Blogging Must Haves (And Have Nots) For Newbies

I’m not exactly sure why, but these past few weeks I’ve had at least five or six new bloggers email me and ask me for tips and suggestions to help them grow their blogs. I can’t be sure, but I think it’s because I’ve been doing several guest posts on other blogs, and also because of my weekly feature Monster Mommy Moments; these two things together have allowed me to meet lots of new bloggers and find new great blogs to read.

I have responded back to each blogger that’s asked me individually, but I figure if there are a few bloggers that are asking, there are probably other people out there wondering the same things. I’m no expert – I haven’t even been blogging for an entire year yet (a couple of weeks to go still!), but I have learned some things along the way.

Awhile back, I wrote a post with some suggestions for new bloggers to get started on growing their blogs. You can check it out here.

If you’re a seasoned blogger or you’ve been blogging for 6 months or more, you won’t find anything in this list that will surprise you. But if you’re a new (or newer) blogger, you might be able to incorporate some of the suggestions into your own blogging.

You Must Have….A Back Up of Your Blog
Unless you want to worry about the possibility of losing all of your hard work, I suggest you back up your blog regularly. If you are using Blogger, you can check out Liz’s (a belle, a bean, and a chicago dog) post over at Our Mommyhood about how to back up your blog in just a few easy steps. I haven’t made the move to WordPress yet, but I asked on Twitter how to back up a WP blog, and you can check out the link I got here.

You Must Have….Contact Information
You wouldn’t believe how many bloggers have an “About Me” page instead of a contact page…but they don’t have any contact information anywhere on their blog! I’m a new follower and want to ask you a question or tell you how much I love your blog – how can I do that if I don’t know your email address? I’m a company that wants to ask you to do a product review…no contact info, no go. It’s super easy to have this information accessible, now go make sure you have it!

You Must Have….A Way For People To Like/Follow/Subscribe To Your Blog
Whatever you want to call it, the bottom line is that people that visit and like your blog want to be able to find your blog again. If you use Google Friend Connect, people that follow your blog will automatically receive your updates in Google Reader. But you should also offer a way for people to subscribe to your blog, either by email or by an RSS feed. The choice is yours…but make sure you are offering choices.

You Must Have….A Profile That Has Your Email Address Instead Of A “No-Reply” Address
If you expect people to respond to your comments or answer a question you might ask in a comment (on Blogger blogs, now WP), make sure your profile has an email address! Without it, bloggers have to go through several steps to hunt down your email address – and for bloggers that get 20, 30, or 40+ comments on a post, it’s almost impossible for them to do.

You Must Have….Share Buttons, LinkWithin, And A Facebook/Twitter Follow Button
I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I go to a blog and love it, and then want to follow the person on Twitter/Facebook…only to not be able to find a “Like” for Facebook or a “Follow Me” on Twitter button. Get one. It’s the easiest way to make sure that you are getting exposure on more than just your blog.

As for the “share” buttons, see at the bottom of this post? You see a button that says “+Shar”? If you click on it, you’ll see all the different ways you can share this post with the entire world. You can Stumble it, Digg it, Tweet it, make it Delicious…and just about anything else you can think of!

Last but not least, check out LinkWithin. See the “You Might Also Like” suggestions at the bottom of this post? That’s LinkWithin, and a way to keep people on your blog. If you like this post, it will give you a few posts that are similar to it. It doesn’t get it right all of the time, but it will help keep readers reading.

You Must Have….The Willingness To Pay It Forward
Believe me when I say that you are going to need help, lots of help, to grow your blog. You’ll need people that will answer your questions, hold your hand as you write your first post full of emotion and who you are (it might even be about something you’ve never shared with anybody else), and you’ll need people to introduce you to other bloggers.

A blog tribe is a group of women that come together and support each other and help each other deal with the craziness that comes with blogging. Tribes change; they grow, they expand or reduce, they dissipate. But just like in life, you need people for certain stages of your blogging. Find one. You might already be a part of one and not know it – who are the bloggers that you talk to regularly? Who are the bloggers that you share secrets and fears with?

