Category Archives: Writing

Avoid These Common Rookie Blogging Mistakes

 

Common Mistakes Writers Make While Blogging

Companies increasingly realize the value in blogging. It’s a simple way to create engaging content on your website, improve your SEO, and drive more traffic to your digital door. On the other hand, quality blogging is both an art form and a science. Your content must not only be entertaining and simple to read, it must also strike the appropriate tone and reach the right audience. In order to achieve this, avoid these rookie blogging mistakes:

Mistake 1: Neglecting Your Research

When setting up a blog, think about your target audience. If you neglect to include demographic research into your blogs, your content may fall flat – or worse, turn people off from your site.

Failing to know your target demographic can also lead to your posts becoming too generic. Instead of creating tailored content to your readers, you run the risk of simply taking up space on a page. Rather than trying to “appeal to the masses,” conduct some thorough content research before creating a blog. Writing to a target persona will automatically make your content more personal, engaging, and conversational.

Mistake 2: Creating An Inappropriate Tone

As you conduct your market research and decide on your target personas, think about the tone in which you want to communicate ideas to these people. Appropriateness is a key issue that can make your blogs fall flat. The classic example is wearing a suit to the beach, or beach shorts to a job interview. If your company deals in serious subject matter (such as medical services or financial planning), trying to incorporate humor or lightness is a lot like wearing beach shorts to a job interview. Make sure the tone of your writing matches up with your target audience.

Consider creating a blogging guide with blog writing tips for all your copywriters that dictate tone and appropriate style. This will ensure consistency throughout your posts.

Mistake 3: Lack Of Emotion In Your Writing

On the other hand, it’s important to communicate some level of emotion in your writing, no matter your audience. Even formal, authoritative pieces of content can communicate personality. Health-related services, for example, can remain authoritative while communicating compassion and empathy. When you write from an emotional or personal perspective, your writing automatically becomes more conversational and easier to read.

Mistake 4: Broken Links In Your Content

Link-building is an essential process for driving your SEO. One of the simplest blogging tips – yet one that rookie bloggers are most likely to ignore – is making sure your linked content goes back to a reliable source. Broken links tarnish your authority and create a sense of annoyance in your reader, while neglecting your link-building altogether creates a missed opportunity for improving your search engine ranking.

Mistake 5: You Don’t Have A Responsive Website

Your readers are more likely to engage with your content on a mobile device than they are on a desktop. If you lack mobile optimization or a responsive web design, you’re damaging your blog’s reputation before you post your first article. Having a responsive website means your readers can engage with your content no matter how they view it – on a desktop, on a tablet, or even on their mobile device. The easier the content is to read, the more likely people will enjoy engaging with it.

Mistake 6: You Don’t Use Calls-To-Action

A call-to-action, or CTA, is a simple way to encourage more engagement with your website. A CTA can be hard: “contact us to take advantage of this amazing offer!” or soft: “if you’re interested in learning more about our services, reach out to us at any time.” No matter what kind of CTA you use, they provide extra opportunities for your audience to connect with your content.

Mistake 7: You Don’t Promote Your Content On Social Media

You put a lot of time and energy into creating engaging blog posts. Why not promote them on all your marketing channels? It’s simple to do and drives more traffic to your website, organically improving your SEO while teaching your readers more about your company. Link your articles to all your social media channels by using an enticing description.

Mistake 8: You Don’t Engage With The Rest Of The Blogging Community

Here’s a piece of sage blogging advice: don’t forget about other blogs in your niche. Most bloggers don’t realize that you can build more traffic to your own site by commenting on other blogs and networking with others in your field.

These simple blogging tips will help you organically build a readership base and ensure that you’re creating engaging content each week. Apply them when starting or revamping your blog – your readers will take care of the rest.

Author Bio:

Nicola Yap lives in Phoenix, Arizona with her two cats Marcie and Lambert. When she isn’t writing blog posts, she’s probably playing video games or doing something as equally unproductive. She works as an organic marketing strategist for Eminent SEO, a full-service digital marketing agency that creates custom websites and innovative marketing solutions for small to medium-sized businesses that are looking for impactful results.

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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 the exception of PK Stories, none of them still exist to the best of my knowledge, but I’ve still carried the lessons I learned from them forward to my current online home.

