One of My Favourite WordPress Plugins

I have played around a lot with WordPress plugins. Some of them are more useful than others. We have to be careful with how many plugins we use as they can slow down our site. We must choose wisely.

One of my favourite is Revive Old Posts.

I used to use it but for some technical reasons, I had to strip all the plugins from my site. It took me a while to reinstall Revive Old Posts but I’m so glad that I did. I have seen a noticeable jump in the hits on my blog.

What does Revive Old Posts do? It grabs old posts from your archives and reposts them on social media. You can decide how many posts, how often to share and what categories to share from.

One of the reasons I like Revive Old Posts is that reminds me of older posts that I had totally forgotten about. I truly believe that our archives are one of our greatest resources. But how do we keep track of them? This plugin will bring these to light.

Another good thing is that it gives me the chance to check out those old posts so I can see if I need to edit them. I may want to change the graphic or I may need to fix a link. This is a great way to find out.

Finally, it reminds me of posts that need to be deleted from my blog. There have been times something is posted on Twitter and I use that as the opportunity to delete it if the information in the post is out of date.

I find it to be a great resource. Go ahead and install it and try it out. You can always uninstall it if you don’t like it.


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What Social Media Should You Focus On?

Social MediaThere is a very clear answer to this question. The answer is: Not all of them. There are all sorts of social media platforms out there, some that have proven to be long lasting and some that have been a fad. You don’t have to use all of them. You shouldn’t use all of them.

There is nothing wrong with signing up for all the types of social media and experimenting with them. Learning is always a good thing. But there are only so many hours in the day and the impact of some is not worth the time spent.

I’m on a number of social media platforms but I focus on Facebook and Twitter. I do a bit on LinkedIn and Instagram, but by far I focus on Facebook and Twitter.

But that doesn’t mean that has to be what you focus on. For some people, Pinterest is key to building their platform. It could be any other platform. Each social media platform has its own strengths and some fit with certain niches better than others.

Don’t do everything. Do a couple of things and do them well.


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7 Steps to Become a Really Bad Blogger

I recently blogged about 7 Steps to Become a Really Bad Apologist. I thought I would so something similar for blogging. Remember this is all tongue in cheek so be careful with how you apply what I say here.

So here is how you can become a really bad blogger (if that’s what you really want to do.

  • Don’t bother blogging.
  • Blog inconsistently, posting every day for a while and then six months later.
  • Totally neglect sharing your posts on social media.
  • Blog about things that you don’t care about.
  • Spend the majority of your time debating with trolls who comment on your posts.
  • Ignore your archives.
  • Blog about absolutely everything with absolutely no focus whatsoever.

Bonus Step: Completely ignore all SEO principles.

Follow all these steps and I promise you will be a really bad blogger.


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How to Not Get Burned Out as a Blogger

burnoutBlogging can be a lot of fun. But it can also be draining, not just time-wise, but emotionally as well. If you are a blogger, you need to be proactive in keeping yourself healthy and not burning out.

I thought about some ways in which you can avoid burnout at a blogger. Here are some ideas (in no particular order):

  • Remember why you first started blogging.
  • Find a blogging rhythm that is both consistent and sustainable. Don’t blog only every six months, but you don’t have to blog every day.
  • Experiment with your blogging. Do something radical. Take a chance and don’t be afraid of failing.
  • Consider adding audio or video to freshen things up.
  • Tap into your archives and republish old material.
  • Invite guest bloggers to write a post.
  • Take a break from blogging but have a set date to return so that it doesn’t fall between the cracks.
  • Spend some time with other bloggers, either online or in person, talking about your interests.
  • Get some exercise. How we feel physically affects how we feel emotionally. I find my mind comes up with new ideas while I’m working out.

What other things do you do to avoid burnout?


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How Pastors Can Use YouTube

YouTubeOne of the most useful online tools for pastors is YouTube. Anyone can make a video, upload it and make it available to millions of viewers. With YouTube owned by Google, it is very easy for people to find your content. But how can pastors use YouTube?

They can be used for announcing events or introducing people to a new staff member. I include a link to a video (not by me) at the end of our weekly email newsletter. I noticed that quite a few people were clicking on the videos and so I decided to make my own.

I don’t have the time, skill or equipment to make flashy or long videos. But I do have an iPhone and I have the time to shoot a 2-3 minute video on a topic. I now put the link to these videos in our newsletter. This is something that I do on a weekly basis. It doesn’t take a lot of work and it gives me a new outlet for communication.

I call this The Pastor’s Desk, since I record it at my desk. You can find the videos that I have recorded so far here.


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5 Things I Love About Blogging

I have been blogging for over ten years. I have had a few breaks of a couple months in there but have stuck with it fairly consistently. The truth is that I enjoy blogging. I thought I would share a few things that I love about blogging.

  1. Blogging gets my mind going. If I’m going to blog, I need to blog about something and that means I have to use my brain. Not only do I have to come up with a topic, I need to reflect upon the topic enough to say something half-intelligent. Blogging helps to keep me sharp.
  2. Blogging helps me to learn. While blogging forces me to dig into what I already know, it also forces me to learn new things. Sometimes I decide to blog in a response to a question, a question that I don’t yet have an answer for. I learn by blogging on new topics.
  3. Blogging helps me meet new people. Although there are some who are critical of online connections, I appreciate the new people I meet, especially with other bloggers. I value the blogging community.
  4. Blogging develops my writing. I really enjoy writing. This includes books, journal articles and magazine articles. Regular blogging allows me to develop my writing. The best way to improve your writing is to write. That includes blogging.
  5. Blogging is good for my faith. I’m not just a blogger, I’m a Christian blogging. Much of my blogging is faith-related. When I blog on the topics that matter to me, it draws me closer to God.

What do you love about blogging?


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What Do You Need on a Church Website?

It is very important to have a church website. Many of the new people who come to our church, find us through an internet search. There are many options that you can have on a church website. Churches offer everything from a blog by their pastor to live streaming of their services. But what do you need? I’m going to break it down to what you must have and what you should have.

Must Have

The bare minimum that you should have includes the service time(s), address and contact information. Not only must these be on your website, they need to be prominent. Visitors should not have to search hard to find them.

Should Have

There are other things that you don’t need to have but are a very good idea to have. This includes a list of your programs/ministries, sermon archives and information about the pastor(s). Some pastors don’t want anything about them on the website, because they don’t want it to be all about them. But my experience is that visitors are interested in knowing about the pastor and making the confusion. I would also suggest links to audio of past sermons. This gives visitors some idea of what to expect.


Does your church not yet have a website? I can provide a website for your church for only a small fee and no ongoing cost. Find out more here.

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Create an Editorial Calendar

There is nothing worse for a blogger than to sit down, knowing that it is time to write a blog post, and staring at a blank screen with no ideas. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

One way to overcome this is to come up with an editorial calendar. Here is a screen shot of my calendar for the last half of this month.

Editorial Calendar

Now this is more complicated than it would be for most bloggers as I run multiple blogs on my one site. The words in blue are for my leadership blog, in green for Christian blogging, in black for my apologetics blog, in red for my autism and disability blog and purple for my personal blog. Most of you are too smart to have something so complicated.

The point is that I have some idea of what I’m blogging. Right now I’m doing a daily series called “31 Days to Become a Better Pastor.” I know I will be blogging on that all month and have it planned out in more detail for the week. I also know that I do a Midweek Apologetics Roundup on Wednesdays and a Weekend Leadership Roundup on Saturdays. Finally, I write a Good News post on Sunday nights.

I have some other ideas for blog posts and I can write them now and then schedule them to appear at some appropriate day according to this schedule.

Taking a few minutes to plan out future posts is a great exercise. This doesn’t mean you can’t have spontaneous ideas. It just means that you are not a slave to them.


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Pastors and Social Media

Should pastors on social media. I know of pastors who take it as an item of pride that they have avoided the pressure to be one social media. While that is fine, I also think it is a missed opportunity. So many people are on social media and we have the ability to communicate our message to them.

For those pastor who are on social media, there are some things to consider. I thought I would share a few principles for pastors to keep in mind as they post on social media.

  • People in your church are on social media. Don’t embarrass them.
  • A church that may hire you in the future will likely check your social media. Don’t embarrass yourself.
  • Try to post positive messages instead of a steady stream of negative comments.
  • Remember that both Christians and non-Christians are likely reading your posts.
  • Make sure your posts reflect Gospel truth but don’t be preachy.
  • Be careful with how you criticize political leaders.
  • When in doubt, ask a spouse or another trusted person if you should post something that may divide.
  • Leverage your social media to maximize the message of your congregation.

What other principles should pastors consider?


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Should You Blog on LinkedIn?

LinkedInWhile many people think of LinkedIn as social media, it is also possible to use LinkedIn as a blogging platform. People blogging on subjects related to technology and business have had some success with LinkedIn. But should you use this as your main blogging platform.

The problem with LinkedIn is that your content is under the control of someone other than yourself. You are building on rented space. Just as you wouldn’t want to invest all your money into renovating a rented apartment, you shouldn’t put all your blogging energy into LinkedIn. You need to build your own platform and that means having your own website.

But that doesn’t mean that LinkedIn doesn’t have a role to play in your blogging strategy. There are a couple of things that you can do. One thing I have done is to copy and paste some of my existing blog posts onto LinkedIn. I then include a link to my website to send readers to more content. Another option is to write the occasional original post for LinkedIn and then include that link to my website.

Posting on LinkedIn will get your content to people who wouldn’t normally see it. But the ultimate goal should be to drive traffic to your website.

You can connect with me on LinkedIn here.


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The ABCs of Building a Better Blog

Many bloggers wish that their blog was doing much better than it is. Well, I want to tell you that having a successful blog is as easy as ABC. Here are the ABCs of building a better blog.

A. Author

You can’t have a successful blog without content. And you can’t have content unless someone writes it. And that’s where you come in. You are the author and you need to consistently write good and relevant blog posts. The worst thing you could do is to let six months go between blog posts. You don’t have to blog every day but you need to blog regularly. Try and write something at least once a week. You will find that the more often you write, the easier it will become.

B. Beauty

I visit a lot of blogs and I’m amazed at how ugly some blogs are. You do not have to be a professional graphic designer to have a nice looking blog. Try to avoid clutter and consider using some nice images. You may need someone from the outside to take a fresh look at your blog. Be open to making some small changes that will make your blog look good.

C. Care

One of the most important things and yet so often neglected is the idea of caring about what you are doing. If you don’t care about your topic, you will never have a successful blog. People will notice that you are just going through the motions and won’t come back. When you blog about your passions, it shows and your audience will catch the excitement. This might mean that you have to change your topic but better now than later.


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What to Include in an Email Newsletter

NewsletterI have previously blogged on why bloggers should start compiling an email list right away. But an email list should be gathered for a reason and not just to have another task to complete. One of the things that you can do with an email list is to start an email newsletter.

The frequency of the newsletter is up to you. My Blog Coaching newsletter is monthly while my Hope’s Reason newsletter is weekly. The Hope’s Reason newsletter started monthly but was moved to weekly when I decided to include more content.

It is great that people to subscribe to your newsletter but you need to make the newsletter worth receiving. Some people will always unsubscribe but you can do certain things to keep people on your list.

There are a variety of things that you can include in your newsletter. Here are some ideas:

  • Some original content such as an article that is not found on your blog.
  • Cut and paste one of your popular blog posts.
  • A list of recent blog posts or podcast episodes.
  • Announcements about upcoming projects or events.
  • Links to products you are selling or affiliates you are promoting.
  • A roundup of other people’s content related to your blog.
  • Personal information about what is happening in your life.
  • Since this is specifically about Christian blogging, I will add prayer requests to what you can include.

The key is to find out what people are interested in. Think about what you would want if you were receiving this from someone else. Experiment by trying different formats and types of content. Keep track of links that are clicked and subscribers who unsubscribe. But when you experiment, change only one thing at a time so you have some idea of what is or is not working.

What do you use in your newsletter?


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Should You Use Facebook Pages or Groups?

FacebookIn addition to your personal Facebook profile, you have the option to set up specialized pages or groups. What’s the difference between them and which one should you use?

The basic difference concerns who can post. Only certain people who are assigned roles post content on pages, while everyone who belongs to a group can post content (as long as they are following the rules).

Which one should you use? That depends.

