Which brings us to June. And some confusion. Blogging is not writing. A writer needs to blog. But blogging is not writing. What I find, as time goes by, is that I’m doing more blogging and less writing. The blogging cuts into my writing time. I get done the jobs that need to get done, but not the other projects. The writing I want to get done. So I wondered, am I doing this all wrong? And, you know me, I decided I need to find someone to tell me.
Annabel Candy is a copywriter, web designer and travel fiend. She set up her travel blog Get in The Hot Spot two years ago and it now has more than 20,000 visitors each month, and she also runs Successful Blogging. As well as her print work, her writing has appeared on Zen Habits, Copyblogger, and Problogger. Her ebook Successful Blogging in 12 Simple Steps is designed to help business owners and writers tap into the power of blogging.
I cornered Annabel for this month’s Bonus Writer Q&A. We’ll call it ‘Better Blogging for Writers’.
Is writing for blogs different to other forms of writing?
AC: “Very. Books have a beginning, middle and end, but online you never know what people will read first, or even which page of your blog they’ll arrive at first. That’s a challenge, and bloggers should bear it in mind when they design their blogs.
“Secondly, readers tend to scan information online. If you pick up a book, you can instantly tell how long it is, but that’s not the case with a blog post. You have to scroll down the screen to gauge how long a blog post or web page is. While you’re scrolling down, you’ll also be scanning for information to see if the blog post sounds interesting, and if you want to read the whole thing from beginning to end.
“So blog post formatting is crucial. No matter how good your writing is, if the formatting or layout is bad, people won’t read it. Simple tricks like including sub-headlines or bullet-pointed lists are easy to learn and will keep readers happy.”
*Note: the link to Annabel’s formatting article is well worth following. Just saying.
Do I really need to pay attention to SEO, design and all those other things if I’m a personal blogger or hopeful author wanting to build a platform?
AC: “SEO is the icing on the cake. If your blog does rank well with the search engines, it might help you get new readers.
“But blog design is key. No matter how many people visit your blog, if the design is bad, or they can’t find the information they want, they won’t stick around. And they definitely won’t subscribe or recommend your blog to anyone else.
“First impressions count, especially online and, unfortunately, if your blog looks boring, amateur or cheap, that’s the impression people will get of you. I hate to say it, and I know it shouldn’t be that way, but it’s true. If you’ve ever visited a site and left five seconds later without having read a single word, you’ll understand the power of first impressions online.”
All the blogging advice seems to point to the importance of maintaining regular posts – at least three times a week, if not every day. How important is this?
AC: “Posting more often does help build up traffic faster. But quality is always more important than quantity. I only post once a week. That’s the minimum you can get away with, and all I can manage. If I have extra time, I prefer to write a guest post for another blog and build traffic to my blog that way.”
Does a blog need to be ‘big’ to be useful?
AC: “No. It depends on what your goals are. For example, if you want to get a book published, you only need one reader – an agent or publisher who loves it.
“If you’re selling copywriting services, again you don’t need a huge audience, just the kind of people who are likely to need your services.
“There seems to be a rule of thumb that publishers want bloggers to have 10,000 or 20,000 readers per month (the figure changes). But I’m not sure that’s true. I think they’ll base it on your writing and the first impression of your blog. Of course, a massive readership would make getting a book published easier.
“Self-publishing is probably more lucrative financially and, even with a small audience, blogging offers the potential to sell your own book yourself and get almost 100 per cent of the profits.”
When you write for your own blog, what do you concentrate on? How is personal blogging different to blogging for business – and is a writer’s blog on or the other… or both?
AC: “For a business blog, I’d encourage people to write about their niche, but also incorporate personal stories and some personal blog posts into that.
“I noticed from writing my blog Get In The Hot Spot, with travel stories and personal writing, that it was helping me to get web design and copywriting business. It amazed me that people were more interested in working with me because of my personal experiences than my business experience and qualifications. I suppose the two things combined are powerful, and that was a valuable lesson for me.
“I think a writer’s blog should be both a business blog and a personal blog. Writing only personal stories is fine, but never stick to business all the time – people can get that sort of information anywhere. Your blog is a chance to show people what’s unique and special about you – and that’s what they really want to know.”
I’ve just found this post now – via a tweet – and am so glad I found it! First of all it told me I was on the right track and secondly it gave me some concrete goals to work towards! Thank you!
Great post! I’m experiencing “blogger’s block” at the moment – can’t write/don’t know what to write about…MUST get back to it!
Thanks for taking the time to wise the rest of us up! Much appreciated,
I come to visit naka…
Great post … I’ve been re-reading sections here and there, to try to remind myself of these clever blogging tips.
Great post, Allison, and, like many others I got a lot of takeaways!
One thing that struck me- for the first time I’m, embarrassed to admit, is the difference between blogging and writing. Namely, that blog readers don’t go from beginning to end! I just assumed that you all know things about me because I wrote about them last year. Strikes me as very funny now!
Hi Allison and all the amazing Pink Fibro readers and commenters.
What a gorgeous team you are. Thank you so much for interviewing me, reading and replying.
Sorry I’m late to comment – moved house and currently internetless. Unbelievable I know but true.
