Google no more. Here are five simple things you need to sustain a successful blog.
2015 has been a rather interesting year for Reuelwrites ever since I changed my editorial direction at the start of the year. I’ve been writing for my jobs and for leisure for a number of years now, but never have I been ‘recognised’. I mean, I do have people telling me that they like what I wrote for City News, and people telling me that an event was well-run. But being shortlisted in an awards ceremony instead of hosting/organising it? That’s the first.
Earlier in July, Reuelwrites was in the running for OMY’s Singapore Blog Awards 2015, Best Individual Blog. The finals took place on the 23rd of July and I met other blogger friends there. I met blogger friend, Tiffany whom I hosted at a food-tasting event who asked, “You are running the event?” (Laughs) Even though I didn’t win (congratulations Eternality Tan!), it was a humbling experience to just be a contestant together with other more-seasoned bloggers.
Anyway, this entry is long overdue. But after writing for quite a long time, I thought it did be interesting to dissect and analyse everything that makes successful blogs successful. For the purpose of this entry, the definition of successful can be defined as being publicly recognised (news media and blog awards) and receiving relatively high page views (more than 1,000 every month) on a consistent basis.
So what does it take to run a successful blog? What are the ingredients necessary to making your blog successful? Here are five absolute must-haves.
1. Find Your Niche
There are plenty of genres from family to fashion, from food & beverages to travel, from beauty to health & wellness. This list is non-exhaustive since we all have our own interests and preferences. Travel and beauty blogs always gets you the visitor counts, and food blogs are insanely popular in Singapore. But beyond these, you must find your own niche; what you’re really good at.
For example, food blogger Brad Lau’s ladyironchef is crazily good at what he does, publishing food reviews and stories that gets us hungry all the time. Lau has 600,000 followers on Instagram alone, and is perhaps Singapore’s best known food blogger. According to The Straits Times reporting, Lau is allegedly paid $3,800 PER review. To demand such an exorbitant figure for a review, Lau’s monthly visitor counts must be off the charts, I tell you. Blogger Alvinology asserted that ladyironchef has approximately 690,000 monthly visits.
You want to write like Lau. You want to be successful like Lau. But get this, you’re not Lau. Often, many people jumped into something without determining if they are good at it. Food blogs may be popular – and there’re so many out there – but how good are you with describing your wanton mee? Just because something is popular doesn’t mean you’re good at it. Instead of writing or starting a blog on a popular genre which you may be ill-prepared to write, cover a genre which you are actually good at.
I particularly enjoy reading blogger Fiona Cher’s blog entries on Singapore Budget Babe. Money management is something we all know to be necessary. But it’s also not something that gets us pumping our fists in the air. Cher’s entries encourages us to save money by debunking the myths about money management, showing us step-by-step how we can also make progress towards financial freedom.
2. Content Is King
You can throw many gimmicks like giveaways and what not in your blog but it’s your content that keeps your readers coming back regularly. Having said that, how are your blog entries adding value to your readers? Does your blog entries entertain? How original is your content? Does your blog entries reveal something nobody else knows?
A blog is a very personal thing and you’re free to write and do whatever you want with it. But if you want to run a successful blog, you have to run it like an online ‘news media’. I can’t stress enough the importance of grammar and spell check. If I can be brutally frank, don’t expect to have a following if you can’t write properly.
Local politician Desmond Lim from the Singapore Democratic Alliance experienced that firsthand. Lim has been faithfully serving and contesting for Punggol GRC for many years (23 if I’m not wrong). But his 2013 dissing video proved to be his undoing. An edited video of Lim speaking ‘very poor English’ went viral and he was publicly ridiculed. This proves that if you can’t verbalise or pen out your thoughts accurately, it’s best not to do it.
“So how do I improve my command of English?” Read, a lot. Read books and newspapers. I make it a point to read The Straits Times to improve myself and get a sense of Singapore’s arts scene as well as Singapore and the world’s current state of affairs. A good blogger is someone who is well-read, and knows his genre and current affairs relatively well.
