Serious Blogging: Seriously?

Recently, I realised that I had passed the one year mark since I started blogging seriously. When I say blogging seriously well, I started this blog back in June 2009, but I did not really get it rolling properly until January 2011. It was around May of last year that I started to see some real success, both in terms of visitors attracted by the blog and also in terms of revenue, and that’s when I decided that I needed to get more serious about blogging.

Since then, I have tried to write for the blog every day. I don’t always manage that, but then I also get periods when I might write up to about five posts in a single day. The blog has now become a central part of the site. It is fully integrated into the Newsletter and our social media presence and the experience has certainly been interesting. So what have I learned about blogging in all that time? I thought I would share my thoughts with you.

You Need to be a Writer

Perhaps this goes without saying, but before you start a blog, you need to be comfortable with the idea of writing regularly.

There are indeed people out there who churn out blogs with just a few articles on them, target them at specific keyword terms and then leave them alone. They either sink or swim i.e. people find them or they don’t. You can quite easily monetise the traffic, if you get it, through Adsense. The thinking is that you could do this over and over and have say a hundred blogs (or a thousand) all making you a dollar a day. But really, this type of thing is so 1990s (yawn).

If you are going to blog, you need to have something to say and you need to be able to write reasonably well. In my opinion, these are the prerequisites. What often surprises me is the number of people I meet who have these attributes and yet, they don’t have a blog. If you are a writer and you don’t have a blog, well, I just don’t understand. Your blog is your online calling card. It can help to position you as an expert within your niche and, if you offer good stuff, for free, to your visitors, the rewards are sure to follow sure as night follows day.

You Need to Find Your Voice

This, I think, is a biggie. It is not the same thing as finding your target market or niche.

When I did a little bit of work on a company newspaper all those years ago, I remember being taught that a story is not really a story without an ‘angle’. Every week, as the office junior, I had to call the leaders of the various clubs and societies to speak with them and ask them what they had going on. Time after time, I would get the same kind of answers, ‘oh … nothing much really’. I learned that you really had to press these people to find out what was actually going on in their world.

On one occasion, after I had pressed in this way, I was told that the netball team were training as usual midweek and they had a new goalkeeper trying out for them. Now that bit of detail – the new goalkeeper – became the angle for my story about the club. If I remember correctly, my headline was, “New Goalie for Pilks Sharpshooters”. We got the cameraman to attend the training session and take a photo. I knocked up the article and we had a winner.

The point is that the ‘angle’ made the story interesting. Without the goalie angle, perhaps the story might have been, “Pilks Netball Team Turn Up for Training As Usual”. In the same way, it is your ‘angle’ that can make your blog interesting and that’s what I mean by finding your voice. Your ‘angle’ could be the polemic take (popoular with many bloggers these days), the newsworthy take, the humorous take and so on. But whatever you decide to do, don’t bore your readers to death. Find your own voice and make your blog worth reading.

You Need to be Passionate

If you choose a broad theme for your blog, as opposed to a narrow niche, at least in principle, you will have a lot to write about. And if you choose a theme you are passionate about, all that time you are already spending on the internet can be translated into productive output. You are probably already a member of a few forums, groups, clubs and networks and that’s where you passions are. You spend a lot of time keeping up with what’s going on, finding out who’s who, within your area of interest, and learning a lot of stuff that other people with similar interests would like to know too. You could blog about that!

Rather than choose a target market (or niche) and then have the difficulty of having to research it and drum up the motivation to keep writing, why not do the exact opposite? Find the things you are already passionate about and then blog about them. These are the subjects you are already interested in and already committed to researching and learning about. You won’t have to motivate yourself if you do this and you won’t even think of the time you spend reading and researching your area of interest as work because, for you, it won’t be.

You Need to up Your Game

When I started this blog, it was quite easy to write about the various areas of self improvement offering advice on the central themes such as goal-setting, motivation and self growth. After a while, you realise that you have pretty much covered all of the bases and you seem to be running out of stuff to write about. That’s the hurdle that separates the true blogger from the remainder of the field and some people never manage to get over it.

Getting all of the standard stuff down in writing is, I think, an important part of your initial blogging effort because, once you have that material written, you can regularly reference it from other posts you create. So I believe that creating this type of content during the early life of your blog is important and it is quite a natural thing for most people to do. But it is what you do after that, after you have exhausted your reservoir of knowledge around the subject, that determines whether you are going to make it to the next level.

Personally, I like the idea of using levels as an analogy for succeeding online because it reminds me that I should be treating the experience as a kind of game i.e. it should be fun. If you have ever become addicted to some computer game, the analogy will strike a chord with you. Just when you think you are getting good at the game, you reach a point where you enter the next level and it is usually much harder. You have to start learning all over again and you are forced to up your game. Succeeding online is not unlike that.

You Need to Think for Yourself

You need to think for yourself if you are to succeed. Bear in mind that 95% of people who start out to make their living online actually fail to do so and that says something very interesting; it says that 95% of people are doing the wrong things.

If you hang out at online forums dedicated to succeeding online, you will hear people talking about the wrong things. If you can develop the ability to think like a search engine or, at least, like a search engine programmer, you will develop the ability to discern whether any particular tactic will fall into that category of activity you should avoid.

Just think about what people are looking for: instant, easy, quick ways to make money online. If you try looking for these schemes yourself, you will find they are all over the internet, but not because they work; they are there simply because people are looking for them. They may have great sales pitches and impressive graphics and they appeal to the 95%. But, to succeed, you need to start thinking like the other 5% and that means being unconventional.

So there you go. That’s my reflection on my first year of serious blogging. I hope that managed to get you thinking.

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