Yes, one whole year of blog articles and cutting-edge up-to-date video game references.
Woo hoo! This blog celebrates it’s first birthday today! It really doesn’t feel quite that long to me, but “PekoeBlaze- The Official Blog” has been going for an entire year!
And, well, this blog has come a long way since my very first “Hello World” post a year ago. In fact, it’s probably close to about a thousand posts long at the moment (ok, only about 250-300 of them are actual articles like this one, rather than reviews, art posts etc..) and I’m not even going to try to estimate how many hundred thousand words I’ve written over the past year.
But, enough bragging. You’re not reading this to hear me boast about my blog.
One of the reasons why it surprises me so much that this blog has been running for an entire year is because my previous two attempts at starting blogs haven’t lasted anywhere near this long.
I started one when I was eighteen (which I’ve since deleted, since I was basically “eighteen going on eighty” back then ) which lasted for about six months and I started one when I was twenty which lasted for a grand total of two months.
So, why did this blog succeed when the others failed miserably?
Well, here are a few things I’ve learnt over the past year that might come in handy if you are thinking about starting your own blog. Yes, I know that I’m breaking the “don’t blog about blogging” rule, but.. .well… it is this blog’s birthday.
Plus, since this is going to be a fairly long article – I’ve decided to split it into two parts (the second one will be available here tomorrow at 3:11pm GMT / 4:11pm BST). Wow! This is my first two-part article! I feel so… Professional!
Anyway, let’s get started:
1) Teach something: The number one reason why my previous two blogs failed miserably was because they were personal blogs. Whilst it was kind of nice to keep an online diary, it doesn’t have quite the same intimacy as a traditional diary (since literally anyone can read it) and the details of my everyday life aren’t something that people are going to be that interested in.
I can’t remember the amount of traffic I got on my previous two blogs but, in total, it was probably less than I get on a slow day on this blog. And I think I know why….
I can’t remember where I first read this wonderful piece of advice, but if you want to make a blog that lots of other people will want to read, then you have to teach people something. You have to give them information that they are interested in and which is useful to them.
In other words, your blog can’t be entirely about you, it should primarily be about providing something of value to your readers.
So, if there’s a subject that you know a reasonable amount about – then blog about it. Even if, like me, you’re at an intermediate level of skill (at most) at one or two things that you do regularly or have done regularly in the past (eg: writing and art), then teach this at a beginner’s level.
You don’t have to be an expert in whatever you blog about, you just have to have slightly more knowledge about it than an absolute beginner does.
Everyone has something they can teach. But, if you can’t work out what it is, then you can still provide value to your readers by doing things like writing reviews of films you’ve seen, books you’ve read, games you’ve played etc…
2) Schedule! Schedule! Schedule!: WordPress, and probably other blogging sites too, has a schedule feature. This allows you to write a blog post and then choose exactly when it is automatically posted. Regardless of whether you’re writing daily posts, weekly posts or monthly posts this is the most useful tool any blogger can have. Use it!
I only discovered this feature a couple of months after I started this blog. For the first two or three months, I would literally spend every day rushing about to write a daily blog post – it was pretty hectic. Not only that, they would be posted at all sorts of irregular times of the day. It’s a wonder that this blog stayed afloat back then, since it was stressing me out a bit.
These days, I’ve worked out how to use scheduling to my advantage and it’s made things a whole lot less stressful. For example, I’m actually writing this post on the fifth of April. It, along with all my other articles, will be posted at exactly 3:11pm GMT (4:11pm British Summer Time). Don’t ask me why I post at this particular time, it just kind of happened that way.
If you use the automatic scheduling feature on your blogging site, then it will allow you to post at the exact same time every day (or two days or week, whatever your schedule is) – this gives your readers a good indication of when they can expect a new article and it also saves you the trouble of having to log in at a certain time every day.
3) Make a buffer: In the last point on this list, I mentioned that I was writing this article on the fifth of April. This means that I have sixteen days’ worth of articles queued up before this one. This “buffer” of articles means that I can take the occasional short break from my blog and/or work on other things as well (like my art). It also means that, if I get writer’s block on a particular day, I won’t miss an update.
When I started this blog, I made the mistake of not preparing several days’ worth of articles in advance. As such, I was rushing about every evening and I was panicking whenever I couldn’t think of an idea for an article.