The benefit of groups is that people seek you out as long as your group is on a topic they are interested in. They benefit from joining your group because they can post their content. While some people may seek out your page, you generally have to play a more active role in getting people to like your page. You also have to work harder to keep them by regularly posting useful content.

I would say for both pages and groups, it is a good idea to not just post your own content. Post a mix of other people’s content and your own. Use both to try and engage people and to develop relationships.

It may be a good idea to experiment with both and see how they work. Go into it with set goals so that you can determine what is better.

If you are interested, you can see how I use groups and pages by visiting my group, Resources for Pastors and my page Hope’s Reason.


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One of the Most Important Things For Christian Bloggers to Know

There are many things that Christian bloggers need to know but there is one thing that I have learned that has really made the difference. Ironically, what I learned is not about what to do, but what not to do.

One of the most important things that Christian bloggers need to know is that you do not have to respond to everyone who comments on your posts, whether directly on your blog or on social media.

If you go back into the archives of my blog, you will see that my older posts have much more back and forth than my more recent posts. At first, I felt obligated to answer every comment. Those days are long gone.

I need to clarify that there are two types of people who comment.

There are trolls who comment just to make noise. They enjoy giving people a hard time and there is no changing their minds. These definitely need to be avoided. I have often just deleted their comments.

There are others who genuinely are interested in conversation. They have real questions and may disagree with you but want to debate in a respectful way.

You don’t have to spend a lot of time even with the second group. My policy is that I will clarify something from my post that was confusing but I let it go at that. I will thank people for their comments but I feel NO obligation to debate them.

This is something that is appropriate for all bloggers but is especially important for Christian bloggers. Religion is one of the most controversial topics and certain people love to argue about it.

If you have the time and the motivation to argue with people online, go for it. But if you are like me and are busy, it may be time to prioritize activities. Don’t get pulled in.


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How to Pick a Niche For Your Blog

While you are free to blog on any and every topic that comes to mind, you may want to reconsider if your are seeking to be a successful blogger. Those who thrive at blogging usually have a specific niche in which they blog.

But how do you choose a niche?

First, you need to choose a niche that is not too wide and not too narrow. For example, a blog looking at religion may be too general. In the same way, a blog focused on the biblical book of 3 John may be too narrow. You need to choose something that is narrow enough to give you some focus but wide enough that you have enough material to keep on blogging.

Secondly, you need to pick a niche that you are passionate about. If you pick a topic that you are only mildly interested in, you will quickly lose motivation. Choose something that you can see yourself still writing about five years from now.

Finally, choose a niche that other people are interested in as well. The point of blogging is to share your thoughts with others. If you are writing on a topic that only you are interested in, what is the point of blogging? Just write in your private diary.

It is likely that there is a good topic that interests you and interests others. Choose your niche and share your passion with the world.

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Setting Blogging Goals

GoalsIt is always the right time to be setting goals for your online activity, including blogging. The key is to set SMART goals. What are SMART goals?

Specific
Measurable
Attainable
Relevant
Timely

Anything less than this is really a waste of time.

Rather than telling you about SMART goals, it may be more helpful if I share with you my goals. This is what I intend to accomplish in the coming year.

  1. By the end of this year, I will have at least 5000 followers on Twitter.
  2. By the end of this year, I will have increased my daily blog visits by 50 per day.
  3. By the middle of this year I will be selling at least 30 items per month as an Amazon affiliate.
  4. By the end of this year, I will have found twelve more clients for my blog coaching services.

There is more that I would like to accomplish, but much more than this would be too much.

What do you intend to accomplish in this year?

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Blogger Interview: Lenny Esposito

As I evaluate and rank a variety of apologetics blogs, Lenny Esposito’s Come Reason is always near the top of the list. Lenny dos a great job of presenting Christianity in a reasonable way, both on his blog and his podcast. I appreciate that Lenny took the time to answer my questions. We can all learn from his experience.


Lenny EspositoHow did you first get interested in blogging?

I first began ministry online in 1995, launching one of the first apologetics web sites. The format was to be a kind of “Bible answer man online” where people would submit questions and I would answer one each month.  As the questions became more nuanced or complex, I found my answers were getting longer and longer. I also found there were things I wanted to comment on that weren’t being asked. So, I launched a blog entitled Come Reason’s Apologetics Notes in April of 2004. I attended it sporadically at first as I saw it as an adjunct to the web site, but with some regular attention, it quickly became the central draw for audiences.

Do you see any specific challenges or opportunities that are unique to Christian blogging?

Time is always a factor. Blogging can be very successful if you stay timely and relevant. That means discussing items people are talking about right now, which means writing quickly. However, as Christians we are called to excellence in that we’re ambassadors for Christ. As His representative, I must make certain my facts are right, I’ve fairly stated the position of the other side, and that I’m neither caricaturing nor overgeneralizing a position I may be criticizing. That’s tough! Proper research isn’t conducive to posting speedily, but it’s necessary.

Along those same lines, we must always be charitable in our posts and in our follow up conversations. The “gotcha” post is easy, with inflammatory rhetoric designed to have those on “our side” cheer while calling the other side idiots. We see a lot of this in political posts—think Ann Coulter. But ultimately, blogging for an apologist is not only about building up the community of believers, but it is also an act of evangelism. So, our tone and our ability to not demonize those with whom we disagree is vital.

I’m reminded of the passage in 1 Corinthians 14 where Paul warns the church about wishing to speak in tongues too much:

For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays but my mind is unfruitful. What am I to do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will pray with my mind also; I will sing praise with my spirit, but I will sing with my mind also. Otherwise, if you give thanks with your spirit, how can anyone in the position of an outsider say “Amen” to your thanksgiving when he does not know what you are saying? (1 Cor 14:14-16, ESV)

I don’t merely want to assuage the spirits of those who are already hold the position of which I’m writing, but I want the outsider to come away and say “I never thought of that” or “that’s a good point.”

Lastly, I think Christian bloggers need to be self-critical.  Can we criticize our own positions? Do we dare take up contrary positions from those pundits or personalities popular even with our readership when they are wrong? All these things play into my approach to blogging in a way that honors God and ministers to my readership.

You have a podcast as well as a blog. How do those two parts fit together?

The podcast is very helpful in that I can draw content from it.  My podcast launched in 2006 and has been pretty consistent every week. When I finish a podcast series, (usually a single  teaching is broken up into four weekly episodes)I can post the entire series on my blog as a single page, giving people who aren’t subscribed an easier way to listen to the entire thing in context.

But I have also summarized portions of those podcasts into articles. It’s been helpful to take a bullet-pointed outline and write out an intelligible article which forces me to carefully think through the implications of those points.  And the flip side is true as well. I’ve seen articles become very popular and said, “This would make a good topic for teaching and a podcast.” So it helps content both ways.

What advice would you give to someone interested in starting a podcast?

Podcasts are easy to start since they really don’t require a lot of equipment up front.  I would say that you want to be prepared before recording. Editing can be a drag and the more well-prepared you are, the less editing you will have to do. If you are already generating other content, such as teaching a class or writing on a topic for your blog, use that to feed your podcast. 

One big thing is to be consistent in your publishing schedule. My podcast comes out every Sunday like clockwork. Because that regularity is so consistent, my listenership keeps growing and the podcast gains followers.

What is the most important lesson you have learned in your years of blogging?

Frequency is key. If you really want to develop an audience, you will have to publish at least three times a week.  That’s just a fact. There is so much that pulls on a person’s attention these days and so many competing channels that in order to be noticed, you need that level of frequency.

The algorithms that all social media platforms use favor those persons and destinations that prove to be more popular.  That means just because you broadcast you have a new post on Facebook doesn’t mean a whole lot of people are seeing the link to your article! The same is true for Twitter, Instagram and the other platforms. But the more content you have, the more likely you will get clicks, which boosts interest and grows you exposure.

I’m not saying you can’t blog if you plan on blogging once a week or so. I think those blogs are fine, but they won’t see their level of readership rise to the same level as someone who posts multiple times in a week. The weekly or monthly content becomes more like any other article on a web site; it’s there but people may not see it.

What piece of advice would you give to an existing blogger to help set them up for success?

Set a schedule. Find out the best time to write and then stick to it. You have to learn to write even when you don’t feel like it. Sometimes that means shorter posts or simple ideas. But you will find the more you write the better your writing will become.

Also, learn ways to mine new ideas. If I’m reading a book or listening to a podcast and disagree with an answer given, I will turn that into a blog post.  Many times as I read articles online, I will simply copy the link and a sentence or two about what I’m thinking and paste them into a Word document.  I have a long list of these which I use for blogs on days where I have no idea what I‘m going to write about.

Lastly, if you do have a good idea and you feel animated about it, try to write it out that day. Sometimes striking when the iron is hot helps to get the blog out of my mind and onto the screen. I’ve found that it’s harder to get that excitement about and idea back to the same level I initially had which makes the writing process longer.  So if you can put it down when you’re really working through it, you make it easier on yourself.

Thanks Lenny!

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Why Bloggers Should Start Their Email List Right Away

Email ListIf you are intending to take your blogging activity seriously, I recommend that begin building your email list now. I mean, right now. The sooner the better.

You might think there is no point yet. You don’t have an eBook to promote. You don’t have an online course to offer. You just don’t have any content, other than your regular blog posts, to offer your email subscribers.

Start your email list anyway.

The reason for this is that it takes time to build an email list and you don’t want to wait until you have something to promote before you begin trying to build that list. Starting the list now doesn’t mean that you need to begin a weekly email newsletter. You could do something monthly, quarterly, or even just when a certain event or opportunity comes up.

But start it right away.

There are plenty of email services out there, but I use mailchimp. They are the only one I have used so I have nothing to compare them with but I have been happy with them. I use them both for my own newsletters, as well as my church’s weekly email newsletter.

I will address different things that you can do with your email list in a future post, but for now, start building that email list. My one warning is that you NEVER add people to your list without their permission. Ideally, get them to opt in on their own. On rare occasions, you can add them manually when they give you explicit permission.

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5 Things You Can Do With a Church Facebook Page

The first thing you need to know is that there is a difference between a Facebook page and a Facebook group. The basic difference is that on a page, only the admin can post but everyone can post in a group. More on this in a future post.

Some people also see it as being about a choice between having a Facebook page and having a church website. I would say that you should have both. I’m available to help churches get affordable websites.

There is a lot that you can do with a church Facebook page. Here are five things:

  1. You can advertise events in the cover photo of your page. People may miss a post, but the cover photo is prime space. Change it up, including catchy announcements for events.
  2. Post links to sermon audio or text.
  3. Post links to interesting blog posts or articles relevant to your congregation. You may want to develop a policy for what types of links are acceptable or appropriate.
  4. Post pictures of people in your congregation, at worship services and at other church events. It is important to get people’s permission before posting their pictures.
  5. Use your Facebook page as the base from which to do Facebook advertising for church events. Facebook ads are extremely reasonable and easy to target to a specific audience. Facebook wants you to do this from your organization’s page. Setting up a page is the first step.

What about you? What do you use your church Facebook page for?

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Three Easy Steps to Improving the SEO of Your Blog

What is SEO?

SEOSEO is search engine optimization and it is about taking steps to help search engines find your content. While it is nice that people click on your links when you share on social media, ultimately you want the search engines to be doing the work of getting people to you. This doesn’t happen by accident.

You can find out more about SEO here.

Whether you are just starting out as a blogger or have been blogging for years, it is never too early or too late to improve your SEO. The great thing is that it is not really that hard to do. Even if you have a large archive with older posts, you can make these changes to all your posts from now on.

Improving SEO

What I’m going to share you should be able to do in two minutes for each of your posts from now on. You might want to go back and make these changes with your older posts.

  1. Choose your titles carefully. There is a temptation to come up with a clever title and that can work sometimes. But it is better to come up with a title that includes the keywords that you want people to find you with. It helps even more if your title is in the form of an actual question that people would search. My top posts from my archives are all in the form of a question.
  2. Put alt tags in your images. It is important to have images in your posts. The step many people forget is putting in the alt (short for alternative) description for the image. Search engines can’t see the image but they can see the alt description. Don’t just put anything in there like “image” or “picture” or “47489.” Aim for one of your keywords, as long as that is what the image represents.
  3. Include links within your post. This is for both internal and external links. Link to other content on your blog and link to other content on websites by other people. All of this helps your SEO plus it provides more information for your readers.

