Ever had this experience where, after reading a bunch of blogging advice on the Internet, you just stare blankly at your computer screen and say: “Huh?”
It’s not that you didn’t understand the advice. It’s just that the so-called blogging “experts” can’t seem to agree on the do’s and don’ts of professional blogging.
One expert will say: “Blog about what you love, be active on social media, and everything will fall into place!” Another will say: “No, you don’t need a blog; you need to do this and that instead.”
Not that conflicting opinions are bad, per se. It’s good that a lot of people want to give a more rounded view on a subject like blogging. However, this can be confusing for you if you’re still trying to get your feet wet in a pool as overcrowded as the blogosphere.
If reading two or more articles on the same blogging topic often makes you want to scratch your head, here are a few questions you can ask to decide whether an article is worth a click on, the “Bookmark” button or the “Back” button.
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Is The Advice Evergreen?
“Evergreen” means that the advice will be just as applicable five, ten, or even twenty years from now as it is today. For example, Michael Poh’s “Journalism For Blogging: 6 Things to Consider” will always be timely, because it talks about basic but essential principles that every blogger should keep in mind if they want their content to be worthwhile – no matter the topic, target audience, and time period.
Now, this is not to say that articles with a “trending now” or “technology” element can’t be evergreen. It’s still possible for a piece that incorporates those elements to be evergreen, as long as it gives an insightful explanation on why those elements worked (or not) in the context of the article (e.g. how Flappy Bird became an overnight sensation before fizzling out, and what lessons developers and marketers alike can learn from it).
Does The Author Provide Concrete Examples To Support Points?
Any “expert” can say that “blogging is a great way to make quick cash”. From a common sense perspective, it’s easy to believe that argument (which is quite questionable, by the way). After all, you only need a computer, an Internet connection, and an ability to string words together to get a blog up and running, right?
But, unless that “expert” can provide substantial evidence (e.g. real-life success story) to prove that blogging is in the beginner mode of the money generating game, it’s best if you take that argument with a grain of salt.
Even if the “expert” does have evidence, it’s possible for this to be exaggerated – or worse, fabricated – due to the open nature of the Internet. If you have any doubts about the legitimacy of an author’s evidence, it won’t hurt to do a bit of background research (e.g. Googling the subject, browsing forums, asking your more knowledgeable and trustworthy colleagues) before you come to any definite conclusions.
(On that note, if anyone claims to have a “magic pill” to your blogging woes, be skeptical. Blogs require vision, dedication, and hard work to maintain, and anyone who says otherwise is probably trying to sell you snake oil. Probably.)
What’s the author’s purpose for writing the article?
Anyone who talks about blogging online does so for a number of reasons, such as (1) a desire to inform; (2) a desire to entertain; (3) a desire to persuade; (4) a need to meet a specific daily/weekly/monthly quota of content; and (5) a need to promote a product or service.
The key is to identify which of these is the author’s main objective. Once you figure that out, you can decide for yourself whether the author’s words are worth considering or not.
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For example, a post on the “20 Ways to Promote Your Blog” may offer solid tips, but if it includes any promotion for products/services, it may actually be an advertorial. In case you decide to buy any of these products/services, make sure you search for objective reviews on them first. After all, it’s best to get your money’s worth, right?
Can You Make The Advice Work For You?
On the flip side, it’s possible for an article like “The Ultimate Guide to Promoting Your Blog via E-Newsletter” to be well-written, detailed, and insightful, yet still be “bad”. How?
Simple: It’s not (yet) applicable to you. You may already have a blog, but not enough subscribers to warrant the effort you need to put into crafting those newsletters.
A few more words of (unsolicited) advice
The truth is, there’s no such thing as “good” or “bad” blogging advice, at least not in the strictest sense of those words. There’s only advice that is prone to misinterpretation and misapplication. Whether the words of an “expert” will affect you positively or negatively will depend on various factors, like where you want to go as a blogger, your perception of where you are vis-à-vis where you want to be, how realistic your expectations are of what it takes to get from point A to point B, and how “expert” advice will fit in with all of that.