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How to Blog Effectively

How To, Marketing, Web Design | Aug 19, 2009

A blog is a great tool with which to express your opinions, build a community, network with others and drive traffic to your website.

However, a lot of designers are not sure how to get started or what to blog about.

I’ve been blogging for a couple of years now, but I’ve been blogging effectively (in my opinion) for only several months.

My blog posts used to go unnoticed, and I’ve now realized that this was because of a lack of structure and commitment.

So, what’s involved in the process of writing an effective blog post?

 

1. Find Inspiration

Successful blog content is fueled by inspiration. Inspiration can be found in a number of different (and sometimes obscure) places, but there are a few reliable avenues you can explore to jumpstart your inspiration.

CSS Galleries

CSS galleries are a great resource for web design inspiration. Spend at least 5 minutes a day searching through galleries and you’ll quickly find a topic that you’re inspired to write about.

Galleries to follow:

mania
best
designire


Digg

If something is popular on Digg, then it’s usually worth covering.

There’s no point in covering the exact same topic, but if you find a popular post (for example, 60 Most Wanted Photoshop Tutorials and Resources), then there’s a good chance that a similar topic or follow-up post would be a good idea (for example, 30+ New Adobe Illustrator Tutorials and Neat Tips).

Keep Track of Current Affairs

Familiarize yourself with current affairs and cover topics that everyone is talking about, but make sure to put your own spin on them.

Make sure your topics are timely; consider, for instance, the amount of Obama posts that appeared as the election approached. Or, if it’s late in the year, you may want to do a holiday-themed post.

Other Blogs

Keep track of what other web design blogs are posting and write follow-up posts or create discussions about their topics.

It’s important to keep an eye on the leading blogs in your industry. Here are some blogs that I recommend: Mashable for tech news, Smashing Magazine for web design news, MacWorld for Mac news.

Delicious

Use Delicious to keep track of all potential blog topics. Whenever you encounter an interesting article or beautiful design, attach multiple tags.

This way, if you decide to write a post about, say, “freelancing,” you’ll have a stock of resources at your disposal.

tags

 

2. Research

Now that you’ve got inspiration, it’s time to do some research before you actually start writing.

Research can help you determine if the topic has been covered before, allow you to compile solid reference material as well as expanding your knowledge of the topic.

Google

The obvious first step is to Google the topic you’re writing about. This way, you can see if any posts are out there that are too similar to the one you’re thinking of writing.

Digg

Make sure the exact angle you’ll be taking on your topic hasn’t already been covered on Digg, and see if any popular related posts would help you as you write yours.

Twitter

Ask a couple of well-crafted questions on Twitter to get useful links. Set up a questionnaire (Wufoo) to get user input. You can thank the people who gave you feedback by posting a link to their website on your blog.

Social Websites

Enter keywords for your topic on StumbleUpon and Delicious. Check other popular design websites, such as DesignBump and DesignFloat.

 

3. Writing

Starting writing early and giving yourself time to perfect your post is a good idea.

I tend to write in plain text and take notes, and then return to clean up the text later. I add markup and images at the end.

MarsEdit

A very useful tool I use is MarsEdit. This program allows me to continually add blog topics as they come to mind. I simply start a new post, put in the title and then close it until I have time to write it.

MarsEdit also lets me mark up my posts and publish from my desktop straight to WordPress.

mars


Scribefire

Scribefire is a Firefox extension. It allows you to drag and drop formatted text from pages you browse, take notes and post to your blog.

scribe


Aim for Readability

Making text easy to read online means making it simple to scan. Keep in mind several things when writing your blog posts:

  • Write less; get your point across with a minimum of text,
  • Use lists and bullet points frequently,
  • Try to make only one point per paragraph,
  • Use sub-headings,
  • Highlight keywords and phrases.

Provide Value

The most important quality of a successful blog is that its posts consistently provide value to its readers. For more writing tools, check out the post called 20+ Useful Desktop Blog Editors.

 

4. Images

Most blog posts (particularly ones that are design-related) should feature photos or screenshots. Photos energize and add interest to posts while screenshots aid in illustrating examples.

Paparazzi

Paparazzi is a great tool for Mac that takes full screenshots (yes, even below the fold) of websites. It also allows you to set crop boundaries.

pap


WebSnapshot

I often use WebSnapshot. The program takes screenshots of websites and resizes easily if needed.

snap


iStockphoto

This is a great resource for stock photographs. If you’re looking for professional photos to accompany your posts, the cost of one is as low as £1.