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Interview with Parker J. Cole

I’m so thankful for the opportunity to talk to Parker J. Cole. Parker is a writer and podcaster. While many people limit their online activity to blogging, there are plenty of other area to stretch out into. In this interview, Parker gives some great advice on a number of topics, especially on how to do an interview. This is an area I’m trying to grown in myself. Ironically, I had to interview Parker in order to learn how to do interviews!

I would encourage you to check out Parker online at her website


Parker J ColePlease tell us a little about yourself and how your radio program began.

The fun bio of me is this: I’m a lover of the Lord and a former Mountain Dew and marshmallow addict who writes to fill the void the sugar left behind. It’s all about the sugar for me Steve..

The official one is that I am an author, speaker, and executive of the podcast network PJC Media. PJC Media focus on real talk about all areas of our lives from the arts to relationships, politics, current events, and more.

I write Christian romances and speculative fiction. I speak on topics related to diversity in Christian publishing, encouraging aspiring authors to write, discussing hard and sensitive topics in Christian fiction, and generally gabbing until people’s eyes glaze over.

The program began two and a half years before I even knew I would be doing this. I had met a man at an open house for a networking function. At the time, I had a virtual assistant business. He had a podcast show and wanted my help with some administrative assistance. That was all there was to the conversation. About a year later, my husband came home with a microphone. Just so you’ll know, my hubby is a techie and likes his gizmos and gadgets. So when he came home with this $150.00 microphone, I couldn’t believe it. “Why did you buy a microphone?”

“It was on sale.”

“No one in here is going to be on radio!”

“I got a rebate for $20.00.”

Steve, I can’t tell you how upset I was when I saw that thing. I kept staring at it like, “Why is it here?”

About eight months later, the Lord blessed me with the best agent on planet Earth. Her name is Vanessa and she has been with me through thick and thin. As we were discussing platform building, she suddenly reached out to me and say, “I think you should start a radio podcast.”

The only person I knew who had a podcast…was the guy I met a nearly two years ago. I reached out to him and the rest is history. In 2016, I started my own network and we now have five shows under the belt and looking to expand and add more.

Whoever says my God has a sense of humor was dead on the money.

Hmm…what does ‘dead on the money’ mean, Steve? Did like a lot people in the past fall dead on a lot of money so that it became a social idiom?

How has podcasting changed the way people produce and consume content?

Podcasting a great tool to get your content out to listeners. With a podcast, no matter where you are in the world, someone can listen to your content on a mobile device while they’re working out, walking, staring off into space, etc. We often talk about the drawback of handheld devices and how they help to cocoon and isolate people from each other. The other side of the coin is that podcasting helps to cement your listeners as well. If you want to listen to Steve’s apologetic broadcasts and similar content, you can do that. Podcasts put the listeners in control of what they want to hear. Dedicated listeners keep the podcast going.

How do you find people to interview on your show?

I drive a bulldozer through their houses and ask if they want to take a survey! Hahaha! No, honestly, because my audience is the Christian audience and people who like to read, I reach out to authors to interview. My own palate for reading is pretty wide (except books about taxes—I’d rather watch paint dry) so my show is open to Christian authors all over the world who write.

A steady refrain I have on my show is this question: Are we Christian authors or authors who are Christians? I don’t believe there is a right or wrong answer. I have had Christians on my show who don’t write Christian books. They write for the general market. I’ve had those who write specifically for the Christian audience.

Also, as an advocate of Christian books of all genres, I host authors who write in less accepted genres such as steampunk, horror, dystopian, AI, etc. Others have more spicier scenes, language, themes, and other elements. All of them have a place on my show. I’ve had different denominations on the show, ethnicities, fringe crowd, conservatives, liberals. Some of the guests I’ve had on my show I’ve disagreed with on non-essentials of the faith.

My statement of faith which I use for the show is the same statement of faith for the Christian Apologetics Alliance which I am an unofficial member.

What is the key to doing a good interview?

As a host, the key to doing a good interview is going with the flow. Let things happen naturally. You prepare for your topic or guest but let it flow. Don’t worry if your voice cracks, or you cough, sniff, chew bubble gum the first time you do. Over time, you’ll find your own way of doing things.

As a guest, the key to doing a good interview is to be prepared but also be open to the unexpected. Some people don’t think quick on the feet like others, that’s fine. If you’re thrown off during the interview, you can still salvage it by saying, “Not sure how to answer that but let me think on it and we can come back to it.” Or, if there’s a topic you don’t want to discuss, let the host know BEFORE the show unless it’s something thrown in during the course of the discussion. You can ask for a list of questions or topics before you do the interview or you can send what you want the host to ask or question you on.

Have your friends and family support you whether you’re the host or the guest. Nothing like having your own cheerleaders.

For both hosts and guests, this the last thing: be yourself. Everyone will appreciate you being who God created you to be.

What do you see as a common mistake by people doing interviews?

Steve, you ever been to a party but the host already ate up the food before you got there? Rude, right? I mean, I was looking forward to the buffalo chicken wings and I’m left with the celery from vegetable tray!

The same thing can be said when a host takes over the show with an invited guest. The guest is the star – let them talk.  Else, why did you ask them onto your show in the first place?

Another thing I’ve seen, and this is a mistake I’ve done myself, is having a lot of guests on the show. Once and for all time, I interviewed four people on my show. It was difficult keeping track of them as well as making sure everyone had a chance to speak. As I am doing a podcast where all of my guests are on the phone, then I limit it to one, max two people. 

Now, in my experience, this scenario of having a lot of people on the show works better if the host and the guests are face to face like you see in brick and mortar radio stations with all the equipment dangling in front of their faces. You can get a good vibe going, people can bounce back and forth on it, etc. However, in my opinion, if your guests are mainly audio and long distance, no more than two.

I was part of an interview once where the host, and I kid you not, had 20 people on the phone. I literally only said ONE THING.  I felt it was a disservice to everyone. Had I known that, I would have declined the invitation.

A mistake I’ve seen is when the guest’s answers are too short.

“Parker, how do you feel about the situation in X?”

“Not good.”

Where’s the dialogue? This is your chance to let YOUR voice be heard. YOUR opinions stated. Don’t get whispery now! For those that don’t do well with thinking quick on their feet, be proactive about the questions. Send a nice healthy list to the host. Even if you don’t get to them all, you can get through some. I’ve had guests write out all their answers to the questions they send me or I send them, and we just go off the list. We just make sure we talk naturally.

As mom always says, make sure you’re a good guest, too. Give the host ample time to dialogue with you as well. Be respectful of time constraints. Don’t just take over. I was on a podcast recently and the host invited me to read a selection from one of my books for 5- 8 minutes so I just read for about 2 minutes. I could have gone the entire time allotment but I was also aware of time constraints and the other guest who would be reading from her book.

Think about it: the host is allowing you to share your ideas on their platform. If you hog all that time, it’s being a bit overbearing. That’s like going to the party and eating up all the food, belching, and then heading out the door. 

Question: if someone did that to you, would invite them to your house again?

Also, call in or arrive early for your interview. Don’t push the time envelope too much.

What do you do when the interview is not going well? How do you get back on track?

As a host, I’ve had to cut in on long winded guests, deal with the phone hanging up, a testy caller calling into to debate, prank calls, and technical difficulties.

You simply go with the flow. For long-winded guests, you interrupt them politely. “Parker, let me cut in right here because we have to go to a break but hold that thought.”

Mute.

With technical difficulties, you apologize for them and do the best you can. If you can’t, it’s not the end of the world. You’ll be able to do another show at another date.

Kids in the background, dogs barking, ambulance, hey—life’s meant to be a surprise! Don’t let the small things that won’t matter tomorrow take up too much of your time. Most people I know do try to prepare ahead of time so this doesn’t happen all that often but I try to prepare for it by being attentive.

On the technical side, what kind of equipment or software should person starting a podcast get at the beginning?

Invest in a good microphone and headset. You don’t have to go overboard in pricing but you always want to make sure your sound is top notch. The brand I have is a Yeti microphone but there other studio mikes you can choose from. After all, you’re competing for listeners. Don’t try to do the show in your bathroom where we can hear the echo.

Steve, that may sound weird but I’ve been in shows where I can tell!

Also get a pop filter. It helps to minimize the sound of popping. I have full lips so my ‘p’s always sounds ‘puhs’! Not ‘Parker’ but “Puharker!” hahaha! I always laugh at myself.

If you’ve only got link in your pockets, you can make your own. My hubby made a pop filter for me with just a wire, nylon stocking, and a hoop ring.

Thanks Parker!


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5 Steps to Starting Your Christian Blog

So you have decided that it’s time to create a Christian blog (Is a Christian Blogging Even a Thing?) But where do you start? What steps do you take to set yourself up for success?

That is what this blog post is all about. Here are the five steps that you need to take to start a Christian blog.

Choose Your Niche

My very first blog was just a general blog. It was about anything and everything. It was about family and faith and church and everything else that is important to me. You can do that but it would really be wise to choose one niche (that doesn’t mean you can’t cheat by writing on occasion on a different topic).

Some people create a personal blog that simply shares and reflects upon the daily events of life. That is fine. But others might look at parenting or theology or fashion or cooking or anything else. The more you can focus, the better. The name of your blog should reflect your niche in some way. But be careful when choosing a domain, in case your niche shifts over time. A domain name based around knitting might seem strange if you transition into Christian apologetics.

There may be some shifts in your niche over time. You might discover that you want to go broader or narrower based on new experiences. The important thing is that you identify the niche you want to focus on.

Choose Your Blogging Platform

Now that you have identified your niche, it is time to choose your blogging platform. I talked about different blogging platforms here and so I will not go into it here. Just be aware that you can change your blogging platform later on if you choose. Still, it is more work to change it later than it is to pick a good platform at the beginning.

Design Your Blog

As I audit other blogs in my role as a Blog Coach or as I rank different blogs for top ten lists, I have noticed something about appearances. The blogs that look nice, generally do better than those who are rather shabby looking. We want readers to focus on our content but the truth is that people will judge our blog by how it looks before they have a chance to read our content.

The use of images is important, both in the blog in general and in the individual blog posts. This may be the most important information you get as you start blogging: YOU CAN’T JUST TAKE IMAGES FROM  A GOOGLE SEARCH. I know that people do it but you can get in big trouble doing this. You need copyright and royalty-free images or your own pictures. The website I use is Pixabay. I have been more than happy with them and it is completely free. When using images, make sure to also fill in the alt tag for that image with what that image is. This helps with SEO (search engine optimization).

Depending on the blogging platform you use, there will be plugins/widgets/apps with different features such as recent or most popular posts, newsletter sign up links, etc. There is a temptation to want to add tons of these feature. But each feature slows down the loading time of your site and it can make things look busy. Investigate what is available and add a few which actually help you achieve your blogging objectives.

Write Your Content

A blog is not a blog without some actual blog posts. You may want to write and publish a few posts before going public. Decide how often you will blog. You don’t need to blog every day but I wouldn’t go less than once a week. Brainstorm some topics and try to plan out what you are going to blog about.Content is king so work at getting a nice archive of good blog posts. Ultimately, you want people finding your old content through searches rather than just your new posts shared on social media.

Try to write both timely and evergreen blog posts. Timely posts are based on something that has happened recently and the usefulness of the post will last only a matter of months. Evergreen posts are timeless. They will last years as long as there is not a major change in the topic you are writing on. A mixture of both is good.

Share Your Content

Just because you publish a blog post doesn’t mean that anyone is going to read it. You need to share your posts so that other people will discover you. Right now the easiest way to do that is through social media. You can use any social media you want, but it would be good to limit your active involvement to a few. I happen to focus on Facebook and Twitter (See How to Make the Most of Twitter). Your niche may be more effective on Pinterest or Instagram. The point is pick something and do it well.

Be intentional in your sharing. Be aware of how often sharing is considered appropriate for that particular social media. Decide how often you want to share and what kinds of content you can share. Set some goals and determine a strategy by which you will achieve those goals.

Congratulations! You have chosen to start a blog and have begun the journey. May God bless you as you start your Christian blog.

If you are looking for more resources for starting your blog, I recommend Problogger. I learn from them all the time.


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What Blogging Platform Should You Use?

