10 commandments for beginner bloggers

Find out what I think of this infographic below:

Beginners-Blogging-Commandments-infographic

Infographic donated by Karen Evans.

Commandment 1: Learn SEO Basics

This is a much too forward and complicated subject for the first of the 10 commandments for a beginner blogger. If I was mentioning SEO to a beginner, I would explain what keywords are, where to place them and how they would stimulate the search engine spiders to crawl them.

However, they launch straight into metadata (jargon alert!), which isn’t applicable for a beginner blogger. I think what they’re trying to say is make sure your keywords are relevant to the post’s subject and title. Actually search engines are intelligent enough to appreciate people won’t always repeat the same keyword in their posts, so will accept similar references to the same subject.

Keyword research is a good thing to mention. Of course you’re going to get better results if you use keywords people are searching for rather than using obscure ones.

Mentioning site structure here is too advanced. Most beginner bloggers are just able to cope with writing blog posts, so perhaps the structure of the posts to make them more readable would be far more applicable here.

Commandment 2: Build authenticity and credibility

It is important to be yourself when blogging. Readers will soon see through someone who is trying to be someone they aren’t – the writing will be terrible at most! Most beginner bloggers are not adept at being ghost writers. Keep practising to develop your own style, as long as your readers like and appreciate it.

Lying, or bending the truth, stems from trying to be someone else. But I don’t think this applies to lack of research. How many beginner bloggers are going to thoroughly research their subjects from the beginning? This is a pursuit of the more advanced blogger. And I hardly think they’re be worrying about their brand image at this stage!

Which beginner blogger is going to be launching straight into advertising and Amazon affiliates? I don’t think so! They would be crazy to do this until they have amassed a regular and loyal readership to guarantee a reasonable footfall to make this viable. And this will take some time!

Blogs become popular not only because their writers are knowledgeable. Educational blogs are referenced for informational purposes, but they don’t generate a lot of engagement. No, popular bloggers write about subjects their readers want to read, what they are searching for, what they think is a popular subject. It is also due to developing a suitable writing style.

Social proof comes from engagement. Engagement arises because the blog’s content resonates with its readers. The readers feel comfortable on the blog and are happy to voice their opinions on the post’s subjects. Comments are far more powerful than asking for shares, and can lead onto recommendations and testimonials.

Commandment 3: Use long form

Blimey, more jargon! I can imagine a beginner blogger’s brow furrowing up with this. What is meant here is the length of your posts. Many beginners will be worrying about how much they should write. Simply, anything between 500 and 1000 words will be fine for a beginner. Of course the more you write, the more you will provide the search engines to index. But it is difficult to maintain the interest of your readers if you do this.

Certainly using images (pictures) within your posts makes them more interesting. They can also explain a point more succinctly and clearly than the written word. They can be used to intersperse throughout the post to break it up. A wall of writing can be very off-putting to a reader. You can also use subheadings for the same reason.

Commandment 4: Create your own product

This is when I start to laugh! Will a beginner blogger really be thinking about creating their own product at this stage? Hardly. They need to focus on writing content which their readers will want to read. Subjects will be researched to find out which are the most popular to attract more readers. They will be perfecting their writing skills to make it easier for them and easier for their readers to read it.

There is this fixation that every beginner blogger will have a deep desire to make money. If they have, they need to curb this as quickly as possible. They have a very long way to go with their new blog before they become eligible to create their own product, let alone ensuring it is good enough for people to want to buy! And that they have good enough traffic to make this possible.

If you are adamant about making money with your blog, focus on other people’s products first. This will give you the practice for writing persuasive content to attract people onto your blog. Once you’ve mastered this, then go down your own product route. But this is certainly not for a beginner blogger!

Commandment 5: Build linkable assets

Not the best title for this commandment. What I think they mean is you need to write content that will generate more engagement. Ideally it should be comments: opinions and points of view, appreciative responses, discussions, adding value, continuing the conversation. Whenever a reader comments on your blog, they will automatically generate a link back to their own blog or website.

Creating infographics or sharable imagery is good for a beginner if they are adept at this sort of thing. Actually you can go onto Canva.com to create some very good examples.

And don’t forget video. This is for communicating in a different way with your readers. You could create a Facebook Live and then copy the video over onto your post, and then elaborate on what you say in words beneath.

And also remember audio. If you have the gift of the gab, create a podcast to entertain your readers. Blogs don’t only have to contain writing, other media will be appreciated by your readership just as well.

