Top 10 Tips for New Bloggers

My very first blog post was written in 2004 on the now defunct AOL Journals. (I know, right?) Back then I was known as the Mad Secretary, and I wrote a lot of ranty, angsty crap about how much I hated clerical work. Since then I’ve had 3 different Blogger blogs, 1 blog and 1 Typepad blog.

Then about a year ago I bought and started Suess’s Pieces. And you know what, guys? I think this could  be my blog’s forever home.

Anyway, doing this blogging thing for seven years has taught me a lot, and I’m going to share what I’ve learned with all you noobies out there.

Top 10 Tips for New Bloggers

  1.  Accept your blog for what it is. Free blogs are great, and fulfill a very important purpose. But there’s a chance you’ll  end up with blog envy after about a week. I can’t tell you how many hours I spent on my Blogger blogs tweaking the template HTML and trying desperately to turn them into something they could never be. Man, I wish I could get those hours back now.
  2. Just because you can doesn’t mean you should. You can fill your sidebars with gobs of blinking blog awards, but do you really want to be responsible for giving someone a seizure? If you feel it’s just too rude to ignore awards from other bloggers, you can acknowledge them in a single post. Then just let them gracefully fade into your archives.
  3. Don’t compare yourself to the A-listers. If you didn’t pay a grand for your blog template, don’t compare it to any of those celebrity blogs out there. Yeah they look prettier, smarter, and more customized than yours. That’s because the owner shelled out some serious cash for template customizations and killer design.
  4. Don’t use auto-play anything. Ever. I admit I put some auto-play songs on an old blog like five or 6 years ago. It’s not something I’m proud of.
  5. Make sure your RSS feed works, and publish the full post. Some well-established bloggers truncate their feed to force click-throughs to their site. It’s a personal pet peeve of mine. Although some of the big guys can get away with it, as a new blogger I recommend you publish posts in their entirety for your RSS subscribers. If the content is provocative enough, they’ll still click through.
  6. Don’t steal stuff. Don’t rip off content or photos. If you quote another blogger, do it sparingly and always include a link back to the original site or post. It’s about more than just respecting copyright law, it’s about respecting other people.
  7. Use pictures. There are plenty of places to get images that are licensed for reuse, and you can always upload your own. Even the most well-written posts are enhanced by a simple photo or graphic.
  8. Complete a profile or include an ‘about’ section. Blogging is a social activity, and your readers want to know about the person behind the blog. Even if you’re blogging for your business, it’s a good idea to include some personal tidbits that show readers a real, living, breathing person is working behind the scenes.
  9. Don’t take blogging too seriously. Even professional blogs should be enjoyable to maintain. Don’t be afraid to try something new, and don’t be afraid to fail. If a post or idea  flops, it flops.
  10. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Bloggers are a friendly bunch for the most part, so if you have a question about how to do something or you just want some advice? Ask for it! Send an email, post a question, or use a poll to get input from your community.

What advice would you give to new bloggers?

Photo credit: alicja_sto

This post is part of #SummerBlogSocial 2011 hosted by Liz and Jessica and is a response to the prompt, “If a real life friend approached you and said, ‘I want to start a blog. Can you give me a list of helpful tips?’, what 10 (or more) things would you tell your friend?”

Just Another Elysian Sidetrip

Just Another Elysian Sidetrip. Sirena West. 2003. 1st Books.

In the novel Just Another Elysian Sidetripauthor Sirena West tells the story of the talented and beautiful Tasha Felding. Tasha and her three roommates—Dawn, Elizabeth, and Miranda—ruled the campus of their liberal arts college four for years and seemed destined to live out charmed lives. But something happens before the girls graduate that changes things.

For the next two decades Tasha continues along her journey, fulfilling the roles of mother and wife. But through the years she continues to think about  how she can undo the damage done two decades earlier. Just before her 20th college reunion, Tasha sets out to absolve her college roommate.

Unfortunately for this self-published author, most readers are going to find it very difficult to get past the first few pages of Sidetrip. First, the font choice is a major distraction. Written in Courier New (or something very similar), the print feels big and clumsy. It is reminiscent of the college Freshman trying to fake her way from twelve to twenty pages by using the largest, fattest font available.