Blogging PlatformI have recently begun to offer blog coaching services to fellow Christian bloggers. I put together an audit offering an evaluation and practical suggestions.

Since different people use different blogging platforms, I have set up a few new blogs on other platforms. This allows me to play around inside those platforms and give more specific advice on what changes need to happen. These blogs are set up, not because I have an abundance of time and what to do unlimited blogging. They were created to help me learn and therefore to help me teach.

I was recently asked by a former student about what blogging platform they should use as they start blogging for the first time. That is a great question and it was good timing as I had just went through the process of starting new blogs and had some thoughts on the issue.

I will note that one of the main platforms I have not tried is Squarespace. The reason for this is that there is no free version and I’m not willing to pay for the purposes of evaluating platforms. If you use (or have used) Squarespace, I would love to hear your thoughts.

WordPress.org

There is a difference between WordPress.org and WordPress.com as I will explain below. WordPress.org is the gold standard when it comes to blogging. I’m a part of a Facebook group called the ProBlogger Community. I asked about what people use as a platform and I would say 95% responded with WordPress.org.

Although WordPress.org is free to use, you do need to pay for hosting and a domain name. But that is not a huge cost and it is definitely worth it. The number of blog templates and plugins is beyond imagination. It is extremely user-friendly and one can make a professional looking website without the need of a professional web-designer.

If you are really serious about blogging, this is definitely the way to go. However, if you are only at the consideration stage, you may want to try some of the other options below that require no financial commitment. It is very easy to import your content from another blog into a WordPress blog if you decide that you love blogging and know that you want to invest in this activity.

The blog on which you are reading this is done on WordPress.org and so is my History of Christianity Podcast.

If you are interested in this, I have my domain and hosting through HostPapa. I have been happy with them, especially their technical support. Please note that I’m an affiliate with HostPapa. If you order through the link below, I will receive a referral fee.

WordPress.com

WordPress.com is very similar to WordPress. The differences include a much smaller choice of themes and plugins. It is also more difficult to monetize a WordPress.com and they don’t allow certain kinds of links. One the positive side, it is completely free, with no requirement for hosting or domain. This is a good place to start if you just want to experiment with blogging. My original apologetics blog was on a WordPress.com site and I migrated all of that content here.

What is good about WordPress.com is that it is very easy to use. In fact, I offer affordable church websites to congregations made at WordPress.com because I can created them quickly and it will not cost the church any monthly or annual fees for hosting or domains.

Blogger

The first blog I ever had was made at Blogger. Blogger (which is owned by Google) used to be much more popular. Many people who were on Blogger have moved over to WordPress. Unfortunately Blogger has not kept up with WordPress with options and templates. Generally a Blogger blog won’t look as nice a WordPress blog.

Having said that, Blogger is very easy to use. It is very intuitive, especially in terms of setting up the gadgets on your page. It is a very good place to experiment with blogging.

The blog I recently created on Blogger is called The Comic Book Geek. Getting back into Blogger, I was reminded of how easy it is to use. I was also pleasantly surprised with how the blog ended up looking and some of the other options. I definitely would keep Blogger as a live option.

Weebly

Although I had experimented with Weebly previously, I recently set up a new blog called The Ancient World. I would say that Weebly is relatively easy to use but not quite so intuitive as Blogger or WordPress. It probably easier to make a good looking site on Weebly than Blogger, but it will take longer to figure out how to do it. I didn’t mind at all creating a blog on Weebly. I had to search a few “how to” sites to figure out some details but it was not a frustrating experience.

Wix

That is not the case when it came to Wix. I found creating a Wix blog to be a very difficult experience. I didn’t enjoy it all. The blog I created was The WWII Blog. It was not intuitive and it took me weeks to figure out things that took me only hours on the other platforms. I can see how someone could invest their time into Wix and could create a nice site. But it would not be my first choice for a beginner.

What about you? What platform do you use and what is your favourite?

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5 Day Christian Blogging Challenge: Day 5

This is the final part of our Christian blogging challenge. I hope that you have found the suggestions helpful. I would love to hear your feedback.

Our final challenge is to reach out to another blogger. This can happen in a number of ways. One way is to invite someone to do a guest post on your blog. You may even consider doing a blog exchange, where you post on their blog and they on yours. Make sure to include links back to their blog and tag them when you share the post on social media.

Another easy way is to go to another person’s blog and share a thoughtful comment. Don’t just say, “Nice post.” Interact with their post and perhaps ask them a question. Then go and share that post on social media.

This seems like such a simple thing but it is a good routine to get into. We want other people to engage with our content and the best thing to do is to take the first step and engage with their content.

Finally, since this post is about Christian blogging, why not say a prayer for another blogger? Wouldn’t it be great if strangers were praying for you?


If you have found these ideas helpful, I want you to consider something. I have begun offering my services as a Blog Coach. As a Blog Coach, I write up an audit of your blog and give you practical suggestions of how to improve your blog. This is something very affordable, in fact at the present, I allow you to pay what you think it’s worth. So if you are interested, find out more about Blog Coaching here.

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5 Day Christian Blogging Challenge: Day 4

The ultimate situation for your blog should be to receive the majority of its traffic from search engines. One of the most rewarding experiences is when you have come back from a vacation and have not been actively sharing your content and you see that search engines have been driving readers to your blog without you sharing on social media. It was this shift that really made a difference in my blog.

But until that happens, social media is still one of your best friends. I see the search engine traffic but I try to supplement that with social media sharing as much as I can. Even with all the change in algorithms, social media is still a tremendous tool.

What social media should you use? There are many out there and part of it depends on the nature of your blog. In this post I’m going to focus on Facebook and Twitter.

Facebook

Even if you don’t like Facebook personally, not using Facebook to promote your blog is a lost opportunity. I would like to share the following ideas for using Facebook:

  • Use your personal Facebook account for sharing your blog posts.
  • Start a Facebook page for your blog. Work at getting people to like your page. One method I found helpful was inviting everyone who sent me a a Facebook friend request like to my page.
  • Don’t just share your own content on your page. A good rule of thumb is to post four times a day, three of other people’s content related to your topic and one of your own.
  • Consider cutting and pasting a blurb from the content when you post the link, to help motivate people to read the post.
  • Join Facebook groups related to your topic. Check their rules for posting links as some are more open than others. Add some value to your link by asking a question or starting a discussion. Consider starting your own group.
  • Record videos and post them directly to Facebook. Facebook loves videos right now, but post directly to Facebook rather than (or in addition to) posting to YouTube. Facebook will make sure a Facebook video is seen much more than a YouTube link.

Twitter

It takes some time to get into Twitter but once you get used to it, it is a great way to share content.

  • As with Facebook, don’t just share your own content. Share other people’s content and they will likely share your content.
  • Tag people who you talk about in your content and they will likely share what you post.
  • Be aggressive in following people with similar interests.
  • Follow both thought leaders in your area of interest but also follow other people who are likely to follow you back.
  • Twitter has more patience than Facebook for frequent posts but don’t go overboard. Try to space out your posts.
  • Read my post How to Make the Most of Twitter.

Your challenge is to develop a social media strategy for sharing your content. One tool that I use and recommend is Buffer. You can schedule interesting posts (your own and others) to appear at appropriate time.

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5 Day Christian Blogging Challenge: Day 3

If you are like me, you have an idea of how often you want to post on your blog and then hope some idea will pop in your head for a topic. You might think today is a good day to post something and you look around the room for some inspiration.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

That’s not to say that spontaneous ideas for blog posts are wrong. Some of my most enjoyable posts to write have come that way. Plus there are things that happen in the news that just scream for some sort of response. We should be open to this.

But these should be the exceptions and not the rule.

My challenge for you is to pick a month and plan out your month’s blogging. That may sound like a lot of work but it is not that bad.

Here are the steps I want you to take:

  1. Take a pen and paper and start writing down every blog post idea that comes to mind. Don’t worry if it sounds crazy and don’t try to come up with a title or other details. Try to get at least twenty-five ideas. Then put it aside for a couple of days.
  2. Choose how many blog posts that you would like to publish during that month. Everyone has a different rhythm. I end up blogging (at least) once a day but that is too much for many people. I don’t think once a month is often enough. Once a week should be the least you do and I would recommend two or three posts per week.
  3. Go back to your list of blog topics. See if some of your ideas are similar enough to be just one topic and if others are so broad that they may be a series of posts. Knowing how many posts you want to publish, pick that many from your list and come up with schedule of when you want to write them.
  4. Keep that list handy and when you come across content relevant to those posts, make some kind of record or even begin the post and include the links in a draft post.
  5. Stick to your schedule and get those posts written!

There are all sorts of advantages to this. It keeps you accountable and you don’t look back and discover you haven’t blogged in six weeks. Knowing what you will be blogging on in the next few weeks means that your eyes are open for content that could be used in those posts. It also helps you to build on earlier blog posts as you can see the big picture.

So your challenge for today is to put together one month’s schedule of blog posts.

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5 Day Christian Blogging Challenge: Day 2

Yesterday we looked at the importance of determining your audience. Today we are going to look at another important step that is often overlooked. It is important to set goals for your blog.

When I say goals, I don’t mean just any goals. I’m talking about SMART goals. SMART goals are:

Specific
Measurable
Attainable
Relevant
Timely

Before giving examples of SMART goals, here are some goals that miss the mark and why:

  • To improve my blog. This is not specific enough.
  • To increase traffic. This goal needs to set a number by which to be measured.
  • To start a blog that will erase world hunger. Not likely to happen.
  • To learn how to film documentaries. That may have nothing to do with your blog.
  • To double my blog subscriptions. What is the timeline?

Having seen what SMART goals are not, here are a few examples of what SMART goals can be:

  • To increase daily visits to my blog from an average of 100 to 150 visitors per day over the next six months.
  • To go back to twenty past posts in the next week and make sure they are all designed to maximize SEO (search engine optimization).
  • To transition from publishing two posts per week to three posts per week over the next four weeks.
  • To start a Facebook page for my blog this week and to invite one hundred people to like the page over the next three weeks.

Do you see the difference between the first set of goals and the second?

One more important tip about goal setting. Set only a small number of goals at one time. Don’t come up with a list of twelve goals to work at all at once. I would suggest no more that three goals at one time.

Your challenge is to come up with at least two SMART goals for your blog. Feel free to share your goals in the comment section of this post.

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5 Day Christian Blogging Challenge: Day 1

All this week, I’m going to be sharing one tip to help you improve your blogging. Although the focus is on Christian blogging, many of the principles will be relevant to blogging in general.

Define your audience

We are told not to label people or put people in boxes. That’s good for interpersonal relationships but not as helpful for blogging.

If you are like me, your original intended audience were human beings with internet access. That’s a bit broad. Perhaps you narrowed it down to a Christian audience. You write about faith and you hoped that people interested in church would read your content. That’s a bit better but not by much.

I will admit that it is sometimes difficult to define our target audience right away. It may take a few months or even a few years of blogging before we really discover our niche. We may have thought that we wanted to target church leaders and then discovered that writing about Christian parenting is what really excites us.

It is okay to shift our focus over time. We should never feel locked in if our original intent ends up leaving us dry. This is an argument for having a fairly general or personal name specific domain rather than niche-specific domain. It might be difficult to switch a blog with knitting and crocheting in the domain into an apologetics website.

When determining the audience, the experts talk about avatars. Don’t get all nervous about Hindu theology. An avatar is the imaginary person that you are seeking. These are some of the questions you might want to ask about your ideal audience:

  • Christian or non-Christian?
  • Male or female?
  • Approximate age?
  • Level of education?
  • Pastor or layperson?
  • Parent, married or single?
  • Interests?

Now none of this means that you fail if you reach other people. In fact you will draw interest from people outside your avatar, but this gives you something to target.

Once you have done that, try to determine who you are reaching right now. Hopefully you have already connected Google analytics and you can find some of this information there. You can also do a survey on your blog. If you have a Facebook page, check the insights information there as well.

None of this is meant to be a make-work project. We are all busy enough as it is. The point of this is to have this avatar in our mind as we write our blog posts. Imagine how that person would react to the things that you are writing. Writing for a specific type of person is so much better than just writing the blogosphere in general.

Your challenge is to define your audience by developing an avatar of your ideal reader.

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Why Should You Consider Using a Blog Coach?

Blog CoachingA blog coach is someone who helps and guides bloggers to be more effective in their blogging. But why bother with a blog coach? Isn’t enough to write an interesting post and just hit publish?