Flickr

Searching on Flickr for Creative Commons-licensed photos is also useful. Photographs with this license can be used freely on your blog, as long as you credit the photographers and link back to their Flickr account.

 

5. Before you Publish

Once you have marked up your post, have added images and are ready to publish, you’ll have only a few things left to check.

Preview

Preview your posts before publishing to make sure everything looks as it should. This is a good time to double-check that all links work correctly.

Check for Typos

Perform a spell-check and read through your post to make sure it has no spelling or grammatical mistakes.

Schedule

I usually set a time to publish my posts. Think of your readers and when they would most like to read your posts. There’s no point in posting in the middle of the night unless you’re targeting a different time zone.

Also, think about the best days to publish. Posting on weekends is usually not very effective because people are often away from their computers and online traffic may be low.

Final Checklist

  • Add tags to your post,
  • Select a category,
  • Add a snippet (if applicable),
  • Add a “More” link (if applicable),
  • Edit the URL (if applicable),

 

6. Promotion

How should you promote your blog? Well, if you have 10,000+ RSS subscribers, then you’re guaranteed to attract some readers. But what if you have only a handful of subscribers?

Twitter

Twitter is a great tool with which to advertise your posts. You can even use a WordPress Twitter plug-in, which makes it easier for you by automatically updating your Twitter status every time you publish a new post.

Email

If you use FeedBurner, make sure you have email alerts switched on so that your readers can subscribe by email. Emailing people (or websites) to let them know you’ve mentioned them in your post is a nice courtesy, too.

Social Networking Websites

You could share your posts on Delicious, StumbleUpon and Digg, but letting someone else get the ball rolling is probably best practice. So, make sure to provide links that make it easy for readers to share your posts.

Submit to News Websites

Consider submitting your posts to various news websites. If they find them interesting, chances are they will publish them. Design-related news websites: CSS Globe, PSD Tuts, CSS Drive, Noupe, Abduzeedo

 

7. Follow-Up

Discussion

End your blog posts with a question. This way, your readers will be more inclined reply or comment.

It will also help generate discussion. Be sure to address any comments or feedback attached to your posts, and thank your readers for their feedback.

Related Posts

If your post receives positive feedback, consider following it up with a related post. Base your follow-up post on the feedback you received or expand on one particular area of interest.

The important things to remember are: be consistent, blog about topics that matter to you and express your opinions clearly.


 

8. Twitter Tips

I posted a request on Twitter for blogging tips. Here is a sample of the responses I received:

@wpstudios: Just be yourself
@barrymcgee: Link to relevant examples, code snippets or screenshots
@5greenbottles: It’s best to write a blog post during weekdays. Weekends traffic drops to almost a halt,
@michaeltoman: Try not to be robotic in your posts. Blogs can be a great opportunity to express your personality and quirky character traits!
@wilsonography: Maybe it’s been said a thousand times, but your own take on something might end up resonating with more people than you think
@jewlofthelotus: Keep it real! Be yourself, be personal (but not _too_ personal), and be honest. People will appreciate the sincerity
@andysowards: If you think of a great idea for a blog post. Write it down. IMMEDIATELY. or you WILL forget what it was, or forget to do it
@joescanlon: “help others”
@philipbeel : make use of subtitles, to help break articles down into bitesize pieces, hope that helps
@buildinternet: Blogging isn’t about being better than everyone else out there. Some of the best posts are built off the ideas of others.
@paddydonnelly: Keep a close eye on your ‘Top 10 lists’ to ‘Actual worthy content’ ratio.
@baseacid: add a personality to your posts (preferably your own)
@kirillzubovsky: tip #(alpha +1) once the engine is set and running, don’t forget to actually blog.
@kassy4: be concise: no one enjoys reading verbose, dense paragraphs on the web.
@chriscolhoun: Don’t mince your words, If your post inspires a response from another blogger then its great for the community.
@rossbloomfield: The more conversations you start the more interactive and interesting your blog will become. Write in response to other Bloggers2
@doorofkukondo: check your spelling and particularly grammar. Nothing good about reading an article with nice content and bad execution
@hamstarr: Know and engage your audience
@LashaKrikheli: In order to maintain a constant post schedule, always create drafts with notes, ideas, and small sentences to get you started.
@seandelaney: Always make sure to acknowledge when quoting from somebody else’s work.