But after all is said and done, you need to pay it forward to bloggers that start after you do. Remember the time a “big” blogger answered your question or got you help that you needed. Remember the time that a “big” blogger gave you a shout out on his/her blog…or on Twitter. Remember the time that you were lost and a blogger, maybe one you never even expected knew who you are, helped guide you down the path and get you back on track. Pay it forward. Don’t forget to do it.

You must NOT have…Word Verification On
For the love of all that’s pure and holy, please, PLEASE turn off word verification (captcha) if you have it on your blog! Unless you are Dooce, the Bloggess, or Scary Mommy, you probably only get a handful (if any) spam comments everyday. It takes seconds to go in and delete them. Everybody, and I mean EVERYBODY HATES word verification.

Do me a favor, if you think you must have it, just turn it off for one week. 99.999% of the time, I bet you won’t turn it back on.

You must NOT have…A Black Background
If you have a black background with white lettering on your blog, change it. Now. It’s nearly impossible to read, and people are so turned off by it that when they see it, most people will click right away from it.

You must NOT have…Spelling Errors
Grammatical errors are a big no no, but we aren’t all English majors. I get confused about where the punctuation goes with quotes, how many commas I can use in a sentence…you get the idea. But there is really no excuse for poor spelling. Spell check your posts. Of course, occasionally you might accidentally use “there” instead of “their” or “its” instead of “it’s”. But spelling is something that most people catch and don’t like to continually see wrong.

You must NOT have…Content That Isn’t Yours Posted On Your Blog
Maybe you are visiting blogs and see a fantastic “how to” do something blog related (like Liz’s post on how to back up your blog). Instead of copy and pasting Liz’s post directly to this post, I told you about it and then included a link back to her original post. If I would’ve copy and pasted her entire post here that’s a no-no, and illegal if her content is copyrighted (which you should definitely look into – check out to find out how to copyright everything on your blog!). If I copy her content directly to my blog, it’s called blog scraping. Don’t do it! Link away – every blogger loves link love!

You must NOT have…A Hoarder Attitude
You found an awesome widget or plug-in that it going to make your blog bad ass. Don’t hoard the info! Share it with your friends, your readers, your tribe! Along the lines of paying it forward, don’t forget to let others now when you find the next coolest blogging tool/trick/tip. The only thing a hoarder attitude is going to do for you is to get you noticed, but not in a good way. Share the love, people!

Do you have any questions? Suggestions? Ideas? Tips that I didn’t mention? Share them in your comments below!

And so it goes… Mama's Losin' It
I wrote this post for Mama Kat’s Writer’s Workshop in response to Prompt #2: Share 10 “Must Haves” this Spring! Yes, I took some liberties with the prompt, but I have been wanting to write it for a long time!


  1. Mommy Shorts says:
    Great tips! I've often felt compelled to email bloggers when they have a dark background with white writing. I can't even begin to read it.

    So happy to count you as the newest member of my tribe! Or I might be the newest member of your tribe. Either way, nice to finally meet you:)
  2. andygirl says:
    oh I'm awful because I hate bloggers that have poor grammar. call me a nazi, but I very rarely come back if the its/it's their/there/they're your/you're thing is recurring. makes me insane!
  3. Marni's Organized Mess says:
    I'm soooo sharing this on my FB fan page wall! GREAT tips for newbies!!
  4. Rebecca says:
    Andygirl, I've been thinking about this grammar thing lately as well. I think I'm going to write a post about this because it has just irked me so much. I haven't done any rants and raves yet but I think I just might now!

    I'm liking this blog post. Its some food for thought that I wish I had back in September when I was starting out. I'll make sure to post this on FB and twitter, in hopes that someone else can benefit from it!

    P.s. Hope you can stop by my blog and say hello when you get a chance!

