When someone starts a blog, one of the first and/or big question they have to answer is What is your blog going to be about?
For a lot of people, that’s a fairly narrow answer, like football, Transformers, the environment, etc. Even “everything about” a topic, like Twilight, isn’t all that broad. A blog on a theme becomes a focal point for something and aim to bring readers to them on that topic, like a a city in a state, where other blogs on the same topic are other cities, and each post is a new building in its city. Readers looking for something else would go elsewhere, like to another state or city.
For me, it was different. I chose to have a blog about pretty much anything and everything.
So why did I do this and how was I going to make it “succeed”?
My blogging rule #1
I chose a blog about anything and everything to fulfill my #1 rule for blogging, which is to blog what you really, really, really love, while allowing you to be yourself as much as possible.
I stuck in the three reallies because I really meant something you really love. It keeps you going if you’re tired and have to post something, and makes it fun most of the time rather than work.
The open topic also suits my identity because it’s easiest to be yourself, and often hard to have to put on a face or be something you’re not. I’m a guy with a lot of interests, but none I love enough to just stick to it all the time. I learn a lot about a lot of things, and I wanted to be able to share that. However, what I chose to blog about wouldn’t always be my personal musings so it can’t be summarized as that. I’ve done a lot on this blog I wouldn’t care for other than knowing there might be lots of others who might be interested in it, though I never “sell out” on my identity because part of my identity is to do acts of “kindness” like those posts I don’t care for but which I know enough others would. More on that in blogging rule #2 later. Finally, there’s the outside the box thinker in me who walks a little against the mainstream, so the open topic blog unlike a lot of others was perfect.
My intent to provide with stuff they could use was like the behaviour of a good citizen. It’d all be in digital format, obviously, if they were going to get it via the Internet. So put the two together and you got Digital Citizen. I was fortunate this name was still available on most major platforms at the time so I was able to get a decent online identity with this name.
My blogging rule #2
Get a blog with a catchy name, or at least something that isn’t cryptic to spell.
Try answering the question what’s your blog address or URL? verbally. If you can’t say it easily, or have to spell it out, or explain that it’s number 2, letter b, then the words or not, then number 2, then word be as in to be and not a bee, it’s probably going to get annoying and hard for people to remember!
This would be too late if you already have a blog, but if you talk about your blog a lot at all, or have some decent traffic, consider domain mapping it to a catchier domain name if your blog host, like WordPress or Blogger, doesn’t have it available. You can’t imagine how easy digitalcitizen dot c a, or digital citizen as one word, dot c a, rolls off the tongue when anybody asks, or wants to tell someone else about this site they found! Worth the domain name and mapping fee of $28 every year!
Back to the decentralize blogging model. How was I going to get this themeless blog some traffic?
My blog had no real identity. If my blog were a city, nobody would know why they’d want to go there, or stay there because there wouldn’t be enough of anything to keep them interested in a long time. On the other hand, as far as “competition” went for traffic, every other blog out there that had any content similar to any post I ever make was technically my competitor, and a more advanced one since their blog was likely focused on this. Perhaps my most direct competitor, though, if you will, would be the “personal musings” blogs where people wrote about anything they wanted, though that tended to be based on their lives and not worldly topics.
When I thought about getting traffic was when I came to think of the decentralized model of blogging. Influenced to see the world with an additional lens after reading The Starfish and the Spider: the Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations, by Ori Brafman and Rod A. Beckstrom, I had been learning to think more openly about decentralized models for everything as an option to be considered. It wouldn’t always be the right or better solution, but it always merited some consideration in my new perspective of the world.
So instead of building a city with a blog, where the theme others like it had in common were its state, if you will follow the analogy, I opted to put buildings, or towns at most, dispersed in all kinds of states. I would find topics that I knew had a decent group of people interested in them, like populous states, and create something for them. For example, if you looked at my Wallpapers collection, you’d see I’ve got stuff for the Twilighters, Potterheads, Trekkers, and various other big “fan bases”. There is a huge potential number of people who would want each of those things!
My blogging rule #3
Who are you writing or creating for?
Unless you don’t mind little traffic for certain posts, if you don’t have a potentially decent or large audience for something, it’s not going to get a lot of traffic. While I don’t always blog stuff I determine to have a large potential audience, I still think about the potential audience size before I blog anything. Then I weigh my desire to do it against the potential of little readership if the post idea doesn’t pass the audience test. This post didn’t pass the audience test, for example, but I wanted to have this approach to blogging documented for when I tell others about it. I’m doing this often enough these days to want to be able to just direct the people somewhere rather than have to take time to retell the story each time. That would be maybe twice a week at most. Most of my wallpaper posts gets over 100 views a day, or what this post might get in a year. 🙂
My blogging rule #4
What do you bring to the table? You’ve got to have something people want if you want them to come, and would be satisfied with if you want them to tell others about it.
It’s not like Field of Dreams where if you build it, they will come. Surfer’s time is valuable. If they don’t like what you have after visiting or happening on it, they won’t tell others and that will be the end of that.
It’s harder to generate original content all the time, and easier for people to relate if you blog something they are familiar with, so original content is often hard to blog. However, if you blog about something, try to answer what you bring to the table that other blogs or sites out there don’t? What added value, if you will, does your post have? It can be a different view from all the other stuff written out there on the same topic, event, person or whatever. Maybe it’s a more concise summary like of my blogging rules on this post. No matter how minor, just make sure you have an answer to what your post brings that’s different from any other, or most other, posts or sites out there on the same topic.