The second issue I have with the book is that it contains an unacceptable amount of typos and errors—a period where a comma should be (page 6), a missing letter (page 7), ‘me’ instead of ‘mean’ (page 8), just to name a few.

As a professional editor, I may be more sensitive to these kinds of mistakes than your average bibliophile. However, readers looking for a quick and pleasurable read are hardly going to be thrilled when they find they must stumble their way through so many careless mistakes.


Honeymooning Your Opt-Ins

By Rickina Velte of 7 Cities Mobile.
As a business owner who is perpetually trying to grow your business, get more customers, and increase brand awareness, it might be easy to get caught up in the ‘chase’ of it all.  Introduce a mobile marketing platform to the mix to make all of this happen, and you could have a recipe for disaster.

Mobile marketing is such an exciting new platform that it’s easy to catch the fever and forget about your new customers once they’ve opted-in, allowing you into their personal space—their most private communication source.  It is a privilege that should never be neglected or abused. But it’s easy to get mesmerized with the bright and shiny of it all, so let’s explore how you can keep your new subscribers, customers, and clients growing with a mobile marketing platform.

Determine Your Next Step

What happens after you snag that new client and build that growing opt-in list? What happens next?  Well, if you’re a savvy business owner, you know that you need to keep wooing them, schmoozing them, honeymooning them.

Honeymooning Tips:

    • Include handwritten notes, letters or thank yous with your product or service. When you do this, it blows your customers and clients away and shows them that they’re important.


    • Do a ‘how ya doing’ follow up. Just a quick note to make sure they’re enjoying their new product or the services you’re providing.  It’s nice to hear back after the sale and a great way to answer any questions that have come up or get feedback.


  • Rock the presentation.  Nothing says ‘I think you’re awesome’ like a beautifully presented product or service.  If you’re new to presenting, take a second and research. Get creative, and make your presentation a memorable one. For example, my Stick Me Designs customers are treated to a delicious piece of candy, a handwritten note, and then my postcard when they get their new diabetes clutch.  Find ways to leave your own creative mark.

In today’s fast business world it’s easy to ‘hit and quit.’ Unfortunately, this type of business behavior is quickly becoming the norm, leaving many customers feeling more like a feather in some big wig’s cap than a valued and important piece of the business’s livelihood.

Do Your Duty

As savvy business owners we actually have a duty to our customers and clients. We have a duty to ensure they feel important, and we have a duty to provide things of value to them. On a Honeymoon you do all the right things, you shower your significant other with love, gifts and fabulousness. It’s really no different with a business…that is, if you want to be of value and stick around for a while.  Honeymooning benefits everyone, why not give it a try?

Rickina Velte is the Founder of 7 Cities Mobile a Virginia Beach Digital Marketing Boutique, and Stick Me Designs Diabetes Accessories and the author behind She Troubleshoots, and  the 7 Cites Mobile blog.

Photo credit: theswedish


Get Your Workday Together Giveaway

Leslie A. Joy, the Social Media Mercenary, is launching a great new online workshop beginning in August. The Get Your Workday Together course, designed for freelancers and small business owners, could just save you from yourself.

The workshop will help you better manage your workday, getting you more organized and helping you dig out from under that overwhelming pile of work stuff.

Get your butt in gear and sign up. Enrollment for the 15-week workshop is just $125.

What’s that? You could really use a good kick in the tail, but money’s kind of tight?

Well, lucky for you, I’ve got two free spots in the workshop to give away! To enter to win all you have to do is sign up for Suess’s Pieces updates by email. Folks, it doesn’t get any easier to win than this:

Enter your email address:

Two winners from my Feedburner verified subscriber list will be selected using at noon on August 8, 2011. (Winners will be given 24 hours to respond before an alternate winner is selected.)

For more details on the workshop, read on; and don’t forget to visit Leslie’s website for the official announcement.

Get Your Workday Together Basics

  • Registration Deadline: August 12, 2011
  • Course Start Date: August 15, 2011
  • Course Price: $125

Course Details

  • The Get Your Workday Together workshop is a 15 week course.
  • Before the course, Leslie will be send you a detailed course overview and a pre-course worksheet.
  • Every Monday you’ll get  new information on the topic with related links and a worksheet.
  • Every Thursday Leslie will answer participants’ questions via email.
  • Each worksheet helps you get better organized and manage your workflow your way.
  • Leslie will be available via email or IM/Skype to answer your questions.
  • Participants in the workshop get discounts on Leslie’s other services.
  • Connect with others in the course and get useful updates using the Twitter hashtag #getittogether.
  • Leslie will show you how to continue to reap the benefits of the workshop after you have completed the Get Your Workday Together workshop.