    Becca's Perspective
  5. Not a Perfect Mom says:
    ugh, captchas kill me! I hate them...but I hate spam too...
    here's what I finally figured out...most spammers post on older posts, so I have no captchas, but since I have four kids and not a lot of time to moderate comments, I only moderate comments left on posts 2 weeks or older...I've caught all the spam that way!
  6. great post!! A lot of good info, especially for those of us who are newer. I hate captchas! Another thing is music playing. Unless you're a professional website (and then sometimes too) it's SO annoying, especially if I've got several blogs open from a blog hop. :)
  7. FreeFlying says:
    I've been blogging for a year now and there were still so many helpful things on your list for me! Thanks a lot for the info. VERY helpful.
  8. thecrazyrambler says:
    Argh, wasn't logged in on WP, lost my response...
    Ok, again...
    Love this post!!
    THru SITS31DBBB I already learned a lot. I am so with you on white lettering/black background and the captcha!!
    And yes, I am loving it when older bloggers are helping me out and encouraging me. That is why I am still blogging...
    A few questions still:
    I have a free WP blog, do I still have to make a back up? I thought it was safe as they host my blog...
    The 'tribe' thing. I have a specific topic I blog about - Bipolar Disorder. Can you help me find a tribe? Or suggest another one, as I am a newbie, not even 6 months old.
    Plugins are unfortunately a no-no with the free WP blog... I promised myself a sel-hosting WP at my 1 yr anniversary if still blogging. Have to justify the cost, so prove to myself I wills tay with it. Am tempted tho to take the plunge earlier. ANy suggestions on this are welcome too!
    Thanks again, Natalie!
    Fenny aka The Crazy Rambler
  9. Great tips, my friend.
  10. Mama Jules says:
    Grammar and misspellings drive me nuts! We all make mistakes, but when it's a consistent problem through the entire post, I might stop reading.

    I would also like to suggest bloggers don't have a white background with light colored font. It's also really hard to read!
  11. Dolli-Mama says:
    Fabulous post with some really great links! I can't wait until nap time so I can check them all out!
  12. how nice of you to share your wisdom so freely! :)
  13. Great post Nat!!!As a side note, WP has plugins that you can install that do an automatic backup of your entire blog as often as you want. :)

    You'll find all about the wonderful world of WP soon :)
  14. Starthrower says:
    Thanks for the tips. About the contact part I always thought if someone wanted to contact me they would comment on a post. But now I see that that may be limiting. Linkwithin I'll get it. Word verification, omg I think mine is on. I'll turn it off! Thank you so much for paying it forward.
  15. TornadoTwos says:
    The no-reply blogger gets me the most! I have a handfull of people right now that leave me fabulous comments on EVERY post, and yet I can't respond to them. A couple even block their profile. And that crazy word verification drives me nuts too.
  16. All solid advice.

    I'm pretty sure tha every time I want to respond to a comment and I see the no-reply; a unicorn spears a kitten.
  17. Kristin @ Peace, Love and Muesli says:
    I am willing to overlook a few spelling mistakes. No one is perfect and I hope readers forgive my few errors. It's not a blogging deal breaker for me.
    A parital RSS feed- is a deal breaker. I just can't get into a new blog without a full feed.

    Some bloggers hide their email addresses, they just can't handle anymore email. Or they might not be using FB or Twitter. That said- if you want readers make your content as available as you can.
  18. These are great tips. I have to agree with all of them. My favorite part of blogging has been finding a community of bloggers who support each other. Congrats on the success of your blog and thanks for your willingness to share your tips.
  19. Lots of newbies around lately - I'm sure they'll love this.
  20. Great post! And (being one of those newbie emailers) I really appreciate you taking the time to respond. So - publicly - thank you!
  21. I'm Jennifer. says:
    Thanks for the great tips! Word verification is now off on my blog. Have no clue if my profile has a "no reply" address. Poking around Blogger to figure it out...
  22. Wonderful post! Most of this I've learned from trial and error. It's so nice to see a concise post that has all the pertinent info!
  23. Valerie says:
    Great tips - thank you. Hey - I didn't know the "pink poodle" button was an option - very cute!
  24. Mommy Nani Booboo says:
    Good, standard tips for those just starting out!
    And you KNOW how I feel about word verification and captcha. Die, captcha die!
  25. BalancingMama (Julie) says:
    I never knew how to do the LinkWithin! I added it to 3MomsIn1 right away. THANKS! :)
  26. SharleneT says:
    I so agree. But, I also HATE the fluourescent lettering and pale lettering on white. I just click away from them. And, especially, blogs that are covered with flashing advertising.

