It’s something I’ve been pondering, as I enter my 12th month of blogging. Is blogging worthwhile? Am I being of use to anybody? Do I even have anything original to say? And how long will my advice remain relevant in this rapidly changing online world?
“Everything of importance has been said before by somebody who did not discover it.”
– Alfred North Whitehead
Very wise, Mr Whitehead.
And so true in this age of information overload, where everyone seems to write a blog, sends you their daily tips by email, or shares their wisdom in short, sharp little Tweets. With around 2 million blog posts being published every day, I’m sure a large amount of what I write here is already written somewhere else on this huge world wide web (although hopefully not exactly what I write here, as that’s plagiarism).
The question is, with millions of people out there spruiking their wisdom and expertise, is it worth joining the throng? Consider the choices:
- If you’re not on the blogging-go-round, you might be losing customers to those who are.
- If you are blogging, are you doing it differently
The way I look at it, 2,000,000 posts are being read by how many millions upon millions of internet users? Surely some of those people will find and follow mine.
How often should I blog?
It’s often the first question asked by those contemplating starting a blog. There’s no definitive answer. If you read what the blogging ‘experts’ have to say, you’ll get the impression that any successful blog needs lots of work, that you need to blog daily, and stay on top of comments constantly.
I say it depends on WHY you’re blogging. Sure, if you hope to become a professional blogger and monetise it, they’re probably right. But if the purpose of your blog is to promote your small business, to keep adding fresh new content to your website, and to share your expertise and hence create trust and credibility for your business, then I say ignore all the ‘experts’.
You don’t need to blog every day, unless you’re that way inclined for habit-forming. Weekly, fortnightly, even monthly is ok. Just be consistent.
4 important things about blogging are:
- That you stay on topic and true to your ‘brand’
- That you set an expectation of how regularly you’ll blog and then stick to it. An unloved blog looks like an unloved business (even though it may be that you’ve just been flat out on running the rest of your business…)
- That your blog posts contain some good information that add value or help people relate to you
- That you respond to comments in a reasonable timeframe (meaning within a day or two at the most)
How much effort does it take to blog?
How long is a piece of string? Blogs take so many forms. Not just short-form and long-form. Your blog might be primarily visual rather than wordy. You could use an inspirational quote and a couple of sentences about it, or a 3000 word manifesto.
Some people think short is best as no-one has time to read these days. But with the latest Google changes, it’s been suggested that lengthy is best, as it implies higher value.
A lot of the effort is in getting started. In thinking up ideas, putting pen to paper (or fingers to the keyboard) and finding that elusive opening paragraph. I find it useful to brainstorm a whole lot of ideas at a time and pop them in a spreadsheet, with notes to expand on some of the ideas. That way I don’t draw a complete blank when I looked at the list again months later.
It does take a while to get into the habit, to find your voice, and your niche. You might start out doing ‘the same’ as someone else, but over time you can create a difference.
Same same but different
Go on, have a little spy at what your competitors are doing, and think about how you can do it differently. Or bigger. Or better. Then search further and find other ideas that you can collate and make your own. Take something that’s been written for a different market and re-spin it to suit your own.
If you do pinch a direct quote from somewhere, make sure you give credit to the original author. Promoting the work of others shows that you’re generous and trustworthy.
Or find some really helpful articles and link directly to them, with an introductory story. It’s like being a mini search engine for your customers, so they don’t have to do all the searching for themselves.
A blog doesn’t have to be just written
If you’re not keen on writing, consider alternatives such as:
- Video blogging. It’s a good idea to also get it transcribed so there’s a Google-friendly text version available.
- Podcasting (same applies re transcription)
- Photo blogs (perhaps using Instagram, or consider the style set by the brilliant design-seeds.com blog – one of my personal favourites).
- Poetry – try your hand at haikus, which only need 17 syllables (structured as 5 words / 7 words / 5 words). They’re harder than you might think, but eminently shareable.
Tools to help you blog
- If you want to be sure you haven’t duplicated content or copied someone else (or that your great piece hasn’t since been copied without credit), you can check via copyscape.com, which is a free tool.
- To find some worthy quotations for your blog, visit quoteland.com or quotationspage.com.
- If you need inspiration for a killer title, play with this cool tool
- Ideas for content can be found through this Content Idea Generator
- And if you don’t like writing, consider outsourcing it. ‘Ghost writers’ (either professional copywriters or you may get lucky and find a good overseas cheapie…) can do the research and writing for you, based on your guidance for ideas. You could try socialcallout.com to find someone to blog for you.
Sharing is Caring
What’s the point in writing a blog if no-one’s reading it? Don’t wait for people to stumble on to it. Get your content message out to the world by sharing it yourself:
- Post links to your blogs via social media
- Send your latest blog to your email list
- Add links to older posts that follow similar topics, so your readers can keep reading
And when you share the links to your posts (via Twitter, Facebook, etc), make it obvious who it’s aimed at – “If you’re interested in rock-climbing, my latest blog suggests some indoor and outdoor rock-climbing locations around Sydney”… (rather than “Hi everyone, read my latest post”).
Also encourage your readers to share your content with their friends or community.
- Add social sharing links to your posts.
- Go ahead and ask them to share it.
- Use Click to Tweet when you write a sentence that you’d like people to share on Twitter (just go to clicktotweet.com and generate a free link).
Consider writing a guest post on a blog that already has a larger following. If you’re lucky, in return they might allow you to add your bio to the post and a link back to your website or Facebook page.
A warning about spam
The only sharing you don’t want is spam. Blogs attract spam comments like moths to a spotlight. And some of those comments sound so complimentary that you might want to let them slip through. Don’t fall for it.
Always set up your blog so that you need to approve comments (aka ‘moderation’). If you’re using WordPress, try Akismet or another anti-spam plugin to save yourself a lot of hassle. I love Akismet’s home page spam counter, showing how many tens of millions of spam comments get zapped each day (and that’s just via one spam filter). Scary stuff.
So, should you blog?
In the end, the question isn’t whether you should blog, but whether you want to blog. If you have no real desire to do it, then don’t. Find other ways to market yourself, and to create content. A blog written with no desire is a blog with no soul. It won’t attract readers and won’t help you to flourish. (Though it will still attract spam…)
Twitter is sometimes referred to as “micro-blogging”, with ideas, news and offers squeezed into its 140 characters. It’s not as good as a blog for SEO purposes, but can build traffic and trust in other ways.
Good luck with your blog, and let me know how you go in the comments below…