I must confess : At first, I thought of titling this post as ’10 ways to ensure your blogging success’.
Had I done so, yes, it would have probably caused my blog numbers to go up. But that’s what you call click-bait. Nobody can tell you sure-shot ways of achieving blogging success. It’s a constant process of trial and error. And it's built around personal experiences and whatever nuggets of information that others are ready to share.
Yesterday, I tweeted something about personal blogging and how suddenly established bloggers are going down the route of listicles. This then set the wheels of conversation in motion and soon, more people joined in and we all had an interesting chat. While we discussed a number of view points, two key things stood out - why readers came back to a personal blog and about the definition of ‘success’ when it comes to blogging.
Later, during a very interactive session of #Blogchatter around the topic of ‘Personal Branding in Blogging’, a few more things came to light. Things like how everyone has a different definition of success - for some it is fame, for some it is money, for some, it’s the number of readers and followers and so on.
Now, all of this got me thinking. Where did my definition of success lie? Was I even what you’d call successful as a blogger? What is my brand identity? All of this subsequently led to me writing this post.
Before we go on, here’s a little warning - it’s a relatively long post, and if you are an established (And successful?) blogger, you may find a lot of these things very repetitive.
You’ve got two options - either you continue to read it and share your opinions and tips so as to help others who may find it useful, or feel free to scroll through the site and read some of my other work. [ Of course, there’s always the option of closing this tab, but I’d be a poor marketer of my product if I encouraged that ]
So, let’s start with a question that has become the blogging equivalent of the Why do you want this job? one they often ask in interviews :
‘Why do you blog?'
However, unlike the practised answers that we often coach ourselves for before attending the interview, I suppose this is one question that we should be able to answer fairly honestly. If you’re a blogger, ask yourself this question. You don’t need to share your answers, but if I said that it would elicit different answers from each of us, then I don’t think I’d be entirely wrong.
We all blog for different reasons. Some for money, some for popularity, some because they want to express themselves, some because they want to showcase their work; yet for some others it is very much an online resume of sorts. We could go on; blogging means different things for most of us.
Like me, for instance.
When I started this blog around October 2013, I honestly did not know what I was getting into. I was at crossroads in life and despite not being a fan of ‘writing’ or having written anything ‘publish’ worthy for many years, I found myself slipping into blogging quite easily. But here’s the truth. I did not know what to write about. I hardly knew anyone from the blogging work; and i did not have much of an identity beyond a ‘washed out engineer-turned-Stay-at-home-dad’, which brought forth other problems on its own. So I decided to start my blog on the one thing that seemed to be going well for me at that point - Fatherhood. This blog started off as a little ‘Daddy Journals’ note and I continued to write about my escapades with my then 1year-old. Now, some call it luck, others call it fate - personally, I call it a combination of that plus some decent writing and the opportunity of being in the right place at the right time - this little parenting blog soon turned into this little online abode of mine called ‘I Wrote Those’;and if rumours are to be believed - it’s a brand.
[Okay, I didn’t say that, but here’s a tweet that does.]
Now, if I didn’t say that such a tweet did not make me happy, I’d be lying. I’m glad that some people think so; but here’s the thing :
[tweetthis twitter_handles="@iwrotethose"]For others to believe so, I had to first believe that my blog was a #brand. [/tweetthis]
Or, at least it had the potential to be one. I had to first believe that what I wrote was worth reading and that I could somehow find footing in this already cluttered world of blogging. And you know what, I bet you can too.
Now, before we go on, here are a few disclaimers and caveats:
- This is not a sure-shot success guide to personal blogging
- You are free to take on everything I say; or trash the post as you see fit - but I will not be held liable for anything that you may try and for it not working out;
- Some of you may look at it and wonder ‘Who the heck does he think he is? What does he know?’ And you know what, I’m nodding my head along with you. I don’t have all the answers. In fact, I don’t have most of the answers. What I do have, are some learnings from this relatively short experience in the world of blogging.
- This is not a Blogging 101 post; rather it’s a post which touches on things that I’ve done that have helped me
- I’ve tried to remain as honest and transparent as possible while going through some of these topics. If you don’t like, well, ignore
If I’m brutally honest, I’ve lost count of the number of people who’ve asked me these two questions: How do I be successful at blogging? and How do I make money from blogging?
So here’s the ugly truth. I don’t know. I suppose, I could say that I’ve enjoyed ‘some’ success while blogging. And yes, I do make some money from/through blogging. But it’s an ongoing process, and I work hard at it.However, what I will do is share a few things that have worked for me.
FIND YOUR NICHE
Anytime I mention the word ‘niche’, I get the feeling that people get defensive. First of, niche is not a bad word. Yes, so you may be capable of writing about everything under the sun. But should you? The real question that ‘niche’ tries to answer is finding out where your strengths and passion lie - for example, I’m a fairly technical person and I could write tech reviews and news snippets. And in fact, during the nascent stages of my blog, I’ve experimented with everything - from tech opinion pieces to humour. Some of them did well; some others not so much. Additionally, I asked a group of readers for feedback, and that coupled with my topics of interest, I decided to narrow my niche down to a few categories.
The way I look at it, if someone asks you: ‘What do you blog about?’, replying ‘A little bit of this and that’ will elicit the same expression as when you answer ‘My biggest flaw is that I’m a perfectionist’ in an interview. So, first thing, prepare sort of an elevator pitch for your blog.
