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Gala’s Lessons in Blogging

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Yesterday I introduced you to Gala Darling and talked about her transition from having a blog with a niche topic to having a blog more with a niche demographic. Today I want to hand ProBlogger over to Gala for a post and have asked her to share a few of the lessons she’s been learning of late about blogging. I’ve also included a few of the pictures that make her blog so distinct.

Gala’s 9 Lessons Learned from Blogging

I haven’t been running my fashion website, iCiNG, for very long — I started it in December 2006. However, since then, I have written 400 articles & I’m now in the top 10,000 blogs on Technorati. I was also recently approached by Cosmopolitan magazine to write a monthly fashion column for them! I absolutely love what I do, but there is more to blogging than just writing a lot of content & optimising your website for search engines!

Here’s what I’ve learned in the past 8 months.

1. An original angle is essential.

Gala-Darling-6There are thousands of fashion websites online, but the reason people like mine is because it’s different! Anyone can give their opinion on the latest runway collection, but it’s not very interesting & everyone else has already done it anyway. Add some value! Teach something; “how to” articles are the most popular thing online, & what the internet does best. Don’t be afraid to write in an unusual or different voice: while I (& many others) use humour, Manolo the shoeblogger writes in a faux accent & it works extremely well for his purposes. Differentiate yourself in any way you can!

2. If you’re not a ‘people person’, don’t bother!

Blogging isn’t about shouting the loudest or being really important, it’s about connecting & engaging in a dialogue with other people. If you’re not actually interested in interacting with anyone else or hearing other people’s opinions, you might as well be keeping a diary for yourself. Like it or lump it, having a blog is like being in retail. If people don’t like you, they will go (& spend their money) elsewhere.

3. Engage with your readers!

Gala-Darling-2Odds are, if people are visiting your website regularly, they’re pretty keen on you as a person. When people take time out of their day to comment on your posts or send you email, for god’s sake, respond! If you’re wondering why you never get a lot of comments, perhaps it’s because your audience feel that their opinion doesn’t matter to you… & unless they are masochists, they won’t keep trying to make themselves heard. Let your readers know that they matter — develop relationships with all of them. They are your customers, & they will make or break you — so treat them well.

4. Listen to your readers!

iCiNG was initially going to be a fashion blog — straight up & down. But I started receiving email asking all sorts of questions, from how to be genuine with people you dislike, to dealing with homesickness & buying presents for teenage girls. You only need to look at my advice tag for proof! You might be crazy about interior design but end up fielding a lot of questions regarding carpet. Go with the flow, see what works & what doesn’t. A lot of companies make their money doing something COMPLETELY different to what they started in, so don’t let your rigidity stop you from making a million.

5. Set a good example

Your readers & potential community will be as charming as you are. If you hurl abuse at everyone who disagrees with you, you’ll end up with a fairly surly, unpleasant set of regular commenters. If, however, you ensure that everything you write is positive, helpful & enthusiastic, everyone else will follow your lead.

6. Have a commenting policy

Gala-Darling-5I have had very, very few (grand total: 3) negative or unwelcome comments at iCiNG. When I got my first one, I wrote up a commenting policy & put a link to it beneath the comment form on every article. This way, no one can claim ignorance. The text says, “Not sure if your comment belongs here? Check the commenting policy!” My policy is very simple. I am more than happy to hear constructive criticism & people’s opinions, but anyone being rude, nasty or cruel (to me, my readers, celebrities or anyone else) will be banned without warning. Really, the way I see it is that nasty comments only reflect on the person who wrote it, not who they’re aimed at. Don’t take it personally, don’t overreact, just prevent it from happening again!

7. Before you start blogging, give serious thought to what your likely future plans may be.

When I started, the blogging platform I installed was chosen because it was something my friend was using. Now that I want to do grand things, I’ve realised that Textpattern (which has served me very well) is really not powerful enough. Thus, my geeky genius (*coughbeloved boyfriend *cough*) & I are faced with the daunting task of converting everything to Drupal — something it appears no one has ever done before, & to say we’re dreading it is the understatement of the century.

8. Be brave & bold & positive.

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Be yourself — your glorious, imperfect, passionate, contradictory self. People will love you for your honesty & natural raucousness. The world is so full of boring, sanitised, mediocrity that anything different will have your readers crying with joy. Write about things which make you smile, things which make you happy, & invite your readers to contribute. Create something which inspires others & makes them feel good.

9. Remember Jack Kerouac.

His “Belief & Technique for Modern Prose” is relevant to blogging, too. Submissive to everything, open, listening … Be in love with yr life … No fear or shame in the dignity of yr experience, language & knowledge … You’re a Genius all the time.

