formatting
We've covered some of this in a previous week (Week 6) but I thought I would touch on it again and build upon it.

Fonts
Try to keep the 'fun' fonts in the titles of your posts, not in the body. Handwritten-looking scripts are difficult to read, are not clear, and take longer to load. Hard to read fonts mean people won't stick around to read more on your blog, and if you're considering sponsorship for your blog, you want them to. More viewers sticking around, clicking through to different pages on your blog means that your pageviews and session times will be higher, and your bounce rates lower - all things which prospective sponsors will or may want to know (and these statistical terms (& sponsors) will be covered in next week's tut).

Justification
In general, you're going to want to keep your fonts justified left. It's how we all learned to write in school - it's 'proper'. Center justification can be difficult to read - the ragged starting edges are difficult for the readers eye to follow from one line to the next, and can be distracting - just as fancy fonts can (above).  Image's captions, poems, and songs should be center justified.

Etiquette 
This, unfortunately, with the new age of technology, has fallen by the wayside. Think of the absolute best Quilt Bloggers you follow - odds are, when they're writing, it's concise, yet grammatically correct (the 'LOL!'s and 'OMG!'s are left to a minimum). In other words, their posts aren't filled with TXTSPK ("text speak"). Think about it - when you're reading a blog post, your eyes flow seamlessly across most words, but most often will come to a grinding halt over that TXTSPK - especially if you're not a huge social media user - your brain needs to compute it for half a second longer than if you had just written, "oh my gosh," instead of "OMG". That said, I'm the first one to admit that it's something I need to work on, too.

I will be honest when I say this next line, and I hope I don't offend any of my readers, but: my absolute biggest pet peeve is when people write in all capital letters - for the entire post, letter, description, text message, etc. I find it so difficult to read and I know I'm not the only one. And, I'm sure they don't even know they're doing it, but they're being rude. Because -

ALL CAPITAL LETTERS IN THE WRITTEN WORD IS THE EQUIVALENT OF ME SCREAMING IN YOUR FACE.

Honest. It's true. So if you have something you really want to get across, use the bold, italics, or underline. And there are some times when things for sure should be capitalized! Expletives are a good example. Tee hee. BLARGH!

Grammar/Spell check/Punctuation
This is pretty self explanatory. Did you know Blogger has a spell check? It's the little green check mark with the ABC above it at the top of your post box.

As for punctuation, try not to use exclamation marks at the end of every sentence. Admittedly, I need to work on this!!

Okay!! I will!!

Most importantly: read your blog post over before you publish it.

Find your "Voice"
Not all of us are English majors (I sure as heck am not), but I think we need to keep in mind that our blogs are a reflection of ourselves, and because we will never meet 99.9% of the people who read them, we need to put a little effort forward in our writing styles - again, especially if it's not a 'personal' blog, but one where you hope to be large enough one day to accept sponsors. Read your blog through the eye of a potential sponsor - is what you're writing appropriate? If you were a business owner, would YOU want to sponsor this blog? 

Better yet: think of the most reserved person you know. Your pastor. Your granny. Imagine them reading your blog. Would they be offended by something you've said?

And maybe you don't want sponsors. Maybe your blog is a true reflection of yourself - like it or lump it. To you, your blog is yours and yours alone, you aren't concerned with self-filtering in any manner (and some of the best blogs I have *ever* read are like this - but be careful - some of the worst are, too. It's all on your delivery; the best always have a gift for the gab, are absolutely hilarious and crass without being distasteful - it's a fine line - but I think totally worth it if you can pull it off. One blogger in particular comes to mind, and she is so hilarious, she cracks me up with every post) and maybe your blog and writing style sits somewhere in between.

All of this to say: to find your voice, you need to determine the goals of your blog. Large readership? Do you want your blog to be a platform to something else? Is your blog more a diary, and you're happy to have your readers along for the ride? Are you writing for the masses, or, is your blog more for yourself - or is it somewhere in-between?


Frequency of Posts
This is going to be totally dependent on the goals you set out for your blog. If you're interested in maintaining a steady readership (and even growing), you need to post frequently - and I would say the magic number is at least 3 times per week. I try and aim for 4 posts/7 days... any more and I feel too overwhelmed with trying to keep up, and I end up having nothing to write about (uh, you don't want to hear about all of the poopy diapers I changed and all of the spinach-in-the-hair mid-day baths I gave because I had done nothing quilty in a few days, I was busy 'just' being a mom).

