Danny Brown, one of our students, is celebrating his 10,000th blog reader. Well done sir. I tell all my students to start doing things, and get a blog out there about what they are doing. I seem to remember that Danny had a blog before he came here, but I note that quite a few Hull students are now active bloggers. You can find out what they are up to at http://hullcompsciblogs.com/ There are some really good blogs to follow up there covering everything from Raspberry Pi to video games to Gadgeteer.
I’ve been blogging for very many years and do it for fun. Although it is nice to get traffic as well. If you want some tips for a successful blog, well, here are some of mine.
Track your users. If your blogging site doesn’t provide tracking of hits then install something like Google Analytics. It costs nothing and it gives a great insight on how much activity you are getting. This can be quite depressing, but it is always useful to know when you have done something that attracts interest.
Make sure you have metadata that makes sense. I’m not going to suggest Search Engine Optimisation as such here, just common sense things to help people find you.
Integrate your blog with social media. I use Windows Live Writer (part of Windows Live Essentials) for creating blog posts. That provides plug-ins that I can use to tweet and post on Facebook when the blog is updated. You can use If This Then That (an amazing service that I must devote a proper blog post to later) to do this for you automatically. And remember that comments on your posts will not arrive on your blog posts, they will now often arrive as Likes on Facebook or Tweets. This means that if you want to have a dialog with your readers you have to go out and look for their comments.
Some content gets a lot less interest that others. The absolute best content you can create is stuff that solves problems. If you make posts that tell people how to do things then you will get a lot of traffic as people find your answer and link through to it. You will also get traffic via search engines. Pick a subject you know a bit about, or are learning yourself, and put up blog posts with answers to the problems that you hit. One reason Danny has had so much success is that he has provided some neat technical answers (with all that a reader needs to solve the problem) along with the other content. Readers might not care about the place you went last week, or what you think about the current government, but they do like being able to solve problems. The only downside with useful content is that such readers are “fair weather friends” who will bump up your traffic for a day or so, before it drops back down again. The way to address this is to put plenty of stuff on your landing page that will encourage them to look around and find other things to read.
Enjoy your blogging, keep it regular and leave the readers thinking that you like talking to them. You don’t need to post every day. Only a fool would do that. But a regular blogging heartbeat is a good thing. If you take a break don’t worry, or feel like you have to “fill in the gaps”, just come back with a good post and it will be like you never went away.