Super-love & cupcakes,
Gala Darling

Note from Darren: thanks for your thoughts Gala. One of the things that I appreciate about Gala’s approach is her positivity and philosophy of setting the tone on her blog. Her point of ‘setting a good example’ above is something that I think has real wisdom to it – as bloggers we need to understand that readers more often than not take their cues on how they interact on our blogs from the way in which we behave.

If you’d like to check out more of Gala’s work at her blog you can do so at iCiNG.

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. Great article and a very interesting viewpoint. I definitely agree that you need to stay fresh and even edgy to stand out from the crowd. Great read. Thanks Gala!

  2. Chee Kui says:

    I like the way you did the photos ;) I will try this approach for my Karaoke blog. Thanks for the cool advice!
    Gala, you’re hot!

  3. adam says:

    dig the purple hair, gala =)

  4. Gayla McCord says:

    Love the name! :-)

  5. Thanks Gala! Great post! I love your pictures too! It’s no wonder you’re successful!

    Graham

  6. Great post! It’s easy to see why your site is successful. I wish I had your great attitude.

  7. Eve says:

    I’m so impressed by Gala’s approach. These are lessons I will take seriously, especially noting that her blog domain is a PR4 and has only been in existence since February of this year! Don’t mess with her!

  8. Mark says:

    What a great attitude and great suggestions. Thanks very much. And best of luck with the Drupal conversion!

    –Mark

  9. Well done I really enjoyed this. This is one of your best posts ! good stuff !

  10. Protestant says:

    I really like this article! Gala’s blog definitely has an “original angle” on fashion. :)

  11. marquis says:

    This was a great read and was very helpful. Thanks

    http://alltalksports.wordpress.com/

  12. Bush Mackel says:

    Great post. You hit a lot of good stuff here which will certainly be useful for bloggers of all levels. Best of luck in the future!

  13. Chris says:

    #10. Be a hot, punky chick

    (I had to say it)

  14. Angel says:

    Anyone with that many hair colors is worth a read.

  15. CatherineL says:

    Great post and well done on getting to write for Cosmo. I love your blog, but I’m curious about your hair. Do you really die it purple and pink, or is it a photo trick? What kind of dye do you use? I once wanted blue hair and my hairdresser said it wasn’t possible.

  16. Those are some very insightful tips, thanks for sharing them with us. Also a big thanks to Darren for having you post!

    Don

  17. Gala, the reason you were able to make your blog stand out in the crowd is because you’re not an ordinary person yourself and because you write with humour. Not everyone possesses those two essential qualities to take their blogs to the next step, so for those people following your advice won’t help much.

  18. Dee Stewart says:

    I’ve been praying for something to keep me motivated to keep my blog. Thanks for the new direction. Love the hair and the (*coughbeloved boyfriend *cough*.) I have one*sneezecuchif*of those *sneeze* too :)

  19. There is little more motivating to me than learning about the way the blogging platform has leveled the playing field for so many. Congratulations on the Cosmo invite!

  20. Jason says:

    Awesome post.

    Gala (if you’re reading), I think you pointed out something common sense that’s not so common pertaining to 99.9% of bloggers. What I notice is that bloggers don’t really care about blogging–being social and enjoying it–but they just want to make some money.

    I was the same way when I first started, but grew to look at blogging in your sort of way.

  21. Carleenp says:

    This is one of the best guest posts I have read here. Also, I love the picture with the chop sticks!

  22. Ad Tracker says:

    Beautiful post! I especially agree with #8. You have to believe what you write and have your reader’s best interest at heart.

  23. Caroline says:

    Awesome article! I just went over to Gala’s blog the other day and I found it really cool and bookmarked it. She’s pretty hip and I love her attitude! I’m setting her as a role model for blogging!

  24. pearl says:

    Aww.. It is so nice to see some color on my all time favorite blog Gala….;) thanks for such a wonderful article! engaging with readers and responding to their comments is one that not many bloggers do these days and that is one the biggest aspects of community building which is what blogging essentially is! Love your pictures…

  25. Gala says:

    Thank you everyone! I’m so pleased with the response & of course I was stoked to be invited to write here in the first place!

    CatherineL — Yes, my hair is pink right now! I have had it neon colours for a couple of years now. Do you like it? ;D

  26. Eve says:

    Gala, I’m pleasantly surprised that you check back here. I went to your site and bookmarked it for future reference. I even told a friend during a lunch meet today about your post. I completely raved about it! Awesome, awesome post! I know why you are successful at blogging! I totally see it.

