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.”