I’ve been blogging now for over ten years. I’m still not sure why. The best explanation I can come up with is that I’m happier blogging than not. And having done it for so long it would seem silly to stop.
At one time I thought that writing a blog would make my life more interesting, in that I’d start doing interesting things just so I can blog about them. It hasn’t quite worked out that way, but blogging has provided a place where I can jot down things that happen so that I can go back and read them later. It has also vastly improved my writing style and speed, so that I can dash off an article like this in around 15 minutes (I’m timing myself). If you are thinking about starting blogging, here are a few tips from someone with a lot of experience, if nothing else.
Pay for your services: I get my hosting from Squarespace, store my pictures on Flickr and host my domain names at Free Parking. There are lots of free services out there, but I really like the way that if I have a problem I can talk to someone with a financial stake in making me happy again.
Get a domain name: I was lucky enough to be able to get the use of robmiles.com. You might find that your name has gone though. Not a problem. I’m a big fan of running words together to make domain names. For a while I had theresalotofitabout.com but I couldn’t figure out what to do with it. Make a name that fits you and then register it. Your blog host will provide a way you can link that domain name to your site (Squarespace make this very easy) so that you don’t have an identity which is tied to any particular service provider.
Blog regularly: You don’t have to blog every day. Only an idiot would try to do that. Just make sure you have a regular heartbeat of a blog every now and then. If you start off blogging every day and then stop for a week it can feel like you have to do seven posts before you can put down that thought you just had. This makes a mountain between you and your next blog post that gets bigger every day. Just blog when you feel like it.
Blog for yourself: If you start blogging thinking that you are going to make a huge name for yourself and will get thousands of worldwide follows then think again. Unless you are very lucky, or very rude, you won’t get much attention. Your mum will read your blog, but there is no guarantee that anyone else will. I started blogging because I enjoyed the challenge, and because I wanted to improve my writing skills. I also thought it would be vaguely useful to be able to point people at my blog if they wanted to find out about things I’ve done. I also use the blog as a way of jotting down things that I’ve discovered and don’t want to have to discover again.
Don’t blog everything: There’s a lot of stuff in my life I don’t blog about. Don’t feel that because you have to blog every day you have to asset strip your private life just to get a post together.
Find a group: At Hull we have hullcompsciblogs.com which acts as an aggregator for blog posts. Posts from lots of our students are brought together there and shared. I have a habit of going on there and finding out what people are up to. Since my blog is on there this also means I have a “ready made” audience for my posts.
Syndicate: When I started blogging I found that people who wanted to comment on a blog post would just put their comment on my blog directly. That doesn’t happen now. Instead people will comment on Twitter or on Facebook. Look at using If This Then That to alert people to your posts, and make sure that you watch the feeds to catch comments and reactions. I use Windows Live Writer to create my posts, that has a plugin that will automatically send a tweet each time I make a blog post.
Track your Traffic: One nice thing about Squarespace is that it gives you very good traffic analysis. I also use Google Analytics to see what is happening on my site. This can be quite depressing, but it does provide a way you can find out if your audience is growing (it should do) and which of your posts were the biggest hits with readers.
Enjoy your blogging: I managed to find a voice, a style and a workflow that works for me. Every now and then I have the “Oh crikey, I have to do a blog post now” moment, but these are fairly few and far between. If blogging becomes a chore or a pain then you should either stop and do something else, perhaps a project website or get involved with a forum. Or write poetry, or a novel. Whatever you do I’d strongly advice keeping writing though, it is a very useful skill to have.