Tag Archives: Blogging

Blogging Advice: Finding and Using Visual Images for Your Site

Welcome back to my series on blogging that Ruth Feiertag asked me to write late last year. This is the third instalment, and today we’re talking about the important of including visual images in your posts. (There are  links to the first two instalments at the bottom of this post).

I’m going to be spend the vast majority of my time talking about the two specific types of visual images that I’ve seen used most often in the blogging world: photos and videos.

If you can master these two options, you’ll go a long way in attracting and retaining new readers.

Why Including Visual Aides In Your Work Is So Important

How quickly did it take for you to notice the picture of the sliced citrus fruits I included in the beginning of this post? My attention was immediately drawn to the pink slice. I wondered if it was a dyed piece of lemon or if it was supposed to be part of a small grapefruit instead.

A  well-chosen picture or video is eye-catching. Ideally, it will encourage the reader to ask questions about what it is they’re seeing and experience your post in ways that wouldn’t be as likely if they were only staring at words on a page.

Does this mean that every single post you share must be filled with images? No, not necessarily. You might only find one picture or video that is at all relevant to your subject matter. Sometimes you might not find anything at all! There are times when the topic I’ve talked about doesn’t have many good stock image photos that match it.  This brings me to my next point…

Make Sure Your Visual Aides Are Relevant

If you’re writing a post about whipping up a batch of your top-secret chili recipe, it wouldn’t make any sense to include a photo of elephants alongside the ingredient list.

In my opinion, it’s better to publish something that doesn’t contain any pictures at all than to shoehorn in images or videos that don’t actually fit the topic of conversation. This is something I’ve been guilty of in the past, and I know it has confused at least one of my readers.

Do your best to avoid my mistake. Take as much time as you can to find pictures or videos that match the topic you’re discussing.

Obey the Copyright Laws

Honestly, this shouldn’t even need to be said, but be sure to research and obey the copyright laws for your country. I’ve heard of multiple bloggers who were sued for using photographs and other creative works without permission. If you have any doubts about whether or not you’re allowed to use a specific work, find something else to fill that space instead or leave it blank.

Where to Find Free Stock Photos

Assuming you don’t know the photographer or creator personally and haven’t received special permission to use their work, here are some of the labels you’ll want to look for when searching for photographs that you’ll be able to use for free on your site.

Look for Public Domain and Creative Commons Licenses

As a general rule of thumb, the copyright on most photos and other works will expire 70 years after the artist’s death. Do not assume that every photo published after that date is free to use, however! Each country has their own laws on this topic, and sometimes those laws vary based on when the artist died. Always double-check what the rules are in your country before using any visual aides.

It is also possible for an artist to forfeit their copyright claims if they wish. This means that you can use their work for personal or commercial reasons without needing to seek permission first or pay for the rights to use that photo.

Public domain photos can be used for commercial and personal purposes. You don’t have to credit the photographer or provide a link to the site where you found it for this type of photograph.

A Creative Commons License is a little more complicated. In general, photos that have this license can be used for free if you follow the rules the creator made for them. For example, they might ask you to provide a link back to their personal site, include the Creative Commons logo,  email them for permission first, and/or take some other step  to indicate that you are not the owner of this photo and you do have permission to use it.

There are many free stock photo sites out there. Pexels is my favorite site for public domain photos due to their huge selection and high-quality images.  Wikimedia Commons has a smaller and more historical selection of photos that are mixture of public domain and creative commons licenses.

Finally, anyone who writes about TV shows or films should always check the IMDB page for the program they’re reviewing or discussing. There are often set photos, film posters, and previews on them that can be used in your review!

I highly recommend all of these sites. No registration is required for any of them, and you are free to use as few or as many photos and other items from them as you wish. In all of my years of including pictures in my posts, I still haven’t run out of possibilities from these sites. They’re all updated regularly with relevant and interesting content.

Sometimes I’ve also found wonderful stock photos by googling “public domain X photos,” where X stands for whatever topic it is I’m blogging about today. Be careful about double-checking the license for pictures if you go this route, though!

Since I haven’t needed to sign up for any paid stock photo sites so far, I won’t give recommendations for or against any particular companies. I try to only give advice on topics I’m experienced in.

Where to Find Videos

The copyright for videos is both easier and more difficult than it can be for photos since so many videos out there were either intentionally created to be shared or may have been stolen from the original creator. On the positive side, I am seeing people becoming more diligent about finding the original sources for videos (and forms of art not relevant to today’s post like comic strips) than they were even a year ago.

