9 Blogging “Rules” to Break. Right Now.

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I kind of live my life by idea of “learn the rules in order to break the rules.”  When you've been around a while, you'll notice that a lot of the same advice is given about how to run your blog.  I know and understand “why” there are “blogging rules” (or guidelines) in place.

Most of the time, it's full of smart advice. Hell, I've given a lot of that advice on IFB!  And yet, once you get the hang of blogging, understand your readers and what they respond to, you kind of learn… some of that advice isn't best for you and your site.

“Write for your target audience.”

You know, at some point, we all feel like we are writing for the sake of our audience or the sake of our target audience.  But most of us start out blogging for ourselves.  The thing is… your audience comes, and stays, for what YOU have to share.  Maybe they don't comment on every post (maybe they aren't even tech-savvy enough to know how to!), but ultimately, your voice, your opinions, your beliefs are what readers are coming for.  So if you continue to write for yourself, your audience, or target audience, will ultimately be there.

“You need to write X times a week and be on social media constantly.”

I like to think at IFB we're pretty realistic about this.  We advocate quality content over quantity and share regularly our successes and failures on social media.  It seems that hard numbers are promoted over the idea of consistency, yet consistency is a much easier value to work with than set numbers.  Instead of hard numbers, try goals: my readers can always receive a response on Facebook.  I'll always acknowledge a tweet or comment.  I'll post when I have something to say, but my readers know this.

Whatever works for YOU.  Blogging isn't math or science, and the same equations won't work for everyone.

“End each post with a question.”

This tip is encouraged because it's a call to action — it encourages our readers to reach out and engage.  That being said, sometimes a post just needs a strong conclusion.

If you've been asking the right questions during the post, you've been teasing their minds the whole time… and they'll still comment.

“Start blogging with a business mindset.”

Sometimes we're encouraged to think about & learn about blogging from the moment we start our blogs, and treat them like businesses from Day 1.  When I started Dramatis Personae, if I had known then when I know now about SEO, then I'd have a lot more traffic!  But the truth is, part of blogging is the journey.  It's easy for us to share our experiences so you don't have the same hardships and mistakes that we do, but making those mistakes, learning those lessons, and just LEARNING is a huge part of the blogging experience for everyone.  It's okay not to think about it like a business until you need to.

“Treat your blog like a professional.”

Not everyone wants to be a professional blogger.  If you're not accepting money or products in exchange for coverage, advertisements, or sponsorships… use your blog however you want.  Are you a professional blogger?  If you are one, absolutely, yes, represent your blog in a professional manner.  Are you a hobby blogger who writes for fun and community? Do you have no aspirations of making it to NYFW or starring in a brand campaign? That's okay, too.

Sometimes we forget that blogging comes from web-logs, little digital accounts.  Blogging today grew out of sites like Xanga and Livejournal.  It's OK to have a blog for your own personal joys and treat it as an outlet and release.

“Don't leave a comment with a link to your own blog.”

Okay, little rebel – I'm torn on this one.  It's kind of fruitless to leave a “Great outfit! Visit my blog link, facebook link, instagram link, twitter link” comment.  But!  I think a lot of us, because of this mindset, are reluctant to leave USEFUL, RELEVANT links in comments. If you have a post on a similar topic that has valuable insight and comments, by all means– share it!  Most of the time, the blogger will be appreciative to read another person's point of view and expand their audience to new ideas.

“Don't spam bloggers with links to your blog & social media accounts.”

We all hate being spammed! And nothing sucks more than a copy + pasted impersonal message with a blogger's links.  And yet… we have to get our site out there somehow.  We have to make blogger friends and connections, and  you have to start somewhere.  So share your links– but be personal. Worry less about the quantity of bloggers you are reaching, and more about the quality of communications you're sending out.

“Make your site a white background with black text & logo.”

There's nothing better than a white background and black text — for your content.  It's easy to ready, produces just enough contrast, and doesn't strain the eyes. But when it comes to the actual DESIGN of your site? Why limit it?  I loved the Blog Milk themes for WordPress and Blogger that Jennine shared earlier this week, and thought, “Maybe I should change my layout!” But looking at them, they were all so stark and minimalist.  And that's not me.  It's crucial to make your site easy to read, but other than that? Let your personality shine through!  People visiting should know who you are at a glance – whether that's teal & hot pink, rose red and olive, or crisp black and white with a hint of red.

“Find a niche and stick to it.”

Writing with a niche in mind has given me nothing but headaches. I end up feeling stifled and unable to open up.  Grechen excels at it amazingly; when I go to her site, I know exactly what stores, designers, and brands to expect.  And I trust her because of it. Rather than a niche, it's better for me to think of my blog as a place to share curiosity, knowledge, and discovery.  It keeps me enthused.

