Category Archives: Audience

Who reads my blog? Who am I writing for?

Rethinking blog audience and design

I am currently having another go at my future blog about ‘Gourmet and Style‘. And it drives me crazy to have to make important decisions on it appearance and structure. My graphic designer and in the meantime good friend, is in charge of the looks and one of my daughter’s friends is the mind behind the structure.

It has not been easy so far and the two times I have been presented with a new design it has thrown me even more. It is hard to get across how you want your blog to look if you don’t really know yourself if that is structurally possible. Also it is hard to imagine in advance what all the different elements look together when they put on one page.

In my case the first attempt looked like a supermarket recipe card and the second was compared to a “Better Homes and Gardens” article. Both smart and attractive enough but not what I have in mind. The question is now ‘what do I have in mind?’ I was recommended to create my own blog page design with ‘cut and paste’, like children do.  In that way I can create a composition that I like and works.

I actually really like the ‘time-line’ of Facebook and the reason I find it attractive is because of its lay-out. It is the little picture set in the large header and the different columns over the page. It breaks up the monotony of rectangular blocks and lines. Both designs that were offered to me were too blocky and had no little quirky items that break up that sequence.

Who am I writing for?

This is only one of the issues as yesterday I had an interesting exchange regarding target audience with a male from a different age group.  He was the one who compared the design to a “Better Homes and Gardens page. He did ask me why I did not write for his generation. My answer was that he was not my target audience and he replied’ why not?

Really!!! Thorough and pedantic as I may seem I have to admit that this threw me quite a bit and I feel that I need to step back and review my goals for this blog. With the result that my ideas about the design may change.

The pro’s and con’ of creating

It is great to start your own business or website because you are in charge, you can make decisions and you are able to create your own conditions. But this is not as easy as it sounds and you have to be very confident that you make the right decisions. Or you just have to choose which way you go and run with it.

I have decided to do the following: I really hoped my blog would be finished by the end of June 2012. I am planning a trip to Europe and wanted to kick-start my blog with articles about gourmet and style from a European perspective.  I will still do that but I will start with a hosted site and template just like ‘Blogexercise’. When I get back from Europe in August I will re-assess the self-hosted version.

Not much new today however common issues for other bloggers as well!

Has blogging got a future?

“Is Blogging dead?”

A serious question raised some time ago by American Internet entrepreneur and blogger Jason Calacanis. Calacanis says it quite frankly during an interview last year: “There are a lot of stupid people out there ….and stupid people shouldn’t write”. He feels that the blogging system has to change to stop the above group from writing. I honestly thought we lived in a society with freedom of expression.

I have written about blogging and expertise in the past and a question that comes to my mind is the following? How important is it to ‘know’ about the topic you blog about? And if it is important to be knowledgeable or even an expert how “extensive” should your expertise be?

An answer to this question goes back to the essence of what a blog is and why people blog. There are many different types of blogs. Some are informative, some are educational and some are just fun. Deep down it does not matter – point is that anyone can start a blog and use it to publish his or her thoughts. People have a voice and a blog is a means to express that voice.

Our motives to blog

It is not hard to start a blog but publishing a blog does not mean that anyone reads it. Even that may not be important to some people especially if they write for family and friends. For the entrepreneurs amongst you this may be slightly a different scenario. Your audience is more important and the size of your readership could make your blog a success or not. But does no readership mean the blog is a failure?

If I have a look at my own blog, things seem to have changed. I started ‘Blogexercise’ for myself to dabble at blogging and to learn all aspects while engaging in the blogging activity. A great opportunity I still think! Initially I did not think too much about readers and the blog was no more than a mode of expressing myself and my thoughts.

Then however, I started to get comments and followers. Feels great by the way! I am by no means an expert in blogging as yet but I am on my way to becoming knowledgeable. So by now you could say that readership could have more impact. Well in a certain way it does but it still has no influence on me writing posts and researching the world of blogging. I still go my own way and occasionally take some comments in mind and combine them with my content.

That makes it more interesting and I am somehow addressing issues that others may have regarding blogging. And that is what experts do, don’t they? So my question is the following: ‘what is against that’? Why does Jason Calacanis have such an outspoken opinion about large amounts of bloggers being too stupid to say something worthwhile’?

Calacanis reckons that nobody cares for insignificant news anymore – if you blog you will have to be an expert otherwise nobody cares. That may be, but such a view could also lead to missing out on opportunities and not having a go at something. After all Jason Calacanis must once have been a new kid on the block just as many novice ‘stupid’ bloggers out there.

