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Attracting people to blogs, and writing for them – which comes first?

Posted Oct 31 2010 7:36am

In my view, that would be the latter, every time.

One of the most frequent cries for help in the WP forum is “how can I get people to visit my blog?” All too often, a look at the blog throws up another question – why would they? All too often that plea comes from a blogger who has written nothing beyond the initial Hey, I’m here! post.

If you want people to read your blog, you have to do two things (at least). One , provide content of a quantity and quality to make it worth their while, and two, engage their interest to the extent that they want to come back or, perhaps, to subscribe (make sure the subscription widget is clearly visible). It’s not the readers job to come to you, it’s your job to make them want to.

There are so many blogs, now, that it must be almost impossible to have unique content, so the only way to make an impact is to raise your game and, if you’re writing about the same subjects as a thousand other blogs, focus on the quality of your writing. And your spelling and punctuation – way too many bloggers care little or nothing about either of those. (Tip – if the colon and semi-colon baffle you, start a new sentence.)

Quality is, to my mind, at least as important as volume – about a third of what I write never sees the light of day as I either don’t consider it good enough.

However, how “quality is important” explains Lolcats, I’m buggered if I know!

If you’re serious about blogging, but your writing skills are poor (I’m assuming you have a good grasp of your native language, which doesn’t necessarily equate to any sort of skill at writing**), think very seriously about taking a creative writing course. The atmosphere might be competitive, and you might come in for some criticism, but it should be well-intentioned and you will learn a lot in a short time.

**An awful lot of bloggers – in English, I can’t speak for other languages – have the enthusiasm, but little idea of how their language actually works. I’ve no idea how to resolve that. Not in a blog post, anyway.

Reading a lot helps too. especially when it comes to seeing how language is structured, and how punctuation works (and the corollary, how poor punctuation can wreck/change meaning. In fact, I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest that someone who doesn’t read is likely to make a poor writer.

Try reading a range of newspapers – most are still free online – to see how they communicate information to their readers. Some are better than others. The Guardian, for example, tends to verbosity (though its online version can be parsimonious with words, to a degree I find baffling), while the Sun, rag though it is, is brilliant at communication – its journos write simply, and concisely, keeping their sentences and paragraphs short.

That’s something which is extremely important for a blogger – it makes reading text on a monitor so much easier. There are few things more likely to drive away a visitor than a screen filled with a great slab of undifferentiated text – breaking it down into short paragraphs containing short sentences is far better for the reader.

It seems a fact, at least here in the UK, that the more “downmarket” a newspaper, the less the effort needed, from the reader, to extract the information. Within reason, at least – a small number of papers are simply crap from any perspective!

With books, as with newspapers, it pays to read both US and British publications, as American writers handle the language differently to Brits, and it’s useful to compare the different styles. I think – and I stress this is a personal view – that American English, being, very often, more liberally sprinkled with colloquialisms than British English, can have a greater fluidity about it, though this does depend, to a great extent, upon the skill of the writer. A bad writer is bad in any language.

You might well find my writing studded with Americanisms, occasionally, and there’s nothing wrong with that at all. Just don’t borrow words and/or phrases from other languages – that’s just showing off. See here, at Wordwatch . You’ll find me on that bog rather a lot, too!

Reading online is also wonderful source of content**. By which I don’t mean you should just rephrase what you read or, as happens way more than it should, just copy and paste content, which is a breach of copyright.

**This post was inspired by this one, on timethief’s blog . I started to write a comment, thought, hey, I can get a blog post out of this, and, of course, I did.

Which brings me to another point – husbanding your creativity especially if, like me, you’re hampered by illness. I used to post an awful lot in newspaper comment sections, or submit items to other blogs. Now, though, very often the comment, while it still might be posted there, will come back here to be expanded upon and form the basis of a new blog post. And, you know – having said that – I don’t do that nearly as often as I should.

So, to come full circle, while many bloggers have their own views on how to attract visitors to your blog, my own view is that there is just one absolute priority. No matter what else you might do, the most important thing to do to attract people to your blog is to write one that they want to read, will enjoy, and be motivated to return to read more.

For further information check out the following post:-

http://ronsrants.wordpress.com/2009/12/26/attract-visitors-to-your-blog-first-step-write-one/

That post also contains a bunch of links covering the subject of writing for blogs.

A point made there is also worth reiterating here – just because you don’t get paid for blogging, it’s no excuse for letting standards slide. You owe it to your readers to be the best you can be. Otherwise, what’s the point?

I know, by the way, that I’ve covered this subject previously, but new bloggers come along all the time, and I make no apology for dropping this morsel in front of them.


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