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Jan 14 2014

Advice from Bloggers of all Sizes: What NOT to Do…but What to Do Instead!

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Warning – this is an epically long post. I’ve made the subheads large, so you can skip to the sections you are most interested in, if you don’t want to read the whole thing!

Did you make a New Year’s resolution to become a beauty or nail blogger? If you already blog, did you resolve to make your blog a more user-friendly site to attract more readers?

I have always surfed blogs, often times I am a “lurker,” not leaving comments. And I have run BeautyJudy for one-month shy of five years. I’ve learned a thing or two, even if I’m not perfect!

I know that so many amazing bloggers have already given how-tos on getting started, improving photography, etc., but lately, I’ve been reading a much larger variety of blogs, trying to look at new ones and different ones every day, and comment (hello, New Year’s resolution!), and there are things I notice that are universal that we could all do better, for the sake of our readers.

Now, I know we are blogging for ourselves. It’s true. Do what you want, when you want to, and you will develop the engagement that is true to your voice. But at the same time, there are things like blurry pictures and hard-to-read fonts that should be considered by everyone when you’re publishing on the Internet.

I polled fellow beauty and nail bloggers in the Beauty Blog Coalition, which includes a variety of bloggers from newer to some of the beauty and nail blogging/vlogging pioneers. I asked them – What do you see bloggers do that doesn’t work…and what’s the constructive solution to the problem?!

We can ALL improve, and if we are open to honest feedback, and trying new things, we will be our best selves!

Blurry, tiny…oh, heck. Let’s just call a spade a spade. Crappy photos.

“It can be so hard to see what’s in the picture when it’s very small,” said Francine from The Polished Mommy.

Francine recommends larger images, especially for nail and nail art blogs. She sets hers at 500 X 500, “which isn’t too large that it takes over the screen, but they’re big enough to clearly see what’s in the photo.”

Cropping is key, she added. “Focus on the main subject and cut out any background (unless it’s necessary) to keep the photo clean.”

One of my pet-peeves as a blog reader is PhotoShop and all other photo editing tools. I don’t like overly-edited photos, because I don’t feel like I can trust the color or look of the polish if someone is editing it to look perfect! I don’t care if your cuticles have a flaw or the polish isn’t evenly painted near your cuticle.

“Don’t over-filter or over-Photoshop your photos, nobody is born flawless,” said Kath from The Fabzilla.

SO TRUE! Now, don’t get us wrong. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make an effort to put your best fingers forward!

“I am not the clean-up police, but when a manicure is being published on your blog, for the love of Pete, do proper cleanup!” Sheila, from Pointless Cafe said. Agreed.

Casey from Beauty 101 Blog recommended that “when at all possible, try to avoid using flash when taking product photos. Instead, try to focus on using natural light sources or indoor lights with 5000w bulbs for the best effects.”

Guess what? GUILTY here! I use flash sometimes. But I prefer natural light or sunlight. It is best.

Also – be careful about reflections in your nails. If you have a glare bouncing off your nails, it can make the color, design or glitter hard to see. Some folks have flawless swatches, but I seek out other photos because the glare in their nail is too…glaring. Don’t be afraid to go all “paparazzi” on yourself when you’re swatching and/or taking photos of something for your blog. You’ll find something in your camera at the end of the day that is usable!

And…don’t go stealing other people’s photos. Chances are, if you found it on Google, don’t take it, it’s copyrighted!

“Just because you found them on Tumblr, Pinterest or Google search doesn’t mean they are free to use,” said Jennifer from My Beauty Bunny. “Make sure to get permission and then give credit and link back when appropriate. Better yet – just use your own photos and stock photos!

Oh, but a note on stock photos! Don’t rely TOO much on stock photos – “I don’t mind stock photos here and there, but if the whole site is only stock pictures, it makes me wonder if you’ve ever tried the products!” Justina from Justina’s Gems, said.

Be your own grammar police!

“Check the small things when it comes to spelling since that’s where the common mistakes are made,” said Marcia, from Beauty Info Zone. “One mistake I see over and over is using IT’S (it is) instead of its. Know your there, their and they’re. As a former teacher, I find those spelling errors annoying, although I know it’s not everyone’s bugaboo. You can always ask a friend to proofread for you.”

I can tell you as a writer, editor, and all around communications pro, it bothers me too. I do consider that not everyone is a word nerd like I am, so I give folks the benefit of the doubt. But know that some readers may not be forgiving!

