books with Athena

books with Athena

Sunday, December 5, 2010

How to Blog, Part Duh: 13 Steps for Establishing a Popular Writing Blog

Last week I wrote about how to set up a blog and got some great responses—like from this guy. So here’s some more of the stuff I wish I’d known before I started blogging:

  1. If somebody comments, respond in the thread. I did not know this for, like, months when I started out. If any of you who commented early are still reading in spite of my cluelessness—I apologize. Some bloggers respond via email, which is kind, but responses in the thread stimulate discussion and generate further comments.
  1. Don’t be a voice crying in the wilderness. To have a friend, you gotta be one. Follow and comment on other blogs. It’s called social networking. Go out and be sociable! Looking for stuff to post about? Respond to other people’s blogs on your own. Instead of leaving a long comment in that anti-prologue thread, write your own post on the pros of prologues and leave a link
  1. Blog on the same day(s) each week, so people will know when to visit. FYI, I recently read Wednesday and Thursday are the biggest blog traffic days. (Worst days: Saturday and Sunday. So I have a Sunday blog. I might change that.)
  1. Stay on message. It’s OK to post the occasional personal stuff if it’s interesting—like your cat winning the “ugliest pet” award, or the fact you have the world’s most evil, draconian health insurance policy, but keep the majority of your posts focused on your niche topic(s).
  1. Use headers that describe your content. Titles like “It’s Wednesday” and “So Sorry I Haven’t Been Blogging” won’t snag a lot of readers. 
  1. Be sparing with posts of your creative work. If you want critique, you’ll do better visiting writers’ forums like Absolute Write or AgentQueryConnect. People don’t tend to read fiction posted on blogs (even by famous published authors.) Save the fiction for the occasional blogfest or contest, but otherwise, keep your WIP to yourself, especially if you’re a newbie. You don’t want that sucky first draft hanging out there in cyberspace. Trust me on this.
  1. Join in blogfests and contests or conduct your own. A blogfest is a non-competitive mass sharing of work. One blogger will announce a topic, say “first kiss scenes,” and anybody who wants to join in signs up. On the given day, everybody reads each other’s posts and makes comments. It’s a fun way to meet new writers and get acquainted with their work. A blog contest can be anything from a random name draw from a list of commenters to a competition for the best steampunk haiku. Prizes are usually a book or maybe a critique from the blogger. Rewards for the host blogger are an increase in traffic and more followers.
  1. Make sure your “tags” are search-engine friendly. List as many topics as possible, including names of people you’ve mentioned. Those tags are what attract Google’s attention. (This is what geeks mean when they talk about SEO.)
  1. Link to other blogs. This is friendly and it also gets the attention of search engines. In fact, a weekly round-up with links to some of your favorite blogposts of the week is a great way to get readers and notice from the Google spiders.
  1. Post an announcement when you go on hiatus. If you have to skip a few posts, leave a message letting readers know when you’ll be back. A blog that hasn’t been updated since your rant about the totally lame conclusion of Lost is worse than no blog at all. You’re trying to impress people with your professionalism, remember? NB—if you do lapse for a while, don’t post a long list of excuses when you get back. Bo-ring.
  1. Don’t let your best posts fade into cyberspace. Link to them in a sidebar. Blogger has a gadget that makes a list of your most popular posts. If you want to know which ones those are, Blogger also has a “stats” feature, or you can download Google Analytics.
  1. Ignore the rule-makers who tell you to “monetize.” If you’re a creative writer, you’re in this for platform-building and networking, not the ten bucks or so a week you could get for letting Google post annoying stuff in the margins. Many of the ads in Google’s writing category are for predatory self-publishing outfits and bogus literary agencies. You do NOT want your name associated with those people.
  1. Remember the #1 rule of blogging is the Golden one. Offer the kind of post you like to read. Not too much about you. No huge, indigestible hunks of text. Save the negativity for your private journal. Keep it short, sweet, informative and reader-friendly, and pretty soon you’ll have a bunch of friendly readers.
How about you, fellow bloggers out there? Any tips to add?

71 comments:

  1. Great suggestions. I rarely respond to comments in my blog. If the commenter is linked with their email address, I'll respond via email. I never thought of responding in the comments since I realize that person isn't going revisit the post. Definitely something to think about. Thanks!

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  2. Great post Anne - I wish I'd known all that when I started blogging. I'm sure I made pretty well all of those mistakes at some point!

    Your point about posting on certain days intrigues me. I do tend to post on Sundays, for example. Maybe I shouldn't. I suppose I assume people just read new posts regardless of when they were written, but maybe I've got that wrong ...

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  3. Rule 12 is a must. I ran ads on my blog and I was embarrassed by them. DE-leted.

    My blog philosophy is 'be funny', and make new friends. And if somebody wants to buy my book, well, that's a bonus.