I can think of a number of reasons to use a blog coach:

  • The point of blogging is not just write posts but to connect our content with readers.
  • There are some small changes that can dramatically affect how many people read our posts.
  • If we are going to take the time to write, we should do it with excellence.
  • The blogosphere is a crowded place and bloggers need to work smarter (not just harder) to be noticed.
  • Social media and search engine optimization keep changing the rules and it is difficult to keep up.
  • Coaches look at many different blogs and can pull from the best of them.
  • Coaches are usually bloggers themselves who have learned by making mistakes.
  • Our time is worth enough that we should do what is required for our content to achieve the goals they were designed for.

Why do I share this? Well, I have started coaching Christian bloggers and I’m offering my services to people who are interested. But even if you choose not to take advantage of my services, I encourage you to work with a blog coach to make the best of your blogging activity.



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5 Myths About Church Websites

I have encountered a number of churches that still don’t have a website, despite all the data that indicates it is an important element for connecting with visitors. Some of the reasons that churches have not pursued this are based on mistaken ideas about church websites.

I would like to clear things up be exposing five myths about church websites.

1. Church websites need to be updates weekly

It is true that it is bad for a church website to be out of date, in the sense of having incorrect information. The proper name for the pastor and the current times for worship services are important. But a church website does not have to be updated weekly.

There are two ways to have a church website. A dynamic site would be updated regularly, including new announcements, weekly sermons, etc. But you can also have a static website that has all the basic information, without giving specific dates for events. This kind could be set up and left alone until some part of that regular information changes.

2. Church website are too expensive

Some churches spend a lot of money on websites and that can be a good investment. But that does not mean that churches with smaller budgets can’t have a nice basic website. As long as you are flexible with the domain name and have modest goals for the website, it can work for almost nothing.

3. Church websites don’t work in rural settings

I have pastored in a little country church and our website was important for our ministry. The farmers in our community used the internet all the time. You do not have to be in an urban setting for a website to be useful.

4. Church websites don’t work for churches with older congregations

Some churches have looked at their congregations and have seen all the grey hair and assumed that a website would be irrelevant. I think that is making a poor assumption about older adults. Many of the seniors that I know are able to navigate their way around the internet pretty good. Many of them Skype with their family regularly and do Google searches to find information they are looking at.

5. A Facebook page is enough

Some churches have made a choice between a Facebook page and a church website. My recommendation would be to have both. If you go with a basic static church website, then the regular announcements and other updates can take place on the Facebook page. But when it comes to new people searching online for a local church, they are more likely to find you if you have a website. A good strategy would be to use the website to attract visitors and Facebook page to inform members and adherents.

Having said all this, I’m offering to set up a basic static website for any church for a onetime very low cost with no ongoing cost. If you are interested, you can find out more information here.

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Blogger Interview: Greg West

Much of my blogging has been in the area of apologetics. That makes me very interested in the other apologetics resources that are available on the internet. One of the best resources that I have encountered is a website called The Poached Egg.

Greg WestThe Poached Egg is a blog that gathers the best apologetics content from around the web and brings it together to one place. It is run by Greg West and I have come to greatly appreciate the work that Greg does.

One of the things I respect about Greg is that he doesn’t just use other people’s content for his own purposes but makes sure to send his readers to the original websites. There have been a number of times that I have noticed a spike in my traffic and then tracked it down to something Greg has shared.

I recently had the opportunity to ask Greg some questions about blogging. Whether or not you are involved in apologetics, you will find Greg’s insights on Christian blogging to be very helpful.

You are the curator of one of the most popular apologetics websites: The Poached Egg. Where did that name come from?

That’s a great question, Steve! I get this one a lot and I always love answering it. It’s a hat tip to a quote from C.S. Lewis’ book, Mere Christianity. The quote is also known as Lewis’ famous “Trilemma Argument”. The full quote goes like this:

“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic—on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg—or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronising nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to. . . . Now it seems to me obvious that He was neither a lunatic nor a fiend: and consequently, however strange or terrifying or unlikely it may seem, I have to accept the view that He was and is God.”

I wanted the website’s title to be relevant to what it’s about, but I also wanted it to be a little unusual, and also hopefully, memorable. I had just recently read Mere Christianity, and ‘The Poached Egg’ just kind of jumped out at me.

How did you first get involved in blogging?

Well, I used to create some websites back in the day before blogging had really started to take off. I used to write my own code in Notepad, so I had a good working knowledge of HTML. In 2010 I had already been studying apologetics for several years, but I was just discovering that there were all these great apologetics resources online. I thought, why not create a website that is an aggregator for all this great information being put out there and bring it all in one place to make it easier for people to find, and also maybe discover a writer or resource that they hadn’t been aware of before? I do write an occasional post myself, but my talent really lies in processing through all this information that’s out there (with much of it being misinformation) and put it all together in a way that’s accessible.

You share the best of other people’s blog posts. What do you look for in a good blog post?

The primary thing I look for is, is it accessible for a general laymen audience. I do make occasional exceptions, but I don’t want my readers have to have a degree in philosophy or theology to understand what the author is trying to say. Secondary things I look for are length, grammar, presentation, etc.

How has Christian blogging changed since you first became involved in blogging?

I would say the main thing is that there is so much more of it out there now- both good and bad. One has to be discerning. When I started TPE in 2010 there were relatively few good apologetics websites and blogs out there, but today the available resources are nearly inexhaustible with more popping up everyday, and I think that’s great!

If you could give one piece of advice to a Christian blogger, what would it be?

Well, I find it very hard to narrow it down to one, but I’ll try to keep it to just a few. First I would say that bloggers need to take advantage of all the resources they can to get readers to their blog. At the very minimum you need to have a Facebook page and a Twitter page, and while I don’t think that social media is as effective in driving traffic to your site as it used to be, it’s still a necessary tool and I run across a lot of blogs that aren’t taking advantage of social media at all. 9 times out of 10 when I discover a new blog it’s via social media. I also run across quite a few where I can’t find the author’s name anywhere on the site. If you don’t want your real name to be public, then at least use a pen name. Finally, I would say to stick to topics you know well and be sure to check your spelling, punctuation, and grammar. We all have the occasional typo that slips by us, but I’ve passed on articles because of this that otherwise had good information.

Thanks Greg!

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Martin Luther and Blogging

Martin LutherWith the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther nailing the 95 Theses on the Wittenberg door, I recently read Roland Bainton’s Here I Stand. I was struck by something as I read the story of the birth and success of the Reformation.

Aside from Martin Luther’s theological and leadership abilities, much of his success was related to his communication gifts. Luther was a prolific writer, able to produce both deep theological works and pamphlets aimed at a popular audience. Luther was able to take advantage of the printing press, that at the time of the Reformation was still less than a century old.

Why do I bring this up?

I believe that Martin Luther would have thrived in our present internet age. In fact, I think Luther would have been an incurable blogger. Even the 95 Theses almost sounds like a blog posts (95 Things Wrong With Indulgences?).

BloggingOne of the key roles for Christian bloggers is to disseminate theological ideas out to the public, often translating ideas into language people can understand. That is what Luther did. Even Luther’s translation of the Bible into German was a part of this. Christian bloggers continue this tradition.

As I read through the life of Luther, I also noticed that his writings often included wood cuttings illustrating Luther’s ideas. As I looked at these drawings, somewhat similar to modern political cartoons, I was reminded of memes. Although I’m cautious of people who rely too much on memes, memorable images and phrases can be effective.

The invention of the internet has been compared to the invention of the printing press in terms of impact and I believe it. Martin Luther was a man of his time who took advantage of the available technology to proclaim his message.

Christian bloggers are living in a similar time and we need to be as open to using the technology that we have.

Interested in a Blogging Coach?



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Is Christian Blogging Even a Thing?

Christian BloggingI have a desire to help people in their Christian blogging. But before doing that, we better decide if such a thing exists.

I’m reminded of a conversation with a friend about “Christian music.” He hated that term, not because of the quality of the music, but because there was no such thing. People can be Christian but music cannot.

Having worked for a Christian music distributor for some years, I had reflected on this. What was Christian music? Was it music by Christians or music about Christian themes? What if the Christian musician did not write songs about faith topics? What if a non-Christian wrote songs about Christian themes or covered some gospel song? It’s all rather complicated.

Are we in the same boat when it comes to Christian blogging?

While there is some fuzziness, there does seem to be something called “Christian blogging” out there. So what is it?

I would define Christian blogging in this way:

Christian blogging is the creation of content by a Christian in such a way that their faith informs the nature and tone of their blogging activity.

This means that a Christian blogger doesn’t have to blog about the Bible or church. For example, some of my blogging is in the area of disabilities. Some of those posts deal with disabilities within the church but some are just about disabilities. Even then, my faith is informing my writing about disability, whether or not I mention God or the Bible.

I’m not ready to reject the concept of “Christian blogging.” There is much overlap with other types of blogging but I still believe that Christian blogging is a thing.

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How to Make the Most of Twitter

Twitter can be a great way to promote your blog. While I have not found the same numbers as I do when it comes to Facebook, Twitter should be an important contribution to promoting your blog. The advantage of Twitter over Facebook is that Twitter audiences have patience for more content posting than Facebook.

There are things that you can do that can set yourself up for success on Twitter.

  • Put some thought into your profile picture and cover photo. Make sure you don’t look like an automated account created to spam.
  • You want to gather as many followers as possible. This usually means following other people first. Realize that there two types of people on Twitter. Some who will try to follow back as many legitimate accounts that follow them and some, who even if they have a million followers, will only follow a dozen people they consider worthy. Follow some thought leaders, even if they won’t follow you back, but also seek out people who will follow you.
  • Don’t purchase Twitter follows. Don’t do it.
  • Follow people on Twitter who have similar interests as you and who are involved in the same sort of blogging.
  • Include a link to your website or blog in your profile information.
  • Consider having a common graphic theme on your Twitter account, Facebook page and website.
  • Share other people’s content and not just your own. Become a person who wants to promote quality content and not someone who is just self-serving. Plus when people see you share their content, they are more likely to share your content.
  • Tweet consistently. Don’t tweet ten times in one day and wait another eight months before the next burst. Even tweeting once a day will be good. People will unfollow if you seem inactive.
  • Don’t tweet too frequently. While Twitter has more patience than Facebook, I have unfollowed people who put out ten tweets in five minutes. If I all I see are tweets from one person in my feed, I will unfollow.
  • Tweet your own content. You want to tweet other people’s content, but tweeting your own is good too. If you tweet four times in a day, try to make at least one tweet a link to something on your site.
  • Use hashtags. Hashtags don’t work great on Facebook but they can be helpful on Twitter. There are people looking for certain hashtags.
  • Tag people who are relevant to your tweet. If my blog post deals with another person and they are linked to in the post, I will tag them in the tweet. Very often they will retweet as a result of this.

What strategies do you find helpful on Twitter?

Consider following me on Twitter at these accounts:

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5 Mistakes Bloggers Often Make

MistakesBloggers can have the best intentions and still find that their sought after audience eludes them. It is not enough to publish a few good pieces of content. There are some basic mistakes that are frequently made. Here are five of them:

  1. Using a confusing title. We might come up with something clever and that makes sense in terms of the post, but this may confuse our potential audience. Many people choose whether or not to read our posts after just a quick glance at the title.
  2. Not sharing the post on social media. Of course our ultimate hope is that Google and other search engines will drive people to our content. But before that happens, we need to be active in sharing our own content and putting it in front of our audience.
  3. Not including share buttons. I still come across blogs that have good content that I want to share but there are no social sharing buttons anywhere. Make it easy for your audience to share.
  4. Ignoring SEO. Search Engine Optimization is extremely important. Search engines can be our best friend but we need to cooperate. There are basic SEO practices that we dare not ignore.
  5. Only promoting our own content. We want others to share our content and this means that we need to share other people’s content. Comment on blogs, share on social media, do all the things that you wish others did for you.

Interested in a Blogging Coach?



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Top 50 Faith Blogs

I really enjoy blogging and have been doing so for around ten years. My point was never about just getting the numbers, although I’m glad that people do read it.

I recently was listed in the top 50 faith blogs for the Feedspot site. There are lots of great faith-oriented blogs on that list that are worth checking out. It was also nice to see the Faith Today blog on the list, a blog I was involved in the launching of.