Over time, I’ve managed to build up (and maintain) a fairly decent buffer of articles – but this is a lot more difficult than if I’d been smart enough to write a few articles before I started this blog.
So, before you start your new blog, make sure that you’ve already written at least three or four articles before you post the first one. Not only that, keeping a “buffer” of articles also gives you time to go back and edit articles before they’re published – seriously, you would not believe the number of spelling and grammatical mistakes in some of my really old articles!
4) Politics and/or religion: Some people do quite well blogging about their own political and/or spiritual beliefs.
There are no shortage of atheist blogs, agnostic blogs, New age blogs, Christian blogs, Islamic blogs, Jewish blogs, Hindu blogs, Sikh blogs, liberal blogs, conservative blogs, feminist blogs, anti-feminist blogs, LBGT blogs (including, technically, this one), social justice blogs, secularist blogs, theocratic blogs, environmentalist blogs, conspiracy theorist blogs etc….
If you want to write about politics and/or religion, then you can probably do quite well from this. But, be prepared for arguments – be prepared for at least half of your readers to, at best, vehemently disagree with (or absolutely hate) your blog. Be prepared for your views to come back to bite you in the ass if you change them in the future and your old blog articles are around for other people to quote at you.
The fact is, political and spiritual views polarise people in a way that nothing else does. So, think about this before you start your blog. Personally, I’ve found that it’s generally best to mostly keep my strong (and occasionally quite changeable and contradictory) political opinions and philosophical beliefs out of this blog – which, if you’ve ever met me, you’ll know is no easy feat.
Yes, I’ll occasionally talk about my political or philosophical views if they’re relevant to the subject of art and/or writing (which is why I talk about things like censorship or copyright reform occasionally).
Plus, very occasionally, I’ll even talk briefly about LGBT topics (with an emphasis on the last two letters) – because, well, just because….
But I made a conscious decision that this blog shouldn’t revolve around politics before I started it, because I wanted the focus of my blog to be on art and writing. Plus, I didn’t want the inevitable long and vitriolic political arguments in the comments section either….
So, it’s up to you whether you want to blog primarily about politics and/or religion. But, make sure that you decide one way or another before you start blogging.
5) Images (and copyright): If you read any article by anyone about blogging, then this subject will probably appear at some point. People like to look at pictures. So, be sure to include at least one image in most of your posts.
Since I’m an artist who has a scanner, this isn’t that difficult for me. With the exception of screenshots in game reviews, I can make all the images I need for this blog. But, if you can’t do this – then don’t worry.
There are loads of Creative Commons-licenced images on the internet (including quite a few that I’ve made) which you can use without paying royalties or asking permission. However, be sure to check exactly which type of Creative Commons licence something has been given before you use it – since some types of Creative Commons licences come with various restrictions.
For example: The Creative Commons licence I tend to use (CC-BY-NC-ND) for a lot, but not all, of my art allows you to post it on your own blog – as long as you credit “C.A.Brown” or “PekoeBlaze” as the author. But it doesn’t allow you to alter, copy or manipulate my art (with some exceptions- see my article about fan fiction/fan art for more about this) or to use it in a commercial way (eg: you can’t sell it, use it in advertisements etc…) without permission.
However, some people even release images on the internet without any copyright at all. It’s usually a good idea to read their site very carefully (and check if they have the right to do this – eg: if they’ve made the image themselves and they’re not based on another copyrighted work), but these can be a good source of free images for your blog. If you need to find one of these sites in a hurry, then check out WPclipart.
Likewise, if you’re using really old images (eg: where the creator has died over 70-100 years ago), then you’re usually ok. But, be sure to do your research here, since there are sometimes exceptions to this [eg: some of Matisse's early paintings are out of copyright in the US, but they are still covered by copyright in Europe].
In addition to this, most copyright laws allow a certain level of “fair use” or “fair dealing”. This means that you may be allowed to post or use copyrighted images on your blog (without permission or royalties) in certain circumstances and contexts. The exact rules vary from country to country, but a common example of “fair use”/”fair dealing” is using stills from a film or screenshots from a game in the context of a review.
As long as you do your research and remain aware of all the relevant rules, then finding interesting images for your blog shouldn’t be too much of a problem.
To be continued….