Kate Watson-Smyth of Mad About The House, the UK’s no 1 ranked interiors blog and GWG Blog of the Year, gives us her top eight insights into what makes a good – and lasting – blog.
The blog has led to two books, with the third about to be published: Mad About The House, 101 Interior Design Answers (Pavilion £20) hits the shelves on 5th March. Kate has worked with dozens of brands, from Alternative Flooring to West One Bathrooms via Habitat and Heals, Samsung and Soho Home. In 2018 she launched The Great Indoors podcast with Sophie Robinson, which is the UK’s no 1 interiors podcast and has had over 250,000 downloads. She runs an occasion interior design company (when she has time) and is currently working on another idea to be revealed later this year.
She gave us her eight top tips on how to set up a really good blog.
1. Do Your ResearchFor me, everything started with the blog back in 2012. I was a freelance journalist who didn’t have enough work and I thought writing a blog would be the perfect online CV that might lead to more newspaper commissions. The first thing I did was research what blogs were out there, what platforms I could use, what names were available and what everyone else was doing.
2. Find Your NicheKnowing what everyone else is doing allows you to find your niche. The internet’s a big place so you need to work out what your corner of it will look like. These days it’s better to have a small subject that you can cover authoritatively and knowledgeably rather than writing general pieces on a wide variety of topics that anyone else can do, and probably is already doing.
3. Decide Your Posting Schedule And Be ConsistentThis is absolutely key. People’s inboxes are full and they are quick to unsubscribe or just have periodic clear outs. If they don’t know what and when you are posting, they are unlikely to invite you in. In addition to this, posting five times a week for two months and then running out of things to say and slipping to once a month and from there once every three months means you will just fade away. Better to decide a schedule – once, twice or three times a week – and stick to it.
4. Find Your VoiceThere’s no hiding on the internet and your blog isn’t a school essay. You can’t fake it. Speaking to your audience in the careful tones you would use to address your grandmother or your headteacher may be polite but it won’t make for a riveting read (unless your grandmother or your headteacher are your target audience). Blogs are meant to be chatty places full of your opinions and thoughts. Write like you speak. With less swearing.
5. Use The SpellcheckI can’t emphasise this enough (even though pressure of time sometimes means I forget to do this myself). You may not be the best writer in the world, but you can spell correctly. Bad spelling and punctuation takes authority away from what you are saying. If you find writing really painful then make sure your pictures are really good. And still spellcheck the bits you have written.
6. Source And Credit Good PicturesWhen I first started I used a lot of cut out images which is what we tended to use for product shots in newspaper. But I quickly realised that beautiful lifestyle images do better. I tend to use product shots from brands and link to the products therein, as well as pictures from Instagram with the source always credited and linked. If you’re not sure if the owner of the photograph will mind, ask permission.
7. Engage With Your AudienceA blog is essentially a conversation between you and the readers. They will ask questions and expect a reply. In the old print days you could write to the editor and maybe, just maybe, after a few days or a month, your letter would be printed. But there would be no reply. These days, readers can engage with writers and ask for more information, correct mistakes and offer opinions. The dream is an audience that all talk to each other creating a community, but you must be part of that too otherwise they will go elsewhere.
8. Your Blog Is Your Home, Instagram Is A HotelIn recent years, many bloggers and brands have been seduced by Instagram. They can tell stories and sell products quickly and easily and don’t have to spend time writing. In turn, the Instagram audience has responded to many a poll saying they don’t bother to read blogs any more as they want a quick fix on the ‘gram. But it’s almost impossible to look back and find things you liked on the grid and stories vanish after 24 hours. Not to mention that creating a good set of stories is really time consuming by the time you have added the links and the hashtags etc. A blog belongs to you, the content stays there for as long as you want it to. It can be searched by readers and, crucially, by Google, to give you a page ranking meaning that more people can find your content. Why would you not want that? Instagram is a great way to drive traffic to your blog but if it closed down tomorrow, where would that leave you?
Photo credit: Rekha Damhar
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