Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Ten Housekeeping Tips for Your Blog

Housekeeping Tips for Your BlogEven blogs can need a good spring cleaning from time to time and here are my top suggestions for some dusting off and spit-polishing. If you have any thoughts of your own leave them in comments, I always love a good tip.

1. Get on a schedule. If you publish the same kinds of posts each day then this is a straightforward issue but if you, as I do, like to write different kinds of post to keep life interesting and to reduce the strain of writing the same thing every day then think about organizing your topics. I publish a photograph and a household tip on Wednesdays, a random topic list on Thursdays, a product review and giveaway on Saturdays and a recipe on Sundays.

That means Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays I publish on other topics, for a total of 12-14 a month. Three of those posts relate to my monthly Write-Away Contest, two are serious commentaries on some aspect of motherhood, one is a revisited journal entry from when the kids were young, one is on blogging, one is about traveling or activities in Alaska, and the remaining four to six posts are about miscellaneous family activities or personal stories, either short or long.

This can of course be adjusted, and always is, but it gives me a rough idea of what I have to come up with for the month and an idea of where I can stick in posts relative to a holiday or special event.

2. Publish daily. If you’re serious about building readers you’ve got to post every day. It establishes your credibility and dependability with your audience which is critical.

3. Have a line up. When people ask me what a blog is I never say it’s an online journal because for me that’s not what my blog is about. It’s not a place where I write my most personal happenings and feelings, though sometimes I will get a little introspective. Instead I think of it more as an online magazine and as such I have to think of myself as writer, publisher, art designer, editor and photographer for a tiny publication.

There are benefits and drawbacks to this arrangement but for it to work I have to think the way a magazine staff thinks. That means having a plan of attack and a line up of material. I usually have one to two weeks worth of posts lined up and ready to go because I don’t always feel like writing. Even if I did my schedule couldn’t always accommodate my desire, there are emergencies, vacations, sickenesses and dry spells that come along and if I’ve got posts to cover those times I always have something to publish.

So I tend to write in bursts. Some days I’m busy with kids and life and can do nothing but make notes in my Moleskine but then I’ll get streaks of creativity where I’ll write two or three posts at a sitting. I find my writing is better when I’m in the mood anyway.

4. Have a goal. I’ve written about how I see my blog but how do you see yours? It may not be a magazine, maybe it is an online journal or thinking ground. Maybe it’s a family blog where long-distance relatives can catch up on your life. But have a goal in mind. Do you want to create a certain readership? Do you want to use your blog as an entrance to print media? Do you want to just enjoy what you write and have something to show for your labors? Do you want to have a beautiful place where family can feel welcome?

Think about your goals and try to define them, maybe write them down and try to quantify how you’ll know when you’ve achieved them. This is easier said than done because if you’re like me your blog is “organic” (no, not carbon-based, but a growing entity that develops gradually). You may not know what you’re shooting for but the sooner you discover this the more organized you and your blog will be.

5. Have a time period in mind. I think my husband got this from Seth Godin but he constantly tells me, “Three years Michelle.” What he means is that I need to post seriously for three years before making any decisions about continuing or abandoning my blog. Why three years? Well because things fluctuate. Traffic can increase slightly before a holiday then plummet when the holiday hits. Readers can disappear in the summer while they’re out biking and hiking and enjoying their vacations. Sometimes you have better ideas and sometimes you don’t so stick with it and don’t give up when you’re in a slump and keep “three years” as your mantra to help you push through those low times. Then, after your pre-determined time period, you can reevaluate and decide if you’re up for another stretch.

6. Have your readers in mind. If you’re only blogging for yourself then this won’t matter but if you want an audience the audience has to be a consideration. You may feel inclined to tear into a nasty commenter but think about how your readers will feel if you stick someone’s head on a pike. You may want to post about your love for chocolate covered cabbage but your readers may not be as interested. People will cut you some slack on an occasional rogue post—for example, I try not to post too much about blogging because most of my readers aren’t bloggers—but irritate them too much and they’ll walk.

