Blog Building: 13 Do's & Don't's

May 17, 2020


I have been blogging for ten years now. Sometimes successfully. Sometimes not.

In this article I'm going to share what I've learned about blog building (i.e. getting people to read your blog) across five different blogs.

I started my first blog The Mystic Review in August of 2010. For the first year I had an audience of one (thank you Tara) but over the next couple of years the blog's popularity grew. By 2017 it was getting thousands of views a day.

That was when I stepped away from the occult and shut down the blog I had worked so hard to build.

I started a new Christian blog I called Today's Christian Life almost immediately. That blog did not do well. So I started a third and a fourth blog. Blog number three was called New Age To Christian. Blog number four was bible blog, called Scripture Sunday. Despite the cute names, neither caught on.

Then, in late 2019 I started blog number five (the one you're reading now) at BarbaraGraver.com and I'm happy to say that people are reading this one. And that it's nice to be read.

Since things are going well with the blog, I decided to write a post about what I've learned about blog building over the last ten years.  I'm going to share what what I did right and what I did wrong in the list that follows.

Do's and Don't's:


  1. Don't get too hung up on a name.  A domain name (preferably a dotcom) is important but it is NOT the end all of blogging.  In blogs 2 through 4 used domain names that included popular keywords (Christian, scripture, new age, etc.) because I thought doing that would make it easier to find my blogs. But there were a couple of problems with this. The first was that these key words were so popular that a zillion websites came up whenever they were entered. The second was that Google doesn't rank websites the way it did in 2010 when I started my first blog.  According to some, Google now ranks spammy, keyword rich domain names lower than unique non keyword specific names.  This may or may not be true but what is true is that using keywords in a blog name probably isn't worth the effort.  My advice? Use your own name (or your pen name) for your blog.
  2. Don't go too wide.  My blog number 2 blog concept (Christian Living) was too broad.  Writing for a broad audience (all Christians) wasn't effective.  Potential readers didn't identify with my concept. They didn't feel my blog was "perfect for them." They also didn't know what to expect from my blog. 
  3. Don't go too narrow. Scripture Sunday and New Age To Christian were great names. And I liked writing about the bible and leaving the new age - but I wanted to blog about other things too. Yes, the conventional wisdom is that blogs should aim for a very narrow niche but you don't want to be too focused because, eventually, you will rebel.
  4. Don't let anyone tell you you have to use WordPress. I know that everybody loves WordPress but it just didn't work for me. I didn't really like the interface and I was never able to establish a readership. When I came back to blogger I started getting read almost immediately.  There were a couple of different reasons why that happened but one, in my opinion, is that Google takes care of their own - usually. A bonus for me is that you can set up a custom domain on blogger for free. If you want to do that on WordPress you have to pay for hosting. 
  5. Do blog every week.  Actually, in my first blog I blogged twice a week. Week in. Week out. For seven years. Now because I'm doing other (fiction) writing I usually do one post a week. But I do one post every week. If you only do one thing from this entire article - do this! Blogging regularly doesn't guarantee success and it will get discouraging when your posts aren't getting a lot of attention - but if you don't do it, nothing else you do to promote your blog will have an effect.
  6. Do blog on things you want to learn about (or learn more about). This is the only thing - and I mean only - that keeps me going when people aren't reading my posts. This is why this blog focuses on writing, book reviews and the Catholic faith. I am a fiction writer and I am always learning more about my craft. Two important ways of doing that are reading other people's books (which I love to do anyway) and by reading books about writing. I am also deeply committed to learning more about my faith so I write on that too. A caveat - try to pick the two or three things that are most important to you.  If you add in more you won't be able to define your audience as follows.
  7. Define your audience.  My first blog was (at the time I started it) relatively niche.  Blogs 2 (Christians) and 3 (people who read the bible) were not. (Blog 4 was niche but unsustainable in terms of writing).  My current blog is a good fit for Catholics who write and / or read Catholic or Catholic friendly articles and ebooks.  It isn't especially narrow but it is perfect for me as a blogger.  It gives me space AND focus which is exactly what I need.
  8. Do promote your posts. When I write a new blog post I always take a few minutes to post it to Twitter and Facebook. I also use Hootesuite to schedule the same post to pop up again a couple of weeks or months later on Twitter. And sometimes I do the same thing on Facebook via the Facebook fan page scheduler. I always include an interesting image. I did not do this consistently with blogs 2-4 because my platform at that time wasn't interested in Christian only or Bible only posts. Caution: do not overdo this or people will get annoyed.
  9. Do review things. Reviews are useful because they give people an idea of what they can expect from a given activity, whether that activity is reading a book or taking a trip or anything in between. My personal approach to reviews is to talk about how the thing I'm reviewing impacted me on a person level whenever possible. This can be done with fiction as well as nonfiction.  See my review of Colleen Coble's book Inn at Ocean's Edge for an example.
  10. Do take a multimedia approach. Educators have long known that people have different ways of learning. Now, thanks to technology people can chose media that fits their learning styles. So it's important to remember that text is only one way to acquire information. While blogging is usually text based it doesn't have to be and - even when it is mostly text - it's a good idea to include some audio or video too. I plan on adding more video to this blog by making and posting more YouTube videos. For more on this, see my post on Joanne Penn's Audio for Authors. Nice images are helpful as well.
  11. Do share your own work via feature articles. Reviewing other people's stuff is great but remember to make room for your own work too! For me that's writing.  For you it might be a recipe or a photograph of your most jewelry creation. My most successful posts across every blog I've ever written have been feature articles. My features are creative nonfiction pieces that are often quite personal.  (See A Butterfly In Flight or A Gift From My Grandmother.)
  12. Do make it look good.  Actually I did this in blogs 2 and 3 too but I am especially happy with what I've done with this one. It's based on an inexpensive blogger template I bought from an etsy-based web designer. My $10 purchase included free installation and great customer support - which means that you don't have to personally know anything about webdesign to have a pretty and professional blog. The designer I used (and could not recommend more highly) is Eve from Fearne Creative Designs. You can check out her beautiful templates at etsy.com/shop/FearneCreativeDesign.
  13. Don't spend a lot of money. The old adage, you can't buy success is absolutely true of blogging.  The blog you are reading is a do-it-yourself free blogger blog with a $10 template.  Images are mostly freebies from pixabay. Video is embedded from my non-premium YouTube channel. But the blog is getting read. As of these writing it has 569,170 page views.  And counting.
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Check back for a post on blog post writing do's and don't's

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