  27. Gala says:

    CatherineL — Actually, in terms of doing your hair blue, it can definitely be done, you just need to bleach your hair first! I wrote a guide to doing it which will help you — http://galadarling.com/article/the-ultimate-guide-to-unnatural-hair-colouring !

  28. Darren Rowse says:

    who would have ever thought a ProBlogger thread would have turned to hair color! :-)

    side note – did you know I used to regularly peroxide my hair? Of course when you have hair as short as mine it turns into an exercise that you have to do every few weeks – which isn’t great for your scalp – probably why I’m balding now :-)

  29. Mike Goad says:

    Well I for one won’t be changing my hair color… never have, never will.

    …except for the natural way that it’s changed, of course. Why would I want to change what changed the old fashioned way (I earned it!) :-)

    Gala, great post!

    The colors may be a little shocking for an retired relic like me, but you make a lot of sense.

    Best of luck!

  30. Jason says:

    Gala, my girlfriend loves the fashion in that movie The Devil Wears Prada… so I showed her your blog. She loves it. Think you have a new reader.

  31. CatherineL says:

    Gala – Your hair is brilliant, and I will check out your tips. Sadly though, I am many years older now, and would probably not get away with blue hair.

    Darren – you seem to like women’s clothes a lot, as I know you were already a big fan of the Manolo blog, and now it seems you read Gala’s blog too. What do you really wear whilst blogging?

  32. Darren Rowse says:

    CatherineL – I’ll never tell, but lets just say that on the days my wife is at work it’s a different outfit to normal! jk :-)

  33. Jay Wilson says:

    Gala really knows how to use photos to their potential….something I hadn’t thought of doing on my own blog. Good stuff.

  34. Jason says:

    Ha! So that’s why Darren didn’t film his new video in front of his closet…

  35. #6 is great! I put your advice to work on both of my blogs

    http://trevorcarpenter.com
    http://photowalking.org

    Thanks for your wisdom.

  36. Great tips that every blogger cannot avoid, one of the best guest posts here! Gala, when are you back here again?

  37. Shine says:

    I haven’t visited Gala’s blog before but from the post above I don’t doubt why she’s made it – she is so lovely and bold. I particularly like pt. 2 and 8. Thanks for the sharing.

  38. bill says:

    Gala,
    Your eyes are absolutely breathtaking, and overall you are very gorgeous.

    Spiritually, I just felt that that needed to be said.

  39. Adriaan says:

    She needs to learn to hold chopsticks the correct way, tho ;)

  40. Paul says:

    I’ll definately point some of my girl friends over to your site, what a unique and amazing site!

    Captivating photos and L O V E the beautiful tattoos.

  41. Paquito says:

    Wow! :-)

    Nice 2 see I followed some of Gala’s Tips regarding Blogging… I absolutely agree with her, especially regarding visitor’s treatment (I always try to reply to the comments or visit visitor’s page if he/she provides it :-)).

    Thank you very much both for publishing those tips… Gonna right now to visit Gala’s Blog (as I like to be coherent and follow my personal criteria :-)).

    Kind regards from Spain :-)

    Paquito.
    http:/paquito4ever.blogspot.com

  42. It’s great to meet Gala – what a fresh energy and original voice!

  43. And Drupal brings another to the dark side. I run my blog on Drupal as well. That will surely be a difficult task to switch. Good luck and when your done you should post something at Drupal.org about it.

    http://www.bicyclefrenzy.com

  44. Allie Casey says:

    I’m new to blogging and this is just what I’m looking for in terms of content and help. Thank you Gala. Terrific insight, attitude and info. Congrats on the Cosmo invite. Can’t wait to “see” more.

  45. David Mackey says:

    I’m a guy, so I don’t really care about fashion (okay, I’m a stereotypical geek guy), but Gala’s photography style impressed me significantly, and if I were interested…I would read the site. Good article – liked the thoughts on positivity.

  46. Miracle says:

    hey, I actually have a question in regards to Gala’s blog and income. I am inspired by her attempt to right to a demographic instead of one topic so I went to look over her site. What I noticed [failed to notice] was a lack of advertising or money-making outlets. There is one link with a shop that sells a booklet of some sort, but other than that – nothing. I was curious as to what her own strategy about making money on a blog.

  47. Remy says:

    Miracle: it’s because she is the only child of rich parents. There is a video that shows her parents’ house and they are loaded. Also, she mentioned on livejournal her mom taking her on thousand dollar shopping spree.

    No offense to Gala, she doe a good job on her blog, but point should be made that she doesn’t make all the money she spends on her fabulous New York lifestyle from blogging. Not possible from adsense and a few ads alone.