If a post passes the audience test with flying colours, and contain content which people will look for over long periods of time (ex. Transformers wallpapers), I call those legacy posts. There should be lots of people coming to look for stuff in them for a long time to come, like my Transformers wallpapers posts that definitely get that title! It’s as if they had a legacy people will want to come and see and tell others about, again and again! Blogging about events usually won’t generate legacy posts.
Converse to the legacy posts where I tap into large fan bases that usually congregate elsewhere, are legacy posts on some niche topic. There, I pick out small fan bases and try to put definitive post for something so that a good portion of that potential audience will eventually happen upon or get recommended to go through my post/s. It may not last forever, like my Winnipeg Jets wallpapers, old and new, or my instructions to create iPad wallpapers (until a bigger screen size comes along), but there was definitely a gap on the Internet for such content when I first created them and the potential audience came in droves!
Now, I don’t actually like half of those themes I have wallpapers for. I’ve never seen a Twilight or Harry Potter movie, for example. However, I used to do graphic design and I love doing the work to create or adapt graphics I find into wallpapers, with a designer’s taste and production person’s technical skills for quality control. So I wasn’t selling out on my identity. It’s not always fun to finish those sets to be as complete as they are, but my love for graphic design work got me through.
Before the wallpapers, came all those 100+ Facebook memes I created that got stolen by others so many times it’s not funny. However, my attitude on that was if it wasn’t valuable, nobody would steal it. And deep down, even if lots of people were getting those memes elsewhere, I know I am responsible for their enjoyment… or trouble on some of the more inappropriate memes. 🙂
I’m fortunate my amygdala is built to be able to appreciate that and reward me with the right chemicals for a good feeling when I think about it. 🙂
The rule of diminishing returns
This blog isn’t about Facebook memes, or wallpapers, or Transformers, or NFL football, or whatever, so I get very little of the traffic on those matters that other blogs dedicated to the topic might get. However, because I have a noticeable presence in each of those topics with stuff people are looking for, I definitely get a share. I didn’t work to deserve more, but like the rule of diminishing returns, a little work at the start will always get you more than a lot of work at the end. It’s like studying for an hour to get 50% on a test, or even 25%. However, studying 5 hours isn’t going to get you 250% or 125% on the same test. Returns diminishes with more effort.
My store front of a blog
While I don’t get focused traffic like narrowly focused blogs on specific topics, in the end, traffic is traffic. What this means is that this blog becomes like a big department store where all kinds of people come through and I can expose them to whatever I want like signs in front of those stores. The right menu bar is present most places you go on this blog so it’s hard to avoid them. With about 13,000 page views a day now, I’m going to start writing more “critical thinking” stuff rather than “legacy posts” to make use of my given platform.
This blog also gets enough traffic that if I blog something about a lot local story in Halifax where I live, a story that people may search for, my blog shows up right with the newspaper story and may ultimately get an equivalent readership to the online version. It usually just takes my posts a week or more rather than a day the newspaper gets it in. However, the newspaper archives its story after a week so paid subscription is required to get to it then, which relatively few people have. My blog posts are legacy, baby, for good or bad!
So why do people subscribe to this blog without a focus?
To be honest with you, I have no idea. With those 13K page views a day, I only have 70 subscribers. I never expected many and I’m surprised I even have 70, to be honest with you, though I very much appreciate their subscriptions. I have no idea why they subscribe because I know I wouldn’t! Honestly! I just don’t have the attention span for the diversity of stuff like on this site if someone else had a similar blog. Maybe one of them can comment, but that’s a trade off with the decentralized model of blogging.
With the centralized model focusing on a specific topic where you can build up your own fan base, this blog relies on heavily on Google to direct people here for maybe one or two visits. Then it relies on satisfied customers to tell others just to come see it for novelty. However, there are 7 billion people on this planet… and I only have just over 5 million views in 2.5 years. 🙂
But I have the potential to bring something of interest to every single one of them! 🙂
My blogging rule #6
To end, I have a few more blogging rules I want to get out, even though the previous sentence would have been a great place to end. Help Google and other search engines be your biggest “advertiser” by tagging everything well.
Try to think what your post might show up as a search result for and put those as key word tags. Be creative, and don’t limit yourself, though don’t be ridiculous, either, to abuse key word tags.
My blogging rule #7
Enable social media sharing if you can.
Believe it or not, people are “lazy”, or can be “extra motivated” to share if it were as simple as a click rather than having to copy a URL and paste it somewhere… which isn’t exactly a lot more work.
Now, if every Facebooker has an average of 128 friends, that’s a lot more than a friend telling two friends, and they telling two friends…
That’s a 500 million “fan base” you can potentially tap into. Even at 0.0001%, that’s 500 people!
My blogging rule #8
Be creative in your dynamic definition of “success”.
Start small with manageable goals and increase them as you reach them. Traffic stats, overall or for certain posts, possibly over some period of time or just an absolute number of page views, are easy goal to set. However, maybe try for more comments where you obviously engage your audience. Not one of my goals as I prefer to share content, not get into big debates, often with zealots, that are useless and a waste of time. A great debate with reasonable people is always welcomed, though!
Or maybe try to blog about someone/something and get a response from them… without having to resort to inflammatory or other negative content. That’s always flattering, I find, though I never try to do this, either! For me, traffic is king, not because of ego as you don’t see my name plastered everywhere on my site and content. I have my name on the lower corner of this blog layout to be responsible and accountable, but that’s the only reasons. I doubt many people who come through ever look to see who this blog belongs to, and almost take pride in being so “behind the scenes”. That’s how I can justify to you traffic is not ego to me.
Traffic is king to me, though, for a success indicator because the more traffic I get, the more I know I generally have stuff people are looking for… and that makes my time and effort worth all the while!