There are a lot of other lists on the Feedspot site as well and you will find more blogs than you will ever have to read. But go check them out anyway.

Thank you to my readers and supporters for encouraging me in my blogging efforts.

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5 Good Reasons for Pastors to Blog

BlogI almost called this post, “Should Pastors Blog?” but I chose not to because it suggests there is a yes or no answer. The truth is that some pastors should not blog. Perhaps they are not very good at blogging or they may have the skill but they hate doing it. I would never suggest that such pastors should blog.

But for those who like writing and are considering blogging, I thought I would share five good reasons for pastors to blog.

  1. Blogging is a way for potential visitors to get to know you. It is difficult to get a sense from just one sermon what a pastor is really like. However, reading a number of blog posts on a variety of subjects can help visitors know if your pastoral leadership will be a good fit.
  2. Blogging is another opportunity to feed your congregation. Probably, at least some of your congregation will read your blog posts (especially if you link to it from the church website). You can use your blog to reflect on biblical and theological themes that don’t get touched on during a worship service.
  3. Blogging develops your writing skills. The best way to improve as a writer is to write. Blogging regularly may help you improve in your sermon writing.
  4. Blogging allows you to experiment with ideas. It is not a good idea to use a Sunday sermon as the time to think out loud. There is more grace for making mistakes in a blog post than there is during a sermon.
  5. Blogging is a good way to get feedback. When a blogger puts out an idea, often there will be people who will comment on your post. Blogging can become a conversation. I have had new blog posts and even sermon illustrations emerge out of the comments on my blog.

I do not see blogging as a distraction from my role as a pastor. I truly believe that blogging makes me a better pastor. It isn’t for everyone but it is something to consider for some.






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6 Ways Bloggers Can Support Other Bloggers

Blogging can be fun and rewarding. One of the things that I enjoy about blogging is connecting with other bloggers. We are not alone in our desire to produce interesting content for others to read.

I have a desire to support and encourage other bloggers. Here are six things I have come up with that can help us support other bloggers.

  1. Read other blogs. You want people to read your blog, so go and read other people’s blogs. You may learn something either from their content or their style. Plus we all appreciate the extra views.
  2. Comment on other blogs. It is always nice to receive an encouraging comment on a blog. Take some time to comment on another person’s blog. I sometimes get hits on my blog based on my comments elsewhere.
  3. Share posts on social media. It only takes a second to share a blog post on Facebook or Twitter. Your followers might appreciate what others have to say.
  4. Send an encouraging email. Most people have a contact on their blog. Send them an email telling them what you like about their blog.
  5. Include a link to their content on your blog. This could be simply a list of interesting blogs, or you could include relevant links to another blog in your blog posts.
  6. Invite someone to do a guest post on your blog. Make sure to include a link to their website in the post.

Bonus Item: If you visit a blog that has affiliate links, consider purchasing something through the links. You know the costs in time and money to blog regularly.

It all comes down to the Golden Rule of “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

Interested in a Blogging Coach?



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6 Mistakes Christian Bloggers Make

I have been blogging for a while, having started my first blog about ten years ago. I enjoy blogging and I’m thankful for the good quality blogs that are out there. Of course there is always room for us to improve. Reflecting on my own experiences and what I have seen on other blogs, I have come up with six mistakes that are common among Christian bloggers. Some of the tips fit for any kind of blogging, but I have Christian blogging in mind.

  1. BloggerForgetting to keep the Christian in Christian blogging. Just as it is inappropriate to give the finger while driving a car with a Jesus fish, we should avoid acting in unChristian ways on a blog that is explicitly Christian. Consider the tone and the content of the statements you make on your blog.
  2. Spending too much time replying to comments. I try to reply to comments that are asking a serious question or where there is a need to clarify. Earlier in my blogging career, I spent too much time debating people with a chip on their shoulder when it comes to Christianity. I just don’t have time for that any more.
  3. Not taking advantage of social media. I still see blogs that don’t have social media sharing buttons on them. When I see something good, I want to share it. Also, don’t be afraid to share your own content. You worked hard to write it, you might as well make it available for people to read it.
  4. Not partnering with other bloggers. Other Christian bloggers are not your competition, we are all on the same side. Share other people’s posts and invite other bloggers to do guest posts.
  5. Being afraid to share weakness. Just because you are a Christian blogger does not mean that you have to pretend you have it all together. People identify with bloggers who are real. This does not mean that you have to unload all your struggles in one big blog post. But you can be vulnerable.
  6. Forgetting to pray about your blog and for your readers. This is one that I’m guilty of. I can get so focused on writing content that I often forget to pray about what I’m going to write or for who is going to read the post.

If you are interested in learning more about blogging, I have written an eBook on How to Be a Christian Blogger. If you sign up for my newsletter, I will make sure you get a copy.

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How to Have a Successful Blog

BlogI would not consider myself an expert in blogging but I have blogged for ten years and so have learned a thing or two. I would like to share a few ideas about how you can have a successful blog.

The only way to know if you are successful is to determine what your goal is. Are you trying to make money? Are you trying to get readers? Are you trying to build an email list? Are you trying to establish yourself as an expert in your field? Figure this out first.

I’m assuming at this point that you have a blog but perhaps are not happy with the results. Here are some ideas that may bring your blogging to the next level.

  • Blog regularly. It doesn’t have to be every day, but it really shouldn’t be less than once a week. Consistency is key.
  • Produce quality content. It is not enough to just get massive amounts of content on your blog. Work hard to write posts that people are actually going to want to read.
  • Take into account SEO practices. There are simple things that you can do to make it more likely for search engines (especially Google) to find your post. It is worth the extra couple of minutes.
  • Share your posts on social media. A lot of the traffic I get comes from social media, especially Facebook. Join relevant groups and start a page for your blog. Share on your personal page.
  • Make sure you have share buttons prominently displayed on your blog. I’m amazed that I still come across interesting posts that I want to share and I can’t find a share button anywhere. Help people to help you.
  • Do guest posts for other blogs and sites. This does two things. First, it often includes a link back to your site. Secondly, it helps to establish you as an expert in your area.
  • Establish relationships with other bloggers. This can include collaborative projects or just mutual encouragement.
  • Regular review. Take time to reflect on what is working and what is not. Be ready to make changes. There may be minor adjustments or major changes that are needed.

These won’t guarantee that you will become a millionaire blogger, but they should help you to become more successful in what you are trying to accomplish.

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5 Tips For Apologetics Bloggers

I have been blogging in some form or another for ten years. Much of that has included apologetics blogging. I enjoy writing apologetics-related blog posts and hopefully I have learned something over the years.

Here are a few things that I would like to offer to my fellow apologetics bloggers.

  1. Make sure to do your homework. What I mean by this is that it is important that we know that what we share is accurate. If you come across a claim that nicely supports your position, that is not enough. It does not take long to do some fact checking and it is easier than trying to rebuild your credibility after sharing something false.
  2. Your tone is as important as your content. We are to defend the faith with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15). We are to share the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). Apologists can get pretty passionate and sometimes that comes across with anger. It is possible for your negative emotions to get in the way of the good content that you share.
  3. Support other apologetics bloggers. Visit other people’s blogs and share their posts on social media. Consider leaving comments on their blog. Basically, all the stuff you would like others to do, do that for other people. Didn’t Jesus say something like that?
  4. Don’t be afraid to promote your own content. You may spend a lot of time crafting the perfect blog post but what do you do afterward? Are you blogging just to get something off your chest? Or do you want people to read it? Use social media and email and any other tools to get your message out. If it is worth writing, it is worth sharing.
  5. Don’t be obligated to debate with all your critics. I love when people comment on my blog posts. Sometimes people disagree with me and I am good with that. There are people who seem to want to have a running debate with me. My policy is to clarify my position once and at most twice and then I leave it. I don’t have the time or desire to debate in the comments section. I do sometimes take my clarifications and repurpose them into a new blog post in case others have the same confusion.

God bless all you apologetics bloggers out there. What you do matters. Keep fighting the good fight.

Interested in a Blogging Coach?

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Is Apologetics Blogging Dead?

In recent months I have come across numerous articles, posts and podcasts reflecting on the question, “Is blogging dead?” Obviously blogging cannot be completely dead as I am writing a blog post on the subject.

Why are people asking if blogging is dead?

The problem is not necessarily something wrong with the medium of blogs. Rather it is an observation that blogging does not have the same proportion of content production on the internet that it once did. Many people have either switched to or at least added podcasting to their content production. Video is growing quickly as well, not just YouTube and Facebook, but live-streaming video such as Periscope and Blab. There are more options available now than ever before.

How does this affect apologetics blogging?

ApologeticsI have been blogging for ten years and I have not seen a decrease in interest, either from people coming to my blog or me going to others. If anything, blogs seem even more important.

I believe that Christian blogging, especially apologetics blogging, has an advantage in the blogosphere. Many people (but not all) who read apologetics blogs, do it not because they are extremely loyal to a particular blogger but because they are looking for an answer to a specific question.

  • What is intelligent design?
  • What do Mormons believe?
  • Is there evidence for the resurrection of Jesus?

As long as there are questions, internet search engines and websites/blogs with good quality apologetics content, there will be a place for apologetics blogging.

That does not mean that apologetics blogging is not changing. There is a demand for higher quality content that is both well researched and easy to understand. Mediocre blogs are going to find it harder to find an audience.

People looking for answers will also find more options than traditional blog posts. Bloggers themselves are broadening their methods, expanding to podcasts and video.

Take a moment to check out my podcast and my YouTube channel.

What I see happening is not a lower demand for apologetics blogging but rather a smaller slice of a much bigger apologetics pie.

So if you are an apologetics blogger, do not become discouraged. Work harder at providing good content. Experiment with other methods. Consider starting a podcast.

But be assured that people are still looking for the biblical answers that you have.


 

This is not about apologetics or even Christian blogging, but I recommend this podcast episode on “Blogging is Alive and Well and Remains Relevant.” It is about business blogs but still has some very useful information.

I also recommend this video by Michael Hyatt on “Blow Up Your Blog!” where he talks about the continued importance of blogging.

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30 Day Apologetics Challenge: Day 12

Write a Guest Post for Another Blog

You have good things to say. You have studied and learned and want to pass on your knowledge.

But how do you do that? You may have your own blog but are not satisfied with the results. You may not have a blog but you have a great idea for a blog post.

One way to get your apologetics content to a fresh audience is to write a guest post for someone else’s blog.

There are some great apologetics blogs out there (see my list of apologetics blogs). They may have access to an audience that you could never reach on your own. Many bloggers are open to guest posts. It could be that you post on their blog and they post on yours.

What kind of post should you write for another blog? I have let other bloggers repost older articles on my blog. That is fine, but I will admit that I prefer original content for my blog. You should always read the blog before your submission so that you know what subjects are appropriate. If a blog is on science and faith, they may not be interested on an exegesis of Philemon.

My challenge for you is to submit an idea for an apologetics-related post to an established apologetics blogger. I believe in this so much that I will invite you to submit an idea for a post on this blog. This invitation is not a promise to publish but I will definitely consider publishing any articles that are consistent with my blog. If you are interested, email me here.


Find other posts in this series here.

 

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How to Start a Podcast

Have you ever considered starting a podcast? If you are serious about getting a message out, podcasting can be an effective means. Podcasting fits nicely with blogging and social media in presenting what you value.

I am an active podcast listener. I travel a lot and while I enjoy music, I prefer to listen to podcasts. It really makes the commute more enjoyable. I actually am happy when I have to take a drive as it gives me time to listen.

I am also a podcaster. My podcast is Hope’s Reason: A Podcast of Discipleship. This is actually my second podcast, as I began podcasting my sermons at the last church I was pastoring. I have been enjoying podcasting and have been experimenting with different formats.

I would like to share some things that I have learned during my time as a podcaster.

