What Makes a Good Blog?

Two years ago, I began blogging to get my thoughts out on virtual "paper". I often come up with book ideas, but never have had enough perseverance or time to get it all out, so I figured, one post at a time, I'd write something like a book.

I privately asked a few close friends to review my writing and give me feedback. I didn't dream that the readership would grow, and that I would be blessed with new friends and encouragement, being both challenged and refined by those who come to Making Home.

Now, I'm no expert blogger, but I've steadily gained readership and tags/links over the two years I've been blogging. So, it may not be much, but I thought I'd share some of my own tips for making a good, readable, worth-someone-else's-time blog:
  1. PURPOSE. Know what you're "shooting" for. If your purpose is to keep grandma and grandpa updated about your kids and their changing lives, don't try to shift purposes mid-stream and suddenly have a wide readership tackling hard issues of life. If your desire is to bring up controversial subjects, don't be surprised when people get their hackles up from time to time. People won't come to your blog if there's not a reason, so figure out what it is you're wanting to do or say, and blog accordingly.
  2. HONESTY. Show people the real deal. It's not worth your time and it's not worth anyone else's time to share only the perfectly decorated, fully disciplined, amazing parts of your life. Share the hard things too. Be willing to share about the good and not-so-good days of life-- particularly about those things that your blog is focused on. Not only does it help cultivate an attitude of humility, but it also gives other people realistic expectations as they begin ________ (homeschooling, breastfeeding, working from home, parenting six children, etc.) --whatever it is that you write about.
  3. LONGEVITY. Once you decide to blog, stick it out. Don't stop and start. Don't expect to build readers in a couple months' time, and don't expect to retain readers if you're wishy-washy in your frequency of posts, subject matter, or attitude.

    Don't get frustrated because you have one bad day, week, or month and write some philosophical post about how you need to quit... only to start blogging again a couple weeks/months later. (Don't get me wrong; I take breaks when my family needs it-- I even took a 6-week hiatus this summer... and now, I have enough posts pre-scheduled so that I take breaks and no one even knows it!) You don't have to blog everyday (I don't...), but post somewhat regularly, and don't. give. up.
  4. One more thought about PURPOSE... you don't have to have a laser-beam focus on one issue or theme, but if you're too random, people will stop coming around. They only have so much time that they're willing to spend online, and if you're asking a stay-home mom to also regularly listen to your thoughts on working in an office, or expecting unmarried theology students to check out your posts on specific issues in parenting, they probably won't.

    Also-- FOR AN "ISSUES" BLOG-- I have been blasted for saying this before, but it's just the truth. Unless someone is already your friend or has a specific reason to read about your personal life details, they generally don't have time or just won't want to. So, if you need to start a separate blog to post skads of life stories and kids' pics, do it. (We have one, totally unconnected to Making Home, for that very purpose... to update family and friends about our family & our experiences living overseas.)

    Occasional things shared are great-- and keep it real. Sometimes I still share cute anecdotes here or illustrative pictures or stories... but my purpose here at Making Home is to encourage, exhort, and be sharpened by other Christian women. So that's what I generally try to hone in on.

I hope this helps as you consider blogging or try to refine your own website or content. Some people are saying that blogging is dead, but I think that aimless blogging is the thing that's dying. Have a purpose, something specific to say, and say it well, and I believe there is still plenty of room in the blogosphere for you!

Happy blogging! :-)

16 comments:

littlesanctuary (kim) said...

Thanks for the tips. I have only been blogging a little over a year and started with much the same idea as you, but it has become something different than I thought. :)

Beth M. said...

I would be very grateful if you could add an RSS feed to your blog... I enjoy reading it, but I tend to forgot it for long stretches since it isn't in my feed reader with the other blogs I read regularly. RSS feeds make it much easier for a busy mommy to keep up, since my feed reader tells me when there are new posts without me having to actually visit each site.

Jess said...

Hi Beth,
There already is an RSS feed on my blog... all you have to do is look up in the address window, where it says, "http://makinghome..." and to the right, you'll see the little orange RSS squared button. Click on that, and you'll be able to add me to whatever RSS feedreader you use.

Blessings,
Jess

Gina@Chats With An "Old Lady" said...

First of all...that is one cute little blogger in that picture! Man! What a cutie! He's learing young!!!

Second, thanks for these links. I was just praying and thinking over my blog last night, and wondering how to improve and reach out. this was helpful.

Best Life said...

Great tips! Thanks for sharing them. I often wonder how to increase my readership or if I even should. These are great things to think about. I do enjoy your blog. It has purpose and directness. I appreciate that. Lisa~

Anonymous said...