7. Declutter your sidebar. Not only do blogrolls and buttons clutter things up they slow your blog’s loading time. Treat your sidebar the way you treat rooms in your house—if there are things there you're not using regularly that serve no purpose they need to be tossed. I got rid of many of my reciprocal blogrolls because they didn’t do anything for traffic, they didn't do much for my blog's visibility, Technorati no longer counted them as links and they just slowed things down. If you absolutely do need something go to Flooble for the code to organize the information into a drop-down menu for neatness and order.

Watch the advertisements and try to keep them organized and neat. Too many ads and I get frustrated with a site—and for goodness sake don’t use animated or garish ads that would distract from your posts. Once you annoy readers they’ll leave and your ads will be less effective anyway. So keep them tasteful and orderly.

8. Think community. It’s easy for women to be cliquish and competitive but the wonderful thing about blogging is its symbiotic nature. Helping out other bloggers doesn’t diminish your blog but in fact helps you as well. If I can promote another blog not only does it build feelings of loyalty and friendship in both of us but if I can build their traffic and they link to me it will increase my own ranking because Google measures the authority of each blog's links. The more popular a blog is that links to me the more the power of that link increases. So think not in terms of your blog competing against everyone else in your niche but think about ways to build the niche as a whole.

9. But while you’re building community make a list of ways to set yourself apart from the crowd. I believe Seth Godin calls it the Purple Cow. No one notices the regular kind of bovine but if you’re a purple cow now that's interesting and gets noticed. Be from an interesting place (Alaska has been good to me), have an interesting (though not garish) layout, come up with interesting contest, get an interesting name—be careful of words used by the crowd such as mom, ramblings, random, thoughts or other rather forgettable phrases or cliches. Take an interesting angle on an idea or teach yourself a new skill to be able to blog about. Be appealing to the group but different enough to remember.

10. Back up your posts regularly. Keep an offline copy of your posts, the date published and any other information you might need about them. It may not be seem important when you first start out but once you get 500 posts it’s much harder to keep track of everything. This is not only practical as an emergency measure should something break down but it’s helpful to see your productivity and growth and keeps you going towards those goals you set back at number four on this list.

***

Congratulations to Lisa from Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania (just take a guess how that's pronounced, I dare you) who won last Saturday's Giveaway from The Wurst Gallery. Check back this Saturday for another chance to win more Fabulous Prizes.

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58 comments:

Domestic Slackstress said...

Sheesh. I truly lack the discipline and time to do most of these, although they're all great ideas. See? I'm never going to get anywhere in the blogosphere with a bad attitude like that. I think I can ... I think I can. Thanks for the awesome tips.

Jaycee said...

So organised. You put most of us to shame shame shame. I've been at my blog for 3 years and on one hand I want to make it great, and on the other hand I write just for me. That's so Libran (my excuse anyway).

Erica said...

Thanks for the post. I hope you're around longer than three years :)

chelle said...

ugh I am so behind on blog housekeeping! heck I am behind on house keeping in general! Great tips!

Mary Alice said...

Wow. What a wealth of information for a new blogger. I am slightly overwhelmed and must go sit someplace quiet and contemplate it all. Thank you for sharing.

Heather @ Desperately Seeking Sanity said...

Great information and it's pronounced Bala Kinwood :) I know because I'm from near there... :)

Pleasant View Family said...

I always love reading your tips on blogging - thanks for sitting down to capture them in 'ink'!

Janet a.k.a. "Wonder Mom" said...

You are so great! I just love coming here!

Okay, I don't want to sound stoopid...but how would I keep an offline backup? On a disk? How can I do that...Help..any suggestions? I'd love to know.

Melissa R. Garrett said...

Truly a great list, and one from which I could definitely benefit. I have to be careful about cluttering the sidebar, especially with the blogs I link to. Most of them link to me a well, but about every three months I write a post giving a week to those who wish to remain on my sidebar the opportunity to contact me and tell me so. It gives me a chance to see who actually reads my blog and who doesn't. Also, I try to foster a sense of community by showing off other blogs that I love. I was SO hurt the one time (not to long ago) I contacted a popular "mom blog" to see if she might mention my blog and a project I was working on. She refused, saying she didn't do that sort of thing (when, in fact, she does it all the time!). Needless to say, I stopped reading her blog because I felt she just flat-out lied to me. I could also be a little more organzied with my posts ;-)

G's Cottage said...