Written exclusively for WDD by Lee Munroe, a freelance web designer and blogger. You can find more of his writing on his blog or follow him on Twitter.

Now that you know my blogging process, I would love to hear yours! What fuels your inspiration? How do you promote your blog? Would you like to share any tips?


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  • http://www.evasion.cc/blog/ evasion

    Really nice article ! By the way, you may take a look at LittleSnapper, an alternative for taking websnap on Mac. Very useful for making websites collections !

  • http://howsyourblog.com David

    Interesting article. Picked up a few new tips to collect my thoughts better.

  • http://www.360degreessouth.com Pieter

    Again another insightful and invaluable source of ideas to use. Must go and build that blog now!

  • http://www.bickov.com Alexander Bickov

    Useful post for my future blog of most interesting ideas

  • http://www.orphicpixel.com Mars

    wow, as always a very interesting topic and had a lot of a good idea that is very helpful

  • http://serversidemagazine.com Gyorgy

    For taking screenshots I recommend using the Screengrab! plugin for Firefox. It’s the best!

    • http://www.leemunroe.com/blog Lee Munroe

      Haven’t used screengrab before, looks good, thanks for the link

  • http://www.empfehlenswert-wien.at erk

    very helpful, thank you

  • http://www.undocreations.com Dimitris

    Very interesting article. I was looking for such an article

  • http://www.kamikazemusic.com Dave Sparks

    Thanks for the article, the twitter tips are really useful and I guess reflect the social aspect of blogging.

  • http://nepalsites.blogspot.com Nepal Sites

    very nice article.

  • http://www.bigbiteslittlebites.com Big Bites

    Just started a family food blog and struggled to find my groove. Was focused on video- but always love tips. Being a Mac Addict your post was so helpful- despite growing popularity it is still had to find reliable mac apps to help with my blogging.

    Thanks – Great Stuff

    • http://www.leemunroe.com/blog Lee Munroe

      Yeah I found MarsEdit really useful. I use it to take a lot of notes now for blog posts

  • http://www.chrisord.co.uk Chris

    I’m in the process of setting up a new blog. Very useful. Thanks!

  • http://www.newbiewebsitedesign.com David – Newbie Website Design

    Fantastic post!

    I’m a Mac user too and I’ve already started to grab these apps.

    Thanks!

  • http://www.creativeindividual.co.uk Laura

    Hmm… some useful tips and a little bit of encouragement for me to actually get my blog up and running. Thanks Lee =D

    Good to see that the “don’t rant” point was mentioned here. So easy to do on the web and yet so bad, especially in blog posts as no one will ever read all your verbal diarrhoea!

    Very good researching tips too

    • http://www.leemunroe.com/blog Lee Munroe

      Thanks Laura, glad the encouragement is there. Good luck getting the blog up to speed

  • http://www.sirjogalot.com James Barnard

    Apparently the best times to write a blog post is between 1pm-3pm and 5pm-6pm during the weekday.

    • http://www.leemunroe.com/blog Lee Munroe

      I’ve heard that the best time to tweet is 1pm-3pm weekdays so you’re probably spot on James as I’d assume blogging is the same. Although I guess it depends on what time zone your readers are in, which can be hard to balance.

  • http://www.sametomorrow.com/blog Adam

    Good article and helpful tips. Sometimes blogging can be a hard thing to do consistently.

  • http://www.bebop-ad.com BebopDesigner

    Brilliant! This comes so handy, cause I want to start blogging myself. I’m really dying to get started… Thanks for such great words of advice… this stuff is gold. Cheers

  • RoaldA

    Nice!

  • http://www.defotoschilder.nl Robbert

    Thanks guys – just starting in the blog are so this is really helpful for me!

  • http://www.DebugLife.com DebugLife.com

    Fantastic post that is worth bookmarking. I think you provide some great advice that is very well thought out, organized and easily scanable.

    An additional tip for “#1 Find Inspiration”, I have an additional tip:

    Write Spin-off posts

    When you do find some mainstream or current news/event, you don’t have to directly write about it. You can take a small detail of such a post and expand on it with a full post.

