Usually, I’d kick this off with a statistic about the number of active blogs, and you, being a reasonable audience, would understand that I’m talking about a worthy subject.  However, if I did that, my article would be outdated in milliseconds.  Just gawk in wonder at worldometers.com, which presents worldwide blogging statistics gathered by Technorati.  As I write this sentence at quarter past one on a sun-drenched March afternoon, 2, 652,122 blogs posts have been published today

As you may have realised, blogs are a big deal.  They offer a voice to everyone with access to an internet connection, and, if the writer is determined,  a reliable employment which is rewarding both financially and personally.

But how to blog? And what to blog about?  Allow me to share some of my meagre wisdom. I’m still learning how to do this too, you know.  Maybe we can help each other.  Feel free to comment if I forget anything important.

Everyone is obsessed with something. Unfortunately, our exhausting daily routines, crammed with pointless appointment and suffocating employment,  offer us little opportunity to explore our interests. So consider a blog as a chance to relieve yourself. Pick a subject that never bores you, whether it be cinema, croquet or the history of the Concorde aircraft, and write everything you have ever wished to say about it.

Once you have found your great subject, stick to it.  An Russian proverb says “If you chase two rabbits, you will not catch either one”, and while I am not in favour of terrorising wild herbivores,  I do believe a blogger who develops a expertise in a single subject will be more read and admired than someone who shuffles between Kristen Stewart fan-fic and ruminations on avant-garde arts.

So we know our subject.  Next, the packaging.  A well-designed blog will find a balance between great words and attractive look. Tailor everything to your audience.  The header image, the tone of address, the hashtags, even the typeface. Take some time to experiment with until you find what feels best.  However, here is useful tips from a Guardian article about effective design: ‘Some of the most popular arts and creative blogs in the world include a lot of imagery. This is partly because people love to quickly scan through web pages and they enjoy seeing photographs and pictures that help to break up text and add visual interest‘ . According to a study by OFCOM,  72% of the UK use their smartphone or tablet to search the web , so your blog should also be formatted to be viewed on these devices.

Going back to the Guardian quote, a block of text can really intimidate a new reader, so breaking it up with relevant pictures will help keep them engaged. You can use your own or pluck stock images from helpful free photography libraries like Pexel.  The images are of a uniformly high quality, and there will always be something to meet your pictorial needs.

That’s the start. Next, we need to figure out how we are going to attract readers. Many blog guides stress the importance of finding a unique angle on your subject.  Which, written like that, sounds horribly difficult, but I think it is simpler than that.  Docce, TMZ and Greek tragedy all owe their ongoing success to their conversational writing styles, casual in address yet rich in personality.  Sure, the by-line may be a pseudonym, but the best bloggers do not hide behind a persona; they speak from the heart.  Write how you feel. Your subject will lure readers, but they will return time and time again to hear a uniquely insightful voice.

It’s also good to study other blogs tackling a similar subject. What’s their style? What’s their focus? Crucially, what can you do differently? Use this information to make your blog better, smarter and more innovative than the competition.

What’s the difference between a newspaper and a blog? No, not correct punctuation.  A newspaper talks at you; a blog talks with you.   If a reader leaves a comment, always respond.   Establishing relationships with readers will encourage them to visit regularly.   Not only will they provide ample moral support, they might be able to provide some constructive criticism too.

111 million Americans tuned in for the 2017 Superbowl, where a 30-second commercial costs a princely $5.5 million.  Has so much money ever been wasted so thoughtlessly?  Facebook surpassed 1.23 billion monthly users in 2014,  and that’s the market where we’ll flog our ideas. If you’re serious about using blog to make rent, develop accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram to promote your website’s articles.   Use hashtags to increase awareness for your blog, and dress the blog visible share buttons so impressed readers can recommend your work to friends.

Did you know 95% of blogs wither and die within weeks of their birth? That’s quite a high mortality rate, and the cause is  often the author  feeling too tired, lazy, or disinterested to write.  Fine.  Just don’t expect your nascent readership to stick around while you recuperate. Research by Internet consultant Maurice Kunder discovered that as of mid-March 2016, there were over 4.66 billion webpages online. That was a year ago. It’s grown since. That means that people have choice, and that if you fail to provide them with stuff, they easily find a more consistent source elsewhere.

So write if you are starving.  Write if winged demons are swooping down the driveway to claim your condemned soul.   And set goals for how much you should publish each week.  The more regularly you build your website, the better chance you have of developing a large and loyal audience.  Which, as I’m sure you have noticed, is a very much a case of ‘Do as I Say and not as I Do‘.  A-Levels, eh?

In publishing, the tiny details sell the professionalism. Never publish a post without asking someone trustworthy  to proofread for spelling or grammatical mistakes.   Misspelling will make the site seem amateurish and could repel potential readers.  What, you don’t trust anyone?  Well, sorry, but you can’t rely on an auto-corrected spellcheck.  I get migraines just thinking about how many times I have seen ‘defiantly’ in the place of ‘definitely’.

We have saved the most essential to the last- the christening. You will need a memorable domain name, which neatly sums up your blog’s purpose and tone.  Kottke, a long-running blog that complies the most interest reading around the internet, is a stellar example.  It refers to the author, Jason Kottke.  However, its minimalism is a piece with Kottke’s laconic prose and establishes a frank, unpretentious tone.

That’s about it. I hope this has been of some help to you.  I’ve certainly learnt that sequencing political diatribes alongside winding film reviews wasn’t really ideal for developing a readership-never mind. We’re all still learning. Don’t feel demoralised if your first post isn’t immediately showered with a million retweets; building an audience will require time, effort, and countless Saturday evenings slumped over a computer, but that’s okay.  Keep writing, whatever happens.  If you can do it for to make a living, terrific, but if you write so you get through living, all the better.

 

 

 

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