When I tell my friends and family that blogging is a part of my coursework most of them are surprised to say the least. Many of them see blogging as a recreational activity, not one that could lead to a professional career. Blogging on regular basis for university has, however, aided in developing my own writing and has contributed to my experience of an online public setting.
As Susan Gunelius — a blogging expert in her own right — notes, “the blogosphere is a big and busy world with over 100 million blogs and growing.” With this in mind I was left to question the validity and relevancy of my own blog. What makes my blog interesting? Who reads it and why? What do people want to see and how can I attract an audience on a global scale?
The first piece of advice I have taken into consideration is to “write well and write often.” Constantly sharing my work online at regular weekly intervals has allowed me to remain active and engaged in the blogosphere. According to Neil Patel, “consistency is one of the most important things that bloggers tend to forget.” Without constant updates I wouldn’t have received all the feedback I have, and how can you improve without practice? Blogging regularly has proved to not only teach me the value of time, but has also shown me how to persevere.
Through blogging for my degree I have also learnt the value of audience engagement. Sure it’s great to share something online, but having an interested audience to engage with the content you are producing has proved to be even more fulfilling. At the start of semester my blog was fairly unpopulated, however over the last few weeks I have been receiving attention all over the globe — a very exciting prospect I was not expecting. I attribute this widespread engagement with sharing my posts across multiple platforms. Over the past few weeks I have shared links to my blog and the posts I have curated on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and Instagram. I have also ensured I have included links to my content in any online biography I can find — even my Goodreads profile includes a link to my blog. Providing readers with numerous points of access has meant my blog received more than 800 hits in the past four months alone from 34 different locations across the globe.
Audience engagement doesn’t stop there however. As Susan Gunelius explains, it is important to “respond to comments left on your blog to show your readers that you value their opinions and draw them into a two-way conversation. This will increase reader loyalty.” Taking the time to read each comment made on my posts and then to come up with a unique and personalised response, my audience can see I am listening. Often the comments are a great way to generate quality feedback, something that has enabled me to strengthen my skill set immensely.
Sharing content has not been the only way I have generated consistent audience engagement. Creating a catchy headline has been significant in drawing attention to my blog. Dave Kerpen — author and CEO of Likeable Local — has expressed the importance of post titles by stating “people have a split second to decide if they should click on your post, and your headline will make them decide.” Alongside this, incorporating tags and adding various links and ping-backs added to the value of my content and moreover allowed my posts to spread to relevant and sometimes niche readers. Writing a post on photography and ethics and drawing on my own concert experiences, I decided to name one of my blog posts “How My 1D Concert Experience Became a Lesson in Ethics.” I found that by including the tags #OneDirection and #Photography and moreover by having ‘1D’ in the title I received more attention than I had expected. My post was reblogged to a One Direction fan-page and the original post received more likes than ever before. I learnt very quickly that tags, linking and clever titles are “worth the time in terms of the additional traffic it can drive to your blog.”
With an audience that spans across the world wide web, it was important to consider what kept drawing them back. Did they like the topics I wrote about? Did they enjoy my writing style and voice? Was my blog aesthetically pleasing and easy on the eye? Whenever I shared a post with close friends or family, these were the questions I asked them. Social media manager and blogger Aaron Lee notes the importance of being an individual, stating “I didn’t have to be too ‘professional’ or use ‘big words’ to impress others. I had to simply be me.” Staying true to your own writing style was a lesson I learnt quickly. Readers want to get to know you, and having a relaxed and conversational tone proved to be the best way to approach the issue of voice. Perhaps the most notable expression of this comes from Jeff Goins who claims “what readers really resonate with, isn’t so much what you say, but how.”
One of the most important aspects of blogging — for me on a personal level at least — is aesthetics. I know for a fact that if a blog or webpage is cluttered and has an inoperable layout I will not stay on the page for very long. I assumed the same for the readers I intended to attract. As a result, organising a clean and visually appealing layout that was both functional and accessible was a significant challenge for me. By utilising WordPress’s capacity for interactive widgets and customisable themes and menus I feel I have created an online space that meets the aforementioned criteria. Blogger and graphic designer Marie Asselin reinforces the significance of good blog design, noting that “paying close attention to the layout and content … of a blog can make readers stay on your blog for a long time and click from page to page to page.” In this sense, layout means something more than ‘pretty’.
As Belle Beth Cooper reiterates, blogging is “a mixture between art and science,” a statement I find myself agreeing with. Whether it be generating content to sharing it with a valued audience, discovering my own style as a writer or understanding design, blogging has been an enriching and enlightening experience I would not underestimate again.
- Asselin, M., 2014, ‘The Five Most Important Elements of a Blog Layout’, Food Bloggers of Canada, June 4, Accessed 2 October 2015, <http://www.foodbloggersofcanada.com/2014/06/the-five-most-important-elements-of-a-blog-layout/>
- Baldassare, A., 2012, ‘How to Build a Blog Audience: The 12 Laws of a Great Start’, Falconer Web Marketing, November 16, Accessed 2 October 2015, <http://falconerwebmarketing.com/build-blog-audience/>
- Clark, D., 2013, ‘How to Drive More Traffic to Your Blog’, Forbes / Leadership, November 1, Accessed 2 October 2015, <http://www.forbes.com/sites/dorieclark/2013/11/01/how-to-drive-more-traffic-to-your-blog/>
- Cooper, B.B., 2013, ‘16 Top Tips from Blogging Experts for Beginners’, Buffer Social, July 30, Accessed 2 October 2015, <https://blog.bufferapp.com/blogging-advice-for-beginners-from-16-experts>
- Gunelius, S., 2015, ‘15 Tips to Increase Blog Traffic’, About Tech, Accessed 2 October 2015, <http://weblogs.about.com/od/bloggingtips/tp/TipsIncreaseBlogTraffic.htm>
- Vilson, J., 2015, ‘For Us, By Us: 5 Tips for An Authentic Educator Voice’, The Jose Vilson, June 30, Accessed 2 October 2015, <http://thejosevilson.com/for-us-by-us-5-tips-for-an-authentic-educator-voice/>