Also, are you doing research for your blog entries? Say for example, if you are making a claim that Cafe A makes the best coffee in Singapore, have you checked out Cafe B to Z? Did you find out why Cafe A makes such good coffee? Maybe it’s because their barista was a finalist at the World Barista Championship? That adds value and credibility, giving your readers extra incentive to check out Cafe A.
3. Visuals Are A Must-have
We are living in a world where there are so many things fighting for our attention at any given time. This consequentially causes us to have extremely short attention span. Perhaps as you are reading this post, your phone is ringing with Whatsapp messages, your emails are coming in, and someone is Facebooking you all at the same time.
Visuals creates staying power for your blog. Nobody wants to read a 1,000 word article that has no pictures at all unless it’s for their Masters’ thesis. Top blogs like Xiaxue, Brad Lau’s ladyironchef and Daniel’s Danielfooddiary all have one thing in common. Their photos help to tell the story of their articles. And their photos are gorgeous too. It’s true when they say ‘A picture tells a thousand words.’
Invest in a digital camera if you can. I’m personally using an entry level DSLR, Canon 600D with kit lens and a 50mm f/ 1.4 prime lens. You don’t have to get a DSLR, but a good digital camera will do just fine. Sony has a range of pretty awesome cameras that are light in weight but packs a punch. Not to mention that Sony also uses the mirrorless technology, making their DSLR cameras a faction of the weight of Canon and Nikon’s DSLR.
If you opt to take photos off the internet, make sure you get permission from the original owner. There isn’t really any issue using photos from online news media, but if you are taking photos from other blog sites like mine, make sure you have gotten the necessary permission and credit the owners or you may just be liable for a copyright infringement lawsuit.
4. Consistency is Key
You now know your niche, you know you need to produce good content, and you know the importance of visual rhetoric. You must now be consistent in your blogging. Unfortunately, nothing last forever. A popular boyband will be forgotten if they don’t produce any album for 5 years. It’s just the way the world works. Don’t expect your readership to be intact if you’re only blogging once every two months.
Decide how often you want to blog. Twice a week? Once a week? Once every two weeks? Naturally, blogs with new content always gets more page views. Next, the day and time you upload the blog entry is also very crucial. Publishing a blog entry on a Friday night may not be a wise idea since many of your readers may be out partying after the last workday of the week.
I would suggest uploading your blog entries during weekday lunch time (between 12 to 1pm) or on weeknights excluding Friday and Saturday (from 10 to 11pm)
5. It’s All About The Passion
At the end of the day, it’s all about the passion. I have had people asking me, “Wah so good! You get media passes to catch this musical and that production! I also want to get free media passes!” Face palm. Because I wasn’t schooled in literature or the creative arts, sometimes I have to spend as much as 4 to 5 hours to research and write the review. But I do it because I love the arts.
OMY Best Individual Blog winner Eternality Tan has published more than 1,200 movie reviews on his blog. I mean, assuming you’re super good at writing reviews and can write one everyday, you would need more than 3 years to even be close to the amount of reviews he has written. Now imagine how many hours Tan has put into writing these reviews.
Yes it’s true that bloggers do get free stuff, are invited to events, and some are even paid to publish a review (not me), but it takes a lot of effort, time and research to pull off a successful blog. And most importantly, these bloggers are passionate about what they are writing about, regardless of the genre.
Are you ready to invest your time in writing a reviews? Are you ready to put in 2 hours of research, all so that you can publish a well-researched article? Are you really in love with food, fashion, arts, photography, travel and so forth? Don’t start something which you are incapable to sustain because you just aren’t interested in it to begin with.
But if you’re really passionate about something, and you don’t mind putting in the hard work to sustaining it on a long-term basis, go for it! I wish you all the best in your blogging journey and perhaps, we might meet at the next blogging awards event! RW