Love in a B & B – Lol, I was wondering the same thing but Allison didn’t ask me what she’s doing wrong! I recommend she post less to her blog to allow her more time for her other writing projects. You’ll all still love her won’t you?! Oh, and I am a terrible tinkerer too. I love it though:)
The Rhythm Method – How wonderful that you’re going to print it out. Thank you. My heart is singing, I hope it gets stuck on a wall somewhere or handed on to another confused blogger or writer:)
Seana – the blog formatting info is covered more in my book (which you have) too. Definitely should be compulsory reading for bloggers:)
InkPaperPen – yes, blogging does take up a lot of time but I think with practice we can cut that down and find a rhythm that works:)
Hi Marion, I totally agree with the benefits of blogging you mention. Thanks so much. I wouldn’t even be a writer if I didn’t have a blog. My blog has helped me achieve that goal of being a writer and not a poor one either;)
Milla, I’d love to critique your site for me – get in touch, I’m sure we can work something out.
Donna, why not? I don’t see any reason why you can’t do and achieve whatever you want to do.
Super Sarah – Re I don’t have a “message” as such but the least I can do for people stopping by to visit my blog is provide interesting and well written content! Absolutely brilliant. You can’t do better than that.
Hi Jennifer, when you get comments on your blog you get over that “talking to a wall” feeling. As you say, blogging is invaluable to make you feel connected to a wider writing community.
Hi MJ, congrats on starting your blogging journey:) Don’t get overwhelmed, we were all new once and there is always more to learn. Just do what you can and enjoy the process. Try learning something new every week to start with:)
Hi Joid, ah, thanks for the lovely words:) It’s great to see you here too and read that you’re still improving your blog.
ThePowMill, absolutely:) Keep going and have fun with it!
If I ever become a writer , I’ll keep this in mind . But, I’ll blog on with what I do and change a little at a time . You can teach ‘old dogs new tricks’.Just a little slower .
This is an exceptional post. I am a big fan of Annabel and her blog. She is savvy and on the ball.
I am currently in the process of redesigning my blog and business model to incorporate both into one.
I am nervous to combine the two but it is the direction I want to take and I feel more confident now after reading this post. Thanks so much Allison & Annabel.
Another excellent interview, Al. Raising all sorts of things that my head just doesn’t want to have to think about… I often wonder why it’s all so complicated, TBH. x
I’m with you Jennifer – it is all so daunting. Today is my first day in the blogging world and I must admit I am finding it a bit overwhelming. I didn’t know there was so much I was supposed to know and do but I am glad there are so many people who are keen to help. Panic aside, I am going to jump in and give it a go. Thanks to everyone who posts encouraging words.
Excellent post, thanks so much for sharing. As a brand new blogger, I find it all a little daunting just like “talking to a wall”.
It’s great to feel connected to a wider writing community.
I’m not a writer, you’ll never see a book in the shops with my name on it, not even eventually. I’m happy enough with my blog as it is, lots of photos and a few words, an occasional recipe.
Another grateful reader here, Allison and Annabel.
Definitely food for thought regardless of the main reason / focus of ones blog.
Sydney Shop Girl blog
Thanks for a wealth of valuable information, I am off to read that post on blog format now…
Very interesting indeedy Alison! Did you get the solution to your own dilemma though? The one about blogging time eating into writing time? My thing is that I want my posts to be perfect little morsels and although I don’t agonise, I do spend too much time tinkering before, and sometimes after, I hit publish. Must be less finicky. Twice a week also sounds very sensible.
Brilliant post! Even more brilliant timing what with my mini-blogosphere crisis this week. Thanks for your comment. I am definitely going to be focusing on my writing going forward. I don’t have a “message” as such but the least I can do for people stopping by to visit my blog is provide interesting and well written content!
Thank you Al and Annabel for sharing such insightful tips! Its something I struggle with constantly, as I try to break into “writing”, as opposed to blogging. But saying that, blogging is what gives me the confidence to play with words again, to remind me I can write. While I am never going to be big enough to make a living out of blogging (and tbh, that is my main, long term goal when it comes to writing) this gives me much food for thought!
I’m gonna check out those formatting tips.
Allison, thank you for this. For someone who came to the party late, blogosphere is a tremendous learning experience. I appreciate your post shortening the learning curve.
One of the many things I come to love about blogging is my getting to write off the cuff. Like Marion said, it does enhance your writing.
I’d love to know if there is a site out there that offers critiques of your site’s design. I don’t mind getting raked over a coal in order to be more refined by the process.
Very helpful! Thanks for the tips and the encouragement!
Such great information, thanks to you both!
I find that blogging has helped my writing in that ideas tend to flow more easily, the writing takes shape faster. I am not sure if it’s because blogging means I am writing more. It could also be the feedback that I get from blogging. Whatever it its, I like the way that blogging has enhanced my writing.
I’ve had the same questions. this has definitely given me a lot to think about.
Brilliant post!! – great info. thanks so much for this post Allison. Will check out the formatting link – ta 🙂
Your “Note” gave me a good giggle, Allison! I have wondered how you ever get time for writing on top of the blogging. I find the blogging very time consuming – but I think I just need to get smarter with it. This post will help me to do that. Thanks to both of you. As therhythmmethod mentioned, this IS blog gold. Gill xo
Very helpful post for new and old bloggers alike especially for me.
I’ll remember and will try to apply those things in my blog.
Thanks Allison and Annabel, Lots to think about and I am off to read that post about formatting post haste.
Wonderful post! So much valuable information, I might even have to print it out (I know, I’m so old school) and re-read when my brain is less Wednesday nighty.