    For example, lets say that the original post on Digg talks about how jobs are declining in this bad economy but in passing it mentions that certain areas like web design are steady. Then you can write a full post about how web design jobs are still strong in a bad economy.

    If you look carefully, there are always dozens of spin stories lurking within one.

    -Arif

    • http://www.leemunroe.com/blog Lee Munroe

      I like your style Arif. A lot of my posts originate from comments people leave for other posts e.g. can you expand on point 3. Nice tip

  • Matt H

    For website screenshots also try a cool little FF plugin Fireshot

    http://screenshot-program.com/fireshot/

    Lots of added extras (that i never use) but good to know they are there.

  • http://www.taddmencer.com Tadd Mencer

    Good article. Few hints and tips I may check out for later. Personally I use Windows Live Writer for blogging from my laptop (Vistblah).

    Users may also find http://www.twitterfeed.com a useful tool. Posts your blog entries to Twitter with a short URL. Very handy. Of course you’ll want to keep a more personal touch with your Twitter account as well.

    • http://www.leemunroe.com/blog Lee Munroe

      Thanks for the tip Tadd. Auto tweeting your blog posts is a good idea

  • http://pixelactic.com/2009/08/15-indispensable-elements-of-website-design-for-serious-graphic-designers/ Rafi

    Wonderful roundup of very useful pointers. I always keep an eye on various bloggers and designers so I can learn from their their own experiences and knowledge. And truly this article is a good one in the category of effective bloggin. Thanks for sharing.

  • abdelah

    realy good post, big thanks

  • http://www.crearedesign.co.uk Adam

    Excellent article as always – I usually only write blog posts when the inspiration comes to me, I rarely go looking for it. Hopefully this advice will give me the impetus to blog more often.

  • http://cssah.blogspot.com/ cssah

    very very useful article , i found some things new for me and for other bloggers thanks so much

  • http://www.odszkodowania-powypadkowe.eu odszkodowanie

    Great Release

  • http://www.leemunroe.com/blog Lee Munroe

    Thanks for all the comments and glad to see the post has provided some tips and encouragement. Any other blogging tips you have be sure to share them :)

  • http://relativelyfixed.com Matt

    Great post, great advice.

  • http://www.afsincelik.com Afsin

    @wpstudios: Just be yourself

  • http://www.atlantawebsiterepair.com Crixie

    Thanks for the post. Am going to try out ScribeFire and Paparrazi for sure.

  • http://www.gowebdog.com GoWebDog

    Great post, very informative, putting you on my daily read list.

  • http://www.misty-blue.net Sarah

    Really great post. I’ve been so busy with work and other things that I haven’t been devoting a proper amount of time to my blog. This really gets me thinking about how I want to move forward.

    I do spin-off posts all the time, and because I use WordPress, I use the plug-in Post Ideas. You can add all the relevant links you want to mention, a working title, and a description. That way, if I think of something while I’m at work, I can just access my Admin Panel and drop it in: http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/post-ideas/

    And thanks to Gyorgy for the Firefox plug-in! Also love the Adobe AIR app mentioned in the post.

  • http://twitter.com/lucast182 Lucas Tadeu

    Great post. It gave me great ideas and cleared my mind about some things.Thanks for posting

  • http://99designs.com Jason Aiken

    Truly well done…lot’s of great tips.

    Cheers,
    Jason

  • http://www.designdrops.com Design drops

    Great post. Very helpful to me at the moment. Always best to learn from the best ;-)

  • http://www.web-designmiltonkeynes.co.uk Jake

    I had actually been looking for a decent tool to take screenshots with and you have just gave me two, thanks!

  • http://www.kronikmedia.co.uk Web designer

    Thank you for an excellent post. By far one of the best posts on blogging I have come across recently. I am the editor 2 web design blogs on my company’s website and I often run out of ideas to blog about. The points you have mentioned regarding getting ideas from popular discussions on Digg or Delicious is great and I will definately be using this tip in future.

  • http://tweeaks.com Jared

    Very insightful article. Another one that I needed to read since I am still very new to blogging, and have a lot to learn still.

    The second sentence of this article, “designers are not sure how to get started or what to blog about”, that is totally true. I have been saying lately how I have no idea what to write about, and I always get distracted by my blog design, and lose focus on posting anything. So this was a great help. Now after reading it, I already have a few ideas for things I plan to write about.
    Thanks. :)

  • http://www.cockybox.com Paul Singh

    This is a very useful and resourceful post. Thanks. Will keep it bookmarked for future references. :)

    I have also tweeted this post.