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  4. Great post, Anne! I wish I'd know all of this when I began blogging. It's a testament to my followers that they're still with me for I made mistakes. The only thing I'd add to your outstanding list is for bloggers to check their profile to make sure others can link to them.

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  5. Good tips! Thanks Anne! (And just so you know...I read blogs on Sunday just like any other day. :D )

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  6. Once again another wonderful post. I'm going to go set up my most popular posts in my margin right now :)

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  7. Stina--that's what I thought, too. But a lot of people do return to see if their comment got a response--or they subscribe to the responses. I still don't respond to every post every day, if the comment doesn't pose a question or suggestion, but sometimes I'll respond by visiting the commenter's blog.

    Simon and Valerie--I'm glad to hear you read/post on Sundays, too. I started because I thought people have more time to read on weekends, but it turns out most people read blogs at work. (!)

    PV and Kittie--great suggestions:
    14) Be Funny!
    15) Make sure you've got a link to your blog and/or website in your profile. It's so frustrating to have followers you want to visit and not be able to find them.

    Emily--glad I came up with something that's helpful to you. You actually taught ME a lot about what I know about blogging. I didn't even know how to do a hyperlink when I started, or how to link to a single post instead of the whole blog. Thanks for being patient with me!

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  8. very very useful tips. Thank you for the endless info its truly helpful.

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  9. I like blogs where the writers are themselves- period. I have a very sensitive...um...balderdash detector.

    Phony, I see a mile away. If people want me to keep reading, they have to be real.

    ~bru

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  10. ...I meant to add, like you are! That's why I always read here :D

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  11. Love this article, thank you. It's sensible advice for the blogger-to-be and the blogger who's struggling to gain an audience. I think it's particularly important to follow those who respond with comments and comment on their blogs. I need to do more of that myself.

    Take care,
    Jess

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  12. Thanks Joanna and Jessica!

    Bru--You're right: rule #16--Don't be phony!

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  13. Thanks, Anne. I'm on a break, and it's reassuring to know that I have handled it correctly.

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  14. Oh thanks for this. I really didn't realize I should comment also where others comment. I do sometimes because I can't help myself :-d I'm talkative, but I figured you weren't supposed to do that. Now I do usually go to the blogs of those who comment. I find most times they blog like topics.

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  15. Wonderful suggestions, Anne. I sometimes do not reply to every comment, but make it a point to visit my readers' blogs and leave a comment. Loved the tips.

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  16. Great suggestions. I had to learn quite a lot of those the hard way.

    But there's a bit of blogging advice you forgot:

    #14 Don't blog so hard that you forget to write. No use writing about writing when you aren't.

    ;-)

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  17. I really must start following these rules so I can get myself a few more followers on mine. It's one of my plans for the New Year.

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  18. Great advice which I wish I had at the start. I've stumbled along and think I've found my way but it hadn't occurred to me at all to have a fixed day for new blog posts. Weds or Thurs it will be from now on.

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  19. Anne, I love this post! And I love your blog! I'm a contrarian by nature, by instinct & by preference and hope you stay with your Sunday schedule. I look forward to your posts because Sunday (which meant forced attendance in church (b-o-r-i-n-g) when I was a kid) still carries with it the promise/threat/whiff of oppressive, relentless boredom.

    Besides, If "most people" who read blogs do so from the office, then the question becomes do you want an audience of office workers? Or do you want to reach other writers who probably aren't chained to offices? And what about an audience of actual readers who probably don't read fiction or blogs-about-fiction in the office but more likely on evenings & weekends?

    It would be interesting to do a poll & find out whether the pro-Sunday or anti-Sunday factions prevail.

    Ruth Harris
    author of NYTimes bestseller
    Husbands & Lovers http://amzn.to/ft97O7

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  20. Great advice! I need to re-read and remember.
    thanks,
    donna v.
    http://donnasbookpub.blogspot.com

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  21. Good tips~ I think making a schedule is really important...and something I haven't done, yet ;) since I can't seem to decide on which days work best for me (and my audience)...

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  22. Thanks everybody. You're right that it doesn't make sense to respond to every comment individually every time, and it's even nicer to just go visit the commenter's blog. Also, nobody has time to leave comments on every blog every time we visit. It's mostly about acknowledging followers and commenters when we can.

    Because Misha is absolutely right:

    Rule #17--or maybe #1--should be DON'T LET BLOGGING TAKE OVER YOUR LIFE. Remember your #1 job is your creative work. That's why I advocate "Slow Blogging." It's OK to blog once a week or even once a month as long as you're consistent.

    And Judith--yes, it's OK to take a break. In fact it's probably a good idea every so often, in order to avoid blogger burn-out. If you let people know, they will look forward to your return.

