I've been getting an influx of emails lately from new bloggers wanting me to dispense some advice on starting a blog and making a success of it.
I don't really have any words of profound wisdom and I don't think there is a formula to making a successful blog, but I have made some observations over the years regarding the ingredients of the many successful blogs and bloggers I know.
So, rather than write the same thing over and over in emails, I thought it might be helpful to share my observations on here as to what makes a successful blog.
The blog world is a different place to what it was in 2006, when we started. There are so many blogs now that audiences have a feast of choice available to them.
The days of single sentence/word posts are pretty much gone, unless you are a personal style blog. But content driven blogs, like KoS, simply can't get away with it. It's fine for the odd ocassion, but good content equals well written, well considered articles. When you access Google Analytics and view just how long your readers are spending on pages and posts, the half-arsed ones have a vast drop off rate. Involved content is even more important now there is Pinterest, where audiences expect little to no written words, therefore readers have a higher expectation of blogs overall. You don't need to be a journalist, but you need to write as well and with as much care as you possibly can.
So before you even start a blog, be prepared to dedicate time to writing good posts. They don't have to be huge essays, but give your readers a choice as to whether to read or skim.
That leads me to my next piece of advice. Good blogs take dedication and time. Lots of time. This can be hard if you also have a full time job. Prepare to spend much of your weekends photographing, planning and writing your articles for the week ahead. If you think you can get by rattling off posts in your lunch-hour whilst eating your sandwich, think again. If you want a successful blog, there is no quick way to do it.
One of the most important things that makes a successful blog is regular posting. If readers know you post every day, or every second day, they will always come back to check if you have something new up. If you just post whenever you feel like it, then prepare to watch any readers you might have gained fall away one by one. A blog is a bit like the morning papers - something you sit down to read with a nice cup of tea. I personally read all my favoroute blogs during my lunch hour and if they haven't posted I feel real disappointment. If they don't post for days at a time, they usually fall off my radar completely.
This isn't essential by any stretch of the imagination, but it's a 'nice to have'. Most successful blogs have lovely photography to enhance their outfit shots. You don't need a massively expensive camera to create pleasing shots (I have one that cost little over £200); it's more about having nice, clear photos of your outfit. If your outfit has interesting details, then take some close ups or from different angles. Decent photography will really enhance your blog and make it interesting for the reader. It also makes it look more professional overall, which is important if you hope to monetise your blog.
It's a sign of the times that most of the would-be bloggers who write to me are hoping to make money from their blog. At the moment we don't, but my advice is that making money won't happen overnight. Infact, I'd say it's going to get a lot harder to make money from blogs, as brands are really beginning to study ROI, whereas before you could have a small blog with perceived value. Now you need to prove that value with real figures.
I always say - don't go into blogging with a specific aim of making money; do it for the enjoyment first and foremost and consider anything else a bonus. Thinking you'll make the kind of money The Sartorialist claims to, will most likely lead to disappointment.
Getting Out There
I get asked all the time about how did we got our blog out there and known. This is a hard question because when we started blogging it was such a new format that it wasn't that hard to be found by someone wanting to find blogs. Now, it's harder because your voice needs to be heard amongst a sea of voices.
Commenting on other blogs always helps. If a reader, who also has a blog, comments on here I always visit their blog out of curiousity. I most likely don't have the time to comment, but I definitely have a good read through if it's to my taste. I will say though, that if you do comment on other blogs please don't spam them! There is nothing worse than someone who gives a 'stock' comment followed by a million links to their blog. Engage and you'll get engagement back.
Mostly though, I have found that people just stumble upon your blog and sometimes they stay.
The overall tone of your blog should be an honest reflection of you. No sense doing what you think will make your blog popular, just do what feels right for you. Marie and I have have hugely different posting and writing styles, but that's what makes our blog unique. As a designer, I am exceptionally pernicky about my posts and how they look. For example, I always use a capital letter on each word of my post title because I think it's aesthetically pleasing, and whenever I used images I always have an 11 pixel gap between each image. These little rules for design and layout ensure my posts have their own look and feel to them; my own tone of voice.
Your blog should reflect who you are, as this is what will make it unique.
The main reason for writing a blog should always be love. When you love the subject you write about, the passion shines through. If you do it expecting free things or money, you'll soon find yourself disappointed when it doesn't happen quickly or at all.
OK, this turned out to be a bit of an epic read, but hopefully new bloggers will find it helpful.