Blogging Basics for Beginners

When I’m teaching anything, my approach is more as the guide rather than the expert. I don’t have a degree in marketing or business. My essay writing skills are mediocre at best and though observant, details are not my strength. This instruction does NOT lead to worldly success in money or popularity. Nonetheless, I’m a firm believer in growth and striving for excellence in everything we do. Not as a form of perfectionism nor to earn people’s love or respect (Jesus loves me enough as it is) but because I know I am capable of so much more and I’d like to get stronger in my social media game.

The following checklist is another way for me to write my “K’s” for The Piper Project but also to do it in an informative way that hopefully, will educate my readers and hold me accountable at the same time. The majority of my blog is trial and error. I don’t have this all figured out and the little that I do know how to do is done is imperfectly. So please keep this in mind as you read.

1. create with your audience in mind

I have a habit of writing about myself which is both a positive and negative. Sometimes I do it because I want to be understood. Because I want to be known. Because I need to express myself and writing is my chosen medium. This can help others get to know me better and oddly, it helps build trust. I can’t tell you how many fantastic conversations I’ve had after being vulnerable on my blog. It’s been a great place to build relationships with others. Sometimes people just want to know they are not alone. The negative is it focuses on me and I want to start focusing on the needs of my readers more.

This may look different in so many ways. Maybe you know someone who’s having a bad day and you want to cheer them up. Maybe you want to help a small business by encouraging them and spotlighting some of their amazing products or service. The possibilities are endless! Just find out what are trying to do and then do it!

THINGS TO THINK ABOUT:

Are you writing to teach? Entertain? Sell stuff? Encourage? Inspire? Assign a VERB to what you are doing as you write. It will make your writing more clear and concise. You have so many talents to serve your readers. What does the world need to hear right now? What can YOU offer to fill that need?

2. titles that pop

What makes you click on a post or an ad? What draws you in? Do you like something curious and mysterious? Or do you click on a title that is clear so that you know exactly what you are getting?

More often than not I’ll just pick a title that first pops into my brain. Maybe it’s a couple words from the blog post I just wrote. Other times it’s based off a theme. Other times it’s just whatever feels right in that moment.

While those reasons aren’t necessarily bad, they may do a disservice to all the hard work I put into my post because it doesn’t communicate exactly what I’m trying to say. And if I don’t know what I’m saying than how will the reader understand my message? A solid title reflects the main message you are trying to serve your readers with. It OFFERS, WELCOMES, ENGAGES, and PIQUES CURIOSITY.

If you are looking for good examples of titles that hook, look up Jenna Kutcher’s “The Goaldigger Podcast” on iTunes or Spotify. She teaches about social media, personal development, business and leadership. Her titles are major clickbait.

THINGS TO THINK ABOUT:

Instead of writing your post first and finding your title after, write your TITLE first and your POST after. Let your title inform the way you write and the message you’re trying to send. This will help focus your writing, give you structure and keep your reader in mind (rather than yourself).

Find an ad or an article that you clicked on today or this week. What did the title OFFER you? How did it WELCOME you? How did it ENGAGE you? Why did you click it? What made you CURIOUS about it?

3. Add Pictures

Pics help you in a number of ways:

  • They are aesthetically pleasing. We’re attracting to pretty things. A nice feature image that is projected on Facebook or Insta will enhance your well-thought out title, catch the eye, create curiosity and help you get more clicks.
  • It makes you look way more competent. Your post can be crap and you can have ton of spelling errors but a nice graphic makes you look legit. Seriously, I’ve learned that nobody really knows what they are doing so if you’re feeling insecure, just add a pic. You’ll look twice as smart.
  • Breaks up the content. If you’re long-winded like me, pictures give your reader a break. Too many words can be overwhelming. I’m not as strong in this area. And I’ll be honest, my main goal is to create a nice feature image and that’s enough for me. But for those of you who want to go the extra mile, adding more pics can only help you out.
  • Include photos of yourself. Obviously, this is highly dependent on what your purpose in blogging is but I find that it helps me identify and connect with the writer better. I also just like the personal touch.

THINGS TO THINK ABOUT:

When making or creating an image, think of how you want your audience to feel. This comes back to #1 and the VERB you came up with. Do you want to inspire? Encourage? Teach? Make them laugh? etc. Create a feature image that reflects what you are trying to do and stick it to your post.

4. make your first 50 words count.

Now that you’ve got a smokin’ title and killer feature image, the next thing you need to be aware of is the first 50-100 words. That’s usually how many words are written in the summary or the excerpt that shows up on your FB or when you’re googled. This gives your reader a little teaser about what they are in for if they tune in and read. Like the title, it’s gotta OFFER, WELCOME, ENGAGE and PIQUE CURIOSITY. It also forces you as the writer to narrow your message.

