21 March 2008

Increasing your Blog Appeal, Part 1: Worthy Words


This being the Easter weekend, which we don’t particularly observe (but we wish those who do a most joyous Easter!), I’ve designated it a time of non-work. Can’t do anything outside (it’s snowing again, giggle giggle—might as well laugh, right?) to catch up on blog reading, as well as other reading done purely for the joy of it, but also thought I’d batch-answer some emails that I have answered privately but which other bloggers may find useful too.

“How do I improve my visitor numbers?” “What makes for a popular blog?” “Can you tell me why I don’t have more readers?” “What’s for supper?” These are questions that I get asked on a regular basis from fellow garden bloggers. Well, okay, except for the last one. That’s from my longsuffering spouse, and the answer is sometimes, “whatever you’re making”; depending, of course, on whether I’m on deadline.

What we like in other gardening blogs is as individual as what we like in our gardens, of course. I can tell you what works for me, both as a writer and as a reader of a LOT of gardening blogs—something like two hundred of them, now, and thanks to Blotanical, probably even more than that. I’ve stopped counting, actually. Rather than overwhelm you by putting all the information in one post, I’ve broken it into three parts for easier reading.

Write well. You don’t have to be a paid, professional writer to write well, as there are dozens of excellent blogs out there written by people who simply have a passion for gardening and for the written word. I love blogs that use humour while they’re also being informative, but I also just enjoy information that’s presented with style, passion, and clarity. I personally prefer posts with some detail rather than the quickie posts of a few sentences that are just done for the sake of posting. Those look obvious to me, and probably to others too. I certainly don’t care if a blogger goes off-topic from gardening, either, although if it’s a topic about which I have no interest, I just skip til next time. Again, it’s each to their own tastes.

One tip I’ll share that I always tell my writing students: go easy on the exclamation points (marks) in your writing. We all use them from time to time, of course, and that’s fine— an occasional ! draws attention to something you want to stress. I tell students that exclamation points are rather like swearing or salt; they season an article if used lightly, but too many tend to overwhelm, distract, and annoy the reader. One of my clients insisted that it was his ‘personal style’ to use two or three !!! in ever sentence in his newsletters and his website, and I finally got through to him by reading his newsletter back to him, shouting at the end of every sentence. He got the point—and removed some of the points. It’s the same with using emoticons or acronyms like ☺ or LOL: too many are distracting, the occasional use tends to highlight a point and cause us to smile, too.

Use titles for your posts. These can be simple “Better Blogging” or humourous “Rabbit Wars: My Rules of Engagement” or very informative Good Friday- “Legend of the Dogwood”, but they’re an important way to catch readers’ attention. If they’re too long, they tend to be distracting but worse is no title at all, because it doesn’t give any indication of what the blogger is posting about.

Avoid the temptation to nag or be overly negative. We all know we catch more flies with honey than with vinegar, and if a blogger is overly preachy, I stop reading. I like to encourage other gardeners/bloggers, and can offer suggestions and feedback in a way that doesn’t discourage them. Likewise, there are a few out there that I avoid completely because they are constantly carping and putting down, either magazines or nurseries or landscapers or other subjects. It’s one thing to rant with good reason, (as well as grace and skill) another to be critical just for the sake of being critical. Putting others down doesn’t make a person look better, and in my eyes discredits them significantly.

Post regularly. That doesn’t mean put up seventeen posts in one day. Quantity doesn’t necessarily equate with quantity, but if you post several times a week, daily, or weekly, or in some other regular manner, readers return eagerly to see what you’re up to. Some bloggers don’t post through the winter months, thinking there’s nothing to write about. I’d say that the hundreds of us who have kept writing and posting since the last fall frost have proved that wrong, wouldn’t you?

Next: Images and other visuals.

19 comments:

  1. thanks for writing this! i was feeling self-conscious about this the other day; it's funny to have an invisible audience. a friend who just started blogging treats hers like a letter. the hardest thing for me is posting consistently. i'm really impressed that you find the time to post so frequently, and it's never just filler. these are some great insights.

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  2. Thanks for offering your perspective & advice. I can't imagine not posting during the winter, what else was there to do? It's posting in the spring that's going to be the challenge for me, with all the garden chores that need doing & my lack of evening access to the PC.

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  3. Very excellent tips, Jodi. Thanks! :-)

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  4. Very helpful information and thanks for the nice link. I agree with all your writing points. Especially the one about exclamation points! I'm always tempted to use more of them, but try to go back and remove them before I post.

    I'm taking off from posting on my blog this weekend, and am doing some catching up in other areas. In my post yesterday, I noted that I'm taking a few days "off", because I usually do post daily. So if someone came looking for something new today, they would know I'm on a little "holiday".

    I've actually thought about writing a post called "Secrets of a Daily Garden Blogger"...

    Carol, May Dreams Gardens

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  5. All good points here, I'm looking forward to the next installment.

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  6. good tips. thank you. I will try to improve my writings.
    Happy Easter!

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  7. You are a good teacher Jodi. I will look forward to the other lessons.

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  8. Jodi, lots of good lessons here in your article. Thanks for taking the time to spell it all out, I'm looking forward to the next part.

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  9. Very excellent info. Thanks for the tip about exclamation marks. I'm trying hard not to use them right now.




    !

