Sunday, 10 June 2012

How do I grow my blog?

Beth over at Plum and June is hosting a blog hop for new bloggers to get to know each other.  Included in this is a series of posts containing advice for new bloggers and today it is my turn to post and I thought I'd talk about growing your blog.

Plum and June
When you first start blogging, it feels like there is a whole network out there of bloggers with lots of followers and all sorts of fun on their blogs and you're not a part of it.  So how do you go about getting connected, getting more followers and turning your blog into one of those other blogs.  Here are my top tips interspersed with blog headers from blogs which I think do that job well.  They are a mix of some of the bigger and some not so big blogs but they're ones I admire for their content, presentation, style and voice.

1.   Be yourself.  Easier said than done.  The longer you blog, the more your own voice comes out.  Don't try to be funnier than you are, madder than you are, cooler than you are.  Don't try to portray the person you think people want to read about.  People can see right through that.  I write as if I were talking to myself (which I do a lot).  Katy I'm a Ginger Monkey is a great example of this.  She writes EXACTLY as she speaks - funny, interesting, slightly mad and offbeat.  Sometimes sad.  Sometimes happy.  Always generous to others in the quilting community.


2.   Be real.  Be vulnerable.  No-one wants to read about a perfect life and a perfect family with perfect kids and perfect quilts and a perfect stash.  That evil part inside of us wants to know that things aren't so perfect.  We want to know that your points didn't line up, that you chose the wrong fabrics, that your kids are driving you round the bend, that your hair is a mess and your stash is out of control.  OK this is an exaggeration but don't be afraid to show that your life isn't perfect or your sewing isn't perfect.  I think the huge success of Aneela Hoey's blog, comfortstitching, although owed in part to her incredible talent as a piecer, quilter, embroiderer and fabric designer, is also down to the fact that she lets us know that her life isn't always all hunky dory perfection.  She wrote about feeling blue when some people's comments on a post a while back about Sherbert Pips were unfavourable.  She shows us inside her home where she stitches on a little coffee table in the sitting room.  And I think people warm to someone who is doing what she's doing whilst not living the high life.  I'm not saying your posts should list your endless woes, troubles and miseries but don't be afraid to let the world in now and then.



3.   Does your blog look good?  I like a nice clean, bright layout.  Play around with blog headers, fonts and colours until you get a look that you like and that you think reflects your blog. You don't need to pay someone to do this for you although some bloggers do.  And take great photos.  You don't need a fancy camera to take great photos.  Take photos in natural light - outside on a sunny day in the shade or next to a window where natural light pours in (but again not in direct sunlight which distorts colours).  Find a clean flat surface like a white table or a tiled floor to place smaller items on.  Keep your eyes peeled when you're out and about for somewhere to hang a quilt - a fence with a nice view behind perhaps.  Rita at Red Pepper Quilts is a master at great photographs and I would love to know her secrets.  Her photos are bright, clean, well lit and with true colours.

4.   Respond to comments.  Aside of during giveaways, I try to respond to every single comment on my blog.  Not all bloggers do this and there is no obligation to do this.  But for me blogging is all about connecting and, if someone stops you in the street to say "wow I love that quilt you made", you wouldn't just stare straight ahead and keep on walking.  Especially in the early days of blogging, responding to comments starts a dialogue between you and other bloggers and that dialogue is what gets you connected and plugged into the bigger network.  Marguerite from Adventures in Quilting and Sailing has been a faourite blog of mine for a long time.  She posts beautiful seascape photos from her morning walks with her dog Rafael and always without fail responds to every single comment on her blog with a warm, friendly response.  


5.   Connect, join, link.  Blogging is all about connecting with other people and there are so many ways  out there to connect to the community.  Join a Flickr swap or virtual quilting bee, link to a linky party, follow a quiltalong, comment on other people's blogs.  Each time you get to know someone new out in the quilting community, your blog will grow, more people will click to follow, more people will add you to their RSS, google or email feeds.  More people will comment.  Start you own bee, quiltalong swap or linky party.  On the first of every month I hold a linky party for new and small bloggers to connect with other new and small bloggers and a separate but simultaneous linky party for all bloggers to show off what they've made that month.  Come and link and make new friends, find new blogs and give other bloggers a chance to find you.  Jennifer at Ellison Lane Quilts is a great example of someone who links well throughout the community.  She always seems to have great bloghops, linky parties and events going on at her blog, drawing together new and old bloggers and helping everyone to connect.


