Over the last few weeks I set myself the challenge of boiling an entire hypothetical meta-blog down into one post. I asked myself: if I could only write one more post about blogging, what would it be?
This was the result: 101 essential skills for any blogger, gleaned from more than seven years of observation, as well as my own experiences. I feel confident in stating that a blogger who developed all of these skills would be a formidable force indeed. Where possible, I’ve linked to an article I feel will help you develop that skill, either here at Skelliewag or elsewhere.
I hope the work that went into constructing this list has resulted in something that will be useful to you for a long time to come.
2023 List of 101 Essential Blogging Skills
Exceptional bloggers have the ability to…
Be unique. Give your readers something no-one else can give.
Write dirty. Readers can’t form a relationship with information alone.
Acknowledge feedback. Never let an email go unanswered, even if you write back to say you don’t have the time to answer right now!
Omit unnecessary words.
Weave outbound links into your content. This will add another layer of depth to what you write.
Be consistent. Establish a blogging rhythm readers can follow.
Be vulnerable. Get to know readers on a personal level.
Recognize opportunities and take them.
Keep an orderly and constructive comments section.
Write captivating headlines without resorting to hyperbole.
Listen to feedback, both positive and negative.
Acknowledge when you have made a mistake.
Have the courage to reverse bad decisions, even if you invested time, effort or money in them.
Be prepared to invest considerable time into one post.
Format text for clarity and readability.
Write posts which can be scanned, but:
Be gripping. Encourage readers to consume every word.
Approach existing ideas in new ways.
Recognize which blog elements are useful and which elements are clutter.
Understand social media.
Give without expecting to receive.
Avoid self-indulgence. Blog selfishly.
Stay motivated. Find a way to satisfy both your readers and yourself.
Communicate with other bloggers.
Do not close yourself off from competitors. Learn from them.
Answer every question that comes your way.
Be resilient in the face of personal attacks and criticism.
Pay attention to what others write about your blog. You can learn a lot from it.
Don’t be afraid to say a lot in just a few words. Length does not directly correlate with meaning.
Be ambitious. Don’t under-sell your abilities.
Be audacious. Innovate, experiment, create a spectacle.
Demonstrate why you’re an expert.
Care about spelling, grammar and expression.
Break out of generic looking themes. Be visually unique.
Use stories and anecdotes effectively and to illustrate a point.
Disagree with others respectfully and convincingly.
Spend time constructing links into your blog.
Get involved in your niche. Comment on other blogs writing on your topic and become part of the community there.
Take an interest in your commenters. Respond to them, visit their blogs, offer assistance or answers.
Create a navigable list of categories. 10-15 provides a balance between specificity and usability.
Select images which help convey the meaning of your posts. Differentiate between images with relevance and pure eye-candy.
Give credit where credit is due. It’s better to reference and acknowledge sources too often rather than too little.
Provide archives. It can be disorienting not to know how long a blog has been in existence. Some readers prefer chronology to category.
Carefully mind your reputation. Be conscious of the way you conduct yourself in spaces outside your blog.
Develop a unique logo or icon for yourself or your site.
Do more than aggregate and post links. Even if you are pointing elsewhere, make yourself and your reactions the central focus.
Don’t link out to the same sites again and again. This makes it easy for readers to skip you and go straight to the source.
Be honest about your shortcomings.
Feed the need for self-improvement. Help your readers become better at something.
If something has been said before, don’t say it again. Conveying the same meaning in different words is not new content.
Build a collection of links you could use to support future blog posts.
Return favors. Help those who help you.
Develop a basic knowledge of HTML. You will be surprised how many opportunities you have to use it, either to tweak your template or gain control of your blog posts.
Read great writing. It will lift the way you write.
Write ahead. Always keep a few posts unpublished for periods of busyness, laziness, or emergencies. This will help ensure real life does not negatively affect your blog.
Keep organized. Make notes of blogging to-dos, develop schedules and stick to them. You will be much more productive with a structure in place.
Write guest-posts. You will be surprised at the opportunities a solid idea and a polite email can open up for you.
Offer to help other bloggers. Aside from possible indirect benefits, it’s just good karma.
Understand that whitespace is not wasted space. A blog full of ’stuff’ is a claustrophobic blog.
Differentiate between spam comments or trackbacks and legitimate ones. Delete trackbacks from scrapers. Don’t reward them with backlinks.
Understand that you will not succeed by being a doppleganger. The harder you try to make your blog’s content resemble that of a more popular blog, the more likely readers are to head to the original instead.
Make it easy for readers to submit your articles to social media, but don’t over complicate the process.
Be prepared to part with widgets that do not benefit your readers.
Understand the value of social proof, as well as the damage caused by its absence.
Be transparent. Disclose your biases and affiliations, particularly when it comes to potential profit.
Recognize when advertisements are negatively impacting on your blog. Be willing to part with or change them if necessary.
