By the time I realised how many mistakes I’d made in creating my blog, it was already up, running, and getting a fair bit of traffic. Oops.
I was able to correct some of my mistakes. Others I’ve had to live with. The lesson, though, is even when you go off half- or even fully-cocked, you can still end up with a pretty successful… thing. I was going to say blog, but I think the principle applies to a lot of stuff.
Anyway, while I was mucking up big time, I managed to learn a few things about blogging. Here’s what I know:
Why do I Need a Blog?
The Calling Card
In days gone by, the calling card was an essential component of social life. Gentlemen would leave their cards at the home of someone they hoped to meet, usually with a servant. The card often contained nothing more than the name of the individual or, sometimes their rank or their club. Something to indicate they were a person of quality. If the card and, therefore, the gentleman, was deemed acceptable, he received a similar card in return, which indicated some social meeting was acceptable. It was like ‘friending’ someone on Facebook. With butlers.
These days, if we want to attract the interest of strangers, we turn to the blog.
You’ll hear people tell you a blog is an essential marketing tool, and that’s true. If you have a passion for something, whether it’s Victorian literature, or the 1960s, or hang-gliding, a blog is a great way to share your knowledge and enthusiasm. If you write, well, the blog is your calling card. Make it a good one.
When my first book was released, I noticed an increase in traffic to the blog. There’s a spike every time I have something published, whether it’s a new novel or a short story in a literary magazine. If a reader enjoys a book, they want to know a bit about the author. Perhaps they want to know what else the author has written. Share the link to your blog on your other social media accounts. If you’re a novelist, post it on your author’s bio page. Make it easy for people to get to know you.
Of course, as marketing tools go, the blog can damage your reputation just as easily as it can enhance it. Think about it: You wouldn’t go to a job interview in a tatty outfit or dirty fingernails, so why would you want your blog to show you at anything other than your best? A little effort will reap huge rewards. Better no blog at all than a bad one.
The blog gives you a chance to demonstrate your expertise. If you are an authority on the French Revolution, then tell us all about it. Off with their heads if they don’t like it! If you have the biggest collection of autographs in the world, then share them with us, the signatures and the stories of how you got them. Human beings are curious by nature. We love knowing how people accomplished amazing things. We all have things we’re passionate about. Share the joy.
What Makes a Good Blog?
Passion is at the heart of a good blog. Strike that. Passion is at the heart of everything that matters.
My friend Jane and I love our documentaries. She’s a Michael Wood fan. I love Michael Scott. What these two presenters have in common is how engaged they are with their subject matter. Listen to Wood talking about the Trojan War. You’ll never read Homer the same way again. Or check out Dr Michael Scott explaining how ancient Greek theatre influenced politics and philosophy. I get that those subjects might leave some of you cold, but that’s my point. When these men are talking, you get excited. Passion is contagious.
What are you passionate about? Don’t worry if it’s a weird topic. Even if it’s the life-cycle of the tsetse fly, if you care, others will, too.
When you set up your blog you want it to be easy to read. That means clear fonts in a decent size and in colours that won’t cause migraines. I’m a black or dark-blue on white fan, myself, but if you insist on dark green on a cream background, well, I can probably handle it. If you go with red print on a black background I will hunt you down and force you to spend the rest of your life inside a kaleidoscope. Not kidding.
Yesterday I read a blog written by a respected author. He presented six points, each one in a great wall of text. There were no paragraphs. None. Plus the text was justified so you didn’t even have untidy edges to break up the page. Don’t ask me what he wrote. I just couldn’t deal with that big old blob of words so I skipped it. Here’s the lesson: If you go to the trouble of writing something you want others to read, don’t make it hard for them to do so.
Break up the page. Use images or quotes. Like this:
He wrapped himself in quotations – as a beggar would enfold himself in the purple of Emperors. — Rudyard Kipling
Depending on what programme you use to write your blog, you can add GIFs, videos, and any other goodies that catch the eye.
I have an aversion to blogs that blast music at me as soon as I open them. I’m old and easily startled. If you have to add music, make it optional. Pretty please.
When I began this blog, I thought about all the things I wanted to say. It took me a while to realise my focus should always be on the reader. The question I should have asked myself was what’s in it for them? Ask yourself that question. And if the answer is ‘nothing’ then guess how many times your visitors are likely to return.
Where possible, you want to share information, give your visitor something they can use. Answer the basic questions: Why, What, Where, When, How and Who. You’ll notice I’ve already addressed the first two of these points on this post.
Everyone is an expert about something, or thinks they are. What’s your go-to topic? What gets you ranting? If your expertise goes no further than making the perfect English muffin, then tells us. There’s a shortage of perfect English muffins in the world. You might be the English muffin saviour!
Even if you can’t offer information, try to stimulate thought. Give the reader points to ponder. Ask them about themselves. Find out what they care about. Just as long as you make it all about them, they’ll love you.
When everything else fails, bring the funny. Funny people get away with all kinds of sh… stuff. Make your blog fun so people want to read it. Not all your attempts at humour will work (I was once told by a former employer that she was tired of apologising for my sense of humour. That was just before I quit.) But unless you’re talking about murder or child abuse or some equally heavy topic, you’ll find some wit will be appreciated by your readers.
How Do You Do It?
Next week I’ll tackle the techy stuff to help you get started. In the meantime, if you have any questions, please let me know in the comments and I’ll try to answer them. See what I did there? I made it all about you. You’re welcome.