Just to get a perspective….

Start, nurture and grow your blog!

I have been lying low since my attempt to claim my blog on Technorati. It is April 29th today and I submitted my claim on the 24th of April. The following is the message I got: ‘Unfortunately, Technorati encountered a problem reading your blog. Our engineers are investigating and we will update your claim status as soon as we are able’.

This is bizarre as I can read my blog and so can many of you out there! More surprising is the fact that this update was sent to me 5 days ago and nothing has happened since then. There appears to be no way to communicate with Technorati and I can only wait. Maybe I have done something wrong or have overseen a detail. Well this shouldn’t stop me from blogging. So here we go.

Growing the traffic to your blog

A couple of posts ago I mentioned that I would like to generate more traffic to my blog. It is something I have not spent a lot of time on although I am aware what is required. I even dedicated a post to it a couple of months ago. Interesting content, regular posting, inviting other bloggers and being creative and thinking outside the square are all part of the process.

This is only one side of the equation as there is also the aspect of being ‘found’ by the search engines. In order for this to be effective you have to use the right keywords or alternatively buy your way into the ranks.

Whatever you do to promote your online presence the most important factor is likely to be persistence. My partner calls it exponential growth – nothing much happens for a while until suddenly the numbers will go up. In order to generate traffic you and I will have to keep at it and put in effort on an ongoing basis. Have I actually done that so far?

Apparently many bloggers who aim for revenue admit that they spend the majority of time attempting to increase their traffic rather than creating interesting articles. This is surprising as it is the quality of the articles that will get you the traffic. If this does not make sense compare this statement to a hands-on business. Imagine you have a cafe and that you want to build a reputation for making the best coffee. What exactly is selling your coffee – the coffee or the marketing? This almost like the chicken-egg dilemma – what came first?

Product and marketing

Blogging is about writing content for a public. People read your blog, like it, return, sign up – whatever. To increase the size of that public you need to market your blog but you will have to keep on writing good posts to make people come back. Otherwise you end up getting new readers as a result of your marketing but in the meantime lose the existing ones because there is nothing new to read. Compare this to your cafe and ask yourself whether you would come back after a couple of bad coffees or if the shop was closed at times you want a coffee?

It looks like the best formula should be a combination of both product and marketing. However I like to point out that your content is your product and it is the product that will attract a readership. The modes of marketing are the ways you will get, maintain and increase that readership. It will all take time, effort, persistence, belief and maybe even some financial investment.

An additional factor to look at is how to define your target audience. If you have sussed that one out you can start writing accordingly. Once you know exactly what expectations your target audience has, you can tailor every post to suit their needs.

In the end it comes back to remaining realistic about the speed and the size of your growth. It could be a slow process and it may cost some money but remember Rome wasn’t built in one day – in fact Rome is built on 7 hills so imagine how tedious and laborious that process must have been at the time!

Attention span of your audience

When I read through my blog post ‘Number Crunching’ I feel that I should complete the topic by having a look at who reads you blog – in other words your blog audience. With the enormous growth of social media and increasing numbers of blogs written I am getting curious about the attention span of the average online reader.

When researching human attention span I found that it is a mine field out there. That could mean that nobody really knows the answer and/ or that it depends on ‘context’. When you read about a subject that is relevant to something in your life you will very likely take it in better than a topic you can’t relate to. You will have all the time in the world for something interesting and but you may drift asleep after seconds when being exposed to boring stuff. Kind of logic, isn’t it?

Age may have something to do with it. Anyone who has children knows that the attention span of a toddler can’t possibly be more than 2 seconds and teenagers… well, who knows what makes them tick! Some figures show that the average attention span in kids varies from 3-5 minutes and adults may be able to give you 20 minutes max! www.reference.com

When I see figures like that I am again amazed that blogs are being read and the internet is being explored at all. It must have to do with people’s focus. The latest way the human mind has developed and adapted must be that we have learned to become better ‘skimmers’ and can sift with ease through the enormous mountain of information that is thrown at us. Some call it scanning  and there are websites that teach you how to scan in the most effective way. Scanning can be defined as quickly looking over some information and selecting what is important to you www.webdesignerdepot.com.

How can you facilitate scanning?