In May I wrote that one of my goals was to make some improvements to my blog. Many of the things that I have noted to "do something about" are addressed here. Of course, part of me wants to freak out that it isn't possible to get it all done.

Kat said...

Any advice on how to find the time to do all that?

You have more kids than I do, but you seem to do a great job of balancing it all.

Perhaps it will get easier as my kids get a bit older...

janet said...

Great tips! I couldn't do what you do with kids. I barely eek by as it is. I think blogging is very time consuming.

Cagey said...

Great post - great advice!

A few notes:
I do keep a blogroll, but it is my "very most favorite" blogs - both friends and real life friends. I agree that it should absolutely be kept concise and that's why I've kept the Power Bloggers off of it - everyone knows who they are anyway, so they don't need to be on my blogroll. I use my blogroll as a way to say "hey, look at these awesome blogs that you may not have heard about!". I fear that with the readers such as Google and Bloglines, the blogroll will disappear and that makes me sad. Blogrolls have made the blogopshere viral, but in a GOOD way. I've made some amazing friends that I discovered via blogrolls.

Also, regarding feeds - a blogger has to make an important decision whether to allow full feeds or not. If you allow full feeds, you will get more readers, but you may not get as many hits. I decided to go with full feeds, but I don't do ads, so I don't care about hits as much as I do readers.

Poppy Fields said...

Thanks for the tips, I am going to work on my side bar.

Mayberry said...

bal-a KIN-wid!

I'd add one more tip: Proofread! It's very distracting to me to read a blog with misspelled words and sloppy punctuation (you're not an offender, Michelle!).

dcrmom said...

I am just discovering #3. Excellent advice. And it's Baa-luh. Kin-wood. :-)

Trixie said...

Great Post; you've provided lots of good tips that I haven't really thought about.

I linked to your post on my blog.

Take Care,

Trixie

Joyful Days said...

Once again, Michelle, you have been generous with your information and insight. That's why I keep visiting.

I wish I were more techno-savy. Flooble has me as confused as Technorati did and I've kind of thrown my hands in the air. You'd think, with a geek husband and a geek sister, one of them would take pity on me. But it's the story of the cobbler's children, I tell you.

Thanks so much for the words of wisdom. They are greatly appreciated.

My Ice Cream Diary said...

Thank you, thank you, thanks you. you should submit this idea to a magazine. The bigger the blogosphere becomes, the more we need guidance like this. I especially needed to hear #1 because I have been struggling with how I want my bliog to be structured. I like how you have a schedule that leaves room to be random.

Ni Yachen said...

Ah, a media mogal in the making. I think this is how Oprah got her start.

Ni Yachen said...

Ah, a media mogal in the making. I think this is how Oprah got her start.

Meredith said...

I'm curious--compared to most mom bloggers, Scribbit has already "made it" in the blog world. What is your three year goal?

Thank you for sharing these professional points!

mcewen said...

3 years! Lummy. Lots of helpful information that I'll add to my 'to do' list.
Cheers

Leslie said...

Michelle, I am in awe of you.

Scribbit said...

Well thank you all for such kind comments. Glad this post helps out.

And I appreciate some of the extra suggestions I've received--

And Meredith, as for my own goals, I talk big but don't necessarily put my money where my mouth is. I started my blog wondering if I could make a go of it or not. I don't know if you remember when Guy Kawasaki posted a list of links to mom bloggers he'd met at Blogher last summer, but my husband mailed me that list, I went through each of the blogs listed and thought "I can do that!" And have spent the last eight months seeing if I could.

I think now I feel as if, yes, I have been able to do it too. As for where I'm going with it though . . . people ask me all the time when I'm going to put ads on my blog and start making money but it's just not an interest to me though don't get the wrong idea, I love money as much as the next person it's just that blogging usually doesn't provide a significant income from what I've read. If you have news to the contrary, please let me know. I'd be very interested.

So I'm not entirely sure what my goals are. Probably just to keep at it for three years with daily posts and to see if I can handle it for that length of time and to see where my blog is after then.