    In that light, up until now I thought my email was accessible. Just changed to a domain and think it's messed up, somehow. I know I turned off word verification, but something's not working. Used to get lots of emails. Maybe nobody loves me, anymore. 8-(
  27. The Mommyologist says:
    This is a really great post for new to tweet it out now!
  28. The Twin Spin says:
    These are great tips! I've been blogging for years, but just now started "publicly" blogging, as in writing for more than just my friends and family. It;s the best thing I've ever done! Now to go and figure out if I have a no-reply" address or not...I'm about to make the move to WP too.
  29. erin margolin says:
    This was so awesome I just RT'd it. Such a great post with all the perfect tips/tricks/warnings. and AMEN to word verification and grammatical errors!
    I hope everyone reads & shares this!
  30. MrsJenB says:
    You're wonderful for writing this. This and other things, of course. Way to pay it forward. ;-)
  31. Lindsay says:
    I'm not brand new to blogging, but really didn't pour efforts into promoting my blog until recently. Thank you SO much for this simple list of dos & don'ts! Incredibly helpful :)
  32. I want to know what the name of your Reply feature is. Yours is the only Blogger blog where I've seen that.
  33. WTH am I Doing? says:
    I'm not really that much of a newbie...but there was stuff I needed to do! :) Thank you!

    Advice Heeded. ;)
  34. WTH am I Doing? says:
    @Liz Me Too! Me Too!
  35. Great article. And I agree with Liz, how did you get the reply feature on your comments?
  36. The Empress says:
    Very nice to do, girl.

    I especially like what you said, "a tribe doesn't have to formally declare itself a tribe. Maybe you already have one...who do you comment to daily? Who visits you daily?" That can be your tribe.
  37. I found you because Mama Kat is awesome.

    I'm really glad I found you, this was a great post!

    Thank you!!!
  38. Wow, i was thinking of taking my blog to the next level...i'm glad you posted this. thanks!
  39. luckydame says:
    Fantastic tips! Can we add no music on a blog please? Ugh....horrible when I'm at work.
  40. MorethanMommy says:
    Yes, yes, yes, yes. One note, though. Copyright in the US exists upon creation of the work. You don't need to DO anything. But regardless of the legality, swiping other people's content is unethical. It's NOT flattering.
  41. Leighann says:
    Fantastic advice!!
    Thank you!
  42. Elena @NaynaDub says:
    Fantastic tips! As a newbie - I love these type of posts!
  43. Michelle says:
    CAPTCHA = horrible

    I also agree about the black background white typeface thing, it's too hard on the eyes.
  44. Mimzy Wimzy says:
    Thank you for this. I am very, very new and have hit a point of frustration already. There is so much that I am unsure how to do that it makes me want to give up. This post has given me a little boost to stick it out a little while longer.
  45. Veronica says:
    Fabulous post for new bloggers and a reminder to old ones too!

    I hate word verification with a passion.
  46. Bibsey Mama says:
    Really useful post. Thanks. Am actioning as we speak.
  47. Great post Natalie! I hate word verification with a passion. And I really need to learn how to back up my site regularly - I'm on WP so I'm off to check out your link!
  48. Mrs.Mayhem says:
    Super ideas! Thanks for sharing what has worked for you.
  49. WeeMasonMan's Mom says:
    I'm going to send this to a few of my friends who have recently ventured into the blogging world. I'm sure they'll find it very helpful!!

