Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Dear Rachel: How Can I Make My Blog Better?

Dear Rachel,

About a month ago I started a fashion blog. I was wondering if you could give me any tips on how to improve it?

I know the blogging world is completely awash with 'Blogging 101' posts, some of them good, some of them not so good and some of them absolutely fantastic, but since I've been helping a few friends get their blogs off the ground (which means sitting with them at their desks for about an hour giving virtually a masterclass) I've decided I might as well throw my hat into the ring and let you know some of my thoughts as to what makes a good blog. 
Give your blog a clean, clear and easy to navigate layout.

All of the blogs I read, without exception have fantastically designers and easy to navigate layout. Chances are if I've landed on your blog and I've either got lost or been overwhelmed by ow busy the page is I've closed the tab on my browser instantly without stopping to read what you have to say. All this being said, a to have a good clean layout you don't have to be a graphic design whizz. I may be able to write basic HTML, but I think I have tweaked the code of my blog a grand total of twice, and none of these for aesthetic reasons: changing the copyright information of this blog past Blogger's template, and removing the Blogger task bar from the top of this page, both of which were annoying me. 

I recommend a white background and black text, easy to read for everyone, and to not use too many colours in your design. Apart from that, just try to de clutter (less is more) and make sure everything is easy enough to read in your sidebar. 
Create a 'start here' page.

Inspired by Gala Darling (say what you like about her, that girl has a blog design every blogger should learn from) I installed a 'Start Here' page at the top of my sidebar. It is in a good place for new readers to see, and, well, click on. It includes a 'About Me' section and a little bit about what this blog is about, links to my social media networks, the option to subscribe to blog posts by email and a list of 10 blog posts I think it would be a good idea for new readers to start at to get a feel for the sort of things I write about. This page is basically my whole blog in one place for new readers to find out what rachelphipps.com is all about, and from what some of my new readers have told me, and from what I can gather from my stats page, its been a massive success! 

Blogging is a community activity. 

Contrary to popular belief, the best way to get the word out about your blog is not through jazzy or expensive ad campaigns, its about engaging in the community, commenting on other blogs you enjoy, chatting to other bloggers on Twitter and utilising social networks like Lookbook.nu and IFB. 

I know someone who writes an absolutely fantastic blog, but she does not really engage in the community by commenting on other peoples blogs, or anything really. She just sits at her desk churning out content every few days. she has this fantastic blog, but no one knows about it to be able to read it! 

The blogging community is also great for making friends, friends who share blogging as a common interest with you. Have you ever tried explaining why you blog to non blogger friends? The end result is usually not too pretty! 

Post engaging and original content.

This is the most common blogging tip, so I've sure you've read it everywhere, but the only reason everyone says it is because it works. People want to read your blog and not the 1,0000,0000,0000 others out there because you have something unique and original to say - so make sure you say it and you're not posting yet another post about 'X', 'Y' or 'Z' (says the girl currently typing an overdone Blogger 101 guide, irony acknowledged)

Take your own photos.

The blogashere is over blogs who just take someone else's pretty pictures to illustrate their posts. Hands up, I used to do it but I've taken so much more pride in my work since I started taking exclusively my own pictures. If you want a constant stream of photos that have gone viral across the web, there's Tumblr for that! 

You don't even need to have a snazzy expensive camera or a full suite of photoshop skills to take good photos for your blog. Just a good camera that takes clean shots, not a phone camera (unless you've got an iPhone and you're using Instagram) or webcam, and a little imagination. 

Also, copyright wise its really hard to credit a photo back to its original source if you've nabbed it off of We Heart It or Tumblr is somewhere like that. Using your own photos makes the whole process of copyright so much easier as well! 

Make it easy for people to subscribe. 
Sign up to Bloglovin' and have a Bloglovin' widget in your sidebar. Most of my traffic comes through people who have subscribed via Bloglovin'. Make your RSS feed easily linked, and make sure you also have links to your other social networking sites like Twitter readily available - you need to make it easy for people to be able to come back! 

