There is a wealth of information available on how to become a better blogger, but are these ideas really effective? Are the “tried and true” tips always correct or do they sometimes have it wrong?
Here are 9 “must do” blogging myths:
Myth 1: Write What You Know
You are an expert in your blog's niche but if you only write on the topic you’re good at, you will never grow your writing skills – or your client base.
- Write about a topic that is alien to you. Several years ago, a friend asked me to write for her clients who were car vendors. I hate driving and don’t care about cars, but after honestly telling her my lack of experience, I gave it a shot. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done professionally, but the experience grew me – and that made me able to take on more clients.
- Write topics that don't seem interesting. In fact, my friend was so impressed she hired me to write about a topic no one likes – sales tax. Boring subject, true, but those topics pay very well!
Lesson: You can't stretch your skills unless you write what you don’t know.
Myth 2: Always Write Your Passion
While you should write about those topics, passion can only take you so far – and every blog post should not be a cause or a call to action.
- Weave your passion into your work. It’s great to hear someone’s story and why they are doing what they are doing, but no one wants to constantly be hit over the head with it, especially if you are writing from the position of anger or vitriol.
- Take strong emotions and redirect them into something useful. For example, if your passion is fighting for GMO labeling, that’s great – but there are nonprofits solely dedicated to that. Instead, tell your readers about brands you use instead, what you cook, and the reality of living GMO free. That useful content will give your reader reason to come back for more.
Lesson: Balance your action/passion posts with useful information.
Myth 3: Write Like You Speak
Did you ever read a book where the author decided to write out everyone’s accent, like a Southern drawl? It can be painful. Conversation and writing are not the same thing.
- Hone your “voice” so that it feels like a conversation in the reader’s mind. Practice writing as often as you can.
- Use proper grammar. You can, of course, sprinkle poor grammar here and there to make a point, but don’t overdo it.
- If you want to give your writing that Southern feel, use description to give the reader a taste of the south – the place, the person, etc. If you shopped at the Piggly Wiggly, for example, I’ll most likely think you’re in the south already.
Lesson: Set the tone and mood of your post with description, setting and voice.
Myth 4: Profanity Is Edgy
Profanity can lose you readers. It can annoy people and there are many brands that will not work with you, especially in the child/family space. As a writer, I know that sometimes using profanity is correct in the context.
- Use profanity in context. If you are a pop culture reviewer writing about “The Sopranos,” profanity will come up. If you dropped something on your foot and a nasty word came out in front of your grandmother, you are fine.
- Use it sparingly. When people constantly toss the “F” word and other profanities in their writing to make a point, it loses its shock value and just sounds like boring writing. If you must use it, be aware that some brands won't work with you and rarely use it.
- Use other tactics to be edgy. If you want to really be edgy, write from a point of view that others are not embracing. Try to do that without profanity or, better yet, take a viewpoint you oppose and write without negativity. That WILL make you a better writer.
Lesson: Learn to be edgy without profanity.
Myth 5: Tell Your Story
I've seen bloggers miss the mark and just ramble: “Today I went to the supermarket. But really I was on my way to the auto shop, but then I remembered I ran out of milk…etc…” Most readers have clicked off the page before the word “auto.”
- Be concise. You should share some of your story, but make sure it is good writing. You can craft a powerful tale of your experience at the grocery store – the shorter, the better. It'll be more powerful too.
- Edit out boring details. Be selective when crafting your personal story and make sure that it’s engaging. We don’t need every detail and you can exaggerate just a wee bit – if that’s compatible with your voice.
- Avoid rambling on in an attempt to be accurate.
Lesson: Write an engaging post and don’t ramble on.
Myth 6: End in a Question to Garner Comments
Comments don’t build a true conversation and when people see a question, they already know that it’s a gimmick to get them to comment. Additionally, comments mostly garner spam or self-promotion, so unless you’re on a commenting list or someone has something really pressing to say, comments are dead.
- Take the conversation to social media.
- Take that question off your blog post and put it on Facebook or other social media. This is a good way to boost your influence and drive traffic to your blog.
Lesson: Save the ending question for your social media.
Myth 7: Use Your Research
I'd change this to do your research, then use it sparingly – or not at all, if it's a personal blog.
Let’s face it, unless you are writing for a political, financial, medical, business or law journal, no one wants to read a lot of boring data. Even in some of those publications, the data is spiced up, put in briefly and linked at the bottom or spun with a controversial headline.
So make sure you have the research to back up any claims you make on certain topics, like health issues, credit and link the research but don’t go on and on about it or you risk losing your readers.
Lesson: Do your research but use it sparingly.
Myth 8: Make it Long/Short/SEO Option of the Moment
As of this writing, search engine optimized articles are recommended to be 1500 words long – and that “rule” can change. Are you writing 1500 valuable words, or 1500 SEO words? Is anyone scrolling your entire post? I dislike advice like this because it promotes bad writing, like back in high school when your teacher had you write a 1000 word essay on the nature of a proper noun as a class “punishment.”
- Make your posts exactly as long as they need to be to convey your point – no less, no more. Some will be 1500, some 500, and some in between. This is good practice actually.
- Make every word count. Not only should you leave out boring details, get to the point, be descriptive, make us laugh or cry and learn how to weave that through a brand sponsored post. This takes time and practice to learn, but you will get there!
Lesson: Make your post long enough to get your point and goals across.
Myth 9: Write with These “Must Do's”
The truth is, there are tons of “you must do this to write effectively/go viral” articles out there. They can be valuable – or not. How can you determine which advice to use or avoid?
- Quality writing always trumps formula. You should pay attention to much of the expert advice you read but never sacrifice the quality of good, effective writing to fit into a “template” that an expert taught you.
- Stay current. Keep up with the times and improve your craft, remembering that at a certain point you’ll be able to break the “rules.” Nothing is fixed in writing.
- Trust yourself. Good writing is something you will know when you read it.
- Practice. The more you blog and edit, the more you’ll see improvement in your work. If you're nervous, read something aloud to edit and have a friend check to see if he gets your points.
Lesson: Don't sacrifice your voice to fit a template.
These top 10 blogging myths can stand in the way of great blogging, if you let it. Use the advice you see out there to generate better writing, not just to follow along with the crowd or do what works for someone else. There is no one formula for good writing. If you want to stand out as a popular blogger, you must craft your own authentic voice, hone your skills and write proficiently.