If a niche keeps you energized, stick with it.  If it doesn't work for you, don't feel bad about it or spend time worrying about it. Just do what inspires you and makes you happy.

These are just a few of the blogging rules I see often.  While I always feel there's some value and validity to the “Rules,” too often bloggers get caught up in them. The rules don't guarantee success, quality, longevity, or community.  They're tips that people have found consistently may help with those things, but as a blogger, it's up to you to know if and when those rules will hurt you – or help you.

What blogging rules have you tried, only to find that by “breaking them,” you found more happiness or success in blogging?

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30 Responses

  1. Jeanine Marie

    Rules are made to be broken and it is refreshing to look at the “rules” with a new perspective.

    Reply
  2. Onianwah

    The rules on posting almost got me wrecked with fatigue and the rule about niches is currently stifling me as I want to write about other things but don’t know how to.

    Barbara
    http://www.barbara1923.com
    Lagos, Nigeria

    Reply
    • Jangsty

      Dear Barbara!
      I totally agree with you on the troubles and headaches with constant, everyday blog updates. Everyone has a life and the last thing we need to do is to blog just because we feel we are obliged to.
      And if you feel like you want to share something else, apart from your main blog topic, I think you should just go with it and surprise your readers, especially if this is a thing you are passionate about. I believe posting randomly about your other interests will only let readers know you better (as a personality) and help to provide diversity in your content.

      Reply
  3. Valentine

    The write everyday rule never worked for me 😉

    The never leave you blog link as well… In fact, here it is ^^

    http://blog.valentineavoh.com

    I think of my blog as my house, my personal space so I pretty much post what I want in it, I was quite reluctant to post anything not including my own work (pictures, drawing) but it is something I am considering now…

    Reply
  4. Ashley Taylor

    If a blog has a “Name, email, url” comment box (or if there’s no “name/url” option in the dropdown), I don’t leave my link in the actual comment. I absolutely do, though, if it’s a Blogger comment box, Disqus, or something of the sort. It’s so much easier for people to get to your blog that way! Rule. Broken.

    xo Ashley
    thetiniestfirecracker.com (<see?)

    Reply
  5. Aiko Miyoko

    I think that leaving your own blog link when you comment isn’t wrong if you actually leave a ‘comment’ and not just. ‘cute!’ (insert blog link here). I have found a ton of new blogs to read from links left on my posts, but I find myself ignoring links when comments are made just to insert a link back. With that said, I don’t believe in a set of rules when I blog other than having internet/social media etiquette. I blog for me and if I garner a bunch of readers for that sake, well good, and if not, I’ll just keep on blogging till someone else finds and enjoys my content.
    http://hapyshoppe.blogspot.com/

    Reply
  6. Oh K

    I love all of these you brought up! Especially the first one. I try to write in my own personality so that people can hear my own voice.

    And the last. I always write whatever I feel like so my posts are varied but COHESIVE 🙂 but at least I try!

    doitfortheirony.blogspot.com

    Reply
  7. shaneynayguns

    I think that a lot of bloggers become consumed with the idea of making money off their blog. I do believe that a mark of a professional blog is when you start making money off of it. That said, the reverse can also be true… Earnings from the blog does not maketh a professional one. Or rather, a professional one with quality content. (Most sponsored posts are the company’s about page copy-and-pasted.) Some bloggers are so intent on making it that I think their content has become secondary: they’ve lost their voices.
    I believe that blogging (or making it with blogging) does not necessarily have to involve a module or a set of rules. This post is great food for thought!
    Shaqinah xo
    http://shaneynayguns.com

    Reply
    • Noemi

      I agree with you, if you want to be considered a professional blogger you need to earn money through your blog. I’m thinking about google adsense, but I’m not sure…

      Reply
  8. Noemi

    I’m thinking about a design for my blog, and I visit Blog Milk, but it’s too minimalistic, I don’t see my blog looking so simple. I don’t know when and how I’ll change its design, but black and white is not for me! So thanks!
    But, sorry, I read here that leaving a link to our blogs is spam… so I’m not doing it anymore, even if sometimes I write my name and the name of my blog…
    I always write honest comment, I hate when bloggers just comment “nice”, “cute” and then leave the link, I stopped visit their blogs.
    Maybe I will start again to leave my blog address… Weeks ago I left a comment on a very famous blog with the link to a post of mine which was about a review of a product showed in the post, I received some visits and I didn’t feel guilty or spammer. Thanks again!

    Reply
  9. alli

    I blog on black. Yup. That’s the rule I break.

    White just doesn’t suit me or my aesthetic…plus, as a photographer, I feel my images look best on black. I make it easier on the eyes by using grey text in a large font. Although I am in the process of redesigning/reorganizing I will be staying with my black theme.