6.   Blog about what you know and love.  If your passion and skill is hand quilting, blog about that, show examples, write a tutorial, host a sewalong.  If your passion is EPP, give ideas to your readers, take some really great photos of your work.  People visit certain blogs knowing that they will be given certain types of inspiration, advice and ideas of a particular type on that blog.  You don't need to blog exclusively about your one passion - your blog can cover any areas of your life you want to blog about but there are some blogs I always visit because I know I will get really good new inspiration in an area that blogger has real skill in.  Cathy Cabbage Quilts uses colour in some kind of a magical way I can't describe.  It's like she throws all the colours of the rainbow into a quilt and they all land in a big heap but still look amazing.  I love to visit her blog for that reason but then get sucked into the amazing applique and EPP she always seems to have going on.


7.   Host a giveaway.  You don't need hundreds of followers to host a giveaway.  You could give away something you've made or some fabric from your stash you probably won't use again.  Or approach an online or bricks and mortar shop and see if they'd like to have a giveaway on your blog.  For a chance to win, you can ask people to click to follow you.  Now some people don't like to do this, thinking that followers who only followed for a giveaway will not become a friend of the blog.  But who knows, some might and some might not but you've just widened your circle a little bit more and breathed a little bit more life into your blog.  Fat Quarter Shop is the best example of this for me.  They are the daddy of the quilt shops.  I go there for fabric inspiration, to see what's new, to browse their sales.  And so often they are involved in giveaways in blogland.  They are generous with their fabrics and that helps them to connect throughout the quiltblogging community.


8.   Let people know you've blogged. Post on facebook that you've blogged.  Tweet that you've blogged.  Use any of the social media you're tapped into to let people know you're blogging.



9.   Make it easy for people to follow your blog.  Add a google follower widget.  And an email following widget.  And an RSS feed widget.  Add widgets linking to your Flickr, twitter, facebook accounts.  It's all about connecting.  Making it easier for people to find and follow your blog will naturally grow your blog, little by little, bit by bit but grow it will.


10.   One penultimate plea. Turn off your comment word verification.  It is slow, cumbersome and bothersome.  I turned off mine months ago and whilst I do get occasional comments offering me easy access to a whole variety of pharmaceutical products not easily available on the open market, the benefit to my readers of being able to leave a comment quickly and easily far outweigh the minor inconvenience to me.  I have set my settings so that all comments on posts over a week old require my approval and that weeds out the vast majority of these helpful sales offers.


11.   And finally, have fun. Blog for fun.  Blog because you enjoy it.  Don't feel guilty about not blogging for six weeks because life got in the way.  Don't blog out of a feeling that you haven't blogged and need to blog.  Blog when you want to.  When you've got something to show.  When you've got something to say.  When you're in the mood.  I am an example of this.  I keep no record whatsoever of how often I blog.  I don't plan my blogging.  Sometimes I'll be bubbling over and have three posts in one day.  Other times, my blog will lie dormant for days and days.  I don't think anyone else notices so I don't apologise for it or feel guilty about it.


And finally, if you're still awake after reading through this post, pop back over to Plum and June right now and enter her giveaway sponsored by Intrepid Thread to win a bundle of Flying Free by Adrianne Looman for Anthology.


91 comments:

  1. What a great post! You've just confirmed what I've been thinking for weeks...I need a new header on my blog! Actually the whole thing needs work but a header would be a good start! And I need to take better photos...must try harder!!
    Thank you for giving me lots to think about!

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  2. Great post Lynne, I had no idea when I started blogging about how to connect with other people and my only followers were my bee mates! Great tips and links to some lovely blogs (some of which are new to me!)

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  3. Thanks so much for this awesome post Lynne! I really appreciate all your wonderful insights and advice.

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  4. Lovely post.

