These days the blogs which got me into blogging are no longer the ones I read over my breakfast - aside from the fact that the majority of their posts read like adverts, I feel that with fame and success some bloggers have easily become lazy with the effort and creativity which they apply to their content. After all, the joy of blogs (as a reader/consumer) is the provision of honest, detailed, and sincere content as a contrast to the material found in magazines and on retail sites.
When I started reading blogs and watching YouTube two years ago, the beauty blogging world was still in its youth. Bloggers wrote and spoke from their bedrooms, disclaimed PR samples, and gave reviews which constituted more than just a rewording of the product's press release. In recent weeks there has been much debate in regards to disclosure, sponsorship, and honesty, and I recently watched a video from a well-known blogger who raved about a series of products which she had "recently picked up on a whim" - knowing full-well that she hadn't as I'd received the same items in a press sample the week before. Events which, as a reader, have made me more wary of and savvy in the way I consume content. These days I get my best product recommendations from bloggers who clearly are experimenting with products of their own choice and taste, rather than catering to the requirements of their management and brand work.
I'm ruthless with the blogs I choose to read - I prefer to read a few in great depth and with enjoyment, than to skim-read a wide variety, so when I'm debating whether to add a blog to my 'Favourites' list, there's a series of criteria via which I put them to the test...
- The blogger engages with readers : An absolute must. In my opinion, replying to comments is as big a part of blogging as the writing of posts. Aside from being a display of good manners and politeness, this demonstrates that the blogger is in the business for the right reasons, and does not consider it beneath them to engage with the wider community.
- The blogger is honest and open : I have absolutely no problem with bloggers using press samples as long as they disclose that they do so. There's really no reason not to, and it's always super easy to spot when someone isn't disclosing. In a place as fickle as the Internet world, transparency is vital.
- The blogger can write well : I'm a big reader and have a massive amount of appreciation for the written word, so for me the essence of a good blog is in the prose. So many bloggers seem to get lazy when it comes to the writing - perhaps relying on their follower count or photography, and sometimes I read blog posts which seem to be all over the place structurally. Whilst there's certainly no strict formula or template for a blog-post, a form of introduction and conclusion helps to structure and balance the piece.
- The blogger is in tune with the details : I'm talking grammar, spelling, syntax. A well formatted piece shows that the writer has taken the time to proof-read their work and ensure that they've avoided repetition, used the correct grammar, checked their spelling, made sure that sentences flow well and make sense, and that they've actually finished writing the piece/adding links etc.
- The blog is aesthetically pleasing : For me personally, the least important aspect as I know that not everyone has access to a top range camera/editing software/web developer etc, but I will always appreciate a blog with good photography and web design, and it does demonstrate that the blogger is passionate enough to invest in their blog. An easily navigable website with eye-catching images and a readable typeface will have me returning again and again.
- The blogger shares the love : As well as engaging with their readers the blogger happily and frequently shares the work of other bloggers. One of my biggest gripes with the blogging world is that the "bigger" a blogger gets the less they seem to share and engage with other bloggers. Top-tier bloggers may harp on about their love of the "blogging community", but more often than not this phrase is reserved only for other "successful" bloggers.
- The blogger has standards : Whilst I have no problem with the use of (disclosed) PR samples, accepting everything offered to you (from dubiously branded products to sponsored posts and competition entries) only serves lowers the standard of the blog. I ignored six months worth of irrelevant and low-quality PR samples simply because they did not fit in with the image which I seek to portray on TGG. When I finally did work with PR (a very high-end skincare brand) I found that the consequent PR requests I received were of a much higher and relevant quality.
- The blogger is loyal : When I skim over a beauty blogger's posts I expect to see the same products pop up again and again. If they have a new favourite cleanser/foundation/mascara every week, or rave about a particular bronzer for a few weeks before never speaking about it again then this says a lot about their blogging motivations. Some bloggers focus so much upon selling products and are so fickle with their 'favourites' that readers looking for a product which really works are finding it hard to trust and rely upon such capricious sources.
- The blogger has perspective : These days my favourite blogs are those written by people who don't blog professionally, and who have something else going on in their lives aside from their blog. It's so easy to get lost inside the blogging world and I feel that those bloggers who let their personality shine through, and put blogging in perspective, are those who write relatable content with realistic tone. Because let's face it, there's more to life than owning an entire range of lipsticks, and no one can actually have 5+ favourite foundations.
- The content is purposeful and original : Posting for the sake of posting or halfheartedly writing up a brief product review benefits neither the blogger nor the reader. As a blogger I like to ensure that my readers will be able to take something helpful and insightful away from every post I write. I always seek to put out content which provides a fresh take on a subject, and is original in either the topic choice or the way in which the subject is approached.
Some blogs which meet my blogging criteria:
I'd love to know what your blog reading criteria is, and if you have any blog recommendations do let me know!