    I also share your view on niche blogging. I share things I find interesting, funny, beautiful & inspiring. My goal with my fine art photography, blogging & Reiki businesses are to make the world a more beautiful place…and beauty is multi-faceted…as am I and my readers. So why would I write one-dimensionally?
    Great advice here. Thanks for sharing. ❤

    Reply
  10. The Dazzling Diva

    Great piece! I enjoyed reading it because I could definitely relate to a lot of it. When redesigning my blog earlier this year I struggled with how it would look amongst the sea of “cool kid” bloggers…you all know the ones. But at the end of it all, I accepted that I’m not one of them, my blog is about me and I want it to feel like my little space on the web when people drop by.

    Hopefully, the rules I’ve broken will intrigue and/or interest visitors enough where they’ll want to stay awhile and come back.

    Blogging can feel fun and rewarding but following rules sucks all of that right out of it. Because somewhere you’ll end up wondering how someone got it all right and you’ve somehow missed the mark…

    Reply
  11. Style.phyles.com

    First I would like to say that I’m not a blogger, but that might change soon…I love the “Don’t leave a comment with a link to your own blog” rule. I can tell you that I have found the most interesting blog sites because bloggers leave their blog links in a post. However that being said, I’m only interested in visiting their blog site if they have something “interesting to say” in their post that adds relevance to the conversation at hand. This only makes sense to me. If you are on the internet, it only makes sense to ensure you have something to say in any way shape or form that draws and if you are not doing this then why leave your link? Some may feel differently, but this is just my two cents that I don’t mind spending here. Thanks for one of many the great post!!!

    Reply
  12. style.phyle

    First I would like to say that I’m not a blogger, but that might change soon…I love the “Don’t leave a comment with a link to your own blog” rule. I can tell you that I have found the most interesting blog sites because bloggers leave their blog links in a post. However that being said, I’m only interested in visiting their blog site if they have something “interesting to say” in their post that adds relevance to the conversation at hand. This only makes sense to me. If you are on the internet, it only makes sense to ensure you have something to say in any way shape or form that draws and if you are not doing this then why leave your link? Some may feel differently, but this is just my two cents that I don’t mind spending here. Thanks for one of many great posts!!!

    Reply
  13. Michelle

    I focused so hard on following all the “blogging rules” when I started my first blog that I got bored, frustrated, overwhelmed and ended up giving up. When I started my new blog a few weeks ago I went into it with the mentality that – It’s mine! I write about what I want, I provided categories so if a follower is only interested in one part of my content and doesn’t want to read the rest then they can. My blog has color (even though it is black text on white background) I don’t pressure myself to blog everyday or even once a week and because of these things I feel better about this blog. I quit worrying about SEO and keywords and just wrote with the words I wanted to use. Sure it doesn’t have the following my previous blog has but since it isn’t monitized it really doesn’t matter, if I’m happy with it that is all that matters to me.

    Reply
  14. Natalie

    I really appreciate this article. I believe there are definitely exceptions to every rule and lately I have felt bogged down by making sure I am not breaking them!! so i am happy to see we are moving past some of these guidelines

    Natalie
    http://www.littletoomuch.net

    Reply
  15. Amanda

    I couldn’t agree more. I used to write purely based on fashion and after awhile, I honestly got bored. I wanted to expand to include interior design, entertaining, food, small businesses etc. When it comes to fashion, my goal is help women understand the proper fit of clothing and developing their own personal style.

    Reply
  16. debra

    I honestly don’t pay attention to “rules” for blogging. Why bother really? I am not out to make any money. Sure it would be great to go to fashion week, but ultimately I feel your blog should be an extention of yourself. It’s my safe place where I can go and share lovely things with my readers & friends. Stay true to yourself & you can’t go wrong.

    Debra

    Reply
  17. Jangsty

    Thank you very much for this valuable and, as always, inspirational view on blogging.
    I believe that every blog is different, every blog is personal, and you can’t (and don’t need to) follow all the rules, make your own!

    Reply
  18. Ann Krembs

    Thank you for this post! The rule (that can be broken) about living your link in the comments reassured me. I always see people doing it without really saying anything–but I think you struck on something important: leave a sincere comment. When I do just this, when I’m personable, I don’t feel so cheesey about doing this, “Love, Ann of Kremb de la Kremb.” Gathering the whole readership that a blogger craves is tricky. I’m just thankful for this network that offers such great articles filled with practical advise. I love you guys! Love, Ann (I’ll spare you the link since I put it up above;)

    Reply
  19. Edward Colin

    I think it’s all about balance. Especially until the blog has an established following. You have to start somewhere and begin promoting the blog. The material must be interesting to the blogger in order to make it through the lean startup times. For most of us it is a business that is also fun.

    Reply
  20. Sadia Pinky

    Thank you very much for this valuable tutorial. Really nice and helpful post. All the listed guidelines are very clear. Very useful for all bloggers.

    Reply