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. 

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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. 

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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

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