Blogging and Writing Tips

I started Mental Health @ Home in October 2017.  At the time I knew absolutely nothing about blogging.  I’ve learned a lot since then, and one of the things that I’ve learned is that there’s always more to find out, and new ways to making your blogging experience more productive and satisfying. I think knowledge is best when it’s shared in the community, so that people can make choices about what’s best for them and their blog. These blogging and writing tips are drawn from what I’ve come up with in my own research and trial and error.

This page includes links to the posts that I’ve done relating to blogging and writing.  My approach is very pragmatic and I have no real interest in what you’re “supposed to” do.  I hope some of these tips will be useful in your blogging journey.

A New Blogger's Guide to WordPress from Mental Health @ Home

Are you new to blogging on WordPress?  Check out A New Blogger’s Guide to WordPress.

Blogging Tips

New posts on this topic are published every Sunday on Mental Health @ Home.

Some people say blogging is dying. I say not a chance.

Customizing Your Blog with CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) may seem daunting, but it’s actually easier than it looks, and it’s really useful in making your blog look the way you want it to.

Blogger Burnout

Blogger burnout is a thing; expectations get to be more than the blogger can keep up with. To prevent this, it’s important to regularly reevaluate your expectations and how realistic they are for you at that point in time. Related posts on sustainability and managing your mindset include:

Getting overly focused on stats can be a major contributor to blogging burnout. There’s more on that in the stats section.

Growing & Monetizing a Blog

It’s okay to want to grow/monetize your blog. Even if other bloggers react negatively if you’re trying to grow/monetize your blog and criticize you for selling out, my quick tip is to just ignore them.

What's your blogging brand? - graphic showing different online channels
  • Branding – you don’t have to be selling anything to have a brand; in a blogging context, it’s about having a consistent look, feel, and style of messaging that you convey to the world both on your blog and on social media
  • Email marketing – Plenty of big-name people will tell you that for your blog to succeed you need to build an email list, but is that true?

Monetization

How easy is it to monetize a blog? The short answer is, it’s not. Anyone who tells you that it is probably isn’t being very honest. This post covers some of the options for monetization. As a quick tip, though, you won’t make money off of ads unless you get massive amounts of traffic.

If you are making money from blog-related activities, you’ll have to report that come tax time. This post on accounting considerations suggests some things to think about.

Considering upgrading to the WP business plan? Check out this inside look at the business plan.  You can also read my reflections on upgrading. It’s an expensive option compared to going self-hosted, but there’s the reassurance of knowing that if you break something, WordPress will fix it.

Images

Don’t forget to add alt text to your images when you upload them to WordPress. This will help your visually impaired readers, and it’s also looked on favourably by search engines. There’s more on this in Using images in blog posts.

Copyright and images

Images and copyright basics for bloggers: Creative Commons, free photo license, and pay-for-license

Using images on your posts can give readers a better experience, but it’s important that you use images in a way that doesn’t violate someone else’s copyright. This post on images and copyright goes into more detail. 

A common mistake is around Google Images. Unlike the free image sites, Google Images is a search engine, not a source of images. If you upload a photo to your site, Google Images may display that as part of its search results, but that doesn’t give anyone permission to use your picture.

In some cases, images protected under copyright can still be used under “fair use.” This is explained in a helpful article on the Social Media Examiner.

Free image sources

The post Where to find images identifies a number of options, including:

Pixabay and Wikimedia Commons both have graphics as well as photos.

Useful tools

  • Canva for creating your own graphics by combining various elements
  • Image Color Picker lets you identify the hex code (6-character alphanumeric code preceded by a #) of a colour that’s used in an image; with this, you use that colour for other things
  • Remove.bg lets you remove the background portion of an image
  • TinyPNG compresses image files, which saves you storage space on your WP account and helps your site load faster

Interacting with Other Bloggers

  • Blog awards – There are a variety of awards circulating in the blogosphere. Some people “do” them, while others don’t. So what are they and how should you approach them?
  • Contact form messages – if you get some strange messages coming through your blog’s contact form, you’re not alone
  • Following – results from a survey of fellow bloggers on whether people follow via WordPress Reader, email, or other methods
  • Reblogging – How do you decide whether or not to reblog others’ content on your own blog?
  • Relationships – What kind of connections do you form with other bloggers?
  • Unfollowing – some of the reasons you may want to unfollow a blog

Comments

  • Managing spam talks about how to handle the inevitable comment spam you’ll get in WordPress

*** Having problems with being unable to like/comment?  How to fix problems liking/commenting on blogs covers how to addresser a web browser cookies setting issue that could be preventing you from liking or commenting on other people’s blogs.

Maintaining Your Blog

Tips on maintaining a blog garden
  • Reposting your own content – Do you revamp and publish old posts, or perhaps republish a new post several times to get it to the top of the WP Reader?
How to deal with plagiarism – image of a copyright protected seal

How to deal with plagiarism goes over how to report copyright violations to WordPress with a DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) takedown notice.