Not all information is suitable for scanning. When blogging it is important to keep that in mind. If you write a blog post and there is a fair of ‘waffle’ at the start while the most important bit are further down you might lose your reader. There are ways of avoiding that by using some of the following:

  • Lists, bold text, underline, Italics, headings and sub headings
  • Combining text with pictures and illustrations  
  • Make your first sentence and last sentence ‘to the point’

By using the above you can highlight and emphasise what you consider important and your readers will be able to pick up better what is relevant to them. Off course  – as bloggers we don’t want readers to scan or skim over our pages. We like them to read whatever we write from beginning to end and love it.

Unfortunately that is not going to happen all the time and people will skim and dismiss. There is just too much stuff to choose from. By producing ‘scannable’ content you may be able to capture your audience in such a way that they will come back for more.

After all you can’t deny that it is a nice feeling to find out that another reader has subscribed to your blog!

How to get more traffic

Your blog is up and running, it looks gorgeous and what you write about is interesting. Everything is in place for success. So how do you get people to stop by and have a look? In other words what can you do to increase the traffic to your blog?

Interesting content – It seems logic but nevertheless it has to be mentioned. Whatever you write about or show should be interesting, original and be up to date.

Regular posts – You have to post regularly, not once a month or even once a week but more like 3 times per week. That way your followers are not overwhelmed by your stuff but will be intrigued to see what you have to say next. Nowadays people are bombarded with news on a daily base. The statistics are horrendous! So don’t overdo it but in order to stay connected with your blog readers you do have to see you on a regular base.

When I publish a blog post I usually have enough inspiration to write a couple more posts but feel that I ought to make myself useful in other areas. Before I know it is a couple of days further and I have to dig deep to get that initial inspiration back. I suppose it would be better if I let myself be guided by my drive and creativity on the spur of the moment.

By invitation – A pro-active way to get more readers is to invite them. By checking out other blogs, leaving comments and introducing yourself you may entice bloggers to have a look at your site. If they like what they see and if it is relevant to them they may become a regular visitor.

I think I am a little guilty of not looking at other blogs enough. It seems a little indulgent to just browse the net and look for interesting things to read. Well I’ll also say to myself – if you like people to read your blog, you may have to take the time to read others’!

Don’t overdo it! Your comment on someone else’s blog should not be an advertisement for your own blog. If you leave your link with your comment it should be relevant to the blogger otherwise it is the same as getting a random email to promote something. And I don’t appreciate those and very likely you don’t either!

Be creative!

Looking at other blogs – I realise I am doing it for research purposes – I came across a couple of more interactive ways of creating more traffic. Giving away something, swapping items with other bloggers and organising competitions are some of them. I like to look into this a bit more myself and maybe set something up at a later stage.

One way that appeals to me to get more readers is to ask for opinions about a certain project. For instance I am looking into making insect screens for a rental house I am currently living in. I could ask for suggestions. But that hasn’t got anything to do with blogging!

Although, anybody out there who has got some ideas?

 

 

Who doesn’t like a ‘good old rant’?

In a previous post I have talked about different roles a blogger can have. Some like to educate, show and tell, others prefer to entertain and make people laugh and there are some who just want to have a ‘good old rant’.

What kind of blogger are you?

I have not really decided what my role is– it could be a mixture of several. I am a bit of a ranter and I have very likely annoyed people with various tales of criticism regarding a simple cup of coffee or a shop assistant. Australians can come across as a laid back bunch and my ‘Dutch’ bluntness combined with several years of ‘Swiss time keeping’ experience makes me sometimes a tough nut to crack! But it works in two ways – some people may not see where I am coming from but it is the same for me. I don’t see why I have to tolerate another badly made coffee and pay over 4 dollars for it. As if it is a privilege…

The opportunity to ‘speak out loud’

One of the reasons that social media and in particular blogging may be so popular is that we all like to have the occasional criticism, whinge, whine and rant. And what is better than doing it online ‘anonymously’ without having to face anyone?

Another thing I like is educating people – showing people ‘the how and the what’ of things. Looking at my working life, there has been a lot of educating. About wines and food, health, counselling and home and garden design. And at the moment about ‘blogging’. My blog ‘Blogexercise’ was totally unintentional and came about rather spontaneously. I had been planning a blog about several topics but I felt that I needed to explore this blogging business a little further before I wanted to commit. I have decided I prefer to self-host my blog and that requires a little more preparation.

So ‘Blogexercise’ is a bit like having an ‘apprenticeship’ – it enables me to train on the job and it is helping me. I am learning a lot and I have started to enjoy blogging about this topic. So much that I like to continue – not only for myself but also for others. Since I started blogging about ‘blogging’ I have come to the realisation that many people do not have a clue what blogging is and how to go about it. And ‘the educator’ in me has thereby found a grateful audience for those who like to have a go at it themselves.