    Just as I think of jumping back into blogging, I stop myself with but but but thoughts.

    Gives me a few things to think about and you did it with such a friendly voice.

    Thanks. :D

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  5. what a great read and great advice

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  6. I loved your post, thanks so much! I do have a question though about responding to people's comments. Is it the general practice in quilt blogs to respond via email or on the post itself? I've just been doing both so the blog shows that we respond, but I know people don't generally come back to check for responses so email works better. Is there some standard or is it everyone makes it up as they go? :)

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  7. Great post, as usual. Your blog is a great example of all those things, too.

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  8. Wonderful post, Lynne! I have to agree with you about answering all your commenters - I was fortunate when I started looking at blogs to comment on a friend's blog frequently - and she always responded! I thought that was the way it was supposed to be, so I've always done it myself. I've learned since that not everyone does it - but I've made such wonderful friends by starting an e-mail conversation with them!

    The only thing I would add to your tips? Be sure you're not a no-reply blogger!!!

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  9. Nice to see all these great ideas in one post.

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  10. I really enjoyed reading this post as it combines common sense and some great ideas. I have noticed that if I comment on american blogs (but not solely) they always send an email comment. All I have to do now is get back into my blogging groove - bit of a feast or a famine.

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  11. What, no sharing the pharmaceutical love? Meanie...

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  12. I so agree with the switching off the word verification as it does put me off from leaving a comment. Especially when it does not seem to work sometimes.

    I try to reply to all comments either on my blog or via email if they are not a "noreply". Sometimes I can not read their verification words so I am afraid that a reply is not always possible. I do try.
    Great post.

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  13. Brilliant advice! (When I saw the header I thought of Ron McLaren's infamous book 'Grow your own hair'. )You are so clever little sis, so very clever.

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  14. Thanks Lynne! I posted my first ever blog yesterday and reading this was just what I needed. Your blogs are always a good read and full of good advise :)

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  15. Thank you, that is a great post. I am newish to blogging and appreciate ideas on how to grow a blog. I see lots of people putting blogged under their flickr photos but I don't know how to do this, would you be able to tell me please? It would really help me. Thanks so much!

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  16. All great advise, Lynne, but amen to #10!

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  17. Great advice, great post thanks!

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  18. Great blog post, lots of good suggestions and ideas.

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  19. Great advice. I'll make an attempt to follow the tips and suggestions =D

    Last day to enter my giveaway. If you haven't entered already today is your last chance =D
    http://ibescheraldine.blogspot.co.uk/2012/06/official-150th-post-giveaway.html

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  20. Thanks for the help! Just need to quit thinking about it and do it more often.

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  21. Hi Lily...i like all your tips and suggestions and thank you for taking the time to give us all some great advice. If you have time, could you slip over and take a look at my blog. I love color...what quilter doesn't? So many blogs have white fresh backgrounds, some have backgrounds from outside sources which look nice (i did that for quite awhile until the source i was using disappeared leaving me with a blank background). So to be safe i switched to using Blogger background options only. I chose a dark brown and wondering...are my background colors too dark? Thanks and be honest!..i can take it! :) ~karen

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  22. Great post Lynne! I really want to grow my blog sp I'll be implementing some of your advice

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  23. Great post - very informative :)

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  24. Thank you so much for telling folks to turn off that horrid captcha verification. Sometimes I don't comment because of it. (I know, bad me.)

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  25. This is a great post and thank you for hosting the small blog meet.

    Love #10, there are some times that I want to post a comment, but give up after multiple attempts. I also don't know what to do about no-reply bloggers. I feel bad when they leave a positive comment and ask a question, but I can't respond

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  26. Another lovely post chock full of information from you, Lynne!

    I'll echo everyone who has thanked you for the plea to get rid of that awful captcha thingmy. Blogger seems to do a pretty good job at weeding out the spam comments in any case, but I believe the benefit to readers far outweighs the annoyance of dealing with spam.

    These are all wonderful tips and I'll add another - don't be afraid! Don't assume everyone already knows everyone and oh my goodness I'll never get any followers etc. etc. Not true. Everyone got to know everyone by commenting, and joining in on the community.

