I’ve been asked numerous times throughout my life if I’ve ever tried to keep a journal. The answer has almost always been no. While I do believe the art of actually writing (as opposed to typing) is a lost one, I am more partial to utilizing Microsoft Word than a notebook for the sake of convenience. I did try to keep a dream journal once, but upon waking up from a dream, I either found myself too tired to record the events therein or that I’d forgotten what I’d dreamt about.
Blogs are a different story. I attempted to blog on several occasions in middle school and in high school. I took to LiveJournal to post all about my angsty teenage life and experiences thinking I knew everything about everything. All attempts were short-lived, however, because I’d always lacked an audience. While keeping a physical journal is more of a personal endeavor, a blog makes more sense to me when it’s got a following. That said, I’ve decided to list some pointers to keep in mind if you’re a tenderfoot in the world of web logging.
1. Write about whatever you damn well please.
I’ve read through countless articles regarding how to be successful at blogging, and nearly all of them state to be consistent. In other words, pick a single topic to write about and stick with it. Consistency of content does carry some weight, I agree, but it is not so cut and dry. Maybe you’re a professional dancer. Maybe dancing is your one true passion and you could go on and on about it. But maybe, in between performances, you’ve managed to finally finish that Paul Auster novel you’ve been reading and are dying to give it a review. And maybe you’re a vegan, and you have some awesome vegan-friendly recipes you’d like to share. My point is that it’s your blog, so if you want to write about dancing and Paul Auster and veganism, you go right ahead.
While there’s nothing wrong with writing a blog that focuses on a single category, sometimes you have multiple passions, and there’s nothing wrong with that, either. I am always pleasantly surprised when I happen upon a blog that contains a variety of subject matter. Remember that every genre has its fanbase, so there will always be an audience to cater to, no matter what it is you choose to write about.
2. Gaining a following takes time.
I feel that there is far too much emphasis on the prospect of going viral. It happens every day, sure, but there is no formula for success. The videos and photographs and articles that reach a viral status do so due to heavy circulation among consumers. This can be thanks to media sponsorship, or not. Moreover, the subjects in viral media often aren’t trying to gain celebrity. They’re heavily circulated because of their uncanny nature, humor, irony, ignorance, and blatant stupidity.
Simply put, gaining a follower base is not going to happen overnight. I’ve been a member of WordPress for 8 days so far, and I’ve accumulated just under 30 followers. It’s a process that takes time and dedication. Be consistent insofar as how often you post, and you will gradually see your number of followers increase.
3. Some days will be better than others.
There are going to be days when discouragement rests heavily on your shoulders. You may have a brilliant idea for a post, type it all up, publish it, and then wait with bated breath for the notifications to roll in while looking like this:
I’ve been there. But the notifications don’t show. You even left a bowl of food out for them, but nothing seems to lure them in. Or, they’re few and far between. This is okay. Keep in mind that your followers may be in different time zones. They may not have their noses pressed against their computer screens waiting for a new post to appear in their readers. Non followers may not have come across it yet, or maybe the tags you used aren’t necessarily ‘trending’ at the moment. It may take days before your post receives any sort of love. Some days, you may not receive any likes, comments, or followers, or very few. It happens. Just remember to have confidence in everything you write and post. I’ve found it’s helpful to log out after publishing, and shift my focus to something else.
Also keep in mind that just because a post may not receive any likes or comments, that doesn’t mean it hasn’t been seen. Check your stats to see how many times your posts have been viewed.
4. Steer clear of ‘follow trains.’
‘Follow trains’ (occasionally referred to as ‘follow4follow’) aren’t necessarily schemes, per se, but they aren’t the best bandwagons to jump onto. I haven’t seen any on WordPress, thankfully, but they’re extremely prevalent on Tumblr, and sometimes Instagram. The idea is that somebody with hundreds of thousands of followers will post a link to their own blog, and then each of their followers will reblog the post, while adding their own link to it (creating a ‘train’) and following every previously listed blog. I’m sure that sounds confusing.
The pattern repeats ad infinitum. The ploy is that it’s a fast and easy way to gain a follower base. But it’s incredibly inauthentic. Not only do you have hundreds of new followers who’ve probably never even visited your blog, but you’re now following them all as well. There’s no way to coerce anyone into following your blog. If someone likes your content and they want to see more, they’ll follow. Leave it at that. At the same time, you should be following a blog because you like the author’s content, not in an effort to persuade them to follow you back.