Understand that there is a simple correlation between the effort poured into a blog and its quality. There is no secret to popularity; it is achieved mainly by hard work.
Don’t measure your success against the achievement of goals you have no direct control over. Traffic levels, RSS subscribers and Technorati rank are all outside your control. Aim to achieve goals for which the only variable is you.
Keep track of milestones. The result will be something you can look to whenever your morale is low.
Understand the true worth of traffic statistics. Once you do that, you’ll realize there’s no benefit to be had in checking them more than once per day.
Don’t sit in your blog’s email account. Check it once in the morning and once at night. If you are not sticking comments in moderation you can cut this down to once per day.
Strike a balance between blogging and real-world commitments. Don’t sacrifice what’s important for the sake of your blog, as this is a surefire way to cripple your motivation in the long-term.
Brainstorm ideas in advance. Don’t think of a topic as you stare at the blank screen. Make the most of times when you are inspired and develop a catalog of post ideas you can browse as soon as you have the time to write.
Ignore tradition. Don’t be hampered by established ideas on what a blog, or a blog in your niche, can be.
Overcome the taboo against banning commenters, if necessary. Most of us, thankfully, will never have to consider this, but some will. If a commenter is doing nothing but making your comments section a horrible place to be, or continuously bothering you, be willing to reject their comments. The belief they have in being able to say whatever they want is not worth more than the happiness of you and your readers.
Focus on what you’re good at. You will gain more by utilizing your strengths than trying to develop weak skills into something half decent.
Recognize that most ideas are simply new combinations of old ideas.
Learn from other bloggers. Ask questions of those you admire.
Read blogs outside your niche. They will teach you new ways of doing things.
Read feeds quickly and efficiently. This will allow you to extract the maximum amount of information in a minimum of time.
Be a source of solid knowledge. Before presenting something as true, make sure you have verified the facts.
Don’t focus on generating links at the expense of value. Lately I’ve seen a number of blogs hold contest after contest. The bloggers were so busy promoting them that they stopped creating actual content! You are not moving anywhere if, for every new reader you gain, an existing one becomes disillusioned with your blog.
Use numbered headlines in moderation. Too many can fatigue readers and decrease their impact.
Avoid making unsupported claims. If you pull statistics out of the air for the sake of grabbing attention, readers may become skeptical about your honesty.
Choose the right words. You don’t need to be Hemingway, but putting effort into the way you express yourself will pay off.
Suggest, don’t command. There is a difference between giving advice and presenting what you write as the be all and end all. I have seen a number of bloggers giving advice while simultaneously implying there will be negative consequences for not following it (you will lose lots of subscribers, for example). Be aware that you are not the supreme authority on how things should be done, because readers certainly will be.
Be involved with your commenters. If you don’t have time to respond to each comment, at least acknowledge those who’ve put significant effort or thought into their responses. There is nothing worse than spending time on something only to have it ignored.
Allow readers to search your blog. A search bar is incredibly easy to implement and the result is a powerful tool for your users.
Be aware of SEO, but don’t let it control you.
Get involved in a forum relevant to your topic. This is a simple way to build your public profile and promote your blog. It’s enjoyable, too.
Don’t go on hiatus or ‘take a break’ from blogging. Many bloggers experience times when their passion for blogging wanes. Rather than going on hiatus commit yourself to low-intensity blogging for the duration of the slump (links, short posts, and so on). Many blog readers see the word ‘hiatus’ or ‘break’ as a euphemism for ‘I’ve given up blogging’. A few easy posts here and there will show them that you’re still thinking about the blog.
Weigh up effort required vs. reward. Your time is precious, so be mindful to use it on the tasks which provide strong returns. For example, five guest posts on new blogs is unlikely to yield the same rewards as a single guest post on a highly trafficked blog.
Bring the most important details to the top of your About page. Your credentials should come before anything else, because this is what new visitors to your About page are most interested to know.
Subscribe to your own feed and make sure it is in good health.
Chat to your readers. Allow them to add you to Gchat, or to your instant messenger service of choice. You can develop a more solid relationship in five minutes chatting than you can across a series of emails.
Be inventive with how you promote your blog. Brainstorm new strategies for generating inbound links, though you should always ensure they are ethical.
Be observant. When you see content which has become popular, ask yourself why. Consider how you could adapt these characteristics to the content you create.
Ask questions of your readers. It is difficult to give your readers what they want when you don’t know what that is. Don’t spend hours trying to guess what that could be. Ask them! Most of the time they will be more than happy to tell you.
Avoid being stubborn. If you consistently receive complaints or negative feedback about an aspect of your blog, consider scrapping it — regardless of how dear it is to you.
Murder your darlings. Not everything you write will be great. Not every word or paragraph you commit to the screen should be kept. Learn to mercilessly cut out writing that is sub-standard, even if it means scrapping an entire post and starting again.