I started The Middle-Sized Garden in December 2013, as an outlet for my passion for gardening. And also as a ‘test-bed’ for the advice I give here and in my blogging workshops. This week, Cision UK told me that the Middle-Sized Garden had been ranked sixth out of ‘The UK’s Top Ten Garden Blogs.’ I started blogging in gardening, not just because I love it, but also because I had no professional reputation in it. My blog was literally starting from scratch. If I can do it, so can you! I promised to tell you what worked, and what didn’t on MSG, so here goes:
Blogging is time-consuming. If you want your blog to be a success, spend at least four hours a week researching, writing and editing your blog-posts. If you love your work or hobby – like I do – you’ll be spending that time thinking about it anyway.
Blogs started as online diaries. Now they are more like magazines. Think of your reader. If you are blogging for business, think of your customer. What do they want to know? Be clear about your niche. What can you offer your reader that they can’t get elsewhere? I chose ‘middle-sized garden’ as a concept because I felt that most coverage of gardens was either focussed on small, smart town courtyards or beautiful lavish acres. And my garden is ‘middle-sized’ (like many others in the UK). One of the other blogs in Cision’s Top 10 UK Garden Blogs was Two Thirsty Gardeners, who focus on the links between gardening and alcohol. Such fun! But don’t worry about being too different – think about what you want to know and why. Other people will be interested, too.
Decide how often you are going to post and stick to it. Don’t do three posts in one week, then nothing for five weeks. If you write three posts in one week, save two as drafts, and publish them according to your regular schedule. There is a lot of advice about how often you should post -such as daily, or even three times a week. I think that is too much for many blogs. Work out what is best for you – a daily diary will work for an editor of a major magazine, but not for others. I publish MSG weekly. I now publish this blog every two weeks. (Please do subscribe – I won’t flood your inbox with posts!). However, if you only publish, say, once a month, you won’t get as many visitors to your website as a weekly blog would. So it’s a balance between quantity and quality.
Twitter is the number one way people find MSG. Every time I publish a post, I tweet 2 links a day to it for 7 days. Each tweet is scheduled (via Hootsuite) and is slightly different, and at different times. To my surprise, Google Plus is also a big referrer, although I’ve only started it recently. Facebook is less successful, but still useful. I only share a new post once on Facebook. I don’t do Pinterest enough to get many readers from it, but you could do better. Instagram – my favourite social media – doesn’t link to new posts, so I don’t get any referrals from it. Make sure you have social media ‘sharing’ buttons under each post – around 50 people tweet each MSG post via the sharing buttons below.
There are lots of other ways to get your blog out there, such as Digg, Stumbleupon and so on. But don’t set up lots of social media accounts and use them as dumping grounds for links to your blog. If you’re going to use a particular social media to promote your blog, get involved with it and become part of its community. Comment on – and share – other blogs. You will be penalised by Digg and Stumbleupon if you only share your own links.
You’ve probably seen this tip everywhere. It means that what you write – and your images – must be useful, relevant and not copied from anywhere else. As bloggers, we only have our reputation. Guard it carefully. I don’t write about anything I haven’t tried myself. I now get sent press releases from garden companies (sometimes I am tempted to refer them to my ‘How to Write a Press Release workshops!). But I will only review books I have read, tools I have tried and places I have been to. Posts must be relevant to your readers (those with middle-sized gardens).
People respond more quickly to images, like photographs or infographics. Gardening is great – I can take photos on my phone with Instagram and use them on my blog. My page views went up when I started using more photographs. But it’s difficult to illustrate posts about blogging or how to write press releases. I should get handier about creating info-graphics. I should also use the free photos available on the web, but I feel that photographers and other creatives should be paid for their work, so I am not entirely comfortable about this. Always caption your images – Google will pick up captions and it adds to what search engines see about your site.
My next post will have more pointers on how to write a successful blog. I’ll be identifying my most successful (and least successful) posts and looking at why they worked or didn’t. So do subscribe on the right if you want to find out more.
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