Many aspiring writers have tossed around the idea of writing a blog, and many millions get going. After a slow start in the late 1990s, blogs caught on. Today, though, they are no longer the simple online diary or weblog of the past.
Blogs have changed dramatically from the early years. Governments and big business have entering the blogging world. Blogs are now a focus of social media marketing and sales pitches. Microblogging via Twitter is currently today’s “big thing.” For some, the blog has lost its innocence and with it, much of its charm. For others, blogging presents all sorts of opportunities, from democratizing journalism to selling goods. Anyone contemplating starting a blog today would do well to get a grip on how different – and how difficult – successful blogging is now.
The Slog of the Blog
Beginners often start out with one of the many free blog-hosting websites (such as Blogger or WordPress), lovingly craft their post and sit back — only to realize that no one is reading it. Some give up, but others investigate further, coming to the realization that in order for their blog to reach a readership, they will have to divert time away from writing and spent time on search engine optimization, link-building, directory listings and other methods of self-promotion.
Obviously, those with the time, energy and motivation have the edge. The sad thing about the blogosphere is that the bloggers with more motivation and energy are often those that have something to sell. They will be skilled in putting their blogs forward, while everyday folks’ blogs languish in obscurity at the bottom of the rankings, swamped by professional competition.
Is It Worth It?
Blogs are still worthwhile for amateur bloggers. A blog designed for the entertainment of your circle of friends and family is still a great way to keep in touch. If the writing is good enough, it may pick up a following beyond that, through word of mouth. Quality still rises to the top amongst an ocean of trashy content that the Internet is can often — with some justification — be described as.
There are some simple strategies for those who aren’t overly ambitious to improve their profile. One of the biggest mistakes beginning bloggers can make is to define their blog too broadly. A targeted blog with a particular focus (cats, cars, political commentary or whatever) has the best chance of making it.
The online journal is no longer a novelty, and average lives aren’t of interest unless your life has something special to convey. If so, your blog could catch on. Think of Nightjack, a British police officer who won awards for his blog about his experiences in law enforcement – for awhile (see below).
A little bit of SEO (search engine optimization) isn’t too arduous. Choosing a few keywords and attending to tags doesn’t take much time. Listing with directories and indexes (Technorati is a well-known name) can’t hurt. Joining a blogging community can help – after all, if you don’t read and respond to other people’s blogs, why should they bother with yours? But the fact remains that to gain a wide readership you either have to have something reasonably spectacular to offer or a lot of time to spend on promotion.