Today I thought it would be fun to list fifteen of the things I’ve learned about blogging over the last decade and a half.

1. Never post anything you’d be embarrassed to see plastered on a billboard in front of your home.

This really should go without saying, but I think some people forget just how long a blog post can be passed around online. I’ve shared and I’ve also seen others share thought-provoking posts that are several years old because the information in them is timeless. In a few cases, I’ve seen posts much older than that continue to circulate.

You never know when something might go viral, so I try to always be careful about what I say and how I say it.

2. Ignore the trolls.

Arguing with them never helps in any way from what I’ve observed. The best way I’ve found to encourage them to permanently lose interest in you is to refuse to engage with them at all.

They generally seem to feel bored by the lack of conflict after a while and will wander away on their own accord once they realize that they won’t be getting a response.

Luckily, the vast majority of the people I meet online are friendly and don’t behave this way at all.

3. Don’t use pop-ups.

Pop-up ads or messages are intrusive, annoying, and counter-productive. I automatically leave sites who obstruct my view with pop-ups, and I don’t return to them in the future.

4. Share other people’s work liberally.

Every time I discover a new blog that I plan to start following, I set aside some time to read through their archives after I’ve added that site to my RSS feed. If I love their current posts, chances are excellent that I’ll adore their old stuff, too.

As I browse through their older material, I take note of the entries that were most appealing to me. Those posts are then either added to my Suggestion Saturday lists or tweeted by me at some point in the future. Most of the latter end up being included in the #MondayBlogs hashtag on Twitter due to how popular it is.

Since I enjoyed those posts, folks who follow me might really like them as well.

5. Don’t worry about reciprocation. 

When I promote other people’s work, I do it with zero expectations of them returning the favour. There’s no imaginary scorecard in my head or anything like that. While I deeply appreciate everyone who shares links to my posts, I think of those responses as a happy bonus to something I already find rewarding.

I believe in sharing the things that bring me joy with the hope that others will find them just as entertaining.

6. Blogging isn’t a competition.

There’s plenty of room for everyone to shine. In fact, I’ve only seen better opportunities emerge for networking and promotion as more and more bloggers are connecting and collaborating with each other. Think of it as a group of people using cooperation to reach their goals instead of as a competition.

7. It’s smarter to focus on a handful of topics than to write about everything. 

In a couple of my previous sites, I blogged about whatever was on my mind on any particular day. I’ve found that it’s much easier for me to think of new things to write about and attract readers if I focused on a handful of topics and explored them deeply instead.

8. Be genuine. 

No matter who you are or what you’re into, there are people out there who will connect with your interests, passions, and hobbies. I believe in regularly talking about whatever it is that makes your heart skip a beat without worrying about how popular or SEO-friendly it is.

9. Protect your privacy and the privacy of your loved ones.

There are certain things that just shouldn’t be shared openly online. For example, I shudder when I see buddies publicly sharing details of their itinerary for an upcoming vacation.

I don’t discuss stuff like future plans for safety reasons. If I’m going on a trip, I’ll save any amusing photos and stories about it for after I return home. Talking about it before or as it happens only gives potential burglars or other people who may have nefarious intentions advanced warning that my home will be empty for that period of time or that I’ll be in a specific place at X time.

10. Write down ideas for future posts. 

As soon as I get a new idea for a future blog post, I jot it down in a file I created specifically for this purpose. This is something I do even if the idea is partially developed or I’m not sure if I want to use it at all. If only all of you knew how many times I forgot ideas before I started making myself write down all of them!

Some of these ideas have been sitting there for months, and a few of them are years old. Eventually, I do hope to write about all of them when the time is right. For now they remain safely tucked away in my list until I need some inspiration for an upcoming post. 

11. Use recommendations from your readers as writing fodder.

Every once in a while, one of my favourite bloggers decides to write a follow-up post to a question or comment I or someone else had about something they wrote. There have also been a few times when I’ve gotten blog ideas from people’s comments on my own site.

It’s thrilling every time that happens. I only wish it happened more!

12. Allow comments, but do moderate them.

I filter out all of the spam comments on my site. In the distant past when I had a troll or two lurking around, I immediately deleted their messages as well.

Other than that, I tend to allow just about any sort of comment slip through. I respond to them, too.