Course Topics

Module 1: Organization
Module 2: Email and Communication
Module 3: Your Tasks and Projects
Module 4: Choosing the Best Tools for You
Module 5: Organizing and Standardizing Your Processes

Photo credit: omacaco


Seeing Red

Seeing Red. Claudia Ricci. 2010. Star Root Press.

In the novel Seeing Red by Claudi Ricci, readers follow Ronda on her adventures of love, passion and self-discovery. Sounds hokey and unoriginal on the surface, doesn’t it? But let me just say that Ronda has issues, and they are very interesting issues. Instead of pursuing a career in dance at the age of 19, Ronda got caught up in a relationship with her college professor, got married, and raised two boys.

Now 18 years later, Ronda is newly divorced and dealing with her sons’ transition into adulthood. Life is forcing her to examine her marriage, her unfaithfulness, and  her changing relationship with her children.

At the same time she must come to terms with these changes and her own infidelity, Ronda finds a renewed passion for dance and gives herself over to the study of flamenco. However, her life takes a twist when her lover, Jesus, disappears in Spain.    

With a book as artfully written as Seeing Red, it only takes a few pages to become immersed in Ronda’s world.  For a time you won’t even know you’re reading; you’ll just feel like you’re there.

Mobile Technology & the Solopreneur

I confess that sometimes I use mobile marketing technology just because I can. When QR codes started popping up on ads and product packaging everywhere, I would scan them whether or not I was actually interested.

I was at IHOP last week eating pancakes when I noticed a QR code on the tabletop tent card at our booth.

“Hey, my phone reads that!” I said.

I know a lot of you are like, “So what? Everyone’s phone does that now.” But you’d be wrong. My boyfriend still uses a Motorola Razr. We call it his food stamp phone.

Also, Dan glares at me every time I check in on Foursquare. “Remember when you used to pay attention to me?” he’ll ask as I announce to my Foursquare buds, Twitter fans, and Facebook friends that I’m once again having fajitas and margaritas at El Rodeo.

“Oh, you’re just jealous,” I’ll reply. “This’ll just take a second.”

Tap. Click.

“Woohoo! I got the mayorship back.”

That’s usually followed by the cutest eye roll you’ve ever seen.

He knows it’s futile to try and change me.

Anyway, I usually handle new technology the way my parents did. When I was growing up my family wasn’t know for being early adopters. In fact, my folks never got cable until all three of their children were grown and had moved out, and I only got basic cable myself for the first time when I was 20.

This one time, when I was eleven, one of my friends asked me where our VCR was. Oh the shame I felt at having to say, “We still don’t have one.”

Oh, eventually we got these things, and I spent my pre-teen and teen years in a household with a computer, a 6-disc CD changer, a VCR, and a microwave. But the point is that I was never the first of my friends to have these things.

I live my life the same way now, buying fifth generation iPods and getting touchscreen phones several years after the technology has been accessible to the middle class.

With the Indianapolis freelance writing gig, though, I’m more concerned about keeping up with business technology. So I’ve written Mobile Marketing Tips for the SoloPreneur, a guest post for Rickina Velte at 7 Cities Mobile. Whether you’re a Solopreneur who has already implemented mobile technologies or you’re still just thinking about it, come and hang out with us. We’d love to hear from you.

Photo Credit: scott_bl8ke

The Better Blogger Checklist

By Praveen Rajarao of Daily Morning Coffee

How many times have you realized after publishing your post that you forgot to spell-check or one of your external links was broken or you didn’t include the right keywords or you forgot to proofread your post for grammatical mistakes? I have made this mistake  many times and had to republish the article after making several minor changes throughout the content (most of them found by my wife who actually proof-reads for me now!!!).

So, having undergone all this, and wanting to avoid reworking my published posts, I thought it was time to come up with a meaningful checklist which I could follow diligently before hitting that “publish” button. I thought for a while about the various mistakes I have made in the past with my initial posts and after devoting a considerable amount of time to it, I came up with the 13-point checklist you see below. Now I have this printed and pinned onto my study table next to my laptop, and it really helps me to remember to follow these steps after writing every article.