  1. You need recording software. You can spend a lot of money on this but I use free software called Audicity. It is fairly simple and I find it suits my purposes. If you are going to use Audicity, you need to install a mp3 plugin.
  2. You need to find a podcast hosting site. There are websites that come with their own podcasting page and I use a podcast plugin for WordPress. However, I have used Podbean in the past.
  3. You need to decide what you are going to podcast about. Of course you can use your podcast as your personal audio diary and just talk about stuff. But if you are interested in building an audience, you will want to have some focus.
  4. Decide how long your podcast will be. I try to keep my podcast to 10-15 minutes. That is usually as much as I want to share and what my audience wants to hear. If your subject is a detailed subject, such as a history podcast, you may want to go longer. I will admit that I have stopped listening to some podcasts that I felt were too long.
  5. Record your podcast episode. Listen to it before uploading it. Consider deleting some of the “ums” and “ahs” from the episodes. You want it to sound like you, but you also do not want your listeners distracted from your message.
  6. Consider including music at the beginning or end of the podcast. I have used music in the past, although I currently am not using it. Make sure you have the rights to the music. There are people who will record original music for you.
  7. Experiment with interviews. Some podcasts are only interviews and others mix it up. I have found that my interview episodes have been particularly popular. One benefit is that the person you interview will likely help in sharing it.
  8. Make sure to submit your podcast to iTunes. Many of your listeners will subscribe there rather than at your podcast page. You can find out how to do it here. You can find my podcast on iTunes here.
  9. Let people know about your podcast. Publish your podcast episodes on social media. Share it more than once, especially on Twitter. Join a podcast group on Facebook to share. If you have a blog, share your episode there. You can embed it right into your blog post and take advantage of the audience that you have built up.
  10. Podcast regularly. Podcasting follows the same principle as blogging, you must be consistent. It doesn’t matter what your schedule is, daily, weekly or monthly, people are more likely to follow when you are consistent.

If you have enjoyed this post, you might be interested in my free eBook, How to be A Christian Blogger.

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How to Build Your Platform

Michael Hyatt has done a lot of work in helping people build their platform. In some corners, platform is a dirty word, especially among Christians. However, a platform is neither moral nor immoral. It is what you do with your platform that matters. Have a watch of this video and figure out what your platform will look like.


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How the Busiest Person Can Find Time to Blog

I talk to many people who want to blog but find it hard to set the time aside. I understand that. At certain times in my blogging career, I have let it slip. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

Let me show you a plan.

BloggerBefore giving my advice, I will put out two assumptions:

1) you think blogging is valuable and

2) you already have a blog. If the first assumption is not you, skip this post. If the second one is you, this plan may still help.

Here is how even the busiest person can blog once a week. Yes a weekly blog is still considered regular. There is no reason why you have to blog daily. The point is consistency and not frequency.

Monday: Take a piece of paper and brainstorm ten things that you would like to blog about. Put down the paper and do your busy stuff for a couple of hours. Then come back to your list and cross off the five topics that you are least interested in. Now you have your blog topics for the month. Take Mondays off from blogging for the rest of the month.

Tuesday: Look at your list and pick one that you are going to blog on this week. Spend the day just thinking about it.

Wednesday: Come up with a title (this may change) and write down a quick skeleton of your post. Nothing fancy, just the basics of what you want to to write about.

Thursday: Write your blog post. You don’t have to write it on your blog software or host. It can be in a word processor. Some like Scrivener because it does not have any of the bells and whistles that often distract. Do not check for grammar or spelling. Do not format or insert any images. This is to be a rough draft. Please note that you don’t have to write the entire post in one sitting. Break it up into three chunks to be done throughout the day.

Friday: Now is the time to edit it. Put your draft into your blog post. Make it as pretty as you want. Do the formatting, find your images, make it look nice. This may be the time to change the title that you came up with on Wednesday. Press “publish.”

There you go, an easy way to get a blog post out every week that will not interfere with your busyness. Even the very busy can implement this plan.

And remember, you don’t have to blog, you get to blog. Have the right mindset.

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What is the Best Blogging Platform?

What type of blogging platform should you use?

I am currently working on an eBook on blogging but I thought I would share some thoughts here as well. Specifically about the different blogging platforms that are available.

If you want to blog (and I think you should), you need some sort of blogging platform. Each one is different and may be better than another depending on the context.

I am not an expert as I have only tried a few platforms and do not feel qualified to speak on those I have not experimented with. However, I have blogged for almost ten years and so I at least know what to look for.

Blogger

My very first blog was on Blogger. This is a good thing as Blogger is one of the easiest to use and so I did not give up in frustration. This really is one of Blogger’s great strengths. A brand new blogger could set up their blog on Blogger in 10-15 minutes without much of a problem.

Another positive point is the number of “gadgets” available. You can find a gadget for a Blogger blog that will do almost anything. This is a danger for new bloggers as there is a temptation to overload the blog with every neat toy that you find.

Blogger is also good if you want to monetize your blog. It is really easy to add Google AdSense (Google owns Blogger) and Amazon affiliate links work nicely too.

The problem is that I don’t think that Blogger blogs look very nice. It is possible to pretty them up if you want to take the time, but it really does not offer the quantity or quality of templates that other platforms have.

Having said that, when I recently set up my Autism Blog, I went with Blogger.

Weebly

When I was looking for a website with a blogging platform for the journal I edit, I went with Weebly. I chose Weebly because I wanted to include affiliate links, which I could not do with WordPress (see below), and I wanted something that looked nicer than Blogger (see above).

Do I like Weebly? I am happy with the appearance of the journal website. The blogging section is used for the book reviews. I think it looks nice and I can add the features I want.

But I don’t enjoy blogging there. Perhaps it is because I had years of experience with Blogger and WordPress, that Weebly just does not feel as natural. I find that I have to work harder to make it look the way I want. I will continue to use Weebly for this site but Weebly is not my favourite.

WordPress

There is WordPress and there is WordPress.

WordPress.com

The second blog I started was with WordPress.com. This is probably one of the most popular blogging platforms and with good reason. It is really easy to use (perhaps just a little more complicated than Blogger) and it has some beautiful templates. Even a beginning blogger can put together a very nice blog in not too much time. Like Blogger’s gadgets, there are plenty of widgets for WordPress. You can add lots of features that will make the blog your own.

The main disadvantage is that WordPress.com does not allow monetization. But if you are just blogging to get information out there, it is a great way to go. You can check out this old blog of mine that I no longer update.

WordPress.org

If WordPress.com is great, WordPress.org is fantastic. This is the platform I use for this site. This takes all the advantages of the other WordPress and increases it many times. Not only can you monetize a WordPress.org blog, it also has an endless supply of plugins that will make your blog do whatever you want it to.

The disadvantage of WordPress.org is that it is not free. You need to have a domain and a hosting service. This is not tremendously expensive, but it may not be the way to go if you are just experimenting. If you are interested in this, I use Netfirms and I highly recommend them.

And there you go. What is the best one? It depends on what you need it for. For my purposes, I like WordPress.org the best but still use others for my other blogs. The best is to check them out yourself and experiment.

What blogging platform do you use?

If you are interested in the blogging eBook that I am working on, make sure that you are signed up for my newsletter as that is where it will be made available.

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5 Reasons Why Writers Should Blog

BlogI personally find blogging to be very enjoyable. But what about writers who do not currently blog? Is there any point in starting to blog? I would like to share five reasons why writers should consider blogging. This is especially true for those just starting out but it is applicable to more experienced writers as well.

  1. Blogging is writing. Don’t take the attitude of sticking with “real” writing rather than blogging. Why wouldn’t blogging be real writing? Is it because it is unpaid? I hate to tell you this but there are people who make way more money blogging than some others who sell to magazines or get their books published.
  2. Blogging is practice. Becoming a better writer requires practice writing. Imagine what that would do for your writing if you blogged every day.
  3. Blogging gives ideas for other forms of writing. Blogging requires you to think up topics for blog posts. You need to be doing the same thing for writing articles. You may find that writing a blog post gives you an idea that could turn into a more in-depth magazine article.
  4. Blogging gets your name out there. Your blog probably will get out to more people than many of the articles you write. At the very least it will get out to a wider range of audience. You may find more opportunities for writing through blogging. I have had magazines contact me through my blogging.
  5. Blogging provides a platform for your other writing. Imagine that you finally get your first book published. Wonderful. But where are the sales going to come from? It is not enough to just have copies in a warehouse somewhere. Publishers do some marketing but there is more and more expectation that authors will promote their work. Blogging is one of the best ways to do this.

Are you a writer or do you want to be one? My suggestion would be that you start a blog. Even if you cannot blog every day, blog as consistently as possible.




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5 Things to Include in an Apologetics Blog Post

Perhaps one of the best opportunities for apologists these days is that of blogging. You can put out your thoughts and people can read your content for free, no matter where in the world they live. There is a sense of anonymity in that your audience can read your posts even if their culture would not approve of such activity. This is an exciting time to be involved in apologetics.

As much as this is a great opportunity, it is also a tremendous responsibility. It is not something that apologetics bloggers should take lightly. As a result, I have put together five things should be included in an apologetics blog post.

1. Research

When I say research, I do not mean hours and hours of reading commentaries and academic journals. I basically mean do your homework. Check your facts. Don’t just put anything out there that sounds good. Too many well-meaning Christians pass on stories that affirm their views but are not factually accurate. If you get caught in a major mistake, people will be very hesitant to believe anything else you post.

2. A Clear Title

There is so much content out there that you only have a few seconds to get people’s attention. Craft a title, not just that is clever, but that clearly states what it is you are going to say. Make sure your title is accurate. Everyone hates a “bait and switch.”

3. Clear Writing

You do not have to be a professional writer to be a blogger. That is the beauty of blogging. But that does not excuse bad writing. The main thing that you need to do is say what you want to say. Don’t try to impress people with flowery prose. People should be able to read your post and know what you are trying to say. You will not get three re-reads by your visitors in an attempt to understand.

4. Write Respectfully

Sometimes an apologetics blog post is inspired by an event that made the blogger upset. That is good. But that energy needs to be put into a well-researched, well-thought out, well-written post. If you use your post to vent your anger, you are not being an apologist, your are being a grumpy Christian. Write with enough respect that someone with a different view would read your entire post. Make sure your post is written in a way that you still be proud of it after your anger has subsided.

5. Inspire Curiosity

A blog post is not long enough to answer every question. Hopefully, after a person reads your post they will want to learn more. Their reaction should be, “That is great, I want to learn more about this.” Wouldn’t it be great if they decided that your blog is the place to learn more?

If you are an apologetics blogger, consider putting these points into practice. Make the best of the opportunity you have.






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2 Types of Blog Posts You Need to Write

Blogging can be a fulfilling activity for people who enjoy writing. But not all blog posts are the same. Both of the ones I will share are important but it is helpful for you to understand the difference. As examples I will share links to my two most popular posts.

1. Timely

BloggerThese kinds of blog posts are tied to some event. It could be a political election, the death of a celebrity, a scandal or something similar. An example for me would be this post about Starbucks and supposed attitudes toward traditional marriage. While there are principles in that post that are timeless, it really was tied to a specific event. I still have people go to that post but not near what it was when the news story first broke. It is important to write these types of posts because people are thinking about the topics of the day and are looking for thoughtful commentary. However, if your blog is strictly timely (unless you are a news site), you will be missing out on an important opportunity.

2. Evergreen

Evergreen is a blogging term for a post that is always fresh. This content is not based on a specific event and is therefore relevant for years after the initial post. An example is this post that I wrote on Rick Warren. That post is not based on any one action or statement by Rick Warren and so people continue to be interested it. I recently reposted it on social media and I had many more hits on it than I usually get on my newer posts. The blog post you are currently reading is another example of an evergreen post. These types of posts are extremely important. On the days that I don’t have time to write a blog post, I just repost one of older evergreen posts and I get the same amount of hits on my blog, if not more. Even if I don’t repost, I get people coming back to the content over and over.

If you are serious about blogging, I would strongly encourage you to think about these two types of blog posts and to strategically plan how much of each you will offer on your blog.

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How to Promote Your Blog Posts With Facebook

A long time ago, when the earth was still cooling, bloggers could set up a Facebook page, post a link and the traffic would just come. It was the golden age.

Those days are long gone. Facebook has changed and keeps changing their algorithm to make those posts much less likely to appear on people’s newsfeed. Basically, they realized what people were getting for free, could be offered at a price with a great profit. They were right. Those who simply rely on their blog Facebook page are bound to be disappointed.

Does that mean that Facebook is now useless for promoting blog posts? Not at all. Facebook is the top referrer of visitors to my blog. It is just not based on my Facebook page.

How does one use Facebook to promote a blog?