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  27. Thanks for a wonderful post!!

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  28. I adore your blog for many reasons Lynne, but one is that you are so good at putting words together and summarising all the important ideas into a fabulous post. Thank you so much for your gorgeous words and linky love too, I really appreciate it. xo

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  29. Thank you for such wonderful advice, Lynne! #11 is especially relevant to me as I've been in a bit of a blogging funk lately. I'm going to try not to feel guilty about it and, hopefully, I'll be back at it in a few days :)

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  30. Great advice Lily! I have the most trouble with number 1 - I'm not the greatest writer so I always have trouble making sure I'm shining through and not just sounding like a text book!
    :)

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  31. Thanks for all the wonderful tips. I'm just starting to blog (www.threadtime.wordpress.com) and trying to learn all the tricks to creating an attractive end efficient blog. Your blog was a great help.

    FYI: I just found some great tips at PileofFabric.com. You might find it interesting.

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  32. Thank you so much - this post has been a tremendous help - chock full o' good info! I have some changes to make!

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  33. Thanks for all of the information--many of those things are things I've been trying to do, so it's nice for confirmation that I'm headed down the right path. Thanks, too, for hosting the Small Blog Meet--I've definitely made some new friends that way!

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  34. Ainda não tenho um ,só conta,sigo um monte de blog e comento independente de prêmio,eu tenho um certo medo de não dá conta do recado,tenho também muitos E-mail reclamando da língua -sou brasileira-dizem de tudo um pouco tipo:não entendo o que fala;comente só em inglês,o pior para mim foi ganhar prêmios e não receber,mas o email veio avisando que eu não receberia porque o frete para o Brasil é caro.Eu não poderia pagar o frete???Mas o sorteio foi aberto internacional,para que então?Entre outras coisas eu tenho muito medo de abrir o meu blog e sofrer as maldades que já vi em outros blogs,tipo:não tenho tempo para fotos de criança,como assim?de quem é o blog?do dono ou do seguidor?Obrigada e parabéns,é sempre útil aprender.

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  35. Great great GREAT advice!!!! I'm always having questions about a lot of the things you talked about! You answered so many of them!!!! Thanks for the adcvice!

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  36. Interesting read--I agree with all of your great blogger advice. Your blog is the one that I follow most religiously and I follow more than a few. Since, I'm not really a blogger (more of a blog follower), I do have a couple of things to add to your list of advice.

    #1 - Bloggers should allow followers to post comments using the Name/URL format, but many do not. There have been times when I've composed a comment just to learn afterwards that I could not post it because I do not have IDs for the other available profile formats. I've learned to check the profile formats first and if the Name/URL profile format is unavailable, then I generally stop following that blogger. Oh, I know that I could easily create an additional account, but I choose not to maintain yet another ID/password just for this purpose. To date, I've managed to avoid Facebook, Twitter, etc., but every day it gets more difficult.

    #2 - It's great when blogs have indexing and a Search feature.

    Thanks!!!

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    1. I agree wholeheartedly with this.

      I have a self hosted blog, (so none of the usual ID's) and I want to comment with the name/URL option, which for some reason is only available when the blog allows anon. comments as well.

      Lots of bloggers turn it off, and I only want to comment under my blogging name, so I don't bother if this option isn't available. It is very frustrating!

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    2. I totally agree. My blog is self-hosted, so I often have to comment from my Blogger profile, which I never use.

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  37. Excellent post Lynne, we all want to grow and there are tips to suit us all in there. Thanks.

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  38. Excellent post... I'm a newbie so it's all good advice as far as I am concerned... Attending FQR was a great help and it has lead to 2 swaps... With more link ups.... Enthusiasm breeds Enthusiasm....

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  39. Great advice Lynne
    Myself - I think I need to sort out my camera and take better photos, set them up better etc, but I try always to be myself ..... warts and all ;o)

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  40. Wonderful post Lynne and what a nice surprise to be featured! Lots of good advice xx

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  41. Great post - very helpful - and I loved the links to other bloggers. Well done!