    I must be doing something totally wrong because I'm no where near the caliber of Dooce and ScaryMommy but I still get 50-100 spam comments a day. Ugh! But I'd rather set up more filters than have people deal with evil captcha!
  50. Samantha says:
    Wow! What a great article! Thanks for posting this, Natalie - I am going to go over what you've suggested in my quest to make my blog more engaging. Thanks for this! :)

    Your newest follower,
  51. Roxanne says:
    Thanks for the great information! I just checked out copyrighting my bloggy posts because of you. I really appreciate the advice. :)
  52. To pay it forward is such an important part of blogging! I love blogging because it is free-sharing of info and talent! Love it!
  53. Great tips! Let's tack on NO MUSIC and no clutter! If it takes 20 minutes for your blog to load, I'm on to the next one.
    I love "Pay it forward". It's so important to be kind to your fellow bloggers. How you respond to emails, tweets, etc. is a reflection of you. I'll never forget who was helpful and nice to me and who wasn't.
  54. Practical Parenting says:
    This is great! I'm so grateful to the people who have helped me along the way!
  55. cockamamiecarnival says:
    I really appreciate this blog post. I went on hiatus about six months ago and I'm starting to get back into the game of things with a new blog. Completely new system and everything, it's confusing. It's scary but thank you for the refresher. I'll definitely follow the things that you put on here.
  56. infertilenanny says:
    Thank you so much for paying it forward! I found this insanely helpful and plan on paying it forward (correctly) as well!
  57. Great tips, Nat...and I am doing one of the biggest "don'ts" (or am I NOT doing it...hmm...) in that I've never backed up my blog! I don't even have hard copies of any posts except for guest posts that I've done on Word.

    I'll head for the timeout chair now...
  58. Soge shirts says:
    Love the tips Natalie. These are great tips for even experienced bloggers as a refresher course.
  59. Lovely Lindsay says:
    good tips! but i won't lie... still kinda confused! lol
  60. wooo hoooo!! THis is excellent information! THanx! Can I ask you a question...did you do your own blog design, codes, and everything??? I ask, because hubby and I spent hours and hours into the wee-morning hours trying to figure out the minimal stuff I have. We jumped into this world of blogging with both feet...and totally blind. I had no idea what it was all about...and computer stuff makes my eyes twitch and butt itch. I just wanted to write...that's the part I love. Everything else makes my throat close up! SO the thought of attempting to change things (and make them better) gives me more than a little anxiety.
  61. A Mommy in the City says:
    Great tips! As a semi-new blogger I am always looking for tips on how to expand my readership. Thank you for this post!
  62. Nan @ Playful Decor says:
    Hi, just found from your comment on Kludgymom. I am so going to read your entire blog! I started a few weeks ago and while its going pretty well and I do have a plan, I'm having a hard time with the basics - feeding, feed to FB, etc... You would not believe the incomplete tutorials out there - and no offerings when it doesn't work. Thank you for proving the info! Have a great weekend!
  63. This is a great list. Hope you have an awesome weekend lovely lady and tell your man happy belated birthday for me.
  64. Karen & Gerard Zemek says:
    Great tips! I hate black backgrounds too and love linked within!

    Stopping by from writer's workshop. Here's a link to mine if you get a chance to visit:
  65. Great tips! I've been blogging for a little over a year, but still have lots to learn!
  66. MamaRobinJ says:
    Great advice! I'm two months in and there are some things here I need to do. Will make sure to do that!

    Thanks for sharing :)
  67. MamaRobinJ says:
    I'm back - have done some of this now. Thought I had share buttons but they disappeared when I moved to self-hosted (I think). Ack! ;) Fixed now.

    Thanks again.
  68. Sluiter Nation says:'re not on wp?

    ::hits the floor::
  69. Lavonne says:
    Loved this!!! Also I figured out a way to make your email address a link that just opens the readers default email program.

    If you go here there is a code that you can use and it works great :))

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