Yours or theirs?

When talking about content of your blog, it doesn’t really matter whether you are an expert or not. After all you will become one if you keep on blogging about a certain topic. This is provided you come up with new stuff and not ‘borrow’ from others.

One of my readers commented on this and asked if I had an answer to him finding ‘his’ stuff being used by others under the pretence that it was theirs. An interesting topic and worthwhile exploring. The answer seems logical but nevertheless it is a controversial topic as it can be hard to trace where information comes from.

When to ask for permission!

Going back to basics we all know that it is not common practice to go into our neighbour’s garden and borrow their lawn mower without asking for permission. Neither are we allowed to pick the luscious mangoes that we can just reach when hanging over the fence. We just don’t do that, right? Then why do we think it is allowed to use text or pictures we find on someone else’s web pages. I dare say the same principles apply!

I don’t know if you have ever been asked by someone whether they could use something you produced. I can tell you that it feels good and I was more than happy to let someone else shine with my picture of a beautiful sky. Especially when I saw my name mentioned under it!

If you feel you like to use someone else’s content, ask for their permission. It is not difficult as most bloggers leave their contact details available to their readers. Ask for their permission, wait for a reply and then reward them with a link back to their blog.

What are the rules when blogging?

When blogging there are rules to abide by. It is allowed to refer to work that others have published however you must tell your readers where that information came from. Just as you reference when you are writing an essay or report, you name the author, the source and link back to their website or blog.

There is a term called ’fair use’. Fair use is a grey area and it may be hard to know exactly what to do when citing someone else. It is complex but in a nutshell if you use someone else’s material for ‘the purpose of research, teaching, to criticise, to comment or to report news’ you may not have to ask for permission. Personally I would ‘rather be safe than sorry’ and it may be better to get permission if you want to use more than a couple of words or phrases. Reverse the roles and imagine how you would feel if someone asks you for permission to use your material.

Last but not least use your common sense. Your blog is in the public domain and it is there for the whole world to see. Your reader may have a different culture or religion and it is not necessary to offend others. So write your blog with this in mind!

How often should you post on your blog?

Are there any rules regarding post frequency or is it up to the writer?

A week has gone by before I have had a chance to even think about ‘blogging’. Let alone write something. Reasons were moving house, impending root canal treatment and no internet access. Apparently it takes 10 days to relocate internet with our provider! And they made the mistake of terminating our service at our old house before the moving date.

Anyway, everything is set up and here we go. As I was a little worried about not being able to post anything it seems like a good idea to investigate the frequency of posting.

How often should you post something?

A tricky question to answer and I like to start looking at it from my own point of view. How often do I follow a blog?

Time and Interest….

Practically I don’t have the time or the interest to read some-one’s blog on a daily base. I like to compare it to a TV program. From past experience I know that I can look forward to seeing the next weekly episode of a certain program. The question is ‘would I still be that eager if that program was shown daily?’ I doubt it! In fact I know I wouldn’t do that as I get daily emails sent to me and I hardly read them even though they are about a topic of interest!

Needs and value…

Would it be different if some-one writes a blog about a topic I want to learn about, offers information I need and see tremendous value in. Could I read that daily? Would I be eagerly looking forward to reading the next blog post or would I still be affected by ‘information overload’?

Readers’ anticipation…

Now let’s turn this around and see it from the reader’s point of view.  If I publish information that interest and benefits people, they will very likely return to my blog to see what I have to say next. The more often I am writing interesting and valuable content the more reason there is for them to visit my blog over and over again. This is offcourse what bloggers dream off – a growing pool of readers, followers and subscribers.

Search Engine Optimisation…

There is another point to this. The more frequent I publish a blog post the more entries I create in terms of search engine optimisation. In other words the more I am out there in the blogosphere, the more opportunities there are to find me. And this leads in generally to higher traffic. And if high traffic is my goal I may have to compromise slightly on other factors!

So what is the answer to this: ‘Does the frequency of posting matter?’

  • It matters if you bore and frustrate your readers, make them feel overwhelmed or burn them out.
  • And it matters if your readers are hanging out for more of your knowledge and great tips.

The trick may be to find the right ‘rhythm and consistency’ where I as the writer have something interesting to say on a regular base and you as the reader can see value in it, learn from it and hopefully will be looking forward to the next post!

A nice aim to have!

Who reads my Blog?

