Dear Ladies and Gentlemen (read: the eminent members of Blogosphere), please, please, please lend me your ears – My blog is ready and raring to go! Do take a look, will you?!
Yes, many of us feel like this the first time we set up a blog. Directionless, helpless, perhaps a bit frantic too. The frantic appeals to be noticed in the clamorous world of bloggers mostly fall on deaf ears, already numbed by the cacophony of web content. When I started, this is how the cookie crumbled and before long, I was already feeling disillusioned. The search for techniques of success mostly makes us stumble on a lot of technical jargon, which hardly make any sense. But I am made of sterner stuff, if you have noticed. Instead of feeling outsmarted, I commenced on a round of detailed introspection. After all, no matter what, writing does begin with you, and hence, therein lies the source of all answers.
Baby Steps – Brainstorm
Honestly, nothing replaces a fair bit of research. I strongly feel that it truly helps to know oneself.
The building blocks
Brainstorm and thoroughly research blog ideas
- Find out which of these fits you and your personality type, because that will determine how much you are suited to this
- Force a rethink till you are absolutely sure. It helps to believe.
The most important question I tend to ask myself is – Who am I?
Someone who thrives on experience?
Someone who enjoys technical/informative content on different areas of interest?
A sports freak? Cinema lover? Travel junkie? Who are you, really?
How far are we willing to go?
Despite a strong foundation, it is fairly easy to stumble and fall. It is equally difficult to pick ourselves up and build from the ruins. I might sound a little preachy, but I would rather risk that. Belief is the only way forward, believe me!
The Concept – The Bigger Picture
At its nascent stage, an idea is often lost or appears flimsy. It can even appear insignificant. I tend to give it time, think about it, till my brain works out ways to represent it in a format that seems more tangible than before. An idea needs a support base to build itself on.
It is an exhilarating experience to germinate an idea into a concept. Why exhilarating? Because it is a creative process, it is when I give my thoughts some shape and form.
- Concentrate on a path less trodden. No one likes to see what they have already seen before.
- Back it up with a systematic approach of conceptualization, till there is a more tangible outcome. This is when you decide how you would like your blog to be perceived.
I firmly believe in the golden rule that an idea needs to be germinated into a concept. Conceptualizing an idea spark has immense benefits. Think, think, think! Till the brain works out ways to represent it in a format more comprehensible than before.
‘U’niqueness – The USP
Initially, I decided to develop a travel blog, where I could put forth a myriad of experiences. But what would my blog represent? Only unrelated places that had no significance to the reader other than information? That is when I realized that there is a wealth of such information already available on the web. Information about hotels, journeys, maps, travel methods etc is freely available, and unless there is a major differentiator, it would just be one among many.
- Knowing what is already available
- Add further value, by turning it into a unique concept. Identify your USP. Here to sell, right?!
So the idea was to create a travel blog, but there was no originality to that idea. Eventually, an idea will lead to a concept, when one defines a path less trodden, and more appealing than what is presently known and available. As an example, I intertwined my journey with vivid life experiences, such as an evolving friendship, an old couple’s long cherished dream, a blossoming love story, etc.
Thus, it became an unique experience for the reader, detailed yet evocative, a journey that held more meaning than the eventual destination. It certainly helped that these stories were about real people and real experiences (with a certain amount of artistic liberty), though of course, the names had to be changed for obvious reasons.
The Target Audience – The People Who Matter
At the very outset, I would like to do away with the notion that a successful blog is one that impresses all kinds of people of all age groups from all walks of life. That is a very dangerous generalization to make, nothing short of an illusionary Utopian dream!
- Which reader segment are you targeting
- Do not write to impress, but it must impress you!
A conscious decision needs to be taken in this context, and once the target audience has been defined, there are various techniques to pursue this target group in order to get noticed. But one step at a time, please. For the moment, I would say I have never let myself forget that these are the people who matter – they are my strongest allies and I am afraid, my worst critics too.
The Execution – Finer Nuances
This is one of the most important steps in the entire blogging process. I have learnt the hard way that a cluttered blog does fend off quite a few readers, who might never come back again. Sounds scary enough? Yes, enough to strip the blissful sleep off my tired eyes!
Personally I prefer a layout which tends to follow a natural flow of different elements. The elements exist with a certain harmony, without being an aberration to one another in the entire construct. It is also nice to have an artistic order in the scheme of things, without disturbing the logicality of the placement. We cannot forget to consider the visual appeal, can we?
However, initially I had a tendency to include too many images in the narrative – informative or otherwise (they looked so pretty!), only to realize later that the post turned out to seem like an overzealous attempt to impress. It’s plain overkill!
The tricky thing about deciding on the frequency of blog posts is that if they are too few and far between, you might just lose out on an opportunity to create a follower base. But committing yourself to impractical, unachievable timelines, does you more harm than good.
I tend to decide on the optimum frequency of my blog posts, by gauging the outcome of a combination of factors-
- The theme of my blog post.
- The inherent caliber to produce a credible post within the given time frame. Self-evaluation is a must.
- The amount of time I can hold my followers’ attention and loyalty, ensuring that a time gap does not drive them away.
It is a nagging question, and not easy to decide upon, but it is vital point nonetheless.
Networking – The Human Connect
For me, blogging is an unique opportunity to connect with people. But to connect, it is equally important to reach out. Building a human connect is no less than an art, and to nurture the connection is one of the cornerstones of success in the world of blogging.
Subscribing to other blogs
Subscribing to other blogs is a way of giving attention to your could-be readers. Sometimes, they return the favor. I mean let’s face it, everyone likes a bit of attention. It is a good way to connect the dots and widen the circle. Before you know it, you have earned yourself a few friends. I usually do not exercise too much discretion while choosing whom to subscribe to, so long as it is a good mix of experienced and inexperienced people.