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  42. Funnily enough I was looking into this around Google this morning before I came to catch up on my blog reading!

    I should point out though that the Terms of Service for Flickr might need checking again before you put the blogged links in- I know about a year ago a lot of crafters lost their accounts because they were putting links in their photo descriptions. I don't think they were directly to selling places either. Amy from LucyKate crafts would be able to tell you more as she was affected, but as far as I'm aware, her account was closed down because she linked to her blog and on her blog was a button that went to her Etsy shop.

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  43. here here!!
    Off to check out those blogs now hehe xx

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  44. Great post Lynne! I'd love to grow our blog so I'll be seeing what I'm doing wrong in order to do just that :-) Thanks for taking the time to share!

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  45. Great post - not just for new bloggers but long time bloggers too. One of my bug bears are people that never ever answer comments - or appear not to. I tend to stop bothering commenting. Interestingly someone you've mentioned in the above post is quite guilty of this as another blogger pointed out the other day - saying now she no longer bothers to comment on that blog. I think people have to decide whether they want just huge amounts of followers to be the Popular kids on the block or whether they want to really engage with their readers. It's not always easy to do that if you have thousands of readers and ridiculous amounts of comments each post.

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  46. Thanks for such good advice ... And thanks for answering our comments, few do and it is very sweet to see your answers ..

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  47. Absolutely fantastic post, Lynne. I couldn't agree more with your advice to reply to those who comment. I only blog in a group blog, but try to thank those who are kind enough to leave a comment, and I've made some very good blogging friends this way. I like the way you help newies with your small blog meet. Thanks for a great blog which I always enjoy.

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  48. Once again, another great advice column. I love this part of the blog hop!

    I have read a couple of times that captcha is the death of new blogs, but I figured I didn't have it because I didn't remember setting it up. Reading it today, I realized that I very well might, but of course it wouldn't ask me! So I googled how to shut it off. Here's the link I used if anyone else is interested:

    http://j-a-bennett.blogspot.com/2012/02/how-to-turn-off-word-verfication-on.html

    Thanks for the wisdom, Lynne (and the new blogs to check out!) and for hosting/organizing this, Beth!

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  49. Ditto on turning off the word verification! It's such a pain and turn-off for me when I want to post. I also appreciate your suggestions regarding when to (and not to) write a blog entry. Too often I write a post because it's been X number of days (or weeks) since my past post, and those are rarely interesting posts :) Write when you have something to say!

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  50. Very good tips! I love that you chose to feature a blog, now I have a few more blogs to check out!

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  51. Fab advice, thanks very much! The blog links are really useful too.

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  52. Do you have a suggestion for a tutorial site for dumb bloggers? When I go to Blogspots help page I'm sure there is good information there, but if you don't understand the lingo how do you know if this is the answer to your problem? Like, if I want to click on a subscriber to my blog to send them a message it says I have to be signed up to this blog---DUH, it's MY blog, I think I'm one step up from subscriber? But keep posting good advice it is helping, I started a blog after all, didn't I! Thanks a bunch

    My blog is Sewendipity by the way.

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  53. I am a new blogger, and not very computer literate, so just blogging is an achievement for me. I decided that my blog would really just be a place for me to show anyone that cared to 'pop in' the bits and pieces that I make. I have fun, and always try to answer anyone that does leave a comment, sorry, mine has word verification, but wouldn't know how to turn it off so it will stay for a while. Great to read your tips though.

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  54. This is a wonderful post with lots of great advice. One of the things that I have always admired about you is your response and connection with your readers. I always feel so appreciated as a reader when you respond, which you ALWAYS do! Thanks, Lynne. You are amazing.

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  55. Thanks for all those great advice posts lately. I loved the one about the virtual bees, too! And I love it that you respond to all those comments! Dont know how you do it though ;-)

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  56. Interesting post with great ideas. Thanks Lynne. Di x

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  57. Thanks for a great post. I love to spend time each day catching up with the blogs I follow and will someday get round to implementing some of your great ideas- at the moment the full-time job gets in the way....I blog about quilting and paper-crafting and have been wondering whether to split the two as there is not necessarily a 'cross-over' audience. On the other hand the blog is mainly for me as a record of my creative endeavours so splitting doesn't make sense. Any thoughts out there? Linda H

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  58. Thanks for the great post! Lots of good points!