Stick at it.

Sometimes is can feel like no one reads your blog, you're not getting any new followers or you're not getting as many comments on your post as 'X' blogger. You are you and not anyone else, your blog is an online extension of yourself. Sit back and take a breath, before keeping calm and carrying on. It takes years for a blog to get established. You are your own milestone. 

Blog for you, not for anyone else.

Everyone always asks me why I gave up running Lipstick Royalty Magazine. The long and short of it is it made me miserable and eventually brought me to hysterical tears. Blog for you, not for anyone else. For most of us, blogging is not our job, its out hobby. There is not point engaging in a hobby and writing about things you don't enjoy and make you miserable. 

What are your tips for making a great blog?

If you have any questions you'd like me to answer, be they on blogging, beauty or books, you can drop me a quick email, contact me on Twitter or leave me a comment on Formspring


  1. These tips were pretty helpful, thank you! I find original content it a definite plus for when I'm browsing other blogs, and the start here page is a good idea.

  2. A great read, really interesting tips. I'm the same when it comes to 'all over the place' blogs - I've seen some with animated backgrounds, or image backgrounds where you're unable to read the text properly so I just switch off. The page has to lure me in.

    Your blog has always look very polished and I admire that, it's really clean cut and easy to navigate which is my sort of thing!

  3. I think these tips you posted are absolutely valid and contain so much truth that everyone needs to know. By the way, I'm actually going to get rid of the taskbar too now that you brought it up. lolz. Thanks!

  4. This is a great post, Rachel! I agree with all of your points!


  5. These tips are really helpful! I can't stand it when I see a load of blogs blogging the same things, whether it be a sponsored post or something else, original content is much better! xx
    Sirens and Bells

  6. Great tips, not just for newbies. The basics is what so many bloggers forget!

  7. Thank you for your comment on my blog dear:) I found this post really helpful so thank you!

    Jess x

  8. what a fantastic post! :)

    your blog is absolutely wonderful! i'd love it if you could take a moment to have a look at mine http://poorlittlerichchick.blogspot.com

    have a great day :D
    mel xx

  9. Rachel, what a fantastic post. I am a new reader to your blog and this was all so helpful, as I also just started blogging recently as well. I am definitely inspired to make a "start here" area now - thank you again for doing this! :)

  10. Great points Rachel, I totally agree.


  11. Dear Rachel,
    you really are a powerhouse for useful advice! I was going to comment on your shopping/saving tips but don't think I did. (I have decided i'm going to utilise the wishlist technique ;)) You definitely have some priceless advice though. I agree with the community one most; when I first started blogging I didn't really think about what I was doing or why and what made a 'successful' blog but now I know that interacting with other bloggers, getting constructive comments and discovering other blogs is one of, if not THE most rewarding thing about blogging. That's my two cents.

    P.s. Thank you so much for your kind comments, they do indeed warm my heart :)
    Keep up the great work!

  12. This is a great post....not just for newbie bloggers but even for me...and I've been blogging for years...but no-one read my content...until I started a new blog on beauty and then met and networked with other beauty bloggers and it's been great so far :D

  13. I have a niggling feeling that I might be the person referred to who never comments, except for the fact that I don't really write a fantastic blog... O_o

    I have to say, though, that every one of these tips is briliant - but that people should be wary to interpret them their own ways or else the blogosphere could become very "samey".

    Great post - I will definitely be sharing it :)

  14. @ Amy - I can't actually remember who I was referring to, but I don't think it was you... And I totally agree with the samey thing!

  15. Thank you for the great tips. I have been blogging for 8 months now, and I do it for me. It really is the best way for it.


  16. These are great tips! I've only started blogging 5 months ago and I'm still learning and finding my way around the blogosphere. I guess I have to get a good camera soon! I do use my fone most of the time because it's convenient. Hahaha :)

  17. Yes, easy navigation is key! Clean lines, white and readable.