Rather vague but it's still a goal I suppose.

Daisy said...

Thanks for the tips! I see several that will help me. I've been blogging for almost a year now, and it's time to streamline a bit.

Susan said...

Thanks for the sage advice, Michelle. You're a model for us all.

Lei said...

All great suggestions. I do have one question for you, though... how often do you think you should visit your readers' blogs? As often as they visit yours? More often? When you feel like it? :P

I've always wondered what is considered "proper".

Lei said...

And ditto Kat! How do you find the time to post daily! That's where I fall short.

Danielle said...

Very good tips indeed.
I consider my relationship with my blog and my readers still in the honeymoon stage since I've only been blogging since last November. Some things we learn as we go and others we rely on people like you.

Be well and enjoy the day

Lynnae said...

Thanks for the great information! I've been blogging less than a month, and at the moment I'm just testing the waters a bit. If I decide to keep going, you've given me a lot to think about. Thanks!

An Ordinary Mom said...

What a great and comprehensive list. You are very organized and your blog shows it. Keep up the good work :)!!
And of course, thanks for the tips.

An Ordinary Mom said...

I am very curious to hear your reply to Lei's question about how often to visit commenters sites :) !!

Rebecca said...

Some great tips scribbit though you have made me feel quite slack and haphazard. But I am going to take your advice and try and have some posts ready to go for quiet times - because you're absolutely right that there are times when you really just can't get a word out - and others when you just wanna blab blab blab

Scribbit said...

Oh now you've put the screws to me Lei. That's the hardest part for me, finding time to get around to all the blogs I like. With posting daily, keeping the blog running, updating the template, backing things up, getting new ideas and new posts written, taking photographs for posts, answering emails, reviewing new products, holding contests, and even making things like custom search engines I have less time left over for visiting than I would wish.

Especially since I feel that I'm first a mom and a wife before I'm a blogger. I have plenty of non-blogging responsibilities to attend to (and you should see what this last couple weeks have been like around here. I haven't even given you the real details of life, it would be too much).

But I'm avoiding the question. I'm pretty good (I'd give myself an A-) at answering emails. I do it quick and love to respond to comments where people have enabled their email on their profile so I can respond directly to them.

As for visiting their blog and returning the favor, I'm not so good. Better than some, but would probably only get a C or C+. Especially on Wednesdays and THursdays when I can get 40-50 comments each day. Answering those personally literally takes hours. Usually two.

So I do my best to get around to visiting each of my commentor's blogs and shoot for at least visiting once a week (I'm hearing gasps from the crowd). Sorry, but it's hard to get around more.

And that doesn't even include my HUGE RSS feed list that has everyone on it. This past month I've only made it once through that list which takes several hours to get through and comment on each post when I do it.

I don't know that I'll get much sympathy when I say all this, I used to get annoyed when I'd visit a blog and they'd "ignore" me (or what I considered to be ignored by not returning the visit). But I've learned to cut them quite a bit of slack because it's really hard to be a one-man publishing enterprise. I'm really running a tiny magazine with me doing everything and that's tricky.

But some of my favorite parts of blogging are the interactions with other bloggers and I love getting emails with questions and personal thoughts. I usually drop everything and type away when those come up.

Whew. Long answer. Probably not terribly satisfying but there it is.

Dapoppins said...

You are so much more organized than I am. WAY more organized.

subarctic mama said...

Thanks Michelle! I have learned so much from reading your blog. I appreciate all the information you've shared about how to blog. I found scribbit when I first started in December and it's been such an inspiration.

Miscellaneous-Mum said...

Fantastic response to the "do you comment/visit the commenters" question.

I have been wrestling with the one for AGES.........

An Ordinary Mom said...

Thanks for your "long answer" and of course it was fully satisfying :)!!

so grateful to be Mormon! said...

hi michelle: i really found this post useful, thanks for presenting this one. and how do you do #10?

~take care, kathleen :)

Bodybuilding Store said...

I could never write daily on my blog unless I was making huge profits. What i do is write on all my blogs every 1 to 9 days, depending on the type of blog etc. I write my own content and ideas most of the time so I don't want to burn myself out early.

