In two days’ time, CabbieBlog will be 11 years old. It’s the time of year that I compile my yearly statistics, at the same time I also try to do a little housekeeping on the site.
Those of you who are more curious will have found the London Links page. It’s the sort of project that takes hours to compile, only to be ignored by the author, and it would seem the rest of the world with only 48 views this year.
When CabbieBlog first appeared in cyberspace blogging was all the rage, but over time the long-form post has been subsumed by opinions and information being disseminated in 140 characters.
Since then some of my London favourites have fallen by the wayside. A Peace of London, The Londoneer and the excellent The Accidental Londoner are no more, curiously the domain name The Accidental Londoner now gives you Ian Visits, a comprehensive commercial London site.
With other commitments, it’s not surprising that some are now defunct, and many more haven’t been updated for a long time, including the hilarious Pigeon Blog, written in the first person by Brian the pigeon.
I’ve entitled this post: Why won’t the blog just write itself? After a year when health and other commitments prevented me from writing many original posts, here I am scratching my head staring at a lone cursor blinking in the middle of a blank white screen.
So why do bloggers put themselves through this?
When I started, as a little light distraction and after trying various platforms and blog names within a relatively short time, I realised that not only did I have something to say about London, you, dear reader, were willing to contribute with comments, likes, suggestions and occasional guest posts.
The attraction of blogging is writing about a subject you love – in my case, it is London – and sharing your passion with others from around the world. The problem is exacerbated if your chosen blog is about an unchanging subject – say chewing gum through the ages. But for London, which seems to reinvent itself every 10 years, the opportunities for writers are endless, except, that is, for when I’m trying to think of an idea.
So why would anyone want to put themselves under pressure to write regular posts? As I mentioned, many just start a blog with a few well-chosen pieces which become less and less over the first few weeks and then after a month the passion to communicate goes away and becomes another dead digital spot which even the author seems to forget exists.
For others – myself included – writing is a feeling of catharsis. It costs nothing to put pen to paper and even the most obscure topic will be read by someone in the world who might even reply.
During the time I’ve been writing, I have learned a few things about blogging which I will share with you, whether you are a seasoned blogger, in which case please post your opinion of my summation, or if you are just thinking of starting down the rocky road of blogging then hopefully I can point you in the right direction.
There’s still a huge audience
According to WordPress, nearly 409 million people view more than 20 billion pages each month.
Blogging is proper writing
It is not easy writing, well not for me it isn’t, each post has to be researched if necessary, it has to be thought out and, before publishing, should be reasonably grammatically accurate.
Blogging is rewarding
It reaches out to regular readers and unlike regular writing or journalism you get responses instantly, the comments on your blog mean a lot, reply to them all.
Blogging is not a guilt trip
You shouldn’t put pressure on yourself to write regular posts if you are uncomfortable with that kind of discipline. A London Inheritance, one of the best London bloggers posts only two or three times per month.
Don’t mess around with your website
You are just wasting valuable time rather than writing. However, change it when there is a good reason. CabbieBlog was changed last year after over 7 years with roughly the same design.
Don’t get into blogging to make money
It’s hard to make money just from writing a blog. But sometimes quite unexpected things turn up. I have done work for the BBC, been paid for running a commercial blog and been given a book deal. Unless you are prepared to work full time on the blog, treat it as a hobby. Focus on integrity. Be happy about what you publish, not what you think will attract readers. Forget the articles you read telling you how to ‘write killer posts’, they don’t exist.
Offer something worthwhile
Will your readers take something from your writing? If they do they are more likely to return or share you on social media.
It’s not all about you
Share your personality. It should be a bit of you with some context of the blog’s author. Making it personal is more engaging, but your readers don’t want to read the minutia of your life.
Find a routine
I write regularly because I need some kind of discipline to my work, but don’t beat yourself up if you don’t, one good post is worth ten poor ones.
Keep your posts short
I’m sorry to say that dear reader but most of you on the web have short attention spans, it’s just the way it is – 500-2,000 words are sufficient. If you want to go into greater detail make a separate page with a link so readers can check it out if they wish.
Don’t worry about the stats
Worrying about stats again leads to writing ‘killer headlines’ and will reduce the quality of your writing. I check my stats every day and all the search links. Don’t do as I do, do as I say.
Write guest posts for others and invite them to write on your site. I occasionally publish London Grill inviting others to share their views of London, and I’m always open for submissions.
Collaborate with others
Send out emails inviting them to write something for your site.
Don’t give up easily
As I found many blogs are lying there redundant. It could be that the authors are dispirited by a lack of readers, but it takes time – persevere and try different things. Write for yourself.
Be nice to people
Reply to all comments, write with constructive criticism, Boris has his faults, but we don’t have to bang in about them.
Don’t get jealous
Everyone seems to be bigger and better. Blogging is an ego trip – get real. A few regular engaged readers are better than thousands of casual hits.
But be controversial
Give an opinion, people like to read views based on facts and good research, they don’t want polemical tirades.
Remember real life
Don’t get obsessive, much of what you write about will be from real life, but there is still life beyond the internet.
You might not make much money, but in addition to work already mentioned I have collaborated on two books, one for the 2012 Olympics and another for a French travel guide to London. Your blog is your window on the world and leads to other projects.
Use your blog
It says a lot about you, remember prospective employers might just check it out, use your blog wisely.
Go back to school
Try to write without spelling mistakes, and improve your grammar. Your readers will soon tire of trying to decipher your work. I use Grammarly in an attempt to improve my work.
Enjoy your blog, it is a creative endeavour, take pride in what you produce and how it is designed.
Now back to that blank screen with its immobile cursor, awaiting my thoughts for the latest incisive missive.