Hello lovelies! As most of you probably know, Bloggiesta starts tomorrow! It’s an excellent event that challenges bloggers to improve their websites. It features tons of great mini-challenges hosted by bloggers who are eager to share their expertise on different topics. I’m not signed up to host a challenge, but I’ve had this post floating half-finished in my drafts for weeks, and I thought this would be a good time to share it!
I’ve been blogging for over a year and a half, and in that time I’ve read a lot of blogs. In browsing hundreds of sites, I’ve seen some really beautiful blogs with great features, and I’ve also seen some absolutely cringe-inducing pages. I’m here to share what I believe are the dos and don’ts of blogging: things your blog should definitely have, and things that are total turn-offs.
Here we go!
Six things I look for when visiting a new blog:
1. About page
An about page is the first thing I look for when I visit a new blog. I want to know who the person behind the posts is! You should use this page to introduce yourself, tell the reader when and why you started blogging, and highlight what type of content your blog features. This page helps personalize your blog, makes me interested in you as a person, and quickly lets me know if the content you write is the kind I’m interested in reading.
2. Review index or archive
After an About page, this is the second thing I look for when visiting a new blog. I don’t want to scroll through ten pages of your blog to see what kind of books you write about. (Ain’t nobody got time for that.) I want to spend 30 seconds glancing at a list of your reviews. A Review Index, where you link to all of your reviews, provides a time-effective way for potential followers to see how much your tastes in books overlap.
3. Review policy
If you are open to receiving books from publishers or authors to review, this page is an absolute must — and if you will not accept books for review, you should note that on your site, too. Your review policy should tell publicists everything they need to know before reaching out to you with a query: what types of books you do (and do not) want to review, formats you accept, timeframe for reviewing after receiving the book, what to expect from your review, how to contact you, etc. Book Bloggers International has an excellent post about how to write a review policy, and you can also check out my review policy for an example.
4. Contact info
Make it easy for readers to get in touch with you! A lot of my interactions with other bloggers don’t even take place on our blogs — they’re on social media and email! Blogging is very social, and utilizing SM is a big part of that; it helps you build relationships with other bloggers, and it’s a lot of fun! Make sure to provide readers with ways to contact you: include an email address or contact form, but also link to social media accounts such as Twitter, Facebook (if you have a blog page), Goodreads, and Pinterest.
Having a photo of yourself somewhere on your site, either on your About page or in the sidebar, helps personalize your blog. I’ve found that I’m much more likely to read a blog regularly if I have a name and face to go with it. A photo makes it seem like there’s an actual person behind the writing, and it helps readers connect with you.
This should be kind of obvious. If you’re not passionate about what you’re writing, it’s going to show. You don’t have to be the most amazing writer in the world; I just want to see that you love what you’re writing about — well, and that you have a good handle on the English language. But more on that later. I’m most drawn to blogs that scream “I love reading, and I want to share my thoughts with the world!”
Four things that will make me leave your blog faster than you can say “Call me Ishmael.”
Just, for the love of god, no. There’s nothing worse than opening up 20 tabs while going through my feed reader and then hearing obnoxious music start to play and having no idea which tab it’s coming from. When I figure it out, I’m instantly removing your blog from my feed. It doesn’t matter how good your content is. I’m here for the book writing, not your shitty taste in music.
2. Too much going on
You don’t need sidebars on both sides of the screen crammed with widgets like “Which Jane Austen character are you?,” “Lifelong bookworm” graphics, and buttons advertising every challenge you have ever participated in. It looks messy and cluttered, and it makes me feel overwhelmed. Limit it to one sidebar and be selective about what you put in it. Also, having tons of stuff on your page will make it take a long time to load, and I don’t have any patience for watching everything on the screen jump around as different images suddenly appear.
3. ALL THE MEMES
Memes can be great for filling out content; but you shouldn’t be doing them every day. A meme every now and then is fine, but pick one — maybe two — that you want to participate in on a regular basis. The majority of your content should be original; if all of your posts are Mailbox Monday, Teaser Tuesday, Waiting on Wednesday, Friday Reads, Sunday Sentence, etc. I’m going to think you don’t have an original thought in your head. Focus more on the quality of your posts, not the quantity. I would rather see a blogger post two interesting, unique posts per week than seven kind-of-spammy posts that don’t add much value.
4. Poor grammar and writing skills
Edit your posts, ladies and dudes. I’m sure you spend a lot of time on your blog, brainstorming posts, writing reviews, and connecting with other bloggers. But if your posts are riddled with grammar mistakes, I’m going to think you don’t actually care much about your writing. If taking five minutes to proofread a post before publishing it means the difference between looking like you just bashed the keyboard for a few minutes to get a post up and looking like a thoughtful, intelligent writer, do it. Your posts don’t have to be perfect (mine certainly aren’t), but you’ll never regret taking a few minutes to proofread.
If you’re new to digital publishing, I hope these book blogging tips are helpful! For all of you veteran bloggers out there, what are some of your personal blog must-haves and peeves?