“Very poor grammar really bothers me sometimes,” said Anastasia from Glamorable. “I understand that we all have different educational backgrounds, but if you are not feeling very confident about your grammar skills, try running the text through a spell check before hitting that ‘submit’ button.”

Great advice from Anastasia, who comes from a good place with it – “English is my second language, so I’m personally guilty of this one, too.”

We’re all human, and sometimes having personality can mean more than just your spelling and use of passive aggressive voice.

“I’m picky about the writing (spelling/grammar) on my own blog, but I read a few that have mistakes and it doesn’t bother me,” said Emi of Project Swatch. “The more important thing to me is voice; have an interesting, personal voice. Talk about what you like, what you don’t, what you are thinking – that really adds a lot!”

Be accessible

So you’ve got a blog, and you’ve got social media buttons – follow me on Instagram! Like me on Facebook!

Don’t be afraid to shout it from the rooftops – or at least above the fold – on your site! You may find that you interact more with readers through other social media platforms, and you should make it easy for them to find you!

“Have your ways to follow in a really obvious place!” said Stephanie from All Things Beautiful. “How else will people subscribe?”

“Make it easier for your readers to find you on other social media,” said Shelley from Polarbelle. “Bloggers often post different material to [different social media outlets]. Make sure your buttons are easily recognizable…I can’t tell you how many times I’ve pondered over which button was which.”

Have you considered the reader who isn’t web or tech savvy?

I haven’t really gotten into YouTube vlogs yet. I look at them now and then, but I prefer reading a blog. So when I find a blogger that dabbles into videos, it makes me HAPPY when they take the time to offer the text and pictures of what the video shows or reviews.

“Use alt tags for screen readers, provide transcription (if sharing/making videos), keep your page organized and use a validator to spot anything that you need to fix,” said Alice of Alice in Nappyland.

Engage!

If you start a blog, you want to build a great readership, and you want people commenting, be prepared – you’ve got to engage and interact!

“Always respond to questions in your comments, be them on your blog, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, etc. It is really just considerate and very much appreciated!” said Kellie from KellieGonzo.com.

“Try to engage your readers as much as possible,” said Kim from Makeup by Kim Porter. “Ask questions at the end of the post. Don’t leave out your personality because you’re following other bloggers.”

I thought this was great advice, too: “I would encourage bloggers to be a very tolerant version of themselves,” said Aprill of Glitter.Gloss.Garbage. “Over the years I’ve seen bloggers rise to the top and it’s not always about great photos, or whatever. Sometimes it all boils down to personality. Be nice to your audience, be true to them, it will get you further than you think.”

SO. TRUE!!!

Also, don’t create barriers for people when they want to interact with you.

“Remove Captcha,” said Phyrra. “People have problems with it. There are so many other options out there for preventing spam. You can use Google Plus commenting, Disqus (pronounced, discuss), Intense Debate, Livefyre. It will encourage more comments if people can easily leave comments.”

“I read blogs on my mobile devices and Catpcha is just one extra step I can’t be bothered with when on the run,” said Kimmi from The Plastic Diaries.

You want to make $…receive samples…consider this!

“As a reader, I am very turned off by blogs that have tons and tons of advertisements,” said Lisa, also of Beauty Info Zone. “If I have trouble finding the blog posts…I am not going to read that blog. As a blogger, my old-school feeling about ads probably costs us (Marcia and myself) lots of money. It’s not a very practical way of thinking, but lots of ads – especially when it involves pop-ups – drives me crazy. I don’t mind some ads or buttons and such – just not tons of them.”

One of the other things that readers see if they follow you on other social media outlets is your interaction with brands. Don’t embarrass yourself!

“Don’t go begging for samples on every social media outlet,” said Deborah from Love Varnish.

Instead, if you want to work with a company – and you should NEVER, in my opinion, reach out to a company to “ask for samples” – find a contact email address on the brand’s website. Do a little research and digging. Don’t just ask another blogger, either, who their contact is for XX brand. Chances are, they have worked hard or done the same research in order to build PR relationships.

Samples are a tool for bloggers, they are not a necessity, and they aren’t just “free product.” You are accepting samples with the idea that you will try the product to the best of your ability and share your thoughts with readers. It’s work, a lot of work, and you should know that going into it.

Remember, you’re blogging for YOU

“You’re blogging for you,” said Angela of Hair Spray and High Heels. “Stop worrying about what everyone else is doing and what they think. Do what feels right for you, and don’t try to become something or someone you’re not. Just because everyone else says something is ‘the right way’ that doesn’t mean it’s the right way for you and where you want your blog to go. Never forget who you are and let that shine through. If you start following someone else’s ‘code’ you’re going to lose the main reason you began your blog. Just be you.”

