Saturday, August 17, 2013

Why You Should Use a Free Blogging Platform

I've written about why you should never use free blog platforms to host your blog.
You can read that post here.
Well here's the flip side: why you should consider a free blog hosted by a major platform provider.

Run, you fools!


There are some good reasons for ignoring my advice.

I ignore it because I use platforms such as Blogger and Wordpress.com to generate ideas. These spaces are my drafting boards where I can work out what and how I want to communicate before posting on my business blog.
For me, there's a sense of freedom to be found away from my professional reputation that enhances my creativity and output. I don't have to be right all the time. I just have to write.

Will your blog be found?


There are a lot of bloggers out there. Drawing a massive audience to your blog - whether to your own domain name or via a free platform - is highly unlikely.
Think about it. How many blogs do you fanatically follow? Now consider how many blogs are waiting to be read. Wordpress.com alone has 69,127,000 as of August 2013. (http://en.wordpress.com/stats/)
Will your posts be found?

Barring good luck (I've discussed good luck here), your blog may just need the community that comes with being a part of Tumblr or Blogger. Users of these platforms have access to searches within the platform. Wordpress.com has a Freshly Pressed page for new posts. Sometimes, going free may bring your blog a greater audience.

Does amateur mean unprofessional?


Are blogs hosted on free platforms any less professional than a blog hosted on your site? Take a look through the blogs hosted on Tumblr, Blogger, Wordpress.com et al. There are some stunning posts featuring amazing images, thought-provoking copy and well laid-out design. And yes, there are some very shoddy blogs there, too. But bad blogs do not occur just on free platforms. There are some horrific business blogs that make me wonder how that business can attract attention. Professionalism is a mind set, not a URL.

Free blogging platforms provide a no-cost way to start blogging. They already have very large communities searching through them for great posts and it's possible to produce professional results using a mass template. Try one.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Never use a free blog platform

Never, ever use a free blog platform.

5 great reasons to never post your blog on a free platform.


  1. Someone else is making money from your hard work - not you.
  2. Brand You is exceptionally powerful - don't dilute it.
  3. It lumps your work in with everyone else's work. How can you be heard amongst the babble?
  4. You need to control every facet of your blog to maximise SEO and monetisation - free blog platforms give you minimal control at best.
  5. It's unprofessional... and you are your reputation.
Of course, if you're reading this, you'll realise these 5 great reasons don't always hold true.

Monday, August 12, 2013

The Ideal Blog Post Length

This is a question I've struggled to answer to my own satisfaction: what's the ideal blog post length?
How long is too long for a blog post? Or too short?
Here's what I've noticed:
You can get your message across effectively with less than ten words.

"Fatboy Burgers are awful. I found cockroaches in mine."

9 words gets the work done. But I think that's all it does.

Why do we scan content?


We know people scan pages for information. Deep reading is a thing of the past... or is it?
This is what I do. If the first paragraph grabs my attention, I'll read on. If it doesn't, I'll skip down and then skip town very quickly.

I surf the web because I want to find something worthwhile in which to invest my precious time. Scanning is a tool I employ to find that worthwhile content but I don't want to just scan. I want to deep read.

I found the following experiment revealing.


I googled two topics and performed a quick word count on the first ten organic returns.
In my first search term - "modernist architecture" was the first thing that popped into my head - all ten links had over 1000 words on the landing page.

In the second search - "old bicycles" - half the pages I was led to had 1000 words or more. (One link was to Pinterest.)

I tried a third search - "sustainability in business" as I'll be editing a magazine later in the year themed on this topic. This gave me closer to what I would have expected. Eight pages of 400-600 words but still 2 pages had a 1000+ word count. And let's face it, 400-600 words isn't a short post.

So how does that relate to the ideal blog post length?


Writing long content is still going to get you found. It gives ample room for your keywords to take effect and provides more opportunities to be linked to if you provide link-worthy content.
Long posts are not the enemy. Poorly written, rambling posts will drive readers away but long posts are not necessarily the deterrent that modern wisdom espouses.

Here's my rule of thumb for the ideal blog post length.. Just write it. If comes in at twenty words or 2000 words and is relevant, informative and/or entertaining throughout, post it. But if you were to press me harder, I'd go for longer posts.

2 Things Every Writer Needs

Of course there aren't just two things that every writer needs. But there are two things that every writer needs to remember about being a writer.
  1. Writers write. This one is obvious. Doctors heal, Police serve and protect, Busdrivers drive... you get the picture. A writer writes.
  2. Writers get read... even if it's just for yourself. Writing doesn't exist just for itself. If your writing isn't being read, then I'm sorry but you're not a writer. Get out of the wagon - you're just dead weight and you're taking up the broadband I could be occupying.
Of course if you do want to be read then I bid you welcome. The happy fact is that there's enough audience for each of us.
Which brings us to the question of the day.
Who's reading your writing?

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Why won't you read my blog?

Why won't anyone read my blog?

Ever been struck by this thought? The simple answer is there's no simple answer.
Online writing is tough work, so here are a few thoughts to mull over.
Everyone is clamouring to be heard online. Historically, most people never had access to a local platform, let alone a global one. Now, you can find contributors on the most esoteric topics at the click of a mouse button.
I spent 18 months as the editor of NZ News UK, a niche website providing news of interest to New Zealanders living in Britain. I had my successes and failures during that time. Here's what I learnt, both then and subsequently.

How do you get read?

Here are five factors to consider.
Skill, output, networks... and luck.

  1. Skill: yes, this includes a decent grasp of the language you're using. Spelling and grammar do count.  It's not just writing, either. A rudimentary understanding of SEO is practically a prerequisite to being read online. But being a great story teller also helps and this can only get better if you practice.
  2. Output: Keep the output regular - and I don't mean once every March - and you'll develop fans. You will also develop a style of writing unique to you. Readers pay attention to how you write as well as your subject matter. And don't forget to acknowledge your readers. If a post gains a lot of comment, that's because people want an ongoing conversation.. and that's another post for you to write.
  3. Network: if people like your work, they'll spread the news. And you can help the process by tapping into Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest... 
  4. Luck: what would happen if someone from the Top Gear team made a positive comment about your car blog on a public forum? What if your recipe of the week was coincidentally similar to Rachael Ray's newest recipe? Coincidence happens all the time in the offline world. It's no different for the internet. It's a tough lesson to learn - that sometimes success is out of your hands. In 2011, one of New Zealand's biggest cities was badly damaged in a series of earthquakes. 185 people lost their lives in Christchurch. New Zealanders were stunned - including the ones living in Britain. The expatriate community wanted to reconnect and NZ News UK went through a rejuvenation, becoming a leading portal for that reconnection.

So that's four quick tips to ponder: skill, output, networks and luck.
And the fifth tip?
I'll go back to my earlier words.
Online writing is tough work - keep at it.