If I can’t verify who originally created a video or if the creator’s identity is disputed, I don’t share it. I work hard on my writing, and it’s only fair to give proper credit to other authors and artists, too.

The vast majority of the time, the videos I share come from one of two sources because of how (relatively) easy it is to track down creators on them: Youtube and Vimeo. The other nice thing about them are their share buttons. If a specific video has that option disabled, it’s a sign that the creator doesn’t actually want you putting it on other sites.

To repeat myself for a third and final time, don’t take my word on whether or not you can share something. I’m not a lawyer, and I don’t have the copyright laws from every single country on Earth memorized. Always do your due diligence and err on the side of caution if you’re not sure what the rules are.

This has been a long post. To thank you for reading it, I’ll share one of my all-time favourite Youtube videos with you. As anyone who knows me has probably already guessed, it is rabbit themed!

Cute Bunny Jumping Competition 

Additional, non-rabbit-related reading:

15 Things I’ve Learned From 15 Years of Blogging

Blogging Advice: How to Begin Blogging

Blogging Advice: Brainstorming and Idea Management

Blogging Advice: Brainstorming and Idea Management

Welcome back to my series on blogging advice. There were a few reader questions in the first instalment, How to Begin Blogging, about the actual process of creating a blog, so I thought I’d take a moment to briefly address that. I’ll share a link to that post at the end of this one for anyone who would like to read or reread it.

I was originally planning to write a full post about the process of creating a new blog, but the official instructions for setting up new WordPress sites were so clear and easy to follow that I decided to link to them instead. There’s no use in reinventing the wheel when it already exists!

If you’re interested in setting up a tumblr account, check out this tutorial.

If you’re interested in setting up a medium account, go read this post.

Now to move on to what I think is one of the most exciting portions of blogging: brainstorming ideas and creating new posts.

Brainstorming

Today I’m going to assume that you’ve chosen a few topics for your blog. It’s perfectly acceptable if you’re still not entirely sure what all of them will be as long as you’ve made up your mind about at least one of the things you’re planning to write about. Other ideas might come to you as you explore the topic(s) that first came to mind.

Before you write a single word, do as much brainstorming and research as possible. Approach your topic from every single angle you can possibly imagine regardless of how likely it is that you might actually blog about them.

For example, if I were going to start a new site about rabbits, my favourite animal, my list would include lots of typical posts about what to feed them, how to teach them tricks, or when to call a veterinarian if they became ill. Mixed in with those ideas would also be potentially quirkier ideas on this topic like:

  • Famous Stories, Myths, and Folklore About Rabbits
  • Should You Date Someone Your Rabbit Hates?
  • How Rabbit Care Has Evolved Over the Last X Years
  • Human Foods Rabbits Should (or Should Never) Eat
  • Is It Dangerous for Rabbits to Chew on Christmas Trees?
  • What Rabbits Think of Fireworks
  • How to Respond to People Who Joke About Eating Your Pet Rabbit
  • Should You Take Your Rabbit on Vacation?
  • Keeping Rabbits Safe at the Beach/Mountains/etc.
  • Types of Music Rabbits Do (or Don’t) Like
  • Halloween Costumes for Rabbits
  • How to Befriend a Shy Rabbit
  • What Will Rabbits Look Like After Another Million Years of Evolution?
  • What Do Rabbits Really Think of Humans?
  • Where to Find Your Rabbit When He’s Hiding Somewhere in the House and Won’t Come Out
  • Help! My Rabbit Just Ate a Chicken Nugget!*

Yes, some of these titles might sound a little like clickbait, and I certainly wouldn’t use everything that popped into my mind as I was writing. The point of brainstorming is to come up with as many possibilities as you can without worrying about whether any or all of them are actually useful at this point. Instead, follow every single rabbit trail – pun intended – as far as it will go and see what you come up with.

*This was a real conversation I read on Reddit a while ago. The bunny in question suffered no ill-effects from his snack, although no one could figure out why a fluffy little herbivore would want to eat a chicken nugget in the first place. Maybe he or she saw a commercial for their favourite fast food restaurant or something? Ha!

Managing Ideas

Keep Track of Everything

Once you’ve come up with a preliminary list of ideas for your site, it’s time to figure out what to do with them until you decide whether or when to use them.

I highly recommend holding onto every idea that has the slightest chance of being used. There’s a file on my computer filled with potential ideas that I’ve been referencing, taking inspiration from, and adding new possibilities to for years now. It’s an invaluable source of information for me on those days when I have a blogging deadline looming and no clue what to write for that post.