Anything less and your posts my get too big/long (and people are an impatient sort, they have things to do, blogs to see!). I'm guilty of this - I get going on 3 projects in my one day to sew and then feel the need to post about them all, and on these days, I find people don't spend as long on my blog reading (because yes, I know how long the average reader stays to read, the average number of pages they visit, and how many of you and from where you visit from read me each day... and I will cover how you can know this about your blog next week).

One tip I have is this: schedule posts in advance.

At least one post each week which you'll read here on my blog is scheduled in advance (including this one you're reading right now - it's 8:35pm on Sunday night and this post won't go live until Tuesday morning at 7:00am CST). Many of your posts, you'll find, aren't time sensitive - perhaps your W.I.P. Wednesday post can be done in advance, especially if it's Monday and you know that you won't make any progress on it before Wednesday. Or maybe your Sunday Stash post - you received your package on Thursday, and you're super excited about it - why not write your post then? You're super amped up about it, take the opportunity to convey that emotion to your readers!

If you want to know how to schedule your post in advance, here's a previous tutorial I wrote on it, click:

{HERE}

(note in the tutorial above, it was for a blog hop where the post had to go live at midnight EST on the day of the hop, but you get the picture ;) )

Photographs
Last week we covered how to take beautiful photos of your projects and quilts.

And with respect to posting, here is my suggestion when it comes to pictures:

The more, the merrier.

People love pictures. They love to see your sewing spaces. They love to see your design walls. They love to see pictures of your machine(s). It's all virtual eye candy, and you have no idea how many emails I've received over the years from people who were inspired by something which was in the background of one of my photos -

"where'd you get that spool rack?"
"how old is that machine?"
"I love the way you hung your mats!"

etc. Stuff you wouldn't think twice about inspires other people. Show it off!

That said: if you're a blogger who likes to post a lot of pictures, decrease the amount of posts you have on your main page so that your blog doesn't take an excessive time to load. If you've got your posts on main page set to 7, maybe decrease it to 5, so that slow loading times won't deter people from reading.


Comments

I'm always so tickled pink when people actually take time out of their busy lives to write a comment on my blog. Time is money/crafting/quilting/family/etc., and so because it's so valuable I am so appreciative of those who offer it up in a little note to me - even if it's only a few words. Here are some tips with respect to comments:

Make it easy.
By this I mean - disable your word verification (word verification is that gobbledy-gook series of letters and numbers people have to enter in order to submit their comment). A lot of my readers are surfing the web on mobile phones and tablet devices (32%, to be exact), and these comment verification steps can be much more difficult for them to use. And, if it's more difficult, they're less likely to leave you a comment.

If you're worried about spam comments, you can change your settings so that you only accept comments from registered users and not any anonymous ones (since most spam is from anonymous sources), and most spam I find occurs on older posts, so you can set your comment moderation accordingly (mine is set to 14 days).

For a tutorial on how to do all of this, click

{HERE}.


Customize it.Did you know you can customize the message above your comment box? Here's mine:

I ♥ to hear from you! 

Thank you for taking the time to leave a comment or for asking me a question.

I like to email everyone back when they've commented - so if you're a no-reply blogger, make sure to leave your email address in your comment so I can share the love back atcha!
to do this, go to 

{THIS}

tutorial (same as above) and I show you how. Custom is always more friendly :)


Answer them.
If you're not receiving every comment in your email inbox, here's a tutorial on how to do that. Or, if you'd like to change the inbox to which the comments come, you can do that here, too. Click

{HERE}

for the tutorial.

Try your hardest to answer each comment left on your blog. If the Commenter is a no-reply blogger obviously you'll be up the creek without a paddle on this one, but try your best to at least email back a quick note to them. In my mind, they took the time to leave you a nice comment, you should take the time to thank them :)

I try really hard to spend an hour a night, 5 nights/week blogging and answering comments - and I apologize to anyone whom ever left a comment and didn't get a response from me - odds are life was crazy at that moment and the family came first.






So I hope this week helped a little bit. And I hope I didn't offend anyone. Not my intention at all.

