How to Blog

article on how to blog

Who’s this guy who’s telling us how to blog?

My name is Nate Ritter and I have been blogging since 2001 (although my archives for this blog only go back until 2004). I am also a web developer (10+ years), a web strategy consultant, and a community advocate. I sit on the boards of non-profits and found, create, grow, and sell web businesses.

Now, enough about me. Let’s talk about you. You want to learn how to blog right? Let’s get started, and if you have any questions, feel free to ask them in the comments section below. I love answering questions.

How much time should one spend on writing a blog?

Many people have tried to answer the question of how much time you should spend on a blog. I believe it depends on what the purpose of the blog is, which is the real question you should be asking. What is the purpose of your blog? Who do you want to talk to, and how do they want to listen?

When you answer these questions, you’ve answered how much time you should spend writing articles.

Personally, I say screw the consistency though. Write when you’re passionate. If you find something passionate to blog about every day, then by all means, write a blog article every day! If you don’t, then don’t write every day. Reading boring posts just because you’re on a schedule means the information you’re presenting is probably boring.

When I do triage on my RSS feeds, and start trimming out blogs, I get rid of the ones that post a lot of stuff that I don’t care about first. Keep your signal to noise ratio high. Blog when you’re passionate, not when it’s boring.

How much time should one devote to writing one blog?

Same answer as above, it depends on your blog, and when you’re passionate about your blog’s topic.

What is your brain storming process like?

It’s different for everyone. I read a ton of different sources. Everything from eco-friendly green technologies, fresh business ideas, religious blogs (even ones I don’t agree on), other popular bloggers, stuff about space exploration, marketing news, and more. The more varied your sources, the more things you’ll have to talk about. Just remember not to get outside of your topic too often. Rather, apply something from an outside source to your topic. Those are the best blogs.

Remember to always think about how whatever it is you are reading applies to the topic of your blog. Is your article timely or timeless? Both are good. Is it relevant to your audience (or who you want your audience to be), and is it worth sharing with others? Will others think it’s worth sharing with their friends, family, or co-workers?

Read a ton, but not so much that you’re not writing.

How does one pick catchy topics?

Know what your potential audience wants, and write about that. “Catchy” is completely relative. Here’s some general rules though:

  • Does it polarize people? If yes, then it’s probably a good one.
  • Is it new or important information that others don’t have? Good, definitely write about this.
  • Ask the people who read your blog what you should be writing on. Cater to them. Watch the trends in your industry and then reach out to address them.

Are there any exercises or methods you use to find your “flow” when writing blogs?

I blog about what pisses me off, or what makes me ecstatic. Anything inside of those two extremes is probably not worth writing about. Once you’re passionate about something, the “flow” when writing a blog post comes pretty easy.

Another technique that helps me is to write a story. It doesn’t have to be a real one, but real is better. Both real stories and fake stories engage your readers. I don’t mean just that readers like them. I mean that your readers actually sense the things you describe. Think about it. Great writers make you FEEL. Stories make you feel because your brain is activated in the same areas as if you were the person in the story.

Let me put it another way. When I tell you a story about someone freezing cold in the dead of night, with the wind blowing and freezing rain pouring down while you’re locked out of your car and you are naked, your brain just used the same part that it would use to give you goose bumps and start shivering to keep warm. You’re not just engaged. You ARE part of the story.

So, tell stories and be passionate about what you blog about. “Flow” comes easy after that.

How does one successfully brand himself or herself or build a reputation through blogs?

First, write well, but not boring. This blog post is much more boring than I want it to be. But, I’m passionate about this topic, so we’ll let it go this time.

Second, know your topic. If you don’t know it, that’s fine, but don’t get defensive when people tell you you’re wrong. Ask a lot of questions if you’re not sure. But, better than that is to actually know what the heck you’re talking about.

Third, write stories, especially ones of you and past interactions with people that apply.

Fourth, be opinionated, but have reasons to back yourself up if you need to defend yourself. Don’t be an idiot.

Fifth, write for others. Then come back to your blog, and tell people that you wrote for others. Link to those articles from your own, and add some flare to it.

Last, participate in the general conversation within your topic. Reply to other people’s articles with your own. Have something insightful to say, or at least something funny.

What can one do to spice up his or her writing style?

Again with the stories. Yes, true stories or fake stories make great blogs.

Treat your audience as if you were having a conversation with them, not sitting in front of a podium and giving a presentation, talking to them.

Be passionate about your writing. You’ve heard this one before too. *Grabs the bat and looks for the dead horse.*

How does one just sit down and write a blog?

If you don’t have anything to communicate, don’t write a blog. If you have something to communicate, then write one. Pretty simple huh?

What’s a good starting point?

Read other’s blogs that interest you or are within your topic. Write responding posts/articles that link to that person’s blog and add something to the conversation. Put forth ideas and ask for feedback. Go and comment on others, leaving a link to your question if it relates. Go to the bathroom and sit on the crapper. I get all my best ideas when I’m on the pot. I’m not even kidding on that one.

What is the purpose of a blog?

Wrong question. The question is, can a blog help your purpose? And only you can answer that. A blog:

  • helps you communicate first, and receive responses.
  • pushes your brand up in the search engines (which should rarely be your primary reason for writing)
  • makes you look/feel friendlier to your audience or potential clients

Conclusion

If you haven’t yet, run on over to WordPress.com and get a free blog. It’s the best platform on the internet right now, and so easy to use.

The biggest thing from all of this is that if you don’t have a purpose for your blog, you’ll have a hard time getting visitors and readers.

Now, if you have some questions I didn’t answer here, please tell me in the comments. I’ll be happy to answer any questions you might have about how to blog.

(photo courtesy emdot)

[tags]how to blog, blogging, how to, diy, how to start a blog, how to make a blog, how to create a blog[/tags]

Nate Ritter lives in the Pacific Northwest (U.S.), popularized the #hashtag and creates web applications for a living. He also does miles and point hacking to enable cheap travel for his family. More here →

4 Comments on "How to Blog"

  1. Mike Panic says:

    Nice write-up, but is another “how to blog” article really needed on the web?

  2. nate says:

    Thanks Mike. I’ve learned that yes, some people search for different terms, and find different sources. I think it’s needed, and if it’s not, nobody will see it anyway. Many of my readers have no idea how to start a blog, and I answer these kinds of questions all the time.

    In fact, I just did a consulting gig yesterday answering these very questions…. so, I think it’s needed, and apparently the market thinks it’s needed too.

  3. Dianne says:

    Hi Nate, Great information on how to blog. I like what you said about not keeping to a schedule because who likes to read a boring blog post.

    Dianne

  4. nate says:

    Thanks Dianne. Boring blog posts are useless. Unfortunately, it was difficult for me to try to make a “how to blog” post not seem boring. I’m a pretty logical person when I’m at the computer because of my job, so sometimes it’s hard to lighten up a bit.

    But, if you search around this blog, you’ll find some pretty good posts.

    Usually, I write my emails in a much funnier tone. So, maybe that’s a good tip too. If you find yourself not able to write well, pretend like you’re writing an email to a friend or to a group of people.

    Cheers!

 
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