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 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!