Some of the bloggers I’ve met prefer to write their ideas down in a notebook instead. However you decide to do it, make sure your list is somewhere safe and accessible.

The Sorting and Grouping Process

Once you’ve made your list and checked it twice, start sorting your ideas out into various groups. For example, I’d pick out all of the holiday-themed prompts in my hypothetical brainstorming list above and start tentatively assigning them publication dates on or near those actual events.

  • Should You Date Someone Your Rabbit Hates? (February 14)
  • Can You Take Your Rabbit on Vacation? (June 10)
  • What Rabbits Think of Fireworks (July 2)
  • Keeping Rabbits Safe at the Beach/Mountains/etc. (August 1)
  • Halloween Costumes for Rabbits (October 20)
  • Is It Dangerous for Rabbits to Chew on Christmas Trees? (December 8)

If you only want to publish one new post a week, you’ve just knocked out six of the fifty-two posts you’ll need for the entire year. That’s more than 10% of your goal! In addition, someone who knew rabbits well well could easily come up with another half-dozen topics that are tailored to specific times of the year if they put their minds to it.

It might also be interesting to pick a broad theme like food and spend a few consecutive posts talking about what rabbits should eat daily, occasionally, or never. I might then round off that series with a short and funny anecdote about a rabbit who couldn’t resist the lure of a chicken nugget before talking about the warning signs that your pet bunny has eaten something dangerous and when he or she might need to be medically treated for it.

There’s something fascinating about seeing how many different ideas one brainstorming session can create.

Mixing It Up

With that being said, I’d also recommend mixing up your posting schedule in general. If your last few posts were about heavy topics, it might be time for something lighthearted. Something that clocked in at several thousand words might be best followed by a shorter post if your subject matter allowed for it.

Work Ahead When Possible

The beautiful thing about planning at least some of your posts out in advance like this is that it allows you to work ahead. If you know you’ll be on vacation or recovering from an elective medical procedure at a specific time and already have an inkling of what you might want to say then, why not get those posts written well ahead of time?

When possible, I also like to have a few posts sitting in my queue that could be published at any time of the year. This comes in handy for everything from power outages to illnesses that can make it hard to write new content on a deadline occasionally.

Series, Responses, and Other Renewable Writing Resources

This is where series, response posts, and other renewable writing resources come in quite handy.

To continue with today’s theme, if you’ve already written one post about games to play with domesticated rabbits, you might be able to come up with several more suggestions on keeping rabbits entertained, fit, and mentally stimulated that would work beautifully as a follow-up to the original.

Response posts are another favourite of mine. Occasionally, one of the bloggers I follow writes something that I have the uncontrollable urge to respond to with a post of my own. Not only is this a great way to generate new ideas, linking to the original will give that blogger some new traffic and may encourage them to alert their readers about your post, too.

The possibilities here are nearly endless. They can also include contests, year-end reviews of your most popular posts, blog hops, contests, interviews with people in your field, and so much more. I encourage you to try many different types of posts as you feel out what your audience is interested in and, of course, what it is you actually want to write about.

How do you all come up with fresh content for your sites?

The next instalment in this series will be discussing how to find and photos and other visual aides in your posts, so stay tuned!

Additional reading:

Blogging Advice: How to Begin Blogging

15 Things I’ve Learned From 15 Years of Blogging

Blogging Advice: How to Begin a Blog

Last month, Ruth Feiertag  left a friendly comment on one of my posts asking for blogging advice. Not only did I have far more to say to her than would fit into a comment, I thought her question would be an excellent jumping off point for a new series on this site.

Today I’m going to be talking about starting a blog, from figuring out which blogging platform to use to choosing the topic(s) you want to talk about.

I don’t know how many other posts will be in this series yet, but in the future I would like to also cover:

  • Social Media and networking in general
  • How to come up with new blogging ideas
  • How to handle writing slumps
  • When and how to promote posts, both old and new alike
  • Why it’s so important to include photos in posts.
  • Where to find free stock photos that are either in the public domain or can be used if you attribute them to the original photographer.

Some of these topics will be combined into one post. Others will probably need their own post to explore in greater depth. If Ruth or anyone else can think of other topics to cover in this series, please speak up. I’m quite open to suggestion.

In the meantime, let’s talk about starting or revamping a blog. As always, there are no affiliate links, and I’m not being compensated in any other way for mentioning the sites I will in a moment. I’m strictly speaking about them from the perspective of a user/visitor.