5. Blog for personal gain, not for internet fame.
In other words, don’t try to impress anybody. Let’s say your entry about the Pyura chilensis gained popularity, more so than you expected it to. Your head is reeling with excitement that people out there like your take on the living rock. That means the pressure is on, right? Your next post has to blow the Pyura chilensis out of the water (pun intended), right? Wrong. It’s not a competition. Now, you have settled into the mindset that your next entry has to be better than the last, and so on. You try your best, but you try too hard, and your next post gains very little momentum. Don’t try too hard.
Think of it this way. Each blog entry is its own adventure. Each adventure has its own set of venturers, and any given group may vary greatly from the next. Don’t compare your posts to each other, even if the topics are related- especially if they are related. Just don’t do it. The art of blogging is not a game. It’s a hobby; for some, a career. Either way, do it because you love doing it.
6. Tag appropriately.
Tags are useful tools that help current and potential readers discover your posts. It is best to keep them concise and relevant. Please, try not to abuse them. In the past, I’ve had the tendency to get overexcited in my tagging, assuming the more tags, the more likely that my post will be found. I can’t speak for other blogging services, but on WordPress, that’s not true. In fact, I recently learned that if the combined total of your tags and categories in a single post exceeds 15, that post will not turn up in search results or in your followers’ readers.
If you’re writing creative fiction, some good tags might include creative writing, fiction, prose. If you’re writing about the latest Transformers movie, you might want to tag Transformers, Mark Wahlberg, Optimus Prime. It really depends on your subject matter. But if you’re writing about your favorite local shops to patronize in your city, it wouldn’t be wise to tag soft-boiled eggs. It’s irrelevant, unless your post is primarily about which place serves the best soft-boiled eggs.
Also, a good rule of thumb when tagging is the more specific, the better (i.e. soft-boiled eggs instead of simply eggs).
7. Be active in the blogging community.
Keeping a blog is only one facet of the blogosphere. It is just as fun and important to network in the community. Search for tags that interest you. Stumble upon blogs that focus on the subjects you’re interested in and follow along with them if you care to. Make friends.
Aside from following, don’t be afraid to actively participate in the comment section. If you have something to contribute to a lively discussion in the thoughts on a post you like, feel free to leave a comment with your input. Keep the conversation going. Even if you don’t necessarily have any feedback to give, dropping by to say you enjoyed the post works just as well. This way, you’re positively reinforcing the author. I like to think of it as giving a high five of encouragement. It’ll push them to keep going, and who knows, it may be just what they needed to improve their day. Utilizing emoticons may even give your comments that extra boost of positivity. 🙂
Networking is also a great way to draw organic attention to your own blog without blatantly saying, ‘hey, check out my blog!’ Being active and commenting on others’ posts encourages them to stop by yours as well. They may even leave feedback or follow you!
8. Have your own individual writing style.
Don’t be afraid to stand out.
This is something that may also take time to figure out. Whichever style of writing comes most naturally to you is the one to go with. Anything else may feel forced, and it may come off that way in your writing. There’s nothing wrong with drawing inspiration from your favorite blogs, but there’s a fine line between influence and plagiarism. If you habitually resort to dry or deadpan humor to lighten a situation, do that while you write. If you’re brutally honest with no filter, be that way while you write. Let the most authentic sense of self come through in your writing; readers will pick up on that, and you’ll gain respect for not trying to be like anybody else.
One of my personal favorite bloggers, The Narcissist Writes, has such a vulgar and hilariously honest approach to her writing that I can’t stay away. I was hooked before I even finished reading the first post of hers that I came across. She doesn’t care what anyone thinks. She’s profane in the best ways, and it makes for some incredibly entertaining content.
9. Have a life outside of WordPress.
I believe this is key to success as a blogger (as anything, really). I mentioned in my second point that there isn’t necessarily a formula for success, but there are certainly ways to help you get there. Although blogging is something you might be intensely passionate about, remember that it’s just blogging. You still have bills to pay. You still have a family and friends and other obligations. These things don’t stop while you’re writing and editing and rewriting. Pay equal mind to each important aspect of your life, all the time. If you consume yourself in the realm of your WordPress account, chances are you will fall short in some other area(s) of your life, and that’s never good.
Go out there and have dinner with your estranged cousin. Babysit your nephew. Go for a bike ride along the river on a beautiful day. Dabble in something you’re unfamiliar with. Read a book. Make a mix CD. Play with your cats. Garden. Do anything. Do everything. Just make time for the other pieces of your puzzle that you hold dear to your heart. In doing this, you gain experience that in turn can make for something excellent to write about. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Don’t obsess over and analyze things you cannot change. Just get out there and live.
Then, when you’re done living for the day, if there’s still time before bed, come back and share it with the world.