Do I read my post after writing it?

This was one unhealthy habit of mine not to read what I had written. I considered my writing as the ultimate final version and used to publish straight-away. I realized that reading my own writing will help me correct almost 90% of problems in my post.

Is the post complete?

Sometimes during the flow of thoughts during writing, one may not realize that a part of the post might have gone unfinished as you skipped on to your immediate next thought. Once your post is written, it will be a good idea to review for the completeness of the ideas and thoughts as you have visualized.

Did I research related keywords?

Your post might be perfect, but before publishing, you will need to do a little research on the keywords that you will want to use for your new post. Using the Google Adwords Keyword Tool you can find relevant keywords to your blog and properly optimize them for helping the search engines to rightly index your post.

Did I get my title correct?

Having the right title to your post is usually more important than the whole content itself, this is because the title is what makes the reader go through the entire article. You should ensure that your keywords are a part of your title which will again help with your SEO activities.

Did I proofread?

Having a second pair of eyes to proofread your article is always better, but may not always work out with everyone. You may have read your post after writing, but go through the whole post again, now concentrating on grammatical mistakes and sentence formations. Reading out loud will sometimes help you realize that the sentences are not properly formed and may need to be broken down into multiple lines.

Did I interlink with other posts?

It is very important to interlink to at least 2-3 related posts of yours from any new post. This will allow the user to remain on your site without bouncing out by clicking some ad links or some other external link. Before publishing the post, make sure you have properly interlinked and all your link URLs are in working condition.

Did I include quality external links?

Bing is one such search engine that stresses “good neighborhood” linking on a blog. This means that your external links should be of good quality and of a higher ranking. This makes it necessary for you to identify related blog articles and provide links to them on your blog. Do not overdo this since it might result in losing your readers to more professional bloggers around you.

Are the links working?

One other factor to consider while providing the url links is to include the ‘/’ at the end, this will improve the speed with which your server will bring up the post without having to do a complicated algorithm to figure out which post you are referring to. Also ensure the correctness of the links and avoid any spelling mistakes. Having a broken link is the easiest way to lose your readers.

Did I credit my sources?

There is no harm in re-using other bloggers’ information, but it is always a good practice to credit the original writer by mentioning the source. One post which gave me the initial idea to come up with my checklist was one by Darren Rowse. As you can see the date on the post by Darren is 2008 and still today all those points hold true to a blogger. This is areal quality post by a professional writer.

Did I include an image?

An image speaks 1000 words, so why not use it when required? Images are a good way to attract traffic to your post and also will help you to optimize your search traffic to an extent by use of Image Sitemaps. There are many places on the web to find the right image to your blog like – iStockPhoto, Stock.xchng, YotoPhoto etc.

Did I optimize the permalink?

This has always been a debatable topic—what should be the permalink of your post? Should it be a date/month format (which is easily read by your host server) or should it be customized to the post name (which might result slow down page load). I am still convinced that having a human-readable permalink structure, which has proven to be well optimized for most of the search engines, is best.

Am I engaging my readers?

Make it a point to make your readers think about your post by asking a question or a poll at the end. This will leave them giving it more thought and thus  encourage them to leave a comment or two on your blog. Comments received are traffic achieved, which might also result in returning customers checking to see if their thought had any impact on the author.

Is it a good day for traffic?

The best days for traffic are proven to be Mondays, Tuesdays & Wednesdays. If you have written a “killer” article and publish it on Sunday, you can give up the hope of gaining any new traffic for your new hot post. Also keep in mind international holidays and seasons before publishing a post. All your hard work in writing the whole post might go unnoticed if published at the wrong time.

This checklist has proven to be useful for me in many ways. Do you have anything that you would like to add to this and make it even more informative and helpful to all the bloggers in general? Do share your thoughts in the comments.

About Praveen Rajarao – I am a start-up blogger and run my own personal website, where I blog about various niche topics ranging from Life to Blogging to Technology and some How-To guides. You can also follow me on Twitter.

ABCs of Freelance Writing: K is for Kiss This

This post was imported from Suess's Pieces and may contain broken links and missing images

This post is part of the ABCs of Freelance Writing series.