    Thanks to Ruth and Simon and the other Sunday advocates. Why be in the crowd of Mid-week posters? I have less competition for people's time on Sundays.

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  23. Great suggestions, Anne. I got some ideas to implement. I definitely want to add some of my most popular posts in the sidebar. I'm working on the comment thing. I have tried a couple of outside commenting systems to find one that will do them the way I want, but so far no luck with that. I'm back now to using Blogger.

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  24. Lotusgirl, Blogger may have its faults, but it's one of the easiest to use.

    And it's the easiest for "following." Anybody I follow shows up in my Dashboard list and I can see when anybody has a new post. I only manage to hit blogs that don't have a "follow" function maybe once a week or less, but Blogger/Google Connect users are right there.

    I should probably add that to the list:

    #18 Have a "follow" button on the blog and don't count on random visits or subscriptions. I hate clogging up my email box by subscribing to every blog I read.

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  25. So here I am, a day late and a comment short. Sorry I missed you yesterday. I like the tenor of these last two weeks. It's not easy for new bloggers to "get it." I was lucky to have a daughter who was doing a photoblog (a more built in audience) who told me what you've been talking about.

    Some of this I didn't know. Good to learn something ever day.

    As always, Anne ... thanks for a great post.

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  26. You're not late, Florence. That's the beauty of having a weekly blog. You can stop by any day for a whole week and comment. You can comment on older posts too, but it takes a little longer for them to go up, because I do check comments on older posts to weed out spam.

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  27. Anne: What's your stance on blogging frequency. Is once a week enough? Is two the standard? Thanks!

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  28. Oh don't give up Sundays. I love coming here when Monster Baby is watching America's Funniest Videos. It's my one night to totally absorb the best of the blog week. And you're always the first blog I read.

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  29. Nina--I'm an advocate of "Slow Blogging" (See my post on it in the sidebar list of my popular blogs.) I think once a week is plenty. I even think you can maintain an established blog with updates of once a month or fewer--as long as you announce when updates will be and keep to a schedule. If you blog every day, yes, you will get more followers sooner, but you are also very likely to burn out. Slow and steady is the way to go if you're going to stick it out for the long haul.

    Anne--Thank you! That really brighens my mood. (I got 4 form rejections yesterday. Count them, FOUR! Arrgghh.) I guess the consensus is--Sunday stays as my blogpost day.

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  30. I think you covered it!
    I'm an author, but I guess my blog doesn't qualify as a 'writing' blog since I post on several topics.

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  31. Alex, your blog qualifies as a SciFi blog. Maybe the BEST SciFi blog. I just voted for you. Everybody who's into SciFi, go over to Alex's blog and click on the button to vote for the Movie411 blog awards!

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  32. Fantastic tips. I'm going to apply a few of these starting with linking to other blogs. :)

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  33. Great tips. I'm going to pass it along to a friend who is about to launch her blog. I love the idea of keeping the most popular ones in a sidebar gadget - I'm going to look into that. I de-monitized mine as well, I couldn't stomach the ads they would put up for writers.

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  34. Just got this link from my friend Jan. Couldn't have come at a better time. About to launch my website and blog in 2011. Thanks for sharing and the inspiration.

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  35. Bella--thanks. You've got a great blog.

    Jan and Jocosa--thanks. Glad I could help.

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  36. Didn't know about the most popular post thing. Thanks! :)

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  37. Thanks, Anne. Very comprehensive listing of all the points. I am sure it would be of great help to other bloggers.

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  38. Useful tips all, Anne, especially about "monetizing" your blog. Let's face it, nobody likes being thought of as a target market, unless they're getting targeted for massive tax refunds. Oh and I say keep your Sunday posts, as they're a nice treat on an otherwise slow blog day.

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  39. Thanks Anne - I was wondering about the comments too. I tend to comment back on twitter to people I 'know' and only randomly in the comments section. Must try harder!

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  40. Great poste Anne, thank you for that. Will do my best to live by it. Any advice on making time to blog? ;-)

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  41. I've never read your blog before but just stumbled upon it from a link on Twitter - and I'm so glad I did! I've made so many of these mistakes on my blog, especially the monetise one.

    Thanks for this!

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  42. Found this via Twitter link, and it is so helpful. I just barely started a writing blog, and have been struggling with how to keep it more professional than my personal blog, yet still interesting enough that people aren't going to take one look and fall asleep instantly.

    (And maybe I'll start being a Saturday blogger!)

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  43. Very interesting to read and very informative. As a beginning blogger its nice to see what others have to say about how they started. Thanks.

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  44. Very inspiring! Though my blog is not a writing blog, I think this suggestions are useful for every blogger on web. Thank you for sharing these!

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  45. These are really good points. Thanks! I already do a few of these, but certainly some new things in the bunch.

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  46. Great tips for a newbie- thanks!