Commandment 6: Write for the readers more than the search engines

Finally here is one of the commandments I agree on! Really this should be placed higher up for more prominence.

Frequency is a very important point – actually I like to refer it to consistency. A blog will thrive if it contains regular updates. A ‘dark’ blog is disappointing to both its readers as well as the search engines. And consistency works best if you realistically decide how often you can maintain regular posting, and then stick to it.

Woo-hoo, now we’re mentioning comments! Certainly encouraging engagement adds value to your blog. This could be through comments either on the blog, or elsewhere such as on social media. As long as you are engaging in conversation with your readers about what you have written about, this will add to the popularity of your blog.

It’s as simple as asking for comments at the end of your posts. Give your readers a reason to comment. Offer them an extension to your post if they share it on social media. Set up quizzes or other entertainment, and create a competition to encourage others to visit as well.

The third item mentions something that should be within the SEO commandment. Overstuffing of keywords. Certainly this could penalise a post if the same keyword is used too often. But what I think needs to be mentioned here is that bloggers should focus on writing for their readers more than worrying about keyword frequency. Search engines prefer a well written post more than an over-optimised one as much as your readers will.

Commandment 7: Stick to a tight niche

A successful blog is going to fare better if the blogger focuses on one particular subject and really works on it. Then they will be able to give it their full attention.

Dotting about from subject to subject on a whim can be confusing for both the readers and the search engines. Nobody can get a fix on what you’re trying to say and this may drive away readers and certainly not encourage new ones.

Commandment 8: Know your audience

This is another one of the commandments that should be placed higher. You need to know who your readers are. Not totally personally, but enough to know their likes and dislikes, their preferences for certain subjects, what they expect from you and if what you are writing is what they want.

A blogger that really understands his readership will be able to write posts that communicates with them. This relationship can be very special. If your readers feel comfortable with you and your blog, they will be more likely to return for more, leave a comment, share on social media, and become an advocate and recommend your blog to other new readers.

Your job is to encourage your readers to leave feedback in the comments. Ask them for their opinions and respond favourably to suggestions, especially subject requests. And, most importantly, remember to reply to all the comments, on the blog and on social media, to maintain this relationship you have with your readers.

Commandment 9: Don’t overdo ‘money posts’

How weird they mention this commandment. Earlier they were banging on about having your own product and making money through affiliates and advertising, even though it is totally inappropriate for a beginner blogger. Then they turn tail and tell you not to focus so much on making money with your new blog, and that you should focus on your readers instead.

Well, wasn’t that what I was saying above?

Commandment 10: Don’t choose a free platform

If you want to go down the route this infographic is suggesting, you won’t be able to do this with a free platform.

This is because the free platform is hosted by the people that own and promote the blogging package, not yourself. They don’t want you to make money at their expense! They will probably want to add their own adverts in if your blog starts to do well, to capitalise on your success and popularity.

If you want to insert a Paypal button or add a sign up form to a newsletter, you will need to self-host your blog. This means buying a hosting account and a domain name, and building your blog (eg using WordPress) on this. Then you will have carte blanche what you can do on your blog without anyone penalising or deleting you.

Having a free blog may be limiting, but it is a great way to get started to learn the ropes. For the very nervous beginner blogger without any money, I suggest using a free blogging package, like WordPress.com, to get a toehold in the blogosphere. Once you’ve made a name for yourself and created a loyal following, then you can upgrade to a paid version quickly and easily.

What I think of these commandments

Many people involved in blogging have no idea what it’s like to be a beginner. They are so wrapped up in their own little worlds, they have forgotten, or never had to worry, about being a true beginner.

Therefore when I see these outlandish suggestions such as in these commandments what a beginner blogger should be doing, I both laugh and sigh. Most of the beginner bloggers I deal with are not in their first flush of youth, and find technology difficult. The people who composed this infographic were probably in their 20s, and for them technology is second nature.

There are plenty of potential writers over the age of 40 who would love to write online, but need appropriate guidance to do so. They should not be written off as ‘too old’. You will never know their gifts if they are ignored and pushed aside.

A huge amount of enjoyment, learning and revelation can occur from a beginner blogger who is given the chance to understand the process of blogging, without being bamboozled by the jargon and terminology that frankly turns them cold. This infographic certainly doesn’t help them.

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Alice Elliott writes the award winning Fairy Blog Mother blog for beginner and post-beginner bloggers to “explain things really simply” about blogging and WordPress. She provides simple, easy to understand, highly visual courses and tutorials using ordinary, everyday words. Visit her new Beginner Bloggers blog to find her latest learning resources.

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