The overall appearance of your blog is very important in establishing credibility with your readers. You may be a certified expert in your craft, but if your blog is sloppily organized or difficult to navigate, your readers will have a hard time taking you seriously. Your blog software will provide some ready-made templates that will help you format your blog’s home page, but it is still up to you to make each page and post attractive and easily navigable.
When you make a reference to something online, such as another website, a tool available online, or a respected practitioner of your craft, you should add a hyperlink to help your readers locate whatever it is you’re talking about. This is especially important if you refer to previous posts you have made. Don’t assume that readers have read or can recall your earlier work on your blog; link them to it.
When you create the link, be sure you click the “open in new window” option; otherwise clicking on a hyperlink will make your reader navigate away from your page, and he or she may forget to come back. You can overdo it on hyperlinks, though, so if you think your reader can find the page with a simple search engine query, the link probably isn’t necessary.
On the other hand, if you quote information from another site, be sure to include a hyperlink back to the original source so that your readers can see the material in its original context. NEVER copy material directly from other online sources and post it to your blog as if you wrote it yourself. Put copied material in quotation marks and say where you got it. Yes, plagiarism is rife on the internet. That doesn’t make it right. Plus, you are trying to build good relationships with your readers, who expect you to provide accurate, trustworthy information. Acknowledging your sources gives you credibility with the readers you most want to keep. Nothing says “I’m incompetent” like lifting material from the internet and trying to pass it off as your own.
As you build your blog, consider adding additional pages to your basic blog. At least write up a brief introduction of yourself on an “About” page so that readers will have a sense of who you are and why they should trust what you say about your craft. You may also wish to add a “Photo Gallery” page in which you show off your best work, which is useful in building credibility with your readers. Any other information you want to make easily accessible to readers on a regular basis should go on a separate page, not on a blog post. If your blog writing software sets up default pages automatically, be sure to either fill them with information or delete them.
A separate “Contact” page may be helpful, but only if you want to increase your correspondence with other hobbyists. Be aware that publishing your e-mail address on your blog can lead to an increase in e-mail spam, so proceed with caution. I don’t recommend posting a personal phone number or residential street address, even though that information is easily accessible if your blog shares your full name. You are under no obligation to share your real name online, either. Use a screen name, a pseudonym, or just initials if you like.
Remember that, if you use your full name, your blog will probably come up when somebody—a friend, acquaintance, in-law, customer, creditor, employer—looks for your name through a search engine. Use your full name only if you want to be publicly identified with your craft and with your blog in every context. Naturally, if your craft is also your business, then you should put your business’s name and contact information in an easy-to-find place.
You needn’t be paranoid about posting personal contact information, but you should be cautious. Cyberspace hosts a lot of weirdos.
I love the written word, so I hate to admit that blog posts need photos. But they do. Even a small photo at the very beginning makes your post more inviting and readable. Most of the time, it is easy to come up with appropriate photos for each post. You are working with physical materials, after all. Start taking pictures of your work in progress, as well as pictures of finished projects. Most of the time, you’ll know intuitively what kind of pictures to use in each post. A post about a completed project needs a picture of the completed project. A how-to post needs one or more pictures of the process you are describing. A post describing your workspace needs a picture of your workspace. That much is obvious.
Including photos of other kinds of posts requires more creativity. What if you are writing a post about a book you just read, or about the philosophy of your craft? Photos of book covers or of select pages are better than nothing. You should also build up a set of “stock photos,” perhaps shots of raw materials, a workspace, completed projects, tools arranged in a workspace, etc. These are always relevant. Even if your hobby is reading, take a few pictures of your bookshelves, of stacks of books on your nightstand, of pens and pencils scattered around a writing desk, or of you favorite reading chair. In a pinch, you can use stock photos from the internet, but you really should take your own photographs. (Remember that copyright laws apply online, too!) Even mediocre photos that you take yourself are better than slick, professional photos that your readers have already seen a dozen times on other sites.
Do learn how to use a digital camera effectively. Photography is another craft in itself, but you don’t need to be an expert to take decent photos. You don’t need super-expensive equipment, either. You can learn the basic techniques by using a good point-and-shoot camera on a tripod. Experiment with different camera settings, lighting situations, and shooting angles. Read a book or two on photography basics. If you know someone who is an avid photographer, ask his or her advice on getting the most out of your current equipment.
Placing photos into your text is something of an art. You can find books on journalism that will teach you the basics of cropping and layout, but the rules for blogs are a little different than the rules for print periodicals. As you read your favorite blogs, notice how the authors place images. If you include one picture, it should come near the beginning. Your reader should be able to see at least part of the photo when he or she first opens up your blog. If you include two pictures, the second one should come about mid-way through the text. Only short posts have a photo at the very end.
As you get comfortable with placing photos in your blog, try to vary the size of your photos. Use small photos to break up text, setting them at the left or right margin alternately. Use larger photos to illustrate techniques or emphasize details that you are writing about. Remember to be kind to slow internet connections. A blog post with twenty large pictures may never load on some computers. Use photos no larger than necessary. You should also experiment with wrapping text around different sized photos, and use the “preview” function on your blog software to see how the finished product will look. When it comes to photos in the layout, if it looks good, then it is good.
Every post should include a picture, but it should have no more pictures than necessary to make the point.
Some posts may be primarily photos, with only a few words of explanatory text. As long as the photos pull their own weight, a photo-essay post is a delight to read. Do not pressure yourself to write a lot of text when your pictures say it all.