Amy said...

I really love this post, Michelle and your additional comments.

Making money through blogging is very hard. We are only able to do it by having a website and our blog becoming a branch of that. Blogging for cash is hard work.

I love the inspiration you have offered in this post!

Stephanie said...

Challenging me again! Ugh! No it is good, really.

I see the wisdom in #3 especially the writing ahead, but I never seem to get that done. I usually post everyday, well at least at Stop the Ride, but it is almost always off the cuff. I'm sure it shows! :)

Beckie said...

This is all great advice! I love it when you do this stuff.

kailani said...

Thank you for these tips. As usual, very informative.

Wow, 3 years is a long time in blogland ;-)

Kailani
An Island Life

Momish said...

These are great ideas! Thanks for the tips! Also, I totally understand how hard it is to get around to every blog and I am sure that most seasoned bloggers can appreaciate the occasional visit, especially from bloggers who get 40+ comments a post! I find it hard to get through my blogroll too! Life, you know - it's even more demanding than a blog!

The Late Bloomer said...

I, too, can attest to the fact that you are definitely inspirational, Michelle, both as a blogger and as a mother... Your system of organization and all of your talent is impressive beyond belief. I'm so glad to have found you, thanks to Jenn at NPLI, and I couldn't imagine being able to keep up with all that you do... I have so many days where I'm unsure of myself; for the moment I'm just doing my best to make the most of every day, and if that includes some blogging, well that's great! And if it doesn't -- well, I'll get to it the next day. Do I sound like Scarlett O'Hara or what?

Thanks for the great tips, as always. Food for thought, especially for "baby" bloggers like me!

Megan@SortaCrunchy said...

Oh my gosh - I so needed this. I missed it last week because my online time is so sketchy right now! I am "starring" this post so when the dust settles from our move this month, I can come back to it when I am ready to get serious about blogging!

Thanks so much!

Morning Glory said...

This was really good and quite helpful. I've been reading through many of your posts this past week and you've got a very interesting blog. Thanks for continuing to stop by mine.

Aimee said...

Great post - lots of direct answers to stuff I always wonder about/want to get around to.

And I'm sure other commetners have answered this, but it's pronounced BAL-a KIN-wood. It's a Welsh name, and I live near it :)

Dewey said...

This list is just perfect for me, as a new blogger. Thank you! Some of the things on the list encouraged me because I realized I do them, and others were very handy tips (such as flooble).

Maureen said...

Thanks for a great article! I"m a new blogger, and trying to learn all I can!

PS--I can pronounce Bala Cynwyd!

Mer said...

Two questions:

1. Where do you find the photos you use in your posts? Like the one of the maid at the top of this housekeeping post - I'm assuming that isn't a friend of yours posing. Is there somewhere I can get high quality pics to use in my blog? Are they free?

2. I have a couple posts that I don't like the picture quality and maybe no one has commented on. Is it okay to delete posts like these? I'm afraid it might cause incongruity since bento #X would be missing. What is your opinion on this? Have you deleted posts that you felt didn't represent your publication well?

Stephanie said...

What a great article! I just found you by way of Melissa Garrett's site and I'll definitely be back!

Re: backing up. Can you write a "how-to" article about how to do that?

mer - you can get "free photos" from Flickr Creative Commons as long you give credit to the photographer. Search here: http://www.flickr.com/search/advanced...and check the "Creative Commons" box near the bottom.

Mer said...

Stephanie - Thanks for the tip on the photos!

tAnYeTTa said...

great tips. thank you :)

Amber (Proverbs31) said...

Oh, I love this post. Thank you!
I keep trying to explain to friends what I'm trying to do with my new blog, and your description of an online magazine is the best I've heard so far. At this point, my blog is still a baby. But I can visualize it with regular features each week, giveaways, contests, etc. Oh that would be so much fun.

For now I have to start building content and readership, but I want to know how you started doing giveaways. How did that work for you?

Amber
(until recently: Proverbs31)

bringinggoodhome.wordpress.com
imperishablebeauty.com

Tarry Jhonson said...

A good read! got some great house cleaning tip from it. thanks a lot!