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13 Tips for Beginning Bloggers (Which I Learned the Hard Way)

This article is by Gretchen Rubin of The Happiness Project.

I started The Happiness Project blog as a way to test the argument that novelty and challenge bring happiness (turns out they do!), but I knew nothing about blogging when I began.

Here are some strategies that I learned the hard way, through experience. As Benjamin Franklin once remarked, “Experience keeps a dear school, but fools will learn in no other.”

  1. Start simple. Add bells and whistles over time. Many people get paralyzed at the outset, because they’re overwhelmed by the desire to figure everything out before launching. Don’t get it perfect, get it going.
  2. Post every day. It’s counter-intuitive, yes, but strangely it’s easier to post every day than to post three or four times a week. You don’t procrastinate, you loosen up, you stay engaged with your subject, and you’ll be taken more seriously by readers. But if you stop writing for a while…
  3. Don’t point out that you’ve been lax about posting! It’s boring, it shows a lack of commitment, and maybe readers won’t notice if you don’t say anything.
  4. Include the text of the post as well as the URL if you want to bring a post to someone’s attention by email. Often, people won’t bother to click through, even though they might like your post if they did!
  5. If you feel squeamish about posting something—don’t. Wait a day or two, and think it over.
  6. Join the community. Link to other bloggers who write about your subject, shine a spotlight on their work, get to know them. Blogland is a friendly, helpful place—and the truth about human nature is that people become interested in you when you show an interest in them.
  7. Read about blogging. My favorite resource is ProBlogger, of course.
  8. Use lists when possible. People love reading lists, especially tips lists. I know, tips lists seem like a simplistic way to present information. But people love them. I post a tips list every Wednesday.
  9. State the purpose of your blog very prominently. A new reader shouldn’t have to ask, “What’s this blog about, anyway?”
  10. Maintain quality. I have checklist to try to keep my posts interesting and my voice true:
    • Am I being funny?
    • Am I giving interesting information from science, history, literature, etc.?
    • Am I revealing my character?
    • Am I telling stories?
    • Am I showing what it’s like to live in New York City?
    • Am I linking to other bloggers?
    • Am I comfortable with my parents reading this? (I never work blue.)
    • Am I criticizing anyone except myself?
  11. Keep a separate document containing your blog entries. I have an 800-page document containing every post I’ve ever made. That way, I can easily search, copy, and paste the material on my blog when I need it for other purposes.
  12. Keep a running list of ideas. Invaluable.
  13. Most important? Have something to say with every post, and with your entire blog. This sounds obvious, but it’s a lot easier to write when you’re trying to tell a story, explain an idea, give a review, link to an article, or whatever. If you’re having trouble with your blog, forget about the blog and focus on what you want to communicate instead.

More experienced bloggers, what are your top tips to help those just starting out?

This article is by Gretchen Rubin of The Happiness Project. Follow her on Twitter @gretchenrubin, and buy the book THE HAPPINESS PROJECT, the #1 New York Times bestseller.

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Comments

  1. I have a question.
    How do you index 800 posts?
    Sometimes I find myself sometimes posting writing very similar posts to ones i’ve wrote before.

  2. Adam says:

    Hi Gretchen,
    This information is very helpful to me as I have just started blogging. Thank you for sharing! I will check out your happiness book.
    Adam

  3. Very helpful! (As is everything here, of course)

    I’ve been writing a personal blog for a couple of years. The publishing schedule is random, the topics all over the map.

    I’m now in the planning stages of a blog that will support a particular purpose and need to be much more systematic and have an actual plan. I’m writing my own version of your key questions to keep me focused as I map out the editorial calendar for the first weeks/months so I have a plan before I launch.

    Your scariest advice is to post every day! I like longer-form writing and am going to discipline myself to shorter posts. This may mean some multi-part posts so that will help. I understand why you say that–I just have to let go of my need to go on and on and be satisfied with some posts that are just a photo and extended caption or other snippet.

    Thanks for sharing. Heading over to check out your blog now.

    @BarbChamberlain

  4. Enjoyed this post very much and will refer back to it frequently as the checklists and reminders and tips are invaluable and applicable to any blogging context or situation.
    Thank you very much, Gretchen!

  5. hibbah says:

    wow..very nice and very helpful

  6. Thanks for these tips. I know here at Dydacomp a number of our clients are just starting out in the eCommerce game, however they are excited to make leeway in their marketing campaigns. It is often harder for some to understand how to use a blog effectively or even how to blog at all so these are great tips I can share with them to get them started!