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11 February 2015

Blogging and the internet

A few readers have asked me to do a post about blogging, which I'm happy to do. I think the internet is one of the most powerful changes that ordinary people have had access to in my lifetime. The internet is one of those systems that is usually controlled by governments, and mere mortals like us don't often get anywhere near such influential and important technology. I'm pretty sure that if they'd known what it would develop into, there would have been government controls and we'd be paying through the nose to use it now. But here we are, able to Skype each other from one side of the world to the other, we can see how total strangers live by reading their blogs and just by writing what we want to write, we can publish those words to the world simply by pressing a button. It's the stuff revolutions are made of. It's truly remarkable.

If you've grown up in the age of Facebook and Skype, you probably take the ability to communicate freely all over the world in your stride. But I'm still in awe of it and probably will remain so till I stop tapping away on this keyboard. I grew up in a time when the only way you could have anything published in the newspaper was by taking a degree in journalism, and even then you had to brave the overabundance of editors and filters before your words were seen by a reading public.

Blogs changed everything. The filters disappeared and we got genuine free speech for the first time; although that has a down side too. All of a sudden there was an easy to use, free platform that anyone with a computer could use. It was too powerful a temptation for me and I started blogging in 2007, this will be my 2347th post. 

There are hundreds of websites with so called 'experts' who will tell you how to be a successful blogger but usually they equate 'success' with how to make money. I wanted to blog to get information out and to connect with people who understood what I was talking about. As a result, a diverse community has built up here. Some are quite vocal, some are silent, some email me with their news because they don't feel comfortable writing public comments. That's all fine by me.  

If you want to start a blog, I'd suggest you sign up to Blogger. It's a free site, owned by Google, so the site very rarely has any problems with downtime or hackers. You can start off with a very simple template, which gives your blog the look it displays to the world and as you learn more about blog technology, you can modify it to suit your own style. If you have an iphone or a digital camera, it's a simple process to take photos and videos and with a couple of clicks, they'll be published along with your words.

If you were to ask my advice about starting a blog, I'd tell you to write the truth in the best way you know how, to respect your readers, to be polite and interesting and to write about what you know. Decide straight away why you want to blog. Do you want to stay in touch with your family and friends? If so, you can have a private blog and invite those you know to join you. Do you want to develop your voice and an audience? You'll have a lot of competition, you'll have to write well, be interesting, write to your subject in an original and convincing way and in the beginning, you'll have to write every day, often with no audience.

Just to give you an idea of your competition and the work load: 
  • according to Wikipedia, in 2014, there were around 172 million Tumblr blogs and 75.8 million Wordpress blogs. Blogger is the most popular blogging platform in use, however Blogger does not publish their statistics. I've seen an estimate of there being about half a billion blogs world-wide.
  • bloggers who blog every day have five times more traffic than those who blog every few days or weekly.
  • quality content and page design are the two main factors in building your audience.
  • you'll get more links and readers if you use photos on your blog. Readers are more likely to connect to genuine bloggers and photos can be a way of telling your truth.

I didn't follow any of the commonly given advice when I started blogging, and still don't now. I think success is down to two things: good writing and good luck. I certainly think it's a wonderful way to improve writing and photography skills. Here are a few of the things I think are important:
  • Write well and often.
  • Know your subject.
  • Share what you know.
  • Encourage others.
  • Don't expect to build up a huge audience writing about your pet bird. Your subject matter needs to be fairly broad to attract readers.
  • Don't expect overnight success.
  • If you really think your blog is good but after a year you still have no audience, don't give up.
  • Visit other blogs writing the same topic and leave comments. If they're interesting comments, other people may follow the link back to your blog.
  • Don't steal words or photos from other blogs.
  • Read a guide to internet copyright.
Like most other new activities we learn, blogging takes a bit of patience, some applied psychology and a willingness to do your best. Apart from that, it just takes time.  Good luck!


  1. Morning Rhonda....I've been blogging for about 3 years now, and posted very spasmodically at first, and had just a few people visiting who "knew" me, either from shared online projects or friends. I think my first posts were so long, trying to catch up, that it exhausted me and I didn't write again for ages. I was also very nervous about putting my words and "myself" out there, and worried about being judged in some way, but as you say, if you're truthful and genuine, the readers come. I'm learning now by visiting other blogs and seeing what it is about them that draws me back, and I'm following examples of doing short posts with a photo that tell a little story but aren't long-winded. For me, it's been a steep learning curve, but I feel comfortable with my blog and my style now. I recently joined a Grow Your Blog organised by Vicki at 2 Bags Full, where we signed up, Vicki posted our blogs and our interests and now I have a steady stream of visitors. They might not all keep coming, but those with similar interests might. It's also introduced me to over 400 new blogs to check out, a few I'll go back to, others I won't. One thing I'd say to any of your readers thinking about starting a blog is be true to what you say your blog is about.....I've visited quite a lot of blogs through GYB because bloggers have said they're gardeners, working towards a simple life, that type of thing, but when I get there, I've been disappointed to find nothing like that at all, often lots of rants, or conversations about their pet bird :) And I comment on other blogs all the time, people usually visit back. I've found joining in on sew-alongs and swaps has increased my followers and readers too....we have a similar interest and so are keen to see what others are doing. Just don't do it all at once, go slowly! And I agree, don't give up!