There’s also an older post on blogging and copyright, written at a time when the site Tygpress was scraping content en masse from WordPress.

Planning & time management

  • Planning – some bloggers are mostly spontaneous, but I most certainly am not
  • Scheduling – personally, I rely very heavily on post scheduling to maintain consistency
  • Time management – between writing and promoting your own content and reading other people’s blogs, there’s a lot to fit in

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Search engine optimization (SEO) refers to making your site more appealing to search engine, so that you will show up in search results and people will make their way to your blog. Some SEO work requires a plug-in like Yoast, which is only available for self-hosted bloggers or for bloggers on the WordPress.com business or e-commerce plan.

However, there’s still a lot you can do with a blog on the free plan. The post Easy SEO basics for bloggers provides tips on things that you can easily implement.

A few basic tips:

  • Image alt text: this lets both search engines and visually impaired readers know what your images are about
  • Use headings: not only do these make it easier for search engines to understand what your post is about, headings make posts easier to read
  • Slug is what shows in your post’s URL once it’s published. You can change it under the permalinks section under document settings. These should be short, sweet, and to-the-point (with each word separated by a hyphen). Google won’t be impressed by mentalhealthathome.org/[date]/the-top-things-ive-learned-about-taking-care-of-cute-little-guinea-pigs-during-lockdown/

Keywords

Keywords are the terms by which you want people to be able to find your post/page. Keyword research is a big thing in the SEO world, and there are ways to optimize your page for a certain keyword. My own opinion is that it’s not useful for the average blogger. Write about what you want and how you want, and don’t worry about keywords.

Using long-tail keywords for blog post titles

The one exception I would make to that is using long-tail keywords for some of your post titles. Often, people don’t just plug a term or two into Google; we’ll write whole phrases, or ask questions.

If your title matches the kind of long phrase or question someone might plug into a search engine, your post is probably going to show up pretty high in the search results, because the more specific you get, the less competition there is from other pages using those same terms.

Creating links, both within your site and to other relevant sites, is a major component of SEO. You can find more detail in the SEO posts linked to at the beginning of this section. There are three broad types of links:

  • internal: link from one post/page on your site to another post/page on your site
  • external: links on one of your posts/pages that point to a different website
  • backlinks: these are links on other websites that point to your site

Internal links show that your site is well-integrated, and they help readers to find additional related content that they might be interested in.

The internet is all about connection, and using external links helps to establish that your blog isn’t alone in a remote island. You might link to other bloggers’ posts if you’re doing prompts or blog awards. If you’re looking up some background info for a post, include a link to the original source.

Backlinks are harder to get. You can build some yourself through accounts that you have on other web platforms, and also through things like guest posts and blog awards. There are more ideas on How to Increase Backlinks to Your Blog.

One way to see how your site is doing in terms of backlinks is by checking your Domain Authority, which is a metric developed by Moz that’s related to SEO. It’s a logarithmic ranking out of 100, and it’s heavily impacted by how many people are linking to your blog and how much DA cred they have. Brands wanting to work with influencers may be particularly interested in your DA score.

SEO tools

  • Internet Marketing Ninjas has a broken link checker that can tell you if links on your site are pointing to things that no longer exist (which is bad for SEO and makes for a bad user experience)
  • Neil Patel’s SEO analyzer: gives you feedback on a number of SEO areas
  • Woorank: gives feedback on a number of areas
Using search engine webmaster tools – Google search console logo

Search Engine Webmaster Tools like Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools allow you to track how your blog is doing in search results, and what searches are leading people to click through to your site. They will also show you errors that they’ve detected when crawling your site.

Stats

Stats can be a huge source of stress, especially when you start comparing yourself to other bloggers. Having these kinds of insecurities bubble up every so often is a pretty much inevitable part of being a blogger, but there are ways to help manage it when it does flare up. These posts offer suggestions on that:

How Do Readers Get to Your Blog?: whether people arrive via WordPress, social media, or search engines will affect the type of content on your blog that’s viewed the most. Your WordPress stats can help you figure this out for your own sites.

Wordpress logo surrounded by rainbow colours

WordPress

  • Discourage search engine indexing: you can select this in your privacy settings, which asks search engines not to index your site when they crawl it. It also stops your blog from showing up through search or tags in the WordPress Reader.

The WordPress editor

WordPress likes to throw out some unexpected curve balls. Getting rid of the WordPress.com editor was one of them. If you want to find out about the currently available options (block, classic block, and classic editor), this post on the WordPress.com blog explains them.

For tips on using the block editor, check out A New Blogger’s Guide to WordPress.

Writing Tips

Writing can be a valuable therapeutic tool in dealing with illness, and it’s an important way of challenging stigma. Here are some of the posts I’ve done about writing; I’ve also done a number of posts on The Writing Cooperative.


Self-publishing

A Beginner's Guide to Self-Publishing from Mental Health @ Home

The Beginner’s Guide to Self-Publishing mini e-book contains all the knowledge and tricks that I’ve picked up from self-publishing two books.  It’s available on the MH@H Store.