“As a lifestyle, beauty and fashion blogger I have been told over and over again that I can’t do ‘all of the above’ or I ‘have to blog a certain way’ when talking about each topic. It took me a long time to realize that it’s my blog and I do what makes me feel comfortable and do so because I’m passionate about it,” said Honey from Honey Girls World. “My blog is my life’s journey and journal, while others do differently. We do not need to conform to what others are doing but simply write about what you love and do what makes you happy; use others as inspiration. So make your blog your own!”

Clean, crisp, and READABLE

I’ll let the other bloggers say it, they’ve said it so well!

“Our eyes naturally move from left to right, and aligning text in the middle makes it harder for brains to process text – it’s true!” said Miranda from Slashed Beauty. She recommends no center align text, and no run-on sentences. “Although I’m not a stickler for perfectly perfect grammar on blogs, at least be concise and to the point. Readers don’t want to decipher what you’re saying.”

To that point – stick to a very readable font. Stay away from fancy fonts. I saw a blog the other day where the font was not cursive, but the “e’s” are all strange, and it made reading the blog difficult. I had to zoom in to get through the post.

“I don’t mind fancy fonts for titles, but NOT for the main blog writing!” said Christine of 15 Minute Beauty. Couldn’t agree more!

“Make your design very uncluttered and user-friendly. Above all, avoid adding lots of stuff to your sidebars. Instead, focus on the essentials that people need to navigate your site: Your email, ways that people can follow you (social media icons are the best), a short blurb about yourself and your blog (or link to your bio or about page), a search feature, and some form of archive of past posts,” said Meghan from Will Paint Nails for Food.

Christine also recommends that you Include your search feature at the top of your site.

Mina from MinaSlater.com also recommends doing what you can to keep the reader on the page while giving them opportunity to explore.

“Set outgoing links to open in a new tab/window so readers can explore what you’ve shared without completely leaving your site until they’re ready to,” she said.

Don’t do what I just did, seriously

I just gave you a ginormous post with all words and advice and one picture. If this hasn’t been torture I don’t know what is. But it’s the perfect example of Harshleen’s advice!

“Don’t make your posts way too long,” Harshleen, from Beauty Tidbits, said. “At least not all the time! It’s OK to have very long posts sometimes when you need to cover a lot of stuff, like a whole collection, but as a reader, I like to see short and crisp blog posts with some great photos!”

Now, I put everything in this one post as a quickie little guide for the beginning/improving blogger, so I will cut myself some slack. I’ve also made the subheads big, so that you could navigate to the section that you are interested in the most. I don’t expect the reader to do this whole post. But if you took anything away from it, I will be grateful!

What say you?

What do you think? What do you think, as a reader, that bloggers can do better? If you are a blogger, are you trying to improve? Do you have a NY resolution for your blog? Are you starting out as a blogger? Was this helpful to anyone?

I’d LOVE LOVE to hear your thoughts below. Discussing this stuff only helps us bring readers the BEST in a blog experience!

And THANK YOU for sticking with me in this post!

  • Sherry Proch

    For a newbie this is useful and concise, thank you!

    • BeautyJudy

      I’m so glad this is helpful Sherry! We’re a community, and we should support each other new or experienced!

  • http://www.blushingnoir.com/ Brooke @ Blushing Noir

    This is a wonderful post! I get emails a lot asking so many questions… I’m totally going to direct them here when I reply! Thank you!

    • BeautyJudy

      Aw, thanks Brooke!! I learned a few things in polling everyone, too!

  • http://www.painted-ladies.com/ Sheila Arkee

    You did a great job organizing this info – very, very helpful.

    • BeautyJudy

      Thank you Sheila!!