Appreciate others; the act of appreciating others does not take anything away from you. I make it a point to leave some meaningful and helpful comments on the blog posts I read. Not only does it help to get noticed and your opinions are, in turn, valued. It can give rise to engaging discussions, which form the basis of reader interaction.
Focus on engaging issues, bordering on the controversial
You must have noticed, as much as I have, how clogged the internet space is with web content. Unless someone comes across the kind of content that they find stirring, or an issue that evokes a natural response, there is no reason to expect recognition. It helps to discuss controversial topics, or make subliminal references to topics, social or otherwise, that generates a vigorous, intense reaction. The cons of this is that I have had to be prepared to face negativity but the noise helps; it is infinitely better than silence.
Sharing – Spread The Word
Shamelessness is the key that opens several locks! It might sound very in-your-face but this is one tactic that almost always works. I can vouch for this and say that it exudes an impression of you which suggests that you are eager, that you are willing to travel the distance.
So people, it helps to be a little shameless and promote yourself. Spread the word. Market yourself. You want to be able to sell, don’t you?
Sharing On Social Networks
These days tiny little buttons turn the world around, round and round and round! One click and an entire web community sees you, knows you and you arrive. That’s the magic of buttons. So I always go click, click, click! Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, emails – whatever way I find to share the link to my blog. It’s my dream, so I will need to find the way and slog relentlessly.
The wonderful thing about these social networks is that the people are unusually kind. They will not hesitate to read, so long as it is eye-catching, and they are nice enough to re-share. In that sense, Twitter’s re-tweet feature is a godsend. Every re-tweet exposes the shared blog to an almost entirely new group of people.
Request your readers to share
Remember the difference between linear and exponential growth? That is the difference I am talking about. So it is not wise to just hope that the beauty of your content will make you popular. The world is twisted, so simplistic approaches will not help. When I share, I also request those who read to share, always. It is about being a little eager to excel.
Visibility of share buttons
This came to my attention only when I had suffered enough. While there were a considerable number of people who read and commented on my blog, no one quite seemed to share it enough. The placement of the share buttons may seem to be a no-brainer issue, but when you look from the reader’s viewpoint, you will understand. The reader perhaps does not care a dime whether you get the attention you require. He/she will certainly not strive hard to get you that attention. Unless the method is fairly simple and easy to locate, that mileage will certainly be lost.
It is worth taking the backlinks feature seriously. It can open up an entire gamut of discussion involving readers from other blogs which have content similar to my own. In short, backlinks provide a reference to other blogs that link to my posts, one way or another. I have incredibly benefitted by the way it drives blog traffic, web presence, reader exposure, by merely doing so little as saying that someone else has provided a link to my post in his/her blog. Thus, together we thrive as a community!
Learning From Fellow Bloggers
I have an inherent, nagging quality of questioning and evaluating myself. While it takes a bit of toll on my inner peace, it brings forth all the right questions. And sometimes interesting answers too! The same applies to blogging. The key lies in being dissatisfied with oneself, in looking around at fellow bloggers and in continuous, determined learning. I tend to ponder upon the posts of successful bloggers, who attract a lot of traffic. They must be doing something right that you might have missed.
There could be many takeaways from the exercise
- The structure of the posts and setting the pace.
- Their style of networking with people.
- Landing an opportunity to submit a guest blog.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Search Engine Optimization, commonly known as SEO, is a formidable concept – Accept it. During my early days in the blogging world, I felt technologically challenged and frequently suffered nervous pangs at the mention of such jargon. Ignoring them only complicates the mess, SEO is here to stay.
Clear, Easy Navigation
It can be a dent on reputation if fantastic content is not supported by a web page which has a elegant design to boast of. Often, the navigation is so complex that it involves a fair bit of rocket science. Okay, maybe not rocket science but it does tie up my brain in knots! Now that is not a good situation to be in. Nobody is keen to work through a maze to get around the blog pages. Given that some people like me have a barely-there sense of direction, it is a serious blunder to expect readers to keep high levels of patience. Navigation through a web blog should be, at the very least, intuitive. Clear and easy-to-follow designs say a lot about the state of your brain.
- Simple navigation, intuitive and clear.
- Clutter-free design, clean side-bars, with focus on the content instead of ostentation.
Keywords hold the key
This is intense – keywords can make or break the visibility of the blog. A little research gives you right signals about how helpful the keywords are in locating my blog during a search that Google performs. This is the part I never hurry through, because the mighty Google bases its results and determines a page’s relevance using these keywords. So after all the effort and the sleepless nights, one could just end up with a blog that Google never cares to find. Now who would want something like that? It makes sense to pick up a few keywords and check how Google treats them in terms of searching the seemingly ever-elusive blog!
Love, Respect, & All That Jazz
One can easily start a journey alone, but reaching the destination requires more than just a kick start. It requires more than sheer will power and tenacity. I can never dare to ignore the fact that the people I know, interact with and dream along with are the ones who make me and bring out the best in me, every step of the way. They add fuel to the easily extinguishable fire in our hearts to excel. They make me break, they make me hold myself together. Their success inspires mine, their failures are a lesson for me too.
People make society, people make communities, and people make up the giant Blogosphere. Not mere blogs. That is why I believe in cementing relationships before taking a plunge into the race for glory.
I was like them when I started.
I want to be like them when I finish.
I need them alongside throughout the way.
A little love, compassion and respect towards fellow bloggers, a little help, a tiny piece of advice when the going gets tough, and when someone is down and out, make the essential pillars of the castle of dreams that we are trying to build. Let us make sure the pillars last long enough.