  2. Thank you for this helpful post. My blog is in its third year and I'm enjoying it more and more all the time. I feel that I've really found my stride in the past few months, which I wouldn't have expected when I began. I thought it would happen much sooner. Now blogging feels like a reflexive part of my life. I don't blog every day, I just don't see how I'd have time, but I do it a few times a week and that feels right. Thanks again, your blog is always an inspiration.

  3. Excellent post, Rhonda. I particularly concur on the point that many equate success to making money. That was not the reason I started my blog, because like you, I wanted to share thoughts and ideas with other like-minded people and help inspire others. I actually studiously avoid those blogs that appear to exist for the sole purpose of self-promotion or are particularly 'busy' with buttons/links/recommendations on the front page.

    Photos are great but one of the most important things for me is paragraphs and clear, concise text. I am unlikely to read a rambling diatribe that runs to several thousand words.

    After a couple of false starts for short periods I finally started blogging in earnest in March 2011 so it has been nearly 4 years. I try to write every day but am not always successful as I also hold down a full-time job and run a household.

    After writing almost 850 posts I am mindful of keeping the content fresh and not repeating myself too often. I have a small but dedicated band of like-minded readers and I enjoy sharing thoughts and ideas with them. Comments are often the highlight as the 'conversation' that they promote can really take the blog to the next level.

    I do not have a degree in journalism and the writing required in my career (nursing) was mostly documentation of facts rather than any kind of opinion. Therefore, blogging has been an opportunity to write as I had not done since leaving school almost 40 years ago.

  4. I love blogging but the biggest problem I have is finding time to blog! I get into some sort of routine and then life (including a toddler, baby, husband, job/s, etc., etc.) throws up a little hurdle and my blog falls to the bottom of the 'things to do' list. There it remains until I have enough and reprioritise again.

    I love your idea of success. I started blogging because I love this lifestyle but everywhere I looked all the blogs were much more rural or on big suburban blocks. I wanted to show it was possible to live a 'down to earth' lifestyle in the city. Surrounded by skyscrapers rather than mountain ranges :)

    I think my biggest success so far is getting my Mum to read my blog. She resisted for over a year but has finally subscribed!

  5. P.S. Blogging just made it to the top of today's 'To Do' list ;)

  6. Rhonda this is a great post. Because I knew nothing about how to blog I borrowed a Blogging for Dummies book from the library. It helped me greatly, though I still found there were gaps in the information. The competition? Yes there is lots. And the competition is the biggest source of mentors and kindred spirits I have ever had in my life. I have learnt so much from some of these men and women, they have enriched my life so much. I would encourage anyone thinking of starting a blog to give it a try. Even if it is the same topics that many people have written about, each blogger writes from their own perspective and experience, and we all express things differently. I might write on a subject and someone might take away something very useful and the yet for the next reader it just may not gel. Yet they may read the same thing on another blog expressed in a different way and find the information “clicks”.

  7. I started my blog as a way to document my move from one country to another. I work as an artist and art teacher so creativity is the focus of my posts. I made a decision from the beginning that I would only post if I felt that I had something to say or new paintings to show. Although this goes against the advice that you should blog every day, this has worked well for me. I don't have thousands of readers but the numbers have grown steadily over the last five years. Posting on average every week means that writing the posts hasn't become too time consuming and fits in well with my studio practice.
    The honesty I see here at Down to Earth is so refreshing and uplifting.

    1. Hello Carol, I just had a look at your blog. You're so talented! Your blog must be a wonderful record of your work. Don't change a thing. xx

    2. Thanks so much for looking at my blog, Rhonda - glad you enjoy my work.

  8. Good morning, Rhonda. Although starting a blog was a steep learning curve for me at my age I got mine set up eventually with the help of some very patient Down To Earth forum members who guided me through the process. I am no writer but enjoy sharing with my readers and have made friends from around the world. I love it when I post photos of our garden during our warm months when my Northern Hemisphere friends are in the middle of their cold winter when everything outside is white and the sunny photos seem to cheer them up.

    1. I love your blog Chel, the things you have shared have been very helpful to me.

    2. Nanna Chel, I read your blog every now and then.

  9. good morning
    i got started with a blog too, like nanna chel, with the encouragement from our forum readers, just to see what all the fuss is about, it's definitely a learning curve & i am still working out the designs, found my background by accident & only blog occasionally, i haven't labelled it as anything in particular, also not that good at writing but i guess that will get better (i hope) & i was nicely surprised to see that a few who read have added me to their lists of blogs to read too :)) i have been adding a few to my sidebar as i find them, most through here or the forum, many are very inspiring.
    have a great day
    selina from kilkivan qld

    1. I always look forward to reading your new posts, Selina.

  10. I would never have believed how much blogging changed my life. I too am so glad I live in this age of easy communication! I would also say it is very important to sign up to a feed like bloglovin so that you can follow other blogs, and comment! that is the only way you know that people are reading. I have posted just today on sharing fabric pieces to create a blog hug quilt. I feel I have connected with so many like minded readers all over the world.