Pick a Hosting Site

The most common hosting sites I see on the sites in my RSS feed these days are WordPress, Tumblr, and Medium. While I’ve opted to pay for my own domain name, all three of these sites can be used for free and don’t require any knowledge of HTML or other programming languages in order to use them. In general, I’d recommend using the free versions of things like these and figuring out if you like them before you think about upgrading.

Tumblr seems to be particularly popular among people who write about niches that have a high rate of audience feedback and participation. It is a highly customizable site, and it has reblogging features that work well Every Tumblr page will have a different feel, of course, but in general I’ve noticed that the culture there tends to favour gifs, pictures, running jokes, pop culture references, and much shorter pieces of text.

Medium is a newer blogging platform that reminds me of what newspapers used to be like. From what I’ve observed, it often attracts serious subject matter and audiences. It’s not uncommon to find 1000+ word posts there, and some of them are much longer than that.

WordPress is what I use, and it seems to be one of the most popular options for bloggers in general these days.  I love how easy it is to customize the look of a WordPress site. They also have free Plugins you can download that will help you do everything from screen out spam comments to set up a mailing list to create a contact form if you want to give your readers an easy way to email you.

Again, these are all generalizations. I encourage you to do your own research before deciding which platform works best for your your needs.

Choose Topic(s) of Interest

It’s been my experience that blogs have a much easier time finding and keeping audiences if you limit the number of topics you talk about. My topics are as follows: writing, fitness, mindfulness, and anything related to the sci-fi/fantasy or horror genres.

I’ll occasionally step away from that list to tell stories from my personal life, but my readers know that at least 90% of the things I write about will somehow be related to one of the categories listed above.

What you put on your list is a highly personal decision. I’ve seen several bloggers pick one area of interest and dig deeply into it. This option seems to work best for very broad topics like history or art that can be approached from many different perspectives.  Three to five areas of interest seem to be most common, though.

Find a Posting Schedule that Works for You

As a longtime blogger, writing posts on a strict schedule works best for me. I’ve had new posts coming out on Mondays, Thursdays, and Saturdays on this site for years, and I love the predictability of that even if the days themselves might shift over time.

I follow people who post once a day, once a week, or whenever the mood hits them. While I do prefer structured posting schedules as a reader, I know that not everyone is able to commit to writing that often or that regularly. The important thing is that you find something that works for you over the long term and that you communicate any major changes to those patterns with your readers, if possible.

I don’t worry if a site that normally posts on Wednesdays skips a week or two (especially during busy times of the year), but I do get a little concerned when there has been six months of silence from someone who used to post daily.

Are they okay? Have they been abducted by werewolves? Will they ever blog on that site again, or is this a temporary hiatus? It sure is helpful when people share information like this with their readers if they know they’re going to be taking a long break or will soon be posting much more or less than they usually do.

 

Additional reading:

15 Things I’ve Learned From 15 Years of Blogging

Blogging Changes I’m Making This Winter

Every time one of my favourite blogs shares a post with a title similar to this one, I get a little nervous about them shutting down or going on hiatius. If you’re the same way, don’t worry! lydiaschoch.com isn’t going anywhere.

I have and will be making some changes to this site that I wanted to let my readers know about, though.

All of these changes are being done in hopes of driving more traffic to this site. I’m confident about my writing abilities, but in 2019 I’d like to become better at marketing the things I create so that new audiences can discover my blog and my stories.

Marketing is something that I honestly struggle a bit with, so if you have any advice I’d sure like to hear it. Comment on this post or send me a DM on Twitter if you’re interested.

In the meantime, here are the things that have, will, or may be changing on this site in the near future. Not everything is set in stone yet, but this is the direction I’m thinking about taking in the new year.

Comments on Old Posts

As of earlier this week, I’ve opened up comments on all of my old posts. I’ve received some messages from people who were disappointed to find comments closed on posts that were shared more than 10 days ago. Originally, I’d set them to close after that amount of time to combat spam that was overwhelming my inbox.

The spam has been much more manageable this time, so let’s see if I can make this a permanent change. If your comment doesn’t show up right away, it probably got caught in my spam filter. I do my best to release those posts as soon as possible, but do feel free to nudge me if it’s been a few days and you don’t see anything yet.

Reader Questions

At the end of this month, I’ll be blogging about a question that a reader asked me in the comment section of a post recently. Her question was so big that it might take more than one post to fully respond to. Stay tuned for that post. It’s going to be a fun one.