[tweetthis twitter_handles="@iwrotethose"]Can you define your #blog clearly and in a concise manner in 30 seconds or less?[/tweetthis]
Note: Having a niche does not mean you shouldn’t write about other topics that interest you. It just means that you predominantly write about a handful of topics or categories.
IMITATION ISN'T ALWAYS FLATTERING - FIND YOUR VOICE
At least in the blogging world, it isn’t. Being inspired and influenced by others who blogs you read is quite natural. But you need to find your own style. Your own voice, rather. Again, ask around. Maybe your readers - ask them (maybe privately) what they like about your writing. And if you can stomach it, what they don’t like. You may not always agree with their viewpoints, but the important point to remember is that these are people who are familiar with your work. And they come to your blog for a reason. Maybe it’s the kind of topics your write about. Or maybe it’s the perspective that you offer. Or just the way you write. They’re the best people to tell you why they keep coming back.
YOU ARE A BRAND - WHETHER YOU LIKE IT OR NOT
I know, I know….I always get mixed responses when I refer to a ‘blog’ as being part of a brand. But, let me clarify - whether your blog for the fun of it, or for monetary gains or just as the means to express yourself, or with an end goal of honing your craft - whatever it may be, remember this; Your blog is an extension of Brand YOU. Your blog is part of your online identity; sometimes offline too.
In fact, more people know me as ‘I Wrote Those’ than Sid - weird, isn’t it, considering that I’ve been Sid for a far longer time than I’ve been known as the face behind the blog.
There is one thing you must remember though. Creating a brand takes time. It is a slow process, but it certainly helps to have ‘mini’ brand objectives as you go along. Say, starting from the personalised signature that a lot of you seem to sign your posts off with. The other thing that you need to pay attention to is consistency - having similar handles across social media, a sort of similar Facebook/Twitter headers for your pages and your blog - all of these collectively work towards establishing your brand identity. I know it sounds like a Management class now; but the truth remains that while content will always be king, it alone will not get you places.
[Ps. Perhaps this is a good time for you to get that coffee that you wanted and for me to offer my blog rebranding and revamping services for a normal rate. See, sometimes you need to market your stuff too]
BUSINESS, BUT PERSONAL
Do you know what makes your blog unique? YOU. You are the heart and soul of your blog and thereby of your brand.
While I will still continue to ask you to see your blog like a mini-business venture, remember this ‘ Share your stories’. This is important. Your readers want to know your experience and see if they can relate to it. They want to know the someone has already been there, done that, perhaps even failed.
For instance, you could just easily google the recipe to bake a cake. What people come for, when they come to your site, is not just the recipe - but it’s the experience; they want to know what you’ve done, were you successful in one go or did you fail multiple times too to get that cake to rise, did you burn your hand while taking the cake out of the oven?
I know some of it sounds silly, but these little backstories and snippets of information that you give them - that’s what constitutes the personal touch. That’s what sets your site apart from say, a recipe site that has 100s of recipes - each of them nothing more than a bunch of steps that you have to follow.
[tweetthis twitter_handles="@iwrotethose"]Your readers are on your blog for YOUR experience.[/tweetthis]
YOU ARE NOT ALONE
Every time I broach this topic with fellow bloggers, I sense a lot of frustration. I hear things like ‘But I always visit them, but they don’t visit me back’ or ‘They just come and like the post, but don’t leave comments’.
I confess. I have no answers for those. Actually, I doubt anyone does. All I can say is that perhaps you need to invest your time on other blogs. First of, don’t see blogging as a ‘you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours’ sort of activity. Yes, the reality is that to some extent, it is like that. But the truth is that blogging is way beyond all that.
Blogging is a community activity. While the ‘writing’ part of it might be solo, the success of your blog depends on cultivating relationships, especially when you’re starting off. And this is with both your readers as well as other bloggers. It’s not just naive of you, but also a bit stupid to just publish a post and wait for people to read it. Unless you’re a celebrity columnist or a famous person, it does not happen so.
The harsh truth is that blogging is something that requires a lot of ‘active’ engagement. Especially, while you’re in the nascent stages. OF course, that does not mean that once you’re established you can afford not to actively engage with your readers and other bloggers. You will need to actively and promptly reply to comments on your blog, network well by attending blogging conferences, comment on other blogs, share a post if you really think it’s worth sharing and use social media to build and strengthen your brand.
Remember these points:
- Reciprocity is good; if someone visits your blog, it is good etiquette to visit them back.
- Leave meaningful comments instead of the half-hearted ‘nice post’ ones; better yet, engage them in conversation; you can say a lot from the type of comments that people leave on a post.
- There will always be a certain number of people who will read but not comment; you can’t change it - however there are plenty of fishes in the virtual ocean called the internet
- Don’t visit a blog just to leave your link. However if someone has written about a topic that you have either written about in the past, do share it - most people will find a different perspective refreshing'
- Share posts if you really enjoyed reading it;
- Use communities like #Blogchatter, #Blog-A-Rhythm , #WriteTribe and plenty more to not just network better, but also harness the power of other bloggers to improve your writing.
When I started this blog, I truly didn’t realise that it was the start of a journey. You probably didn’t either.
What I’ve come to realise that a blog is our journey to find our voice as well as find parts of ourselves - what we’re good at, what we can improve on and so forth. Every day, I hear people talking about ‘what do I blog about’?
I’d say, look at your blog - the answer is right there.
You just need to be committed enough to feed it, engage with it and see it grow.