13. Leave thoughtful comments on other sites.

Speaking of comments, I’m so glad I got into the habit of responding to other people’s posts. Sometimes the comment section is honestly just as interesting as the original article because of the high quality comments that are left by fans and the site owner. April Munday’s blog is one of the many examples of how beautifully this system can work.

14. Build relationships.

I’ve made several good friends through my years of blogging who are still part of my life to this day, and I’ve gotten to know many other people through this activity as well. If you’re open to it, this is a fantastic way to build a supportive community of likeminded friends who live all over the world.

15. Have fun!

Blogging is a deeply rewarding experience that has improved my life in more ways than I can count. I hope that every blogger finds the same happiness from crafting their posts and sharing them with the world.

What have you learned from blogging?

Should You Allow Comments on Your Blog?

You may have noticed that I turned comments back on for this site a few months ago. When I originally began blogging at lydiaschoch.com a year and a half ago, I didn’t plan to host comments here for the following reasons:

  1. Most of the comments I received were spam.
  2. I’d seen how quickly the comment sections on other sites could devolve into flame wars.
  3. The number of genuine comments I received on any given post were low.

Spamming and unsolicited advertisements irritate me in general. There are so many other useful and interesting things person could do in this world that I can’t understand why anyone would take the time to be a spammer or program a bot to clutter up other people’s spaces with links to dubious websites. It’s like the online version of littering or stuffing your neighbour’s home full of advertisements that they don’t need and never asked for.

Avoiding flame wars is fairly self-explanatory. I’ve seen people get into complicated, drawn-out arguments over topics that should have been completely innocuous like what food they ate or whether they liked a certain TV show. This has happened on social media sites, message boards, news sites, personal blogs, and anywhere else that allows comments. Why does this happen? I wish I knew, but I keep waiting for the day when two people who seem to enjoy arguing about everything will look at the same sky and then debate over which shade of blue it is.

Finally, I wasn’t receiving a lot of comments in general on most of my posts. At the time, I assumed that that was because people as a whole were losing interest in participating in comment sections. I thought I was ending something that was just about to fade out on its own anyway.

I was wrong.

What Changed My Mind

A couple of people asked me privately why I’d stopped allowing comments on this site shortly after it launched. I briefly explained my reasons to them, and they didn’t bring it up again.

About a year later, I began participating in the Saturday Seven meme. Like Top Ten Tuesday and other weekly bookish memes, leaving comments on other sites and responding to them on your own site was a huge part of it. While you can still technically write a post for those events each week without accepting comments, you’ll miss out on half of the fun of them if you do it that way.

Getting to know the other Saturday Seven bloggers nudged me firmly in the direction of opening up comments on this site again. They were all so friendly and interested in reading what everyone wrote every week. I probably wouldn’t have changed my mind on this issue if not for their friendship, gentle encouragement, and complete disinterest in ever arguing over what colour the sky is! LOL.

Figuring out a better way to deal with spam comments was also helpful. I adjusted the settings on my blog so that comments can only be left up to 10 days after a post is published, and all comments must be approved by me before they appear anywhere on my site. This is done only to keep hundreds of spam comments from cluttering up my posts each week.

Avoiding that avalanche of spam – some of which looks almost exactly like a genuine comment because of how clever the spam bots are these days – is my sole reason for screening responses so carefully here.

Should You Allow Comments On Your Blog?

This is a question that is best answered by every blogger him or herself. I don’t blog about controversial topics, and my site hasn’t grown large enough to attract people who like to argue about everything on the Internet yet.

People who run better-known blogs or who write about hotly-debated topics are almost certainly going to have very different experiences in their comment sections.

There is also the matter of filtering out spambots. I have the time to delete their comments while saving the ones from real people who don’t want to share the secret of how to make $517 dollars today or encourage certain parts of your body to become bigger with one easy step.

In general, I think that allowing comments is a friendly thing to do, but I completely understand why some blog owners choose to turn the comments off on their sites.

If you’re a blogger, why do (or don’t) you allow comments on your site?

Why Creative Writers Should Read History Books

The other day I learned something surprising about bananas.

Did you know that bananas were nearly impossible to find anywhere in England during World War Two? As a perishable fruit that had to be imported, it simply wasn’t possible for the government to keep this food source available while there was a war going on.