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  59. This was a great post! Thanks for all the advice.

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  60. Great post! I especially liked your use of the word "penultimate." It's one of my favorite words.

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  61. Great post and lots of wonderful advice!

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  62. Thank you for sharing all the useful tips... I still have a lot to learn!!

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  63. Thanks for the wonderful advice. This might just get me off the fence and start a blog.

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  64. I've been wondering lately if I should ask Rita to give away her photo secrets too, so it was funny that you mentioned her photos in this post. Thanks for the advice and time you spent doing this. I'm teetering on the fence about starting a blog. I've started on flickr in the past few months and joined a guild to build connections. We'll just see.

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  65. A very interesting post - lots to think about! Thanks for the links to more lovely blogs to visit!

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  66. Excellent post - very timely for me as I've just stepped back into blogging after a 4 year break! Some good points there that I hadn't thought about, but I especially agree about the captcha thing, and I also really dislike it when blogs dont offer the Name/Url option to comment - I don't like having to sign in to Blogger or some other service just to leave a comment. As for responding to every comment, I've always tried to do that myself, but I do sympathise with the more popular bloggers who could be dealing with over 50 comments per post - that starts to take up quite a bit of time.

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  67. Don't tell me that you're going to reply to all 75 responses that you got out of this so far? E-gads, you're a better woman than me! Love the post though.......hate the non-reply thing that some people use. Hard to find them that way! lol Oh, and by the way.......I agree that RITA does take marvelous photos. Go ask her what she does and then tell me! Okay?

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  68. Thank you for this ~ looking forward to following all the links and learning more by seeing what works for others ~ thanks also for hosting the link parties, I have joined in the Small Blog Linkup a couple of times and it has been really helpful and fun!

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  69. Thank you for this post! You have given some great advice! I found out last week that when blogger switched to their new format, they turned on my word verification. I had originally had it turned off. I had no idea it was on until a reader kindly told me. SO, some of your readers may not even know that they have it on their blogs!

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  70. I loved this post! It really resonated with me. Well said!

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  71. Wonderful post. :) thanks for sharing.

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  72. I recently did my own baby giveaway, 'cos I reached 100. (no I didn't give away the baby!)It was fun, and kind of silly, I didn't ask folk to advertise, or anything, and had a total of 11 entries. But that was good, because they were clearly people who have continued reading my blog, and who seem to quite like me. And so I felt good about it. A small giveaway can be fun, doesn't have to be big!
    I always enjoy your posts, you make folk feel welcome.

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  73. thank you so much for this post Lynne, I've bookmarked it so I can read through it again more slowly and take it all on board. You have given such great and kind advice, which is going to help so many of us in blogland. thanks again, love your work, Cat.

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  74. thank you so much for this post Lynne, I've bookmarked it so I can read through it again more slowly and take it all on board. You have given such great and kind advice, which is going to help so many of us in blogland. thanks again, love your work, Cat.

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  75. Excellent article!! Thanks, especially, for mentioning the word verification.

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  76. i find myself, once again, terrifically behind in reading the posts on my google reader, but i'm so glad when i do. i'm all caught up on reading your blog now and i'm a happy camper. your work is beautiful, your voice is unique, and you give amazing advice like this post. thank you :)

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  77. Great post! Thanks for all the great advice!

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  78. Thank you Lynne! I'm an avid follower of many blogs and have been yearning to dive in fully. You've given some awesome tips and sheer inspiration to us wallflowers in blogland :-)

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  79. What an interesting read with lots of great advice, Lynne - thanks!

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  80. Thanks for such a great post, Lynne! I'm jumping back into blogging and I really want to be a part of the community this time, since I didn't have time in the past and was more of a passive blogger. I have always admired you for just jumping right into the quilting world and taking it by storm!

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  81. Thank you. I'm a new blogger but don't sew as much as I'd like so I don't blog, then apologize that it has been so long. I'll try your advice.

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Comment away peeps :-)