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  10. hey jodi - thanks for these great tips. i'm suddenly paranoid about my use of exclamation points, though.

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  11. Just popped in to wish you a Happy 'Farching' Spring (2-10 inches of snow coming our way, hopefully not yours) and to read your helpful 'Better Blogging' tips to keep us on our toes ... basic writing skills we should all remember and thoughtfully brought to mind. Always a delight, you have gift that transpires across miles. Thanks for posting my title ... Good Friday ~ “Legend of the Dogwood. A compliment from you is HUGE! (exclamation point or no exclamation point, that is the question)

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  12. Very good advise Jodi. Thanks, and have a nice, restful Easter weekend. I hope your weather improves. At least the wind has dropped here, thank heavens.
    (would you look at that, no exclamation points!) Whoops!

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  13. This is a great post. I wasn't sure I'd have anything to write about during the winter, but surprisingly I found things to post about.

    I don't care for the negative blogs either and try to keep mine cheerful and positive, but sometimes you just have to gripe about winter and pests that eat your plants.

    With Blotanical titles are more important than ever.

    I look forward to the next installment.

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  14. Some good points though I do take umbrage with a few. Diversity is the best thing about the blogging experience. I get a kick out of the flaws, foilbles and downright weirdness as much as I do the best moments of blogs. Good advise may have its place, but conformity can begin to take hold when influenced by a respected ear and then, all the quirky personality so precious to blogs can be crushed. None of us really knows what the perfect blog is anyway. I say!!!!!!!!!!!! Feeling a bit bedeviled this morning, still freezing temps here.

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  15. Some great feedback and thoughts from all of you. Just one thing I want to stress: the pointers above aren't RULES--those of you who know me a bit better than just blog know that my theory about most rules is that they're made to be broken--including, of course, about exclamation points! They are just some suggestions and observations, and meant to encourage, not cause umbrage (a favourite word, Di!)

    BS: It IS funny to have an invisible audience, but I'm used to that because I write fulltime as a freelancer. I do bloomingwriter as a relaxation, actually, so it comes easy because there are no limits--just what I put on myself.

    MMD, it will be more of a challenge for most of us to post so often during the spring/summer, but somehow we find the time.

    Nancy, you're wicked! :-)

    Carol, you're probably the most prolific blogger I know--and every post I've ever read has been interesting too. But I hope you enjoy your few days off from posting.

    Earthwoman, good to hear from you.

    Ewa, your writing is wonderful, and happy Easter to you too.

    Lisa, my main concern is to help, not discourage, you WILL tell me if you think I'm being preachy, won't you?

    Melanie, we all have questions like this by times, and I'm sure you've answered some. I just thought I'd try putting as many points as I could remember in one spot for future reference for others.

    Katie, my dear, you are naughty, and don't worry about exclamation points (you neither, Gina). Like I said--think of them as salt on food, and it's easier to edit them.

    Joey, we got some snow, but it's mostly the wind and cold now. The wind came from your way, thans for the Easter present...;-)

    Robin, griping about weather and pests isn't negative--it's a pastime, and highly informative and entertaining, too. I've only encountered a couple of gardening blogs I found overly negative towards others or preachy; those sorts seem to stick to other genres, mostly.

    Di, I'm with you on diversity--I too enjoy the foibles and weirdnesses--and embrace non-conformity, which is why I'm so delighted so many of us figured out how to change our blog appearances. Ban conformity, says I!!!!! And I hear you on the temperature, it's cruddy and cold here, too.

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  16. Great advice Jodi. It's funny, I'm a newbie at blotanical (and new at blogging), and for me, I have found it's a cross between journaling and writing essays for a school project. I've been telling my husband I feel like I'm in school again, except that it's more fun this time around, and the fun part is interacting informally with other people from around the world. So far I have been enjoying the blogging experience...would you mind taking a look at my site? I look forward to your future posts and tips about writing (and gardening), it's always nice to have a mentor around!

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  17. Thanks Jodi for this important and timely post.

    I've been thinking about my blog style for a while in response to Crafty's post and the ensuing conversation that generated a while ago, plus a negative comment that the Garden Monkey made on his site re Allotment Blogs being boring. I believe I'm following a number of your tips already, but there's still lots to learn from your post - particularly on exclamations and icons! I look forward to the next post in this series :)

    I'm fleshing out a piece on my blogging philosophy to put on my site, which will also go into my introductory articles on my revamped sidebar for new readers. I've already got the Garden Bloggers Challenge posting on there thanks to you!

    The main thing is I enjoy writing, though I think gardening's about to take over again - which is as it should be at this time of the year...

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  18. Jodi,

    Excellent info. Thank you for helping to improve the blog world. Happy Easter.~~Dee

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  19. Thanks for taking the time to reply to my post this week. I've been very tired and it was a joy to see you come knocking at my door for a visit.

    I just read your whole series on better blogging and got some good ideas. I already took off my music for those who tune in at work, I did have some personal info on there about my home but it's for sale and is all over the internet---the woes of selling and being exposed, and you summed it all so nicely. I think you reached a lot of bloggers and gave great advice. Thank you.

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Thank you for visiting and for taking the time to comment! It might take me a bit, but I will return the compliment whenever possible.
Spammers--need not apply. Because I delete your comments and they will never make it here. Kthxbai!

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