This past weekend I was invited by Yelp to speak at their blog school about how to create engaging blog content. They somehow got the idea that I know about such things. They had invited nine super cool bloggers, another guest speaker in the form of Nathan, Photography Dude (his official title) and everyone showed up because they offered us free food from The Botanist.
I thought I’d give you a little run down on what I spoke about, because let’s all share the blogging love.
You can be either useful or amazing, but you must be interesting.
By useful I mean posts that people need and will always be looking for. Tutorials. How to do a cat eye with liquid eyeliner. How to look like Cara Delevingne when you only have £3 to spend at Superdrug. How to make dinner in 4.3 minutes while you have children literally biting your ankles. The top 17 things you must do in Berlin. Things you should never do while wrestling an octopus. That kind of thing. Useful and informative.
By amazing I mean brilliant content that is truly your own that people will desperately want to look at. Mesmerizing, towering cakes that make you want to lick the screen. Historical scenes posed with exceptionally lifelike badgers made out of cheese. Hilarious comics. Amazingly astute social and political commentary. Anything that is done tremendously well that people will feel the need to share with their nearest and dearest.
Whichever path you choose it must be interesting. There’s no getting out of that. Everything should also be high quality, but you should get steadily better at that the more you blog, so calm yourself and just make sure you’re either useful or amazing.
Your blog is the brain slug from Futurama
Creativity won’t come to you at the keyboard when you’re desperately trying to think of a behind-schedule post. You need to make your blog your brain slug. When you have a blog idea that’s the start of your brain slug. When you go through the motions of doing whatever the blog is about (visiting the restaurant, putting together the outfit, baking the cake, attending the big event) you need to take a mental note of all the little things you want to put in that blog and let that brain slug GROW. Once it’s big and juicy the only way to get rid of it is to blog it, you can then begin your keyboard assault.
You can’t schedule inspiration. You can schedule time to type. Inspiration won’t come to you between 10am and 11.37am on a Sunday morning because that’s when you’re free. It will gatecrash your shower, it will drop by when you’re on the bus listening to a podcast. It will sit between you and your loved on on the couch, poking you in the bladder until you either forget about it or do something about it. Keep a notebook, make notes on your phone, email yourself, whatever works for you, keep track of every little inspiration lightning bolt until they form a fully fledged blog post.
Your niche is you
I’ve said this a lot, but I really believe that unless your blogging subject is already pretty “niche” (niche is such a blogging cliché, it’s up there with authentic) then making you your niche is a good tactic. It’s your blog, you are the brand.
We all know that bolt of joy we received the first time a PR contacted us to work with our blog on some campaign and I’m sure we’ve all been on the rollercoaster of wondering when the next PR email is coming, will it be any good, why did I get seven last week and nothing this week, what’s wrong oh god when did my life start revolving around PRs?
My advice would be try to worry about pleasing your audience more than pleasing PRs. The PRs are only there because of your audience and if your whole blog starts sounding like one big PR driven advert I don’t see that helping to grow your readership. As long as you continue to make interesting content that people want to read the brand opportunities will continue to come your way, so don’t worry about turning things down, especially if you want to maintain a life outside of blogging.
A few months ago I felt very disillusioned with my blog as it was turning into something I never intended it to be. I found myself saying yes to every event and feeling a ridiculous mixture of stressed, disappointed and obligated. Basically, I felt I was working for free for brands and the “Frankie” content of this blog had fallen off the radar.
When this happens it’s good to go back and look at your posts from your first few months of blogging. They may not be up to your current standard, hell they may even make you cringe, but they are probably based around topics you love. The reasons you started blogging in the first place will be there, nestled amongst the crud and getting back to that little spark of inspiration can help give your blog a more solid direction when you feel lost in a sea of PR demands.
Learn how to successfully copy other bloggers (without copying them)
It’s important to find your own voice, but taking inspiration from super successful bloggers can be incredibly useful. You just need to know how to do it successfully, without becoming a cheap imitation of that other blogger. Try reading your blog aloud. Not only will you find your typos and doubled up words stand out a little more, you’ll know right away if it feels uncomfortable to say out loud and you’re not using your own voice.
If you are your own niche you need to have the confidence to accept that people are reading your blog because they want to hear what you have to say. Not what *insert super successful blogger here* would say if they channelled themselves through you.
Instead of trying to be someone else, work out what you love about that other person’s blog. Is it their content? Do they write a lot about hamsters? You can create your own woodland critter edge in your own writing. Is it their beautiful photographs? You can keep improving your photography with every post, it’s lots of fun. Is it their funny, conversational tone? You can bring that into your blog too, just make sure it’s your conversation, not theirs.
Try not to compare yourself too much to other bloggers. Don’t create a blogging nemesis. You have to find a blogging schedule that works for you and not become discouraged because someone with a completely different life and set of obligations can blog more often, go to more events or eat more three course dinners than you. Your blog is unique so what that other person is doing doesn’t matter anyway.
I don’t know if people realise that we really are a small community. We can help each other out if we try. I’ve always found that whatever problems I’m having, someone else has the same issue. Talking to other bloggers is always a great way to grow and improve as you can share strategies, disasters and inspiration in the form of blogging links ups – which are a great way to get more engaging content on your blog!
Lastly, try and write ahead and schedule your posts rather than typing and posting straight away. I know we don’t always have the time for that, but it helps to give you some distance before posting. You can pick out more typos, errors and clarify confusing points easily from a piece of writing you don’t have fresh in your brain because you just wrote it.
Blogging can definitely become hard work if you let it. Try not to lose the fun!