I’d love to make this a recurring feature if or when other readers ask me questions, so fire away if you have any!

Book Blog Memes

From talking to other writers and bloggers, I get the impression that participating in weekly book blog memes like Top Ten Tuesday can be an excellent way to drive new traffic to your site.

I’m still looking into which ones would be best for me to participate in, and that list is one of several online that I’ll need to go through between now and January. Top Ten Tuesday is extremely popular, but I’m also curious to see if I can find something that’s specifically related to sci-fi/fantasy, mindfulness, or fitness. Whatever I pick, I will only be doing one or two of these a week at the most.

Suggestion Saturday

As much as I enjoy doing Suggestion Saturday posts, they are having less and less of an impact on drawing new visitors to this site with every passing month. They also require an investment of my time that I’m wondering might be better spent writing other types of posts.

I have not yet decided if I’ll keep doing this in 2019. I need more time to think about it.

Guest Posts from Others on This Site

Yes, I will continue to offer other bloggers the chance to write guest posts on this site if they contact me first. I’ve seen some bloggers become pushy on this topic, and that’s not something I’m comfortable doing at all. This is something I only want to do with people who are enthusiastic about it.

With that being said, I will be on the lookout for sites that list guest post opportunities to see if I can sign my site up for such a thing. It would be interesting to introduce you all to other bloggers who write about the same sorts of stuff I do.

Guest Posts from Me on Other Sites

If I find such a site, I may also be signing up as a guest blogger there. You all will receive links to any posts I write for other blogs, although I’ll have to come up with a creative way to do that if I put an end to Suggestion Saturday.

How Do You Attract New Traffic to Your Blog?

Please let me know in the comment section! I’d love to hear your tips.

The World Needs More Blogging

Before I dive into today’s topic, I’d like to make this clear that this post was written as a gentle nudge for people who’d have the time and energy to dedicate to blogging if they knew about the individual and societal benefits of doing such a thing

It is not meant to be a commandment for our friends who don’t (or no longer) have the emotional bandwidth for such a thing. If this describes your life, take care of yourself. I hope things improve for you soon.

Everyone else, keep reading.

Yesterday, one of the blogs I follow shared a link to a site called Parent Hacks.

Asha Dornfest wrote a post there recently about the ways people connected online in the 2000s. Blogging was much more common back then, and it was rarely if ever done for profit.

Instead, people formed communities in the blogging world based on their interests and experiences for the sheer joy of it.

Google did (barely) exist back then, but it wasn’t the best way to find new sites to read. Instead, you met folks through links on other sites or by clicking on their username when they shared an interesting comment on a site you both followed.

I remember following links from the blogs I was already a fan of then to new sites that introduced me to folks who lived in places that were nothing at all like the small, midwestern town where I was growing up. Some of them lived halfway across the world. Others had life experiences that I knew nothing about, and they were gracious enough to explain what it felt like to be them.  This process of getting to know strangers over the Internet lead to some beautiful friendships (and even a few marriages, from what I recall).

It also made the Internet a better place to visit, and I’ve been saddened by the slow disappearance of this culture since then.

Asha wants to bring this sense of community back to the Internet, and she’s especially calling on former bloggers to help:

Our blogs could once again be that, writ large, distributed across geographical, political, racial, religious, ethnic and gender lines. No silos, no algorithms. Just real people sharing real stories so other people can read and comment and feel a part of those stories and be reminded about what connects us. Incubating community without a specific agenda beyond sharing of ourselves and connecting people.

Her post specifically talked about rebuilding the United States, but I think this should be something that’s done across the world. The Internet has too often been used for negative purposes. Luckily, this same tool can be used to bring people together instead.

The hashtag that Asha invented for this movement is #netpositiveblog. I will be using it on Twitter, and I hope you’ll all check it out as well.

Need Help?

If anyone reading this needs help figuring out how, when, or what to blog about, I’d be happy to offer you some tips whether you’re a returning blogger or a brand new one.

I’ve been blogging for more than fifteen years now across various platforms, and I have a few tricks tucked up my sleeve for everything from coming up with consistent ideas for new topics to connecting with the wider writing community in general.

15 Things I’ve Learned From 15 Years of Blogging

I’ve been blogging at lydiaschoch.com for almost eighteen months now. Since I imported all of my old posts over from my previous site, the archives here begin in July of 2010 instead of November of 2016. I’ve been blogging much longer than that, though! Over the past fifteen years, I’ve had several different blogs.  With… Read More