It’s now been just over a year and a half since my first blog post, a rather clumsy affair entitled ‘Tinterweb’. It was my first attempt at some form of communication within the world of the Internet and since then I’ve written over 165 blog posts.
I’ve learnt as I’ve gone along, I had no previous experience of blogging and my wider IT skills are basic at best, yet I wanted to give it a go. It took a while to find my feet and I am still learning but I think I’ve built up enough experience now to share my findings with the world.
Like everyone I want people to read my posts, to find them interesting! I want people to be ale to turn to InspiringCity.com and acknowledge it as an accurate and relevant source of information within my field of interest. But how do you do it, how do you go from the idea of starting a blog to the stage in which you are confident in running that blog and as a result growing your relationship with your audience. Also, how do you do that from a standing start with no previous background in blogging at all.
Well in celebration of my first full year in blog land, this post aims to do just that with my Top 10 Tips for creating a successful blog.
1. Know what your interested in
I was fascinated with street art but also the city of London as I’d recently moved into the area. I didn’t really know anyone down in the big city but still wanted to talk about all the things I was seeing, especially all the street art around the area in which i had moved into. It seemed that in the street art world other bloggers were the primary source of information about what was new and what was happening so maybe I could give it a go too. Hence the name of the blog ‘inspiringcity’ it’s all about what I find to be inspiring about the city of London and I hoped that if i found it inspiring then others would too.
It’s also worth knowing which blogs you already like and why you like them. Can you seek inspiration from any already in your field of interest? In my case there where three blogs and these were ‘Picturing England‘ a photoblog about all things interesting in London which had some really great pictures of street art; Little London Observationist which contained interviews, street art pics and other interesting stuff about London and HookedBlog which seemed to have a more direct link in to the street artists themselves and had all the current goings on. All three were and remain blogs I follow and with good reason, they all are consistent in their style and quality of content.
2. Write good content
Your blog will gain a positive reputation because of the amount of value people get from your posts. With this in mind writing good quality content is key. Everyone will have their own style and it’s worth remembering that sometimes that style will take a while to hone. My style has definitely evolved as I’ve become more confident with posting. One of the best signals of when people are appreciating your content is when a single visitor visits multiple pages. This is a real compliment because it shows you that the content is interesting. Other bloggers will also comment on well written posts and that should also give you confidence in your writing abilities.
3. Be prepared to take it slow and work your apprenticeship
Many people start blogging and think that they are going to become the next Internet sensation, achieving loads of hits and becoming world famous overnight. Of course that doesn’t happen and new bloggers will have to work hard in order to make an impact. Like anything you need to build your reputation and you can only do that by posting regular quality content. If that is the only thing you do to promote your blog and nothing else then it is the single most important thing because quality will always find a way through.
It is also worth remembering that you need to find your feet and that means ‘doing your apprenticeship’. I started blogging in August 2012 but only really got serious in January 2013 because during that time I was learning, I was honing my skills trying to figure out WordPress and looking to hone my writing style. I consider that period my apprenticeship and although I didn’t really get a lot of hits during that time it helped me to build the base infrastructure for what I wanted my site to be. It also helped my confidence to grow and solidified in my mind the type of blog I wanted Inspiringcity.com to be.
4. Post regularly but appropriately
Everyone says this because it’s true. You don’t need to post every day but you should identify a time period and stick to it. I tend to post a couple of times every weekend because I work during the week and it would be difficult to do any more than that. The couple of posts a week seems to suit me fine and is probably just at the right level for my type of blog. One thing you don’t want to do after all is post too often and be seen as a bit of a spammer. Nor do you want to have a whole gaggle of posts and then post nothing at all for long periods, it just confuses things.
5. Play the blogging game
You also need to play the blogging game and that means essentially by buying in to ‘the way things work around here’. All bloggers ultimately want the same thing, to communicate with the wider world. All bloggers want their posts to be liked and to increase their readership. One of the best ways of doing this is by linking to other blogs and by commenting on other blogs.
Every time you link to another blog it creates a little thread in cyber space which actually strengthens both blogs. The same is true with commenting on other blogs because by doing so you create a link. You are effectively joining the blogs together and this act increases the relevance of the blog for search engines because it grows the wider community of the blog.
Also everyone likes to have their blog linked and commented on. It provides great motivation for those people who spend a lot of time on their blog and encourages them to write better and more interesting posts. Everyone needs encouragement and doing simple things like linking and commenting will not only boost your reputation but also their morale.
In the same way that you should play the blogging game and post to other sites with a complimentary interest, you should also do the same with your own posts. Think about posts you’ve created on a similar topic and create a list of appropriate links that you think the reader would be interested in. This act also strengthens your blogs standings and increases its relevance as it gives people the opportunity to explore and surf your blog. The search engines love that because it is a sign that people find the content relevant and interesting.
6. Write interesting headlines
The headline is important because it is the hook in terms of people being attracted to your content. The headline should reflect the post and by doing so will not only help potential readers decide whether they want to read more but also help search engines categorise your post. Newspapers do this all the time, there is nothing different in terms of blogging you must pay attention to the headline.
7. Look after your followers
For my blog I have a number of followers split into three distinct categories and these are 1. WordPress and email followers, 2. Facebook page likes and 3. Twitter followers. I think it is really interesting to look at the three different groups and identify what they want. Because they have all chosen to access your postings in various different ways.
WordPress or other blog follows are getting a direct feed into your blog. These tend to be the smallest in terms of number but the highest in terms of influence. These are the people who will regularly read the majority of your content, they will ‘like’ your content and sometimes they will comment and link to your content. Considering what I said earlier about motivation and playing the blogging game, this is really important in terms of creating that ‘blogging community’ and increasing not only the relevance and importance of your blog but theirs as well.