    Cheers

  • http://www.branditsolutions.com/ web service development

    Thanks for the helpful information. Hope to hear more from you. You are really nice!

  • http://dcblog.net Doug C.

    For screen captures I use FastStone Capture. It’s an awesome utility, much better than IrfanView, and best of all it’s free.

  • http://www.nopun.com Noel Wiggins

    My first goal when beginning a blog writing campaign for my business was to just aim to be consistent, don’t write a few blogs then check out for a month or two then come back and write more.

    Which I feel I have a good start on this discipline.

    But I have to say the steps and suggestions you have outlined here, has demystified the whole process and has inspired me to look more deeply into writing effective blogs…

    Thanks & Regards
    Noel

  • http://mikanovsky.wordpress.com Moshe

    Great blog for someone who just started blogging, although I am sure a lot of it will sink in as time go by. And even though it is written for designers, it applies for any type of blogging. We are all looking for inspiration, whether in our creative lives or when blogging.

    Thanks again
    Moshe

  • http://www.entercitement.com/ kuya

    Nice..!!

  • http://easymud.com online auctions

    Very informative post.

  • http://www.bakkerdiamonds.com diamonds

    just getting started so this is invaluable!

  • Amatatomba

    Good article, but I disagree with not posting on weekends. As a blog reader, weekends are when I have the most free time to read blogs. But unfortunately it’s also when most blogs don’t post anything new. But I appreciate the ones who do.

  • Troy Monaco

    Thanks for posting – a few tips on here actually inspired some new ideas for me, greatly appreciated!

    troymonaco

  • http://www.garden-way.com/beginner-tips-for-best-lawn-care.html Anna

    Wow.. thanks for the fantastic summary. It’s easy to forget the basics.. but you have laid them out here in a really easy to understand reference. Bravo!

  • http://www.osanchezdg.blogspot.com Oscar sán

    Gran artículo, de gran ayuda.! excelente.

  • Sherri

    I’m just learning about blogging. This is good information to get started and also will help me to ask more intelligent questions.

  • http://byronsurf.com.au Byron Surf

    Great article, Thanks. easy to understand with good easy to follow content.

  • Jesse

    i subscribe to receive webdesignerdepot by email (feedburner) and i love how i can read the full post through my email, complete with images, etc.

    Any advice how i do the same for my own blogsite? I tried setting it up using feedburner, however it only sends the excerpts (feeds).

  • http://djdesignerlab.com DjDesignerlab

    I am a new blogger. And this type of articles really helps to learn about this media.

    Thanks…

  • http://ntechnologies.co.cc/blog Nikunj Tamboli

    Thanking you for another great post.

  • http://blogdeeper.blogspot.com/ Akshay

    This type of information surely helps new blogger like me in many ways..
    thanks

  • http://www.joelturnergraphics.com Joel Turner

    Thank you for the good tips!

  • http://www.coachannagray.wordpress.com Anna Gray

    Great Post, very helpful. I have a focus but I am always looking at better ways to improve my blog.

  • alx21creations

    great tips! thanks a lot!

  • http://www.thedesigncontainer.com/2010/02/top-10-jquery-menus/ Manueln

    Really usefull for my new blog proyect, it has every point to start with the right foot a blog. Thx

  • http://www.lockyerarchitects.com.au Lockyer Architects

    looking at creating a blog, so thanks for the tips. great read

  • http://antz-media.blogspot.com/ Salil S

    Good tips….Thanks.

  • emmeline

    New to blogging, thanks for good info.

  • http://presccc.livejournal.com/ Merrilee Korey

    Hi that were several great information. Despite im from germany and my english isnt that great i was able to interpret everything, so i like your english expressive style, because its so good organized and easy to read. Rock on like that!

  • http://www.mumbainews.info destinyking

    Pick a niche. A niche is basically the subject that you will be blogging about everyday. It’s difficult to find an audience who cooks & is also interested in car mechanics. Instead, have a recipe blog & a mechanic blog. This way your readers will find what they are looking for. There is a lot of money to be made in certain niches but if you aren’t passionate or knowledgeable about the subject you won’t be able to post about it day after day.