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.
There 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!
Odds 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
I 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.
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,
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.