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  47. nice one here's my link to my blog lets network frens http://dpdhungana.blogspot.com/

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  48. Wow. I even taught something to blog goddess Roni Loren! She's a success story for all aspiring writers. She got her agent and book deal through blogging! Check out her Fiction Groupie blog

    Everybody who came over via Twitter--thanks for all the comments and RTs! You made my day.

    RB--I'm going to work on that "time to blog" thing in next Sunday's post.

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  49. These are some really great tips. I'm new to the blogging world and this suggestions are going to be very helpful.
    Thanks you!

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  50. Awesome! As someone who has been blogging for 6.5 years I can really relate to a lot of this- do you have advice for people who write about a variety of topics?

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  51. I love this post but I must admit that I actually really enjoy the more personal/about me posts on a blog, especially if they're interesting, and I often post things like that myself. However, I always try to tie it into the "theme" of my blog (in my case YA lit).

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  52. I liked this aritcle. I saw it pop up on twitter while I was driving to work (shhh...not supposed to be looking at twitter while driving) and it was the first thing I looked at when I hopped online this morning. So much of what you say makes sense and I'll definitely give it a try. Thank you for sharing the lessons you've learned!

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  53. Kcee and Aisha--it's wonderful to know I reached two people at opposite ends of the blogging learning curve.

    Jordyn, some personal blogs are great, I agree. I love Tawna Fenske's and she puts in lots of personal stuff--but always in a funny, entertaining way.

    eric--you were stopped at a light, right?

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  54. I used to comment on the comments, right on the blog post, until I realized people probably wouldn't be revisiting the same post. So I switched to answering via email to anyone who had an email address listed (and I say that by my Comments). Seems to work well, although I feel sad when I can't respond to some people.

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  55. Thanks for these tips! I'd like to get into the blogfest scene, but since starting my blog I haven't found any or thought of a good concept for one of my own.

    One suggestion - if you like responding to comments (or just want to make sure you read them all) I'd highly recommend setting up the Blogger feature that emails you whenever you get a comment. That way if somebody leaves a comment on a months-old post it won't go unnoticed.

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  56. Oh, bother...just went back and read your earlier post on blogging and realized my suggestion was redundant. Sorry. :)

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  57. Good suggestions, I had to laugh at the voice in the wilderness. Just letting you know I've read through a few of your posts but I'm a terrible commenter lately. I read blogs on my phone more than I do on my computer, and it's just way too big of a hassle to comment from my phone! I love when you link from twitter; I can jump to your post right from there! Have a happy holiday season, Anne <3
    xo

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  58. As I have just started a WordPress blog, I'm taking note. Thank you for everything.

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  59. I love this! Very helpful... thank you for such awesome tips. As somewhat of a newbie to the blogosphere (I've only been blogging since April), I can definitely use all the help I can get! Great post. :)

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  60. Great post, Anne! I am guilty of number 10. I don't intentionally go on hiatus, but with two small kids, the holidays, and trying to finish my WIP by the end of the year, I went three weeks between posts. It would have been smart of me to post an announcement that I was going on hiatus! I'm not good at blogging on a schedule, either. Sigh.

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  61. More great tips. I didn't know about the whole commenting back thing either. I'm still a bit slow on that detail. I read all the comments but I want to give a genuine replay back - and I've seen bloggers who don't and it bugs me. Am I too picky?

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  62. Solid advice. I'm sure you can tell by the comment thread, but I know how people enjoy feedback, so good one! Keep it up. Stir our interest once again.

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  63. Hello Anne,

    Thank you very much for useful tips. I am a novice food blogger and trying to be a “good” blogger. It is certainly harder than I thought but enjoying to learn. I will surly keep your advice in mind as I blog.
    Meghna

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  64. Thanks for pointing me to this list of great tips! I'll be sure to put these into practice as I work on my new writing blog.

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  65. I really enjoyed reading the post. Thanks for sharing your expertise on blogging. I will definitely be able to use this advice on my new website, which will incorporate a blog.

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  66. Hi...

    This is a very good tips for making a blog a successful one. Thanks for giving these tips. I shall surely practice this in my blog

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  67. Excellent tips. I would also add that often a great pic can entice a reader. And I esp. loved the advice on NOT giving a grocery list of why you took a month off blogging, since I am about to get back in the saddle after a hiatus. Great post :)

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  68. Thank you for the advice! It's wonderful to finally come across some solid advice. When I began blogging (as a moody teenager by the way), nobody told me that my rants on my Chemistry teachers would not be something people want to read. :/

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  69. I love what you have to say here. I'm still experimenting with which day gets the most hits for my own blog. It has been interesting to note how this varies. Blogfests were a new idea to me. Thank you for your great tips!

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  70. I'm new to blogging so this info resinates. Thanks for the great advice.

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  71. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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