My last post was about types of blog writers. There are educators, philosophers, researchers and ‘ranters’ and offcourse a mix of those and more. I have been thinking this week about readers of blogs.

Why do people read blogs? Who reads them and what makes them look for blogs?

I wonder if people have written theses about the blogging phenomenon. Years ago while living in The Netherlands I was very surprised to hear that someone was writing a PHD about Madonna. This was during the Eighties when she grew more and more in popularity. In fact she was so popular that ‘her persona’ as a PHD subject had been approved. Sometimes trends or in this case a pop star have so much impact on all aspects of life, that from a research point of view it is worthwhile to document it. It may shed some light on why we ‘as a public’ do and like things.

Could ‘blogging’ have reached that stage? As I said before, it has been around for a while. More than 70.000 new blogs are written every day and this post will be one of a million blog posts written today. Staggering statistics! Another one is that the ‘blogosphere doubles in size every 5 -6 months. Huge potential to get a message across or to find one.

What do blogs offer?

Millions of people turn to blogs for information, to read a review or to have a good laugh. Companies have started using blogs to promote products and to create forums where their products and services can be discussed online. Blogging has made it easy to see what competitors do as the ‘online debate’ is transparent and there for anyone to see and to comment upon.

Combined with the fact that we all can start writing and share our ideas, knowledge and wit, blogging as a subject must be on the list of research topics. After a bit of research on this matter I actually came across a blog post that was called ‘10 reasons to blog even if nobody reads it’ (www.businessgrow.com).  The writer of this blog has made it his business to research the blogging phenomenon in the corporate world. And his conclusion is that the blog as a tool is vastly growing and benefits business growth. The title was a little bit misleading as several of the 10 reasons made very little sense without a readership!

An interesting question would be the following. Would people still write a blog if they knew that nobody reads it? How much do you blog for yourself and how much for an audience?

Personally I started writing this blog for myself. I want to document my own thoughts and see if it can help me to develop my ‘future’ blog. But I can’t deny that I felt a thrill when I saw that I had followers!

So who does read blogs?

An annual survey (www.blogadds.com) on 17,000 blog readers came up with the following results.

  • 61 of blog readers are over 30
  • 75% earn over U$ 45,000
  • 21% are bloggers themselves
  • 54% of their news intake is online

17,000 readers may not be a ‘scientific’  representation but at least it gives an indication…

How to get more structure and clarity!

I feel that I am getting closer to laying down the building blocks for my ‘real’ blog. In case you wonder, my real blog is my future professional blog, the one with the domain name, hosting and a flexible platform. The one about the topics close to my heart, the one that will support my business and where I like to attract advertising. In order to develop such a blog I have started ‘Blogexercise’ as a test blog.

Why not start writing and learn on the job?

Starting with a test blog has its benefits. It forces you to write content, it makes you think about how you want your blog to look and it motivates you to research things you want to blog about. It also enforces you to be ‘online’. Suddenly your stuff is out there in the blogosphere and it is public. Readers can comment, criticise and support you.

Some bloggers fall in the trap of feeling the need to change their writing style to appeal to their followers. This defeats the purpose as the reason they got followers is because of what they have published and not of what they think they ‘ought’ to write. So changing writing style to ‘suit’ may lead to people not liking what they read and stop being a follower.

A blog post is an extension of you as a writer and should therefore be natural and almost like a ‘conversation’. It is your chance to be ‘real’ and to be ‘yourself’. It is your voice!

It is a bizarre feeling to write something and to post it. You may not get any comments or reactions for a while and still people may read what you have written. It is anonymous and yet not… It is a thrill to suddenly see that you have followers and that people express that they like what you wrote.

What is your role as a writer?

With this in mind and speaking from my recent ‘experience’ I recommend prospective bloggers to start writing. It may help you to learn about your writing style and to experiment with the roles you like to have. Will you be writing as a reviewer, an educator or as a researcher? Or do you just want to have a good old rant! You could be very witty and your style could best suit an entertainer.

I like several of those roles and I have not decided yet what my ‘forte’ is. Maybe I can be more than one. I like to educate people – several of my past occupations and businesses have educated my clients. I thrive on that and it makes me feel fulfilled. I also like to review things and ‘tell the world’ if I am enthusiastic about something I did or have seen.

A review can also be negative and become a critique and even a ‘rant’. We all know the rippling effect of a bad review. We apparently tell 2 people when we are positive, but we tell 10 people when we are unhappy with a service or product.

A negative review on a blog could potentially be read by hundreds of people. Imagine the power of that….