Isabella Whitworth

probably more than natural and synthetic dyes, wax, resists, and history

Ten things I learned about blogging


What do I have in common with two new-road-protesters, a writer seeking a publisher, a foster-carer, a few craftspeople and a family history researcher ? We all met last night at the Devon Guild of Craftsmen, attending a beginners’ workshop called ‘Writing an engaging blog.’ The workshop was given by Cosmic ethical IT, a local social enterprise company.

The presenter faced a diverse group. Many of us were familiar with material she had prepared, but to others it was new and puzzling. Some of us operated blogs; others would like to, but didn’t know where to start. Few understood the full potential of interaction with other social media or the best use of tags, categories, search engine optimisation (SEO) and Rich Titles (which are nothing to do with last week’s bones in the car park).

I have distilled the evening into my own LIST of 10 useful / interesting pieces of information:

  • Over a glass of Rioja or similar, identify 15 words or phrases that anyone would need to find your blog, and use them regularly in posts, tags, categories. Do this before too much of the Rioja disappears 
  • Decide who you are, and who your audience is, and always speak to that audience
  • Words in titles of posts carry more ‘weight’ for search engines than the body of the post. Making ‘rich titles’ means including key words or phrases in the titles as well as the post
  • Google spiders, which regularly trawl the internet, take sophisticated  ‘snapshots’ of sites and compare them next visit, giving greater weight to updated content. Updating regularly is vital
  • Having links from more prominent organisations into your site will carry more search engine weight than the other way round. Spiders can, and do, cancel out reciprocal links in their calculations!
  • Pinterest is becoming a particularly important social media tool in the US. Workshop participants commented on how time-consuming it can be to maintain a Pinterest board
  • The Facebook business page can be used to generate very useful statistics on the traffic into a site or blog
  • You can search Google specifically for blogs with the content you want
  • Using YouTube is considered very valuable and it is easy to add (properly attributed) video content to your site
  • Certain types and formats of post are very popular with readers. One of these formats is THE LIST.

This is cheating, as it will make 11. But the other thing I learned was that when you wrap text around an image in WordPress, you can set a border so that the text doesn’t crowd in on it. I have disliked this but haven’t known how to avoid it. I learned how to rectify it last night by using the ‘Advanced’ settings for images. You can set the border to be white as below, not the default black. Warning: In the ‘dashboard’ stage my version looks awful, with the photo overlapping the text. But when uploaded it comes right.


Studio scene complete with empty Rioja bottles

The evening left me wondering who exactly I am in this blog, in terms of my 15 useful words or phrases. Natural dyes, history of natural dyes, dyeing, synthetic dyes, wax resist, shibori, orchil, orchil research, silk painting, indigo, Devon, teaching, workshops, lectures, talks makes 15, and I’ve used them, and it is all the serious stuff.

But it leaves no room at all for nonsense, which will surely creep in amongst the worthy natural dye and shibori. For instance, take a look at the Guardian comment generator, found via the Twitter feed of the admirable  @SimonNRicketts. Press the buttons and you will generate some gems, such as this one from Gwyn Trig-Hampsteath of St Andrews:

After spending three years in a Tibetan Buddhist monastery, I find that I am able to see much more clearly the interconnections between today’s geo-political imbalances and many of our social predicaments – for instance: Isn’t it amazing that we can find £30bn to spend on Trident but we can’t afford even basic woodwind lessons for all Primary school pupils?

You see? There is currently no danger of me joining Facebook and going viral.

Thanks to Fiona of Cosmic, and to the Devon Guild of Craftsmen for organising this event.

13 thoughts on “Ten things I learned about blogging

  1. Thanks for taking the trouble to share this, Isabella. Another tip: Apparently if one uses the “Google Alert” function, one can obtain info about who in Blogland is using words or terms of interest to you…e.g., If you set it up with your name, Google Alerts returns a list of sites that include your name ..I have not tried it but my Princess of Cool (middle daughter) says EVERYBODY (ha!) knows THAT…and does THAT…I do know that someone who is aiming to protect what they consider their IP has done this with regard to a term they feel they have proprietary rights to.

    • i have espoused the merits of Google Alerts many times on my blog. I have also found it to be very helpful in detecting folks who have stolen images, online classes and the like as well as informing me of articles on subject matter of specific interest to me.

  2. Thanks! That is most interesting and could also be very useful. I think I need a Princess of Cool. My team of cool advisors have now left home…

    • Thanks again, both. I have now tackled the world of Google Alerts and set up some ‘words’. shiborigirl – how do you know when someone has stolen an image via Google Alerts? How does that register?

      • usually, an image that is tagged with one of my words from a google search pops up on a blog, an ad or some such thing. i click on every link tagged with the word shibori on a daily basis. have for about 5 years now. also, search google images. then make sure any images of yours are linked back, attributed, or have proper permissions. pinterest is another whole nightmare when it comes to attribution. a joke really. it’s a lot of work i’d rather not be having to do.

  3. Excellent. I’m now looking forward to a series of posts entitled “5 ways to make dance a part of O-level science” and “7 reasons why sexuality still defines us”. All tagged as indigo, naturally.

  4. Well, you certainly had a great Valentine’s Day. Need to talk to you sometime about how I can make my Blog more accessible to others of like mind (there must be some). While you were blogging about Google spiders I was attending a talk on ‘Strange Neighbours’ by Dr Robin Wooton of The Devonshire Association, which was all about insects, mainly flight and colouration, which you would have found interesting. Of course, as you know, Spiders – whether of the Google species or not – are not insects, so didn’t feature, sadly… I like spiders.

  5. my advice for what it’s worth- be yourself. talk about what you know. pinterest is evil. rioja is good.

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