People improvised all sorts of creative mock banana recipes during those years. One of the most common replacements for this beloved fruit involved boiling parsnips, mashing them, and then adding a little banana essence and sugar. The resulting mixture could be spread on a piece of bread and eaten.

The world changed dramatically between the early 1940s and my childhood. I never would have guessed that bananas had been so hard to find or that people needed to invent replacements for them in the twentieth century. When I was growing up, they were one of the staple snacks in my family due to how inexpensive and healthy they were. I’d often eat a banana after school to tide me over until dinnertime without thinking twice about it.

Study History

True stories like this one are why I think creative writers – especially those in the speculative fiction genre who are often responsible for creating worlds that are very different from the one we live in – should read books about what life was like decades, centuries, and millennia before they were born.

What you and I might consider to be so commonplace that it doesn’t even need to be mentioned was often unthinkable a few generations ago, whether we’re talking about a child’s afternoon snack, a standard medical treatment for a particular disease, a fashion trend, or what the average person might have thought of a specific hot-button issue of their day.

Yes, it’s true that some of these societal shifts are taught in school. There simply isn’t enough time for students to study most of them, though, even if they have a teacher who understands the value of showing exactly how much a society can change in a few short years.

Will I ever write about a world where bananas suddenly don’t exist anymore? Probably not! (Well, unless the Cavendish variety really does go extinct in our world like it was predicted to a few years ago.)

Knowing how a society responds to the loss of a cheap and much-loved type of food can be invaluable, though, if you’re ever hoping to write anything about scarcity or characters whose lives suddenly become slightly worse through no fault of their own.

You never know when a historical anecdote might prove useful. Most of the history books I read tend to be focused on the lives of common folks. That category is broad enough to cover anything from typical diets of a particular age to the evolution of social mores to how different parts of society reacted to certain epidemics, but you can easily specialize in reading narrower slices of history than that if there’s something specific you want to research.

Discover Patterns

Let’s shift gears and talk about Stonehenge for a moment. When compared to what we know about World War Two (and bananas), our knowledge so far of what purpose Stonehenge was meant to fill, who created it, and why they went through all of the trouble of making it could fit into a thimble.

Too much time passed between when it was erected and when future generations developed the tools they needed to study it in depth. The individuals who planned and built it had been gone for so many generations by that point that some of our questions about it will never be answered. All of their knowledge was lost with them.

For example, I don’t think we’ll ever figure out how prehistoric people who hadn’t invented wheels or pulleys yet were able to pull and push such large boulders into place. (I sincerely hope I’m wrong about that, though!)

On a positive note, the cool thing about studying history even casually is that you’ll begin to see certain patterns emerge from one era to the next even if we no longer have all of the details about how something worked. Stonehenge wasn’t the only culturally or religiously significant place that was built and then later abandoned in our world by any means. There are so many other examples of this happening that I can’t possibly list them all.

Extrapolate From the Past and Use It

Our languages, customs, diets, and clothing might have morphed a lot over the course of recorded history, but human beings themselves haven’t changed much at all since we first began writing down our thoughts.

There have been multiple societies who ignored the warning signs of their coming collapse and who crumbled because of that.

There have been many people who were ahead of their time and whose words weren’t taken seriously by most folks until after they’d died.

There have been all sorts of inventions that dramatically improved the lives of the people who adapted it.

There have been diseases, natural disasters, and conflicts that radically altered how a society functioned for as long as humans have been around to form societies.

The more you know about how, when, and why these things happened, the better equipped you’ll be to come up with how similar events could play out in a dragon-infested medieval village or onboard a high-tech star ship thousands of years in the future.

 

10 Pictures That Are Begging to be Turned Into Stories, Part Four

If you’re looking for some inspiration today, keep reading.

A year ago, I decided to start doing something with all of the beautiful, haunting, bizarre, creative, and otherwise unique photos I kept finding on the various stock image sites I have on my RSS feed. That was how this series of posts originally came to be, and today I have another entry in it for you.

As usual, there is a brief description underneath every photo for all of my readers who can’t see the photos for any reason. I’ve also included my thoughts on how I’d use them in a story, poem, essay, or other creative work, but feel free to let your imaginations run wild.

I can’t wait to see how you all react to these images and what you do with them.

