When we started this blog six years ago, our golden rules were to work together as true collaborators, to write well, and to post at least once a week. We wanted to share information and experience about aviation and spaceflight, science of the 20th century and beyond, and writing as a couple, but we also wanted to use this blog to cultivate our writing lives and habits. We’ve followed these principles ever since, and we know that each blogger needs to set and live by his or her own principles.
That makes The Golden Rules of Blogging by Robin Houghton a great reference point for new or longtime bloggers. While the book assumes that some blog to make money, the author is a poet and understands other motivations that bloggers may have in addition or instead of cashing in. Reading through the 28 rules, where they come from, and when to break them (and the risk of doing so) helped us understand the decisions we’ve made and the range of possibilities that exist. Here are 5 tips to get you thinking:
#1 Blog for your target audience.
Houghton estimates breaking this rule, which comes from marketing lore, to have medium risk. The reason to write what people want to read is, in part, so that your readership and shares will increase. However, “If your reason for blogging is more to do with pleasing yourself than appealing to others, go ahead and forget about the target audience.” If that’s the case, you may also want to forego #4–check your stats regularly–as well.
#10 Blog about your topic not about yourself.
Breaking this rule runs a low to medium risk, according to Houghton. She points out that social media platforms like Facebook are better options for personal sharing and that this rule may be outdated and is controversial. If a blog has a focus, as Lofty Ambitions does, meandering too far afield of those topics can be problematic, but blogging is more individualized than many other outlets, and personal posts can be meaningful to readers. One of our most popular posts is by Anna’s sister about seeing Elvis Presley’s airplane.
#16 Comment regularly on other blogs.
Medium to high risk? We don’t think so because, as Houghton notes, discussion that took place on blogs in the early days now happens on other social media platforms, like Facebook and Twitter. In addition, the reason bloggers were commenting on posts elsewhere was to include a link back to their own blog, but many comment sections now prohibit links back to blogs, and search engines don’t follow such links because they’re so often spam. If you do comment on posts, certainly the advice to do so thoughtfully is sound, of course.
#17 Keep the look clean & uncluttered.
A few weeks ago, we chose a new, starker theme and cleared out a bunch of widgets. It’s certainly less cluttered here at Lofty Ambitions. Plus, we now have a sticky post (not an option on every free theme), and the sidebar picks up our latest tweets from @GenerationSpace. Houghton asserts, based on the experts who study web use, “too much clutter can get in the way of good, clear communication.” That can mean some tough content choices to keep design clean, and we still put some widgets in both the sidebar and the footer. What do you think of the new look?
#28 Know all the rules before you begin.
Low risk, definitely. There are principles to consider before you begin, but SEO–search engine optimization–changes regularly, a blogger’s interests or style changes over time, and there’s a lot of disagreement about what works best. Like any kind of writing, a lot of the learning must be done by doing, and doing it again can mean you learn something new. We’re still not great at writing killer headlines (#14), but we know firsthand the benefit of blogging buddies (#21).
In other words, the reason we read The Golden Rules of Blogging wasn’t to make sure that we follow the rules but to understand the options–and this post is just a small sample to whet your interest–and to make smart decisions for Lofty Ambitions.