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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