K is for Kiss This

It’s safe to admit it here. Your fellow freelance writers know that “kiss this” is what you really want to say to that client who keeps promising that the check is in the mail.

It’s how you want to sign your final email to the dude who’s requesting revision number eight—not because you are too daft to follow the original instructions, but because he keeps changing his honking mind.

Start Grading Your Clients

Sometimes Freelancing is hard work, and it can be tempting to lose your cool and let off some steam in a snarky email to a difficult client. Fortunately, the Freelancers Union has come up with a better way for you to deal with difficult, deadbeat clients. It’s called the Client Scorecard, and its one way that freelancers are demanding accountability and integrity from the people and companies they work with.

Straight from the Freelancers Union

Here’s what the Freelancers Union has to say about their nifty little scorecard:

This tool allows you to rate companies—good and bad—as well as check out potential clients before accepting a gig. Let us know all about your experience by rating companies you’ve freelanced for through the newly launched Client Scorecard. Did they pay you on time? Was there a struggle to get a contract? Were they paying market rate? Over time, we hope this platform will allow freelancers to help and protect each other and hopefully keep the corporate world just a little more honest.

So what do you say? Feel like joining freelance designers, writers, and others in giving karma a helping hand?

Land of Linkin'

It might not seem like it, but I don’t actually spend all of my time writing for Suess’s Pieces. Here are some other pieces I’ve written recently:

Profile of a Small Business Grant Writer

On the Small Business Bonfire, I discuss what traits small business owners need to become effective grant writers and get their grant applications noticed. If you’re thinking about grants as a way to expand your small business or solo-preneurship, check it out.

How to Land Your First Freelance Client

Leora Wenger graciously hosted my guest post on getting started as a freelance writer. There are many ways to break into the business; this is how it happened for me. If you’re thinking about starting a freelance career, you might find this post helpful.

Know Your Conflict Management Style

Another post for the Small Business Bonfire, this article will get you thinking about how you handle conflict—in the workplace or anywhere—and what you can do to handle difficult situations more effectively.


Why Color Theory Is Your Friend

By Leora Wenger of Websites for Small Biz

This post was imported from Suess's Pieces and may contain broken links and missing images

You know how to write. You have taken various English classes, you have used a thesaurus, you have edited your friends’ papers. Why would you need to know anything about color theory? Isn’t knowing how to write good enough?

Let’s start with what you don’t want to do with your blog.

  • Use a blue font on a black background.
  •  Choose a busy background with many different bright colors.
  •  Pick two opposite colors (say, red and green) as the main colors of your site.

Why? Because consciously or unconsciously, readers will get irritated and not want to read your content. In contrast, learn a little about color theory. Take a look at the color wheel, and note which colors are opposite one another. Rarely do green and red or blue and orange work well on a website.

How to make the colors of your blog page work in your favor.

  • Choose a color palette. There are fun websites that can help you make color choices:  Colour Lovers – Color BlenderKuler by Adobe.
  • Whenever possible, use black as the color and white as the background for a body of text. This doesn’t mean you can’t use color at all, but use it for areas of the page that are not the main content. Images often look great on a black or dark background, but light text on a dark background is hard to read. If you want to use two contrasting colors, you might want to test the colors with this tool: Colour Contrast Check.
  • Rethink fancy link colors. I had used red as a link color on one of my blogs; a reader who is colorblind told me he found the link hard to differentiate from the text. I have since switched on that blog to bright blue, which is more standard as a link color.
  • When choosing an image for a post, do its colors work with the overall color scheme? If you find your post images are often clashing with your blog background, you might want to choose a simpler blog background.
  • Learn about color associations. For example, blue subconsciously implies security. Green is often earthy, and purple signifies royalty. You can learn more about color choices from this post on color theory and the meaning of color.

Can you remember any sites that had an awful use of colors? Any sites with colors that worked smoothly and beautifully? Unless you are purposely looking for well-designed sites, you may not even notice that the designer chose colors that work together.

About Leora: Leora Wenger builds websites for small businesses, libraries and three Rutgers University departments. She loves tweaking PHP, composing a striking web design, stretching WordPress, and publicizing sites. In her spare time she’s a mom, wife and daughter. Every now and then she squeezes in the time to paint a watercolor or two.

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