  • Kelly Tomlinson

    Great post! I agree with all of it and I also like to see a bit of professionalism; not necessarily a stuffy suit personality, but more like someone who knows how to be tolerant and classy. I don’t really care for those who let a little too much come out… If you know what I mean. LOL

    • BeautyJudy

      Lol Kelly! I think to each her/his own, but there are some things I couldn’t imagine blogging about, and I do get personal. But I think those who get really really personal or use certain language, etc, they have a readership that gets them! I respect that. Thanks for checking this out :)

      • Kelly Tomlinson

        Oh, absolutely! I think ‘classy’ was the wrong word to use. I like edgy and unusual personalities and I even tend to cuss on my blog. But sometimes a blogger shares a little too much (like TMI) and I get turned off; for example I had liked a Nail Art Page on Facebook. Then they started sharing a ton of pages completely unrelated to Nails. One of the pages was called ‘I Like Daily Ass’. I was like WTF?!? Needless to say I Unliked it. LOL

        • BeautyJudy

          Bwahahahahahah!!! Oh MY!!! Yeah, I could see how that might be a turn off!!! Lol

  • FabZilla_Kath

    Great tips from fabulous bloggers I admire just like you! I enjoy reading blogs with good photos and great personality.

    • BeautyJudy

      Thank you for your contribution Kath!!! I enjoy bloggers who let their personality shine, as well!

  • Ange

    Great advice! I’m sticking to just be you ;) We all have different strengths and weaknesses :)

    • BeautyJudy

      True story!!! :)

  • marciaf

    I love the conversational way you put together this post. I am guilty of long posts though so I need to watch for that.

    • BeautyJudy

      Thanks you Marcia! And I enjoy your reviews.

  • MyNewestAddiction

    Couldn’t agree more with all of them! :) Great stuff

    • BeautyJudy

      Thanks!!

  • http://libbyspinkvanity.blogspot.com Kimberly

    A long post isn’t a bad thing. Everything was pertinent and you didn’t go off on a tangent! I am a bit more lenient with casual bloggers than I am with semi and pro bloggers on mistakes and foibles. I am harsh, however, on young bloggers who come across preachy about dos and doesn’t for ‘mature’ makeup wearers. Don’t be telling me to not wear shimmer!!!!!

    • BeautyJudy

      Ha! Shimmer forever!!! And I agree. I like long posts when the writer is giving an informative, thoughtful review or sharing a story. I love to read so if it’s good I get wrapped up in it!

  • Nidia Doherty

    Lots of things I agree with.. and some I’m probably guilty of without even knowing it! I get so paranoid that I’m failing my blog when I read posts like this! lol.

    • BeautyJudy

      Oh my, me too Nidia!!! I’ve definitely been guilty of long posts, blurry or flash photos…occasional grammar or spelling errors!

  • Farryn

    Great tips thank you!

    • BeautyJudy

      Thanks for checking them out Farryn :)

  • Aleya Bamdad

    Amazing tips. And a special thank you for the tips on taking pictures.

    • BeautyJudy

      I’m grateful to everyone that contributed – thanks for checking it out! :)

  • http://www.portraitofmai.com/ Mai

    Thank you for compiling all these tips!

    • BeautyJudy

      Thanks for checking them out Mai!

  • http://www.slashedbeauty.com/ Miranda Mendoza

    Such a great guide for any new blogger!

    • BeautyJudy

      Thanks Miranda, and for your contribution too! :)

  • Claudia

    Thank you for this post! It was very informative!

    • BeautyJudy

      Thanks for checking it out Claudia!! Miss you!!

  • http://www.peachypolish.com/ Valesha from Peachy Polish

    Love this! I’m definitely going to be keeping this post in mind when I redo something on my blog. I really liked the “don’t beg for samples” part! I’ve seen multiple Instagram swatchers that do that, IN COMMENTS, not even in private and it really bugs me!

    • BeautyJudy

      I’m so glad you found this useful!!! There are things I want to refer to as well when Iake some changes this year! :)

  • http://www.phyrra.net/ Phyrra

    Love the tips!

    • BeautyJudy

      Thanks to you, and to everyone who contributed!

  • http://kelsiesnailfiles.blogspot.com/ Kelsie Rogers

    Great advice even for experienced bloggers. 1 thing to add for grammar, I think it’s also important to consider your audience. If you have viewers from all around the world (and we often do) it’s important to minimize slang and shortened words so that it can be easily translated if necessary. I also try to make things as clear as possible without over-complicating it so that someone reading it in english who may not use english as their first language can still understand.

    • BeautyJudy

      Kelsie that is fantastic advice!!!!

  • erikatheicyone

    I dig this post. :D

    • BeautyJudy

      Thanks, Erika!!

  • Anastasia

    You could easily call this list “path to building a successful blog”. It’s a long post, indeed, but I had fun reading it, and even learned a few things :)

    • BeautyJudy

      Thanks, Anastasia, I learned a couple things while putting it together myself!

  • Justina

    This is all such great advice!

    • BeautyJudy

      Thanks for your contribution, Justina!!!