Have you heard of www.typealyzer.com? It analyzes the writing style of your blog (which may not necessarily reflect the author's real-life personality).

Your blog comes out as ISTP - The Mechanics:

"The independent and problem-solving type. They are especially attuned to the demands of the moment are masters of responding to challenges that arise spontaneously. They generally prefer to think things out for themselves and often avoid inter-personal conflicts.

"The Mechanics enjoy working together with other independent and highly skilled people and often like seek fun and action both in their work and personal life. They enjoy adventure and risk such as in driving race cars or working as policemen and firefighters."

My blog comes out as ESTJ - The Guardians.

By the way, it took me more than a year to realize that I could schedule my posts to go up at specific future times and dates. It definitely helps when you want to take a break.

I think it's important for a blogger to be true to your voice. A strong voice makes for a more interesting read.

If you don't have time to regularly update your own blog, just post from time to time on a community blog. Becoming a "regular" on a community blog will help you find a voice and an audience.

I would also encourage bloggers to read widely. You're not going to get cooties from reading a blog you disagree with. You may even learn something valuable from an author you disagree with philosophically, or at least you can gain insight on how others see the world.

Laurie B

Catherine R. said...

I am guilty of some of the "don'ts" you mention...particularly being emotionally unstable and self-conscious, talking about how I need to delete my blog on a regular basis. How annoying I must be.

I have a desire to be a consistent blogger with the positive attributes you have laid out but ________ fill in the blank.

If I were a writer of books, I would probably be one of those troubled alcoholics from the 1940's who writes a masterpiece, then goes to the sanatorium, then writes a crappy novel, then stops for 10 years, then writes another masterpiece etc.

You are more like one of those authors who never seems to lose steam or consistency. Good for me as a reader : )

B. said...

Hi Jess,
Good article. Do you think photos are essential go having a good blog? My hubby prefers me not to post pics of any of us on my (future) blog.

Jess said...

Hi B~
It depends on what you're going for. I know plenty of successful bloggers who rarely if ever use pictures. They all, though, have very strong writing skills and tackle big issues that people want to know about.

It's been shown in other places (I don't have links just now, but you could probably look it up) that people prefer looking at websites with pictures. It just helps break up the page and hold people's attention.

That said, you don't have to use pictures of yourself. There are free (no copyright) pictures online. You could also take pictures of nature, of signage around your city, of railroad tracks, artsy kinds of pictures and use those. You can also find picture clearing houses and pay for access to their shots. Or maybe you could even find a photographer friend who wants to advertise their talent through your site... the possibilities are endless.

So don't feel like you have to have face pictures of your kids or something. Another option would be to take artsy pictures of, say, your daughter's pigtails (assuming you have one and she has hair) :), or your baby's clutched, chubby hand, or toes... or a computer... or whatever.

It's up to you. I know some people who do no pictures, some who are careful about what they share, and some people who even give out their address online. It's totally up to you, and in my view, it's better to err on the side of caution because once you put something out there, it's near impossible to retract it.

Hope this helps.
~Jess

A happy heart at home said...

Hi. I have an award for you on my blog (12/6's post). You can pass it along if you'd like to. :)

~Susan

Mrs. Anna T said...

Thanks for the tips, Jess!

Diane said...

A random comment...for the sake of excellence in writing! (I'm an amateur proofreader and editor.) Overall, yours seems excellent, by the way.

I haven't often seen this habit in print, but in my circle of friends the habit of saying "to where" became widespread and truly annoying. I finally realized that it nearly always replaces the perfectly useful, standard "so that." You may want to standardize your writing in this respect. "...I have enough posts pre-scheduled so that I take breaks..."

I just happened to be sent here by a friend and am not a regular reader--yet. =)

Jess said...

Diane,
Thanks for the "catch"... I do try to write the way I talk, which is Texan. :) But you're right- technically, I should write more exactly.

So thanks! :)
~Jess

Beth M. said...

Jess-

Thanks! I feel a little clueless now... not sure how I missed that. All the other blogs I have subscribed to had a link to the RSS feed on the page, so I guess I was looking for something similar on yours and couldn't find it. *doh*

Mrs. "M" said...

I enjoyed this post. I started bloggin for one reason and slowly as life happened drifted in other directions.
I can be a chicken about inviting debate. Trust me I love a good discussion but if I start something I feel I should follow it through. Lately following through would be a challenge. So fluff is good :o) Does that make sense?
It's a balancing act when you want to share with friends far away and also have a definitive focus to your writing. There is no way I could or would want to maintain two blogs though. I plan to refocus in the New Year and appreciated reading your thoughts.

Cheers

atara said...

Great ideas and tips! The truth is, I still don't know what I want to say, but hopefully it will come!