Essential Blogging Advice For Beginners

Posted at 19:04pm on 23rd October 2008

There may be those, as I have already said, who decry blogging as adding to the ‘misinformation and ignorance’ of the ‘digitally addicted’, but without doubt blogging has become the buzz word of the internet. Whether you’re blogging for profit or simply for fun, the aim of the game is always to attract more readers to your site.

BLOGGING FOR PROFIT - OR NOT

I have been asked to speak, next month, at a London-based meeting of the CMPA – a branch of the Music Publishers’ Association – on the subject of blogging. Given that it’s October, 2008 and I’ve only been doing it for a little over three months, I’m quite surprised at the volume of information I’ve amassed. I have little interest in how to make money blogging but, because I want to sell books and help both aspiring authors and readers in the process, I’m earnest in my desire to become one of the best blogging sites on the net. A tall order!

My talk Essential Blogging Advice For Beginners may be summed up in three words: Brand, Title, & Content.

WEB BRANDS

One of the earliest things I learned about blogging was the need to establish your brand. Brand? I thought. Sounds like margarine, or vacuum cleaners. But I pretty soon picked up that what modern bloggers call blog branding is what you and I might once have termed ‘image’. You gotta decide what it is that you’re trying to convey to your readers about you, your website, and whatever it is that you’re promoting. Branding blogs is all about creating a blog personality.

For instance, Problogger, from whom I learned much of my technique, does ‘exactly what it says on the tin’. He’s a professional blogger, through and through. Makes his money by selling advertising space on his blog. What he doesn’t know about blogging isn’t worth knowing.

However, he’s so much more than simply professional. In the three months that I’ve ‘known’ him (through following his blog) he’s never failed to come across as a really nice guy; the sort of person you can trust; and someone who faithfully and generously shares his expertise with others. There are no strings attached. That’s his Unique Selling Point (USP).

Then there are the bloggers who scream hyperbole and insincerity. They may actually be very pleasant people, but they sure aren’t conveying that in their blog personality. They promise the moon – subscribe, buy, sign up for – and reams later (or whatever the screen term is) you’re still being fed platitudes and empty promises. There is nothing, but nothing, at the end! Not unless you’re prepared to part with serious money.

MY BLOG PERSONALITY

Armed with this information, I decided, quite early on, what Brand Mel Menzies was to be. First and foremost, of course, my Brand is Author & Speaker. But there are an awful lot of us about. My USP was not something I’d considered at all before I started blogging. But as I began to compile the content for my new website, a new brand vision began to emerge. It began to dawn on me that the whole of my writing career – the published part of which stretches back to the beginning of the 1980’s – was driven by one desire: to bring hope to the hurting.

I felt quite nervous admitting to that on my Welcome page. It sounds rather pie-in-the-sky. A Do-gooder. The sort of person you’d avoid at all costs at the Christmas party because they’d probably bore the pants off you with unstoppable anecdotal evidence of their do-gooding. It’s what my first mother-in-law would have called verbal diarrhoea.

But there was no getting away from the fact that every one of my books – autobiographical, biographical and self-help – were themed around social issues. Divorce, second marriage, stepfamilies, disability, drugs and AIDS – all were inspirational stories of how people had coped with these problems in life, and overcome. The message, loud and clear, was that if faced with a similar difficulty yourself, you, dear reader, could cope too.

Little wonder, then, that my debut novel, A Painful Post Mortem, was similarly motivated, dealing, as it does, with many of the elements of guilt, anger, blame, forgiveness, acceptance and peace that surround a sudden death in the family.

A TANTALISING TITLE

As an author, I know full well that a title is a juicy worm on a hook. Its purpose is to interest, attract and intrigue. If it fails in any one of its functions, it fails in them all. But we’re not talking books here. So what makes a blog title tantalising?

Google Trends shows me what hot topics surfers are looking for. Google Adwords enlightens me on the actual keywords used. Between the two, I hope I’m able to ensure that my title will catch readers’ eyes and encourage them to visit my website. But ‘hits’ are not what I’m after. What I want are readers. So having hooked them, I can’t afford for my title to be an empty promise with nothing to back it up.

COMPELLING CONTENT FOR YOUR BLOG

One of the problems, as an author, is that article writing and blogging can’t be niche-oriented. What I mean is that you’re not writing to a tight focal point – as you would be, say, if you were creating content for your blog specifically on motor insurance, health issues, or photography. Covering a broad spectrum of topics is part of what being a writer is all about. In choosing content for your blog, you’re not exactly trying to be all things to all people (i.e. writing in the style of The Sun or The Guardian, Good Housekeeping or Hello.) But you do have to tackle all sorts of subjects.

In doing so, you need to be providing your readers with information. This may be achieved in a number of ways: anecdotally / factually / entertainingly / informatively / by referral to other websites.

The danger, however, is that this splatter-gun style of blogging may become aimless. You fire-off your daily round of blogs in the hope of hitting something, but may end up missing your target audience completely. Even writing about writing doesn’t exactly fit the bill. It shows you know your stuff from an academic point of view and may attract aspiring authors, but that doesn’t sell books. The only way to sell books is to have great online content. To blog in an engaging style. To have titles that attract and inspire. And above all, to brand yourself with integrity. In other words, simply to be YOU.

This article may be reproduced on any non-commercial website or blog on condition that it appears unaltered, in its entirety, and that the following copyright line and bio are prominently displayed beneath it.

© Copyright Mel Menzies: USED BY PERMISSION

Author of a number of books, one a Sunday Times No 4 Bestseller, Mel Menzies is also an experienced Speaker at live events, as well as on Radio and TV. This article, in its original form, can be found at http://www.melmenzies.co.uk

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