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Advice / Career Paths / Training & Development

The 23 Unwritten Rules of Blogging

With someone in the world creating a blog every half second, it’s no surprise that the internet is no longer just a place for young people to post their weird memes and anxiety-filled pubescent thoughts (nope, that’s just Tumblr now). Blogs can be a great way to find a creative outlet, meet people who have the same niche interests as you, and become more knowledgeable about any topic you can imagine.

If you haven’t hopped on the blogging bandwagon yet, it can feel overwhelming getting started. But don’t worry: We’ve put together a quick list of the unwritten rules of blogging that will make sure you get off to the right start. Pick your platform, settle on the perfect name, then consider this your go-to guide for creating an amazing blog.

  1. Blogs need a theme. Regardless of whether it’s just for you or for everybody, it’s easier to keep blogging if you know generally what you’re blogging about. Plus, your theme can be broad (“pop culture” instead just “sitcoms from the 1970s”) so that there’s an endless supply of material available. (Here are a few more guidelines if you’re not quite sure where your blog is headed.)

  2. It’s okay to change the theme of your blog later on; just make sure you’re being deliberate and transparent about it. Also, don’t make the switch overnight; it confuses readers and will dissuade them from coming back.

  3. Decide very early on how anonymous you want to be on the internet. Most people start pretty cautious when blogging and work their way up to giving out more personal information. But just remember that once something is on the web, it never truly goes away.

  4. Have a voice. One of the best parts of blogging (versus doing any other sort of writing) is that you’re highly encouraged to write as yourself. No need to get technical or impersonal if that’s not who you are in real life. A pro tip for how to find your writing voice if you’re unsure of what it is? Try talking to yourself to hear your own speaking mannerisms and tempo.

  5. If you want to keep people engaged and coming back, you should post three or four times per week on your blog (once a day is even better!). Ideally, plan and keep to a regular schedule. This keeps your readers from wondering whether or not you’re coming back.

  6. A nice blog post length to generally aim for is between 500 and 700 words. It’s long enough to write something of substance, but short enough so that people’s eyes aren’t glazing over when they scroll through.

  7. The only time it’s acceptable to post only once a week is if your content is extremely long (I’m talking 2,000 words or more) and really, really awesome. But overall, keep yourself and your reader in mind. Do you like reading ridiculously long posts all day, every day? Probably not, so why would your reader want to?

  8. It’s okay to be inspired by posts that other bloggers do and to write something similar, but make sure you do in fact mention them in your post. Giving a little credit is always nice, and it’s the difference between making a friend or an enemy.

  9. If you include photos (and you should!), make sure they’re high-quality (none of that blurry iPhone stuff). Invest in a better camera, or find free, beautiful stock photos on one of these sites.

  10. Make sure you’re citing photos if you’re using ones from other sources. (A simple “Photo from [fill in the source]” with a link to the exact page you got the photo from will do.) It can be awkward to receive a “hey, can you credit my photo or take it down?” email from a budding photographer or fellow blogger.

  11. Create an email address where people can send you messages and inquiries. This keeps readers and fans from typing messages in comment boxes on random posts.

  12. If people do comment on your posts, respond to them as soon as possible with a thoughtful message. Engaging with your readers is a great way to keep people coming back—and meet some likeminded folks, too!

  13. You are totally allowed to delete comments; after all, it’s your blog! But make sure you have a system for which comments you keep and trash. At my site, The Prospect, my staff deletes spam comments and mean comments that are unproductive (i.e., someone writing, “u r dum” on a post), and we generally keep everything else.

  14. Make sure you have an “About” page that is really easy to find and comprehensive. It’s one of the first things most people click on when they look at a new blog.

  15. If you’re going to have social media buttons, put them at the top of your blog where people can easily find them.

  16. Speaking of social media, don’t create and list social media accounts for your blog unless you can grow and maintain them. Why have a Pinterest account listed on your blog if you haven’t updated it in eight months? That’s no fun for readers to follow.

  17. Similarly, you also don’t have to link to every single social media page you have. Just because you have Instagram doesn’t mean you want thousands of strangers to see it.

  18. Utilize tagging (where you’re able to add certain keywords to a post); it can help keep similar posts organized and also helps when people search for specific posts on your blog.

  19. Don’t start creating tons of subcategory tabs until you actually have content (at least eight to 10 posts) to put under each one. As for the number of tabs and sub-tabs you should be aiming for? The sky’s the limit, but remember that it’s a giant hassle to update every part of your blog all the time. For most bloggers, three or four categories each with maybe one or two subcategories under each tab (at most) works fine.

  20. Wondering if your blog is big enough to make some dough? A general rule of thumb is that most large blog affiliate or advertising programs start taking bloggers when they hit 100,000 views per month or well over 1,000 unique visitors per day.

  21. If you start making money on your blog, make sure you’re being careful about how much promotional content you publish on any given week or month. It’s not very fun to follow a blogger who has 10 giveaways every month and writes about sponsors every other post.

  22. One word: proofread. Who wants to read bad writing and poor grammar on the internet? No one.

  23. Last but not least, here’s the cardinal rule of blogging: Don’t treat your blog like a vacuum where it’s just you and your computer. Talk to fellow bloggers, reach out to followers, link to other people’s interesting posts, and make connections. Blogging, like anything else in life, is what you make of it!

Photo of person blogging courtesy of Shutterstock.

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