The easy way is to pay Facebook to promote your posts on your page. You can either boost a post on your page (you can get great results for as little $5) or you can do an actual Facebook ad (also quite reasonable). This is good, but if you are like me, you may not have the money to hand over. It might be best to reserve this for major announcements or to use as part of a strategic campaign.

This is what I do to drive traffic without spending money.

  • I post links on my Facebook page. It is here and you should come visit. It does not send me much but it is important and needs to be part of the solution. By the way, if you don’t like how few people see your posts, go to other pages and share their posts. They may do the same for you.
  • I post links on my personal Facebook profile. While I wanted to rely on my page, the reality is that more people see my personal profile than my blog page.
  • I find Facebook groups that have people interested in the topics that I blog about and I post there. This is probably the most successful way of promoting on Facebook.

I find that all three of these are needed. When done together, you can use Facebook to send people to the important content that you have written on your blog.

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3 Steps on How to Grow Your Blog

Assuming you are blogging regularly with some quality posts, I have a foolproof way of growing your blog. There are only three steps. Read very carefully.

  1. Set a goal.
  2. Achieve the goal.
  3. Repeat.

I am not kidding. It is as easy as that. What do I mean and how does it work?

First, you have to set a realistic goal. Say, you get around 60-70 visitors a day. Set a goal of getting 100 visitors a day. That is a realistic achievement and yet a significant improvement.

Now it is time to work. It is not enough to just hope for those 100. Look at the posts you have done that have had more hits and write one of them. Watch your stats. If you have 90 visitors by noon, you are laughing. If you have 5 visitors by noon, you will have a busy day. Do what you have to in order to get those numbers up that day. Write an extra blog post. Post a viral YouTube video to your blog. Link to your post on social media. Find groups on Facebook that would be interested in your post and link there. Don’t get discouraged if you get 90 visitors that day. Keep working until you get your 100 on a regular basis.

Then you do it all over again. You have your 100. Instead of being content with being a 100 per day blog, set a new goal of 150. Again, keep it realistic but stretching. This one will be easier because you have already seen what hard work can do. Learn from your mistakes and your successes. You can do it!

The most important thing is that you understand the difference between a hope and a goal. I hope that I wake up tomorrow and find that I had 100,000 hits in a day. But that is not my immediate goal. A goal is something that you expect to achieve and will feel disappointment (but not discouragement) if it is not reached.

Attempt this plan with your blog. Even if you want to grow your blog 5 visitors at a time, that is fine. Also, it does not have to be visitors. It can be subscribers, shares, sales, etc. Just take your blog seriously and do the work to make it grow.

Interested in a Blogging Coach?



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Should Christian Bloggers Monetize Their Blogs?

I recently did a survey of Christian bloggers and the overwhelming majority said they do not monetize their blog.

What do I mean by monetizing? That would include things like Google AdSense, Amazon affiliates, other affiliate programs and selling ads to other organizations. Basically the concept is that there can be some source of income from the blog.

This made me wonder if there is something that Christians feel is unethical about these things. What I think about this is obvious from my blog. I use both AdSense and Amazon. But am I wrong? Am I doing something un-Christian?

I will not say whether any individual Christian should monetize their blog. If you feel strongly that you shouldn’t, then you need to follow your conscience. All I can do is share why I allow ads on my blog.

  • Some bloggers are not open to ads but have registered as a charity and are set up for donations. I actually struggled more with including the donate button than the ads (I am still not convinced it will stay). My organization, Hope’s Reason, is not a charity. If you donate to me you will not get a charitable receipt. Hope’s Reason is a business. I would prefer that if people give money that they get something in return. That is why I sell my books or promote other resources.
  • Running a website actually costs money. I pay for the domain name, the hosting and the podcasting (when I get back to that). There are other costs as well related to my publishing. I do not see it as unethical to get some of that back.
  • This is my ministry. When I was a pastor, I was on salary. When I do guest preaching, I receive an honorarium. When I teach at a college, I get paid. The resources that I put on this site take time and energy. It is just as much ministry as anything else I have done. It is not okay to receive money for one kind of ministry and not for another.
  • My goal is that the majority of my income will eventually come from speaking and writing. My blogging will be an important part of that. Am I there yet? Not even close. But there is no reason that I should not take steps toward it.

Do you believe it is wrong to include ads or other forms of monetization on a Christian blog or website? That is fine. For myself, I see God as providing in a variety of ways and one of those can definitely be this blog.

Interested in a Blogging Coach?



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Don’t Be a Twit on Twitter

Twitter is a fantastic component of social media. Twitter enables us to have contact with famous people in a way that we would not normally. It also allows to respond to events in real time while tracking what others are saying about the same subject.

Having said that, there are people on Twitter that make it not so fun. Here are some suggestions on how to avoid being that twit on Twitter.

  • TwitterDon’t always be negative. Yes there are times to grieve the horrible things happening in the world or to mourn the loss of a beloved celebrity. But Twitter is not the place to complain about every little thing you can think of. People do get sick of the negativity.
  • Don’t tweet too much/too often. There is more patience in Twitter than in Facebook for frequent posts. But there is a limit. It is not so much the number of the posts as the frequency. I follow 2002 people on Twitter and I still see people posting every 20 seconds all day long. It is one thing to live tweet a special event but don’t do it every day. I will stop following someone if they do this.
  • Twitter is not for sharing every detail of your life. I share a few personal things from time to time, but the twitterverse does not care about every little thing you do. You do not have to live tweet through every meal.
  • Twitter is not a substitute for a blog. The beauty of Twitter is the 140 character limit. If you can’t say it in 140 characters, Twitter is not the right medium for the message.
  • Don’t make sharing a one-way street. Other people retweet the helpful things you tweet, make sure to return the favour. Twitter is not about competition, it is about community. You have something to say, someone else does as well. Retweet each other and life runs smoothly.
  • When people follow you, make sure to follow them back. I see many famous people with 10 k followers but only following the dozen other famous people they care about. That is a bit elitist as far as I am concerned. I appreciate people like Rick Warren who follows everyone who follows him. The problem with this is that I currently don’t follow this rule, but not on purpose. I can only follow so many people until my followers reach a certain level. Then I will work hard at catchup.
  • Don’t attack other people on Twitter. If you read a tweet that you don’t like, there is a very easy and simple solution. Stop following them. You must come to terms that there are people on Twitter and other forms of social media that will say things you disagree with. Stop following is much easier than a lengthy online debate to try and get them to repent of their views.

There is more that can be said, but if everyone followed these suggestions, we would be much closer toward having a twitless Twitterverse. Enjoy Twitter but tweet responsible.

Interested in a Blogging Coach?



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Don’t Get Lazy With Your Blogging

You need to make a decision.

BloggingWhy are you blogging? There are two possible reasons. One is as a diary. It is just a nice way to express what you are feeling. The other is because you have something of value to say that you think other people would benefit by reading.

If it is the first reason, then keep doing what you are doing. All is well.

If you want to get people to read your blog, you may have to make some changes. It is not enough just to write good blog posts. Here are some ideas.

  • Choose your titles carefully. Make them both intriguing and something that contains keywords that might get picked up by a search engine.
  • Include key words in your first paragraph that may lead a search engine to the appropriate post.
  • Do things such as fill out the alt tags on your images and include descriptive tags for your post. This may sound boring but you need to work to get search engines to pick you up.
  • Link to your post on social media. Not just on your personal page but on groups that have the people you are looking for.
  • Make relationships with other bloggers. The best way to get other people to come to your blog is to get other people to send them.
  • Finally, do not give up. Results don’t come instantly. Keep working at and don’t get lazy with your blogging.

Interested in a Blogging Coach?

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Picking Your Nose in the Car and Blogging

Admit it. You know you have done it. You are stopped at an intersection or you are driving on the highway and you feel that tingle in your nostril. There is something that needs to come out.

You look around. You are surrounded by glass on all sides. It feels safe. You take care of business without a concern of someone seeing.

If you have not done it, you have at least seen someone doing it. Why? Because guess what? People can see through glass. They see you with your nose. They see you trying to sing that song. They see you checking your phone. You may feel like you are in your own world, but people are watching.

The same thing happens with blogging, Facebook discussions, tweets and everything else that happens online. I see Christians talking (or arguing) with each other as if no one else can see. They go at it as if it is a private discussion completely unobserved by non-Christians.

Here is another surprise. Non-Christians also have internet access. Those things you do and say, which you would never do and say physically in front of non-Christians, are being watched. The internet provides as much protection as that car window.

I encourage all my Christian friends who love interacting on the internet to keep something in mind. When you are talking to someone online, do it with the assumption that your non-Christian best friend is watching over your shoulder. Say (or type) only the things that you would want them to see or hear.

Don’t embarrass yourself or the church. The car window is clear.

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6 Tips for Apologetics Bloggers

Many of these tips are relevant to all bloggers, but in this post I am writing specifically for apologetics bloggers. These come from my experience as an apologetics blogger. I enjoy blogging and I hope that these tips will be helpful to you.

1. Blog consistently. I will admit that there are times that I have sat in front of a blank computer screen with no idea of what to blog about. But the truth was that I was just lazy. There is so much to blog about in the realm of apologetics. You just have to find your inspiration. Read books and blogs, listen to podcasts, talk to people. Share what you agree with and respond to what you disagree with. My first blog post was a response to something I heard on a Christian radio station.

2. Blog respectfully. Don’t use your blog to attack others. This is especially true for other Christians but it is also true for non-Christians. I have stopped reading blogs that were overly sarcastic, antagonistic and generally negative in tone.

3. Blog biblically. An apologetics blog is not the place to experiment theologically. Stick within the biblical limits. There is power in the Word of God, far more power than your theological speculations.

4. Support other bloggers. Post links to other blogs, comment on other blogs and reblog other posts. Pray for your fellow bloggers and encourage them with a kind word.

5. Consider blogging lists. I have found that my hits and my shares have gone way up since I have blogged with lists (this post is an example). It is not because it is trendy but rather it is easy for readers to know what your post is about and whether or not it is interesting.

6. Use social media. There are all kinds of apologetics groups on social media. Join those groups and post your links. Use #apologetics on Twitter. Get the word out because you have good things to say.

If I was going to add a seventh point, it would be do not give up. It may take a while before people discover you. You may have few hits and no comments. Keep blogging. People will learn you are there and will be interested in your older posts. God bless you in your ministry of apologetics blogging.

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So You Want to Be a Blogger?

I have been blogging for six or seven years now. I don’t do everything perfectly, but I have learned some things through trial and error. If you want to be an effective blogger, this advice may be of some help.

1. Blog. Really, try to blog as often as you can. Blog regularly, whether that is weekly or daily. Even if you don’t have something super profound to say, blog so that your audience knows it is worth coming back. Blogging regularly also gives you practice and you will become a better writer as a result.

2. Have variety in your blogging. Blog on a topic. Do book reviews (you can get free books to do this). Post videos. Post links to other blogs or news items. Post inspiring quotes. Variety is the spice of (blogging) life.

3. Post on trendy topics. Some bloggers don’t want to jump on the bandwagon of what is trendy. Swallow your pride and do it. You may end up with something viral and people will discover your blog and come across the things you are really passion about. I once posted on a Starbucks controversy and had over 39,000 hits on one day. It was not the most important topic for me but it did introduce people to my blog.

4. Use tags. It is easier to just hit ‘publish’ and not bother with tags. But tags are often how people come across your posts. Use every tag that is relevant to your post. It will help with the searches.

5. Connect with other bloggers. Post things from their blogs and they will likely post from your blog. Put them on your blog roll and ask them to add you to theirs.

6. Use social media. Post your blog posts to Facebook. Join relevant groups and post them there as well. Post them on Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest and wherever else you are active. The more exposure the better. You have good things to say, people just need to know about it.

7. Use images if you can. People like seeing images. Just be careful of copyright issues. Take your own pictures if you can.

8. Think about what you are going to blog. Blog on something meaningful and something that you love. Pass on what gets you excited and you will find others who get just as excited.

9. Include the ability for others to share your post by social media. If they like what you write, they will share it.

10. Share your opinions on the topics that matter to you. Be honest. But also be respectful. It does not help to be nasty. I have been turned off by blogs that come across as arrogant or cocky. You can express your opinion without being intentionally offensive. This includes how you respond to comments.

This is not an exhaustive list but hopefully will help you to get started at being an effective blogger.

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