Why Most Blogging Advice Is BS
Since I blog, I read a lot of blogs about…well, blogging. And coming at it from a magazine writer and journalist perspective, I can see that much of the advice offered is BS. Blogging “experts” are spewing pronouncements, but (1) they don’t understand that different tactics work for different bloggers, and (2) most of them are so concerned with monetizing their blogs that it affects their content.
Here’s some of the bogus advice I’ve run across, and why you may want to break it — Renegade style.
1. Break This Rule: Blog posts should be very short — under 300 words.
This reminds me of the now-debunked advice that query letters must be under one page, which Diana and I addressed in The Renegade Writer. I had been following this advice to try to break into the women’s magazines with no success, and an editor at Woman’s Day took pity on me and let me know she liked to see more research in writers’ queries. I wrote up a 3-page query — and landed my first women’s mag assignment — my highest-paying assignment at the time. Three-page queries quickly scored assignments with Family Circle and Redbook.
I think the same thing will happen with the “short post” advice — people will start to realize that the bloggers endorsing it don’t necessarily know any more about it than they do. I have to say, I hate it when I’m drawn in by a great post headline and then the post is nothing more than a 250-word shortie — equivalent to a magazine FOB. I want information! I want substance!
Most of my blog posts are at least 800 words long, and Steve Pavlina, who has a hugely popular blog, regularly writes posts in excess of 3,000 words. So if you have a lot to say about a topic, don’t be afraid to say it. Just make sure that every word counts.
2. Break This Rule: The headline is all-important.
Sure, headlines are important. But you know what’s even more important? Good content. People don’t read blogs for the headlines…they read them to be enlightened, to be entertained, to learn something new. Headlines draw people in, but if you want them to come back, you need to deliver on the promises of those headlines. See Break This Rule #1 above.
3. Break This Rule: Find free images for your posts online.
I can always tell when a blogger has trolled the Internet looking for free photos because they end up posting images that look unprofessional and have only a tangential relationship to the content of the post. For example, a post on how to get more clients will have a candid photo of a middle-aged woman opening a birthday present. I guess getting clients is like getting gifts, but c’mon.
I understand that not everyone needs professional photography — for example if you’re running a personal blog — but if you’re one of the sixty bazillion bloggers looking to monetize your blog, would it hurt to drop a few dollars to make your posts look attractive and professional? I use iStockphoto to find images, and it costs me about $3.00 for each image — hardly breaking the bank, and I think you can see the difference.
Since I’ve been writing for magazines so long (14 years full-time at this point), I tend to view The Renegade Writer blog through the lens of a magazine professional. Print publications are not in the best situation right now, but one thing they do right is accompany their articles with professional, eye-catching photos.
4. Break This Rule: Establish your expertise on your About Me page by describing yourself as a social media rockstar, black belt writer, cooking guru, etc.
Well, yes — you want to establish your expertise. But what I’ve found is that many bloggers make inflated claims about how great they are. Here’s a hint: Most bloggers are not rockstars, ninjas, mavens, gurus, or black belts in anything other than martial arts.
This is a case of “show, don’t tell.” Instead of telling readers that you’re a black belt writer, how about listing some previous publications? Rather than saying you’re a social media rockstar, how about describing some of the results you’ve gotten for your clients? Results are what matter — not self-appointed titles. [lf]