Have you ever asked someone for the time and they told you how to build a clock? Asking a writer what their project is about is similar. Instead of giving a one or two sentence summary, we’ll give the plot, theme, character analysis and setting breakdown. DON’T. People don’t have the time and they likely don’t care. Your first 50-100 words needs to prove that you’ve got something that they want.

Again, this is trial and error. In my blog, I have a little box that allows for me to put in an excerpt but usually an excerpt of my blog shows up on Facebook anyway. Today, I’m going to try the excerpt box to see if I can use that as my teaser. That way my first paragraph stays as a unofficial disclaimer to the content I’m [attempting] to teach.

THINGS TO THINK ABOUT:

Summarize your message in one or two sentences.

5. italicize, bold and underline

The clearer you can be with your message, the better. Especially if your content is meant to teach people. Italicizing, bolding and underlining the main points help give your readers something to hang onto. It simplifies things and forces you as the writer to narrow your message.

THINGS TO THINK ABOUT:

What are the most important parts? How can you highlight them for your audience to take away? The more you can help your readers understand the important parts, the quicker they will take in the info.

6. write fearlessly

I love a passionate piece of writing. Something that reveals an aspect of the someone’s humanity. Whether they are angry or pondering or in love or completely spilling over with joy and gratitude. All these things are apart of the human condition and I love to read things that reveal humanity in it’s rawest, most honest form.

With that said, blogging — or at least the form of blogging I’m suggesting — is meant to serve your reader which requires a little bit of temperance, wisdom, discernment and self-discipline.

Let’s say, you’re a Christian and you feel like God is directing you to start your own blog. Congrats! That’s awesome! The next bit is specific to you…

I don’t know what kind of blogging ministry God is calling you to. Maybe it’s to share recipes. Maybe it’s to share wisdom. Or teach. Maybe it’s a memoir. I don’t know. I’ve learned that my most effective posts (please note ‘effective,’ NOT ‘popular’) are the ones that have challenged or healed people’s hearts were when I wrote with the awareness of Jesus’s love for me and how much it humbled me. While proud posts can still be provocative, they can be more damaging than anything. There have been times when I’ve hastily written a post when my heart was angry and it hurt more than it healed. I’m not proud of those posts. My favourite posts were written when my heart was humbled by God’s grace and mercy.

In light of this, here’s a soft offer to consider: Write knowing Jesus adores you. When you know you are loved and adored and accepted, you are free to be yourself. Write like that.

What this means is even if you don’t get a lot of followers, even if people dislike your writing, even if people un-friend you, or they gossip about you or criticize you, none of it will matter because you are loved by Someone much bigger than all that pettiness. And even if your writing sucks, even if there are spelling errors and your message is unclear, perhaps even selfish, GOD CAN STILL USE IT. He can still use the little offer you make with a tiny little blog post and affect another little human who is feeling the same way you are.

When you understand that, you are able to risk more, be bolder, BE YOURSELF and write fearlessly.

THINGS TO THINK ABOUT

Who do you write for? Your crush? Your enemies? Your boss? Your best friend? How does that impact your style and tone? What would happen to your writing if you invited Jesus into it? Would you still be as honest? As provocative? As kind? Would you put up a front and try to look holy? Or would you become more genuine and authentic? Or would you get tongue-tied?

If you knew you were loved by the the Ultimate Artist of the Universe, how would that change your writing?

7. Write consistently

A writer isn’t a writer unless they write. You have to write. Not every post is going to be great. Not every post is going to be clear. Some people will love it. Some will hate it. You’ve got to be strong and keep writing. Do you believe you have something important to say? Do you believe God gave you a gift? Do you want to say that you used it well?

Then write!

THINGS TO THINK ABOUT

Carve out time to write. Ask God to get you focused. Ask Him to use you and trust that He will. Maybe you will never see the fruits of your writing to your audience. Maybe you’ll never now how you impacted someone else’s life. But trust that God’s got a purpose and your job is to be faithful and write! So WRITE!

8. Write to serve, not to please

There are different theories of the job of an artist. But the one that sticks out the most to me is that we are to tell the truth. And truth is best received when served with a soft heart that’s been transformed by grace.

If you can teach yourself to write as a form of service, you won’t be shaken when people don’t like you or mock you. If you write to please or impress your audience then you stake your identity in fickle people who love you one minute and hate you the next. If you write to serve, you will be able to keep showing up even when it’s hard.

THINGS TO THINK ABOUT

What are the telltale signs of a writer that aims to please rather than serve? How can you serve your readers more?

The Piper Project is a writing project where I narrate my wellness journey as a Beachbody coach through the eyes of a cat named Piper. My real name is Bronwyn but Susan Pettigrew is my pen name. For more info, follow me on Instagram @clawsbysusanp