  11. I so enjoyed this post - and the comments, too. I do not blog (I find I don't have much to say) but I appreciate all the bloggers out there who share their interests, expertise and thoughts, and I try to contribute through comments. I have learned so much and met some very special kindred spirits. The internet really has brought good things into my life, as it has for many others.

  12. I never thought I'd become a blogger but I had a friend help me set up my blog after A Current Affair featured my family's story on 23rd June 2014. The blog is a way for people to find me and for me to share my message about living an abundant life on a budget.

    I've made some fantastic friends with fellow bloggers and readers and they enrich my life. When I started posting, your blog was an inspiration Rhonda.

    Thinking of a name for a blog is important too. It needs to be catchy and something you won't grow out of. For example if you called your blog " Mum of two toddlers ", those children will not always be toddlers.

  13. What a great informational post about blogging. Wish I had read this when I started my blog back in 2006. It is amazing how close our world has become in the last 10 years. I'm thankful that it makes our loved ones, way across the world in Texas just a little bit closer.

  14. I find blogging a wonderful resource to record my everyday crafting and goings on, and it would be such a thrill to me to think that sometime in the distant future my great grand daughter could have a little window into her great grandmothers world, I think it would have been amazing to see how my own great grandmother spent her days through such a visual medium.

  15. Hey Rhonda,

    I read your blog every day and comment very seldom, apologies for that. I really liked this post. I believe it is very true about the pictures. Some people dont use many paragraphs and it becomes hard for me to read. if it is something instructional that they are trying to show what they were doing, I appreciate more pictures.

    I especially enjoy blogs about gardening, it gives me a clear idea of what I can do and I identify with people.

    My favourite posts lately have been about people bookshelves and their book collections. I feel a kindred spirit to people who have books that I have read.

    My biggest bug is with flashing adverts or when you try to roll over the page with the cursor and you accidentally go over said flashing ad. and you have a pop up come up whether you have clicked or not and can you get rid of them...? Not very easily

    Thanks for this post, very informative.


  16. I simply love blogging and your advice is very good. Readership builds up over time but also I found when I commented I'd get viewings back. Through my blog I've made friends all over the world and had a phone call from a friend in Africa and emails from America, Bulgaria and elsewhere, all like minded people who share my interests.
    I've also found it a way to stay sane as being a stay at home dad with two toddlers can fry your brain sometimes and blogs can provide part of that adult conversation that I need each day. I also find I do more each day as other blogs can inspire me to try something new or I do more to blog about it! It really has changed my life I must say!
    Also when I got mentioned on your weekend reading I gained some followers who I'd now class as friends it was the catalyst for my blog getting read each time I write! Thanks again (and sorry if I've told you that before- I do repeat myself sometimes!

  17. What a great post! I am still getting into the groove of blogging but it fun coming up with different topics and figuring out what I truly think about things. It is nice when you have something, like a blog, that helps you keep your brain and critical thinking skills sharp. (Being at home with a two year old sometimes leave my brain feeling more like mush.)

    I love your blog, it inspires me every time I read it.

  18. I started my blog to document our travels, so that I can remember where we have been, what we have seen and who we have met along the way.....don't laugh, it's true. Also, so that future generations of our family could look it up one day to see what we were up to. It is also a creative outlet for me whilst living on the road. I post when I feel I have something to say or saw something amazing that I want to record and share. Agree wholeheartedly with the views of others that pictures are important. Although no one leave comments, I can see that people from all over the world have visited. I really enjoy doing my blog.

  19. And, I should have said....thank you Rhonda for this post as I was one of the people that asked if you would write about blogging. Cheers Gail

  20. Thank you for this helpful post Rhonda.
    I do enjoy reading your blog, I may not comment regularly but I read it with interest every day.

  21. i started blogging again after a long absence when we decided to move overseas. It's a great way to write about life as an expat and as I lack the language for cooking classes right now, i can post recipes on my blog to keep my creativity up. Sometimes I find the whole blogging seen is very analytical but for some its a job like any other...

  22. Very interesting post, Rhonda. For me, blogging has always been a way to "chat" to other like-minded people, and share links to interesting projects, etc. It seems nowadays that readers have a certain amount of expectation on the blog writer, as if it is all for their entertainment, rather than an outlet for the writer. When did that switch happen? Not sure if I will continue mine...but will write about your post and link back to you if that's ok. love, Tina xx

    1. I'd be very disappointed if you stopped blogging, Tina. Yours is one of the good ones.


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