This is a picture of a tree stump that’s been carved into the shape of a person. The person’s head is tilted back, and he or she is gazing at the sky. There is a large crack in the tree that is splitting this carving’s neck down the middle.

Step one: carve the perfect sculpture into a tree.

Step two: magically convert all of the knowledge you’ve gained from this project into the energy to carve your greatest work into stone so that it will last for an eternity. When the carving is complete, bring the wooden sculpture back to your home and put it somewhere safe. As long as it is still standing, you will remain alive and well, too.

This is a picture of someone wearing a Guy Fawkes mask looking at a red flower that is sitting on the palm of their hand. 

All I can think about when I look at this photograph are the protests that used to happen in Toronto a few years ago. People wearing these masks often played a large part in those protests. It was fascinating to see how someone behaves (in a totally law-abiding way) when no one knows who they are. Their body language is more relaxed and their movements are freer than one generally sees in a stranger on the streets of this city.

Would you or I behave the same way in that situation? I’d like to think so. Maybe we’d even pause to admire a flower before jumping back into the protest.

 

This is a picture of a young woman whose body is covered in skimpy bandages and whose face is covered in indecipherable writing. She is staring directly at the person who took this picture. 

The first thing to pass through my mind when I saw this was: “why must so many Halloween costumes for women be ‘sexy’?” I have no problem at all with people of any gender choosing to wear revealing costumes on Halloween, but it bothers me that men’s costumes are generally made to look as realistic as possible while women’s costumes are usually made to look as revealing as possible.

As hard as I tried to find some supernatural or science fiction spin on this picture, the only thing it would inspire me to write is a long essay about the intersection between capitalism and sexism.

 

 

This is a picture of two discarded artificial legs lying on a dusty wooden floor. One of the legs is bigger and longer than the other one. 

These legs belong to the same kid. As that child grows up and needs larger artificial legs, they always make sure to pause and take a picture of the limbs they’ve left behind before moving onto the next one.

This isn’t a sad moment to me. It’s a happy one. Look at how much that kid has grown!

This is a picture of someone holding a piece of green moss that has had two googly eyes glued to it. 

After forgetting to buy a birthday present for her preschool-aged son, the main character decided to surprise him with a pet moss. She wasn’t expecting him to love it as he did, and she definitely wan’t expecting the pet moss to grow legs and begin scampering around the house one night.

This picture, titled “Cosmic Winter Wonderland,” is of region NGC 6357 in space. It is a birthplace for new stars. The stars in the photograph are surrounded by large clouds of dust that resemble the clouds made of water we have on Earth.

How did life first begin? Many people have wondered that over the years. I’d like to think it happened in a place as beautiful and peaceful as this one. Perhaps it could even be witnessed by aliens or other beings who were intelligent and long-lived enough to see it all play out.

 

This is a picture of a green parakeet. It is staring directly at the photographer. 

This bird looks slightly annoyed to me. Is it actually annoyed, though? Do birds have a similarly difficult time reading human body language?

If the first sentient aliens we ever met were avian-like, how well would our species be able to understand each other? Would they find us endearing the way humans often squeal over birds on Earth?

Why can’t I stop thinking about this scenario?

 

This is a picture of a barefoot woman who is sitting in a grocery cart. 

I love everything about this photo other than the fact that the subject is barefoot. It seems like such a dangerous place to walk around if you’re not wearing shoes.

Of course, the subject has probably heard this a thousand times before. She no doubt has some sort of invention to keep anything from cutting her feet as she runs around. Maybe she’s a scientist or a magician?

This is a picture of a man who is cosplaying in the forest. He’s carrying an ornate walking stick and wearing a green cloak and other Medieval-esque pieces of clothing. 

Anyone else would have been terrified by the sight of a dragon appearing in the sky and landing in the park one summer day. Marvin had played so many rounds of Dungeons & Dragons, though, that he was sure he could get it to fly home again.

This is a picture of an empty playground that is covered in fog.

What if Stephen King’s The Mist wasn’t just a story? We know how it ended in the parallel universe he tapped into while he was writing, but maybe this is how that tale will begin in our universe.

Previous posts in this series:

10 Pictures That Are Begging to be Turned Into Stories

10 Pictures That Are Begging to be Turned Into Stories, Part Two

10 Pictures That Are Begging to be Turned Into Stories, Part Three.

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