Facebook likes are the next group. You can set up a Facebook page and link your blog to it every time you post. A page such as this also allows you to communicate to a wider group of people outside of the core blogging community. Not everyone who likes you page will read your posts although they will have them in their feeds. People are busy and social media is quick and instant, they will make snap judgements in terms of whether to read your post or not. With this in mind you really need to make the headline snappy and interesting to try and catch their attention.
Also you will find that the majority of people who ‘like’ your new page (certinaly at the start) You will already be friends with on your personal Facebook page. That’s not a problem because they will still like and sometimes share and comment on the post. It is a bit harder to get facebook likes from people outside your immediate friends circle but again if your keep posting regular and quality content they will start to filter through.
Twitter followers are a lot easier attract and are a different group altogether. By far the most plentiful group, the nature of twitter means that messages are easily lost so you have to hope that anyone interested is looking at your feed at the same time you post something amazing.
There seems to be a bit of an unwritten rule about ‘follow back’ in the twitter world. If you follow someone, a lot of the time they will follow you back and they will probably expect the same of you. Certinaly in terms of building an audience on twitter the tactic of following in the hope that they will follow back strikes me as a smart one. Be warned though it’s no good following any Tim, dick or harry because that would be a bit meaningless and achieve nothing. Only follow people with similar interests who you feel would benefit from your tweets. They will no doubt have a quick look at your posts before choosing whether to follow back and if they find that it’s complimentary then they will do. Eventually you’ll build up a decent little community of like minded individuals and can build your reputation.
8. Be Strategic and Think About the Google Algoritham
I think the Google Algoritham has become a bit of a mythical beast and I’m sure that most people outside of the inner workings of the Internet giant dont really know how it works. Basically the Google Algoritham is the means by which Google chooses where to place your content in its search listings. It does this by a variety of Sophisticated means which basically determine the importance and relevance of your blog. So with this in mind you really need to be strategic and post with the famed Algoritham in mind. You can do this by essentially doing everything we’ve talked about so far but also by understanding what it’s intentions are.
In short the purpose of google, and indeed most search engines, is to provide the best search experience possible. It wants to create a framework by which each search results in the best, most valuable information. It does this by ranking sites by means of the quality of their content, relevance and also their social standing. That means the content should be good, relevant and people need to be talking about it.
Your blog, facebook, Twitter and any other social media followers will all help with the social standing of your blog and influence the way it is seen by the search engines. Every like, comment and retweet extends the social standing of your post. Every time a link is clicked from any of those mediums a little bridge is formed across the Internet which shows the search engines that a wider range of people are interested in the information. Be warned though one popular post alone is unlikely to do it, you need to post regular, quality content in order to build your social standing and relevance over time.
9. Create links with others
By far and away the best way I have found of growing my blog readership is to create links with other people who would be willing to repost your blog on their website or Facebook page. This increases the audience of the blog, pleases the search engines and is a sure fire route to generating traffic. Several of my most read posts have come about because other people posted them. They did so because I made contact with them knowing that the post would be appropriate to their page or site. There have been a number of examples of posts I’ve written which I’ve then forwarded on to others who have then forwarded them one themselves and they’ve created a life of their own. Sometimes you’re post is exactly what someone else has been looking for but without creating those links it’s going to be difficult for people to even know about them.
Of course, in saying that, only promote your post to others it it will actually be of relevance and likely to enhance the authority of the re-poster. Somebody who forwards on your content will only want to do so if it is going to be good quality and likely to add value to their particular site.
10. Create gateway posts
This sort of brings us full circle because I started this post by talking about the need to create quality content. A gateway post is quality content that hasn’t yet been accessed by any other source. Therefore when people search for a topic in a particular area, yours is the only material that comes up.
These posts take some thinking about, they are often unique and fill a gap in terms of information that people want to know but isn’t there already. This is also important for the search engines because if they can identify that your blog is the authority on a particular area, then this can only help the Algoritham when it comes to categorising the importance and relevance of your blog.
I can look back now and identify three key gateway posts that I have written, these are:
–Harrods Disney Princess Window Displays. This was essentially a really elaborate window display that i saw I Harrods and just knew that people would be interested in what it was about and who the designers were. I had a quick look online to find out what people were saying and found that there was a bit of a gap in terms of the quality of the pictures and the commentary. It became my top post for a good few months and really helped to drive traffic to my blog.
–A Street Art Tour of Brick Lane. I saw a post on trip advisor that a fellow blogger ‘London Unveiled‘ had kindly tagged me into. He had suggested my site as a good place to find out the latest places to spot street art in London. The question had been asked from a tourist to the area who was wondering where to go. As a result I created a quick street art tour which would give someone wanting to have a quick look round the best experience in the shortest space of time. This post became a bit of a grower and is consistently a popular one. It is also worth noting that had London Unveiled not suggested my post in the first place I would never have known that this was a potential gateway post. This is a good example of ‘playing the blogging game’ discussed earlier and in this instance it really helped me out.
–Hackney Peace Mural in Dalston. This particular mural appeared on the front of an album by the popular British group ‘Rudimental’. As soon as I saw the album cover I recognised the mural but suspected that fans of the band may not. I therefore wrote a piece talking about the mural and associated it with the band. This was important as it was content that was new and simply not out there at that time. It attracted visitors to the blog who were interested in the mural and the band and who wanted to know more about it.
So there we have it, ten top tips for getting your blog off the ground. It’s not easy and it takes work and dedication but by following all those pointers you’ll start to get there. Slowly at first maybe, but you’ll get there all the same.