My goal is to help in any way I can, and I love that the mistakes and lessons I've learned I can now pass on to people who want to improve their blogs and writing styles.

As always, happy blogging everyone!

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13 comments

  1. Thank you for this Erin. No offence taken at all. I am at work with no work to do so I hope to read through all your "Beautify your Blog" posts today! ;) I've been meaning to start from the beginning ever since the SMS giveaway day.

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  2. More great advice! I changed my 'about me' section thanks to this series :) Oh and I am an English major and I still get things wrong all the time! I don't write in capitals though, I agree that is just shouting.

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  3. Your post about blogging have been incredible. Thank you Erin.

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  4. Hi again Erin. I've been on your blog most of the day. :) I am inspired to totally re-do my blog now. I want to put social media icons on my sidebar and I have favorited several on Etsy. Will you be covering how to put these icons on blogs? Or is it pretty much the same as putting banners in the sidebar. I would like mine lined up like your little spool icons on your blog. Thank you! This series is a huge help.

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  5. Great advice!! Oops! Exclamation points. =) I always center my posts. I will change that practice starting now. =)

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  6. Lots of helpful info here. Thanks!

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  7. I agree with so much, I hate it when people write in all capitals, and I find it hard to read centre justified posts. I have a bit of a problem with exclamation marks myself, I try to keep it down, but struggle! I HATE reading "LOL" on posts, really hate it (have to use capitals for emphasis in comments - no italics or bold available!). My pet peeve is apostrophes. I'm sorry, but they are NOT that hard to do. In particular I get really annoyed to see "photo's" all the time! Come on, it's a plural!

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  8. Thanks Erin for taking the time to write this series. I think all you said is just good common sense. I am amazed at all the blogs I read that have so many typos and misspelled words all the time. I go over and over my postings before I publish them because I want my blog to be polished and professional, at least as best as I can. I too wasn't an English major, but am pretty good at proof reading. I do however understand those bloggers who write in English when English is not their first language. It's harder for them to have perfect grammar and spelling. Also those who write in British English and so many words are spelled differently that American English. So we have to read blogs with that understanding of cross cultures. But like you mention about having or getting a sponsor and that particular blog is so full of the issues you mention in your post, like typos, misspelled words, gray type (hard on the eyes to read), small type font, decorative fonts, blurry photos, etc... Yet I have seen these blogs and they do have sponsors. I have seen blogs like those have 1,000-5,000 followers or more and wonder how they can attract so many followers when they do all the no-nos you point out. I suppose we all have our likes and dislikes when it comes to blogs and that's why we choose to follow some and not others. I have always tried to make my blog the best that I can and I do answer all comments unless they are a no-reply. There is always room for improvement. Thanks again Erin.

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  9. I think this is my favorite post of the whole series so far. So much great advice! Thanks!

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  10. Great post Erin. I agree on so many points. Super crazy fonts and centered justification really get to me. Another thing that bothers me (especially when I forgot to do it on my own blog) is when I click on a link and instead of opening up a new window it replaces my current window with the new link. Hey! I wasn't done reading that! I need to get better about scheduling my posts since I get dry spells with it being summer and having a 4 year old around the house 24/7.

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  11. Another great post, Erin! I can't wait to find out how to find out how long people spend on my blog. I know where to find where in the world they're from and other things you mentioned, but I didn't know I could time them. Looking forward to next week's post too, and maybe to finding time to implement some of the tips from previous weeks...Only one more week of school and then it's finally summer vacation, which will mean more time for blog maintenance I hope.

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  12. A very helpful post as always. I started blogging this year and advice is always welcome. I think finding your own voice is the most difficult thing of all. If I try to overwork the wording of a post it just sounds too stilted. I think the advice re posting at least 3 times a week will be something I should follow to grow my blog. I have 44 followers now and need to work just that bit harder to keep them interested. I often have ideas for a post then don't get round to writing it up. I shall definitely try setting 30 minutes aside every evening and schedule the posts.
    Thank you Erin.

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  13. Really a great post Erin...I've enjoyed and learned from so much of what you've written. Thank you!

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I ♥ to hear from you!

Thank you for taking the time to leave a comment or for asking me a question.

I like to email everyone back when they've commented - so if you're a no-reply blogger, make sure to leave your email address in your comment so I can share the love back atcha!

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