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.