take one woman with low self esteem, but quite good hair
add one moronic illness
stir in some medication which causes hair to fall out
mix it all up and this is what you get...

Friday, September 01, 2006

How to be a "popular" blogger... possibly 

What makes a blog popular? Why do some blogs "enjoy" hundreds, even thousands, of hits per day, whilst others (like me, of course) languish at the bottom of the heap: a non-entity with a mere trickle of loyal visitors?

These are questions which both intrigue and depress me on a regular basis. Without wishing to put anyone down or big anyone up, it is not always clear to see why some blogs have become "must haves" on blogrolls throughout the world whilst others remain in blogscurity. The chasm between these two extremes cannot always be explained away by better writing, more interesting characters or stories.

There are some features, however, which seem to help. I have been reading, writing and covetously staring at blogs for three years now, so I feel my ideas are reasonably well informed. However, these points should by no means be construed as advice to bloggers - besides, who am I to be giving advice? What I am talking about is not what makes a good blog - that is quite another debate and subject to opinion - but what seems to make a popular, widely-read, "successful" weblog, according to my observations. This is not a sour-grapes, self-bashing escapade, it is a genuine desire to understand the sphere known as blog.


The rule seems to be, at least at first: keep it narrow. If your blog has a definite "theme", particularly an intriguing or "romantic" one (e.g. the trials and tribulations of being an ex-pat, a high-class call girl, an ex-Oxbridge lap-dancer, a sex addict or someone who got sacked for blogging), an ever-popular pursuit ( e.g. celebrity bashing) or a highly original, interactive idea (like postsecret, another idea I wish I'd thought of...), you can hook in the readers. Eventually, you might explore the other facets of your existence, but by then, you will have established a large readership for whom you can do no wrong.


Some popular blogs rely on consistency of content, others rely on consistency of style. One perenially popular British blogger starts all his posts with a short statement in the present tense, usually related to an extremely mundane occurrence: "We go to the bank!!!". (Can you see who it is yet?) The style is always the same: quintessentially British in terms of its wit, gentle jibes, deadpan delivery and understatement. But, like with so many forms of entertainment, we seem to like formula. We want to know what we're getting and will continue to come back for more if we are satisfied.

Each post is an "article" in its own right

A popular blog is usually one where a new reader can just pop in and read the most recent post and feel that, though part of a bigger picture (or archive), what they've just read can exist on its own, as an "article" (like a column in a magazine). They will want to read more because they are intrigued by the character, the writing or the subject, but each post "satisfies" them in some way. It has a beginning and an end. It takes them on a little journey and brings them home again. If there are too many references to previous events which are crucial to understanding the current post (either in the form of clickable links to previous posts, veiled references or assumed knowledge on the part of the reader), the reader may feel frustrated or alienated and might not bother coming back.

Posts are neither too short, nor too long

It's difficult to specify exactly what too short or too long is. If the writing or subject matter is good, the length of post is largely immaterial. But, like the previous point, the reader should feel satisfied. They should want to read the post from beginning to the end (without checking their watch) and feel some sense of resolution.


A more successful blog will usually limit the scope of each post to one event or subject. The event or subject may, of course, give rise to the discussion of other related events or subjects, but it all comes back to satisfaction: the reader wants to follow you on your journey and the easier you make it for them, the better. Inexplicable diversions and tangents can frustrate.


Photos, artwork and diagrams can give a blog an edge - if not a raison d'ĂȘtre - especially if they are used appropriately and with moderation. A post consisting of a batch of holiday snaps which causes the page to load tiresomely slowly, however, will probably not do the job. Better to have one "representative" (usually arty) photo, with a link to others if people are keen to see more.

Being noticed

This can be pure luck (a blogger with a wide audience or a newspaper columnist just happens to notice you) or carefully calculated (scatter your (preferably intriguing or witty) comments with gay abandon around Blogland - particularly on established, popular blogs, join all manner of webrings and blog groups etc). But what is clear is that if you get name-checked in the "mainstream" media, you'll probably be guaranteed a huge and enduring boost to your readership.

Keep it regular

Most readers will not take kindly to sporadic posts; they want regular doses. Of course, the more loyal readers will tolerate the odd hiatus here and there (most of my readers have returned after my most recent hissy fit), but others will, understandably, fall by the wayside.

Of course, there are blogs which follow these rules and still remain unknown, unloved and unacknowledged, whilst there are doubtless some extremely popular blogs which fly in the face of this would-be advice and have managed, sometimes mysteriously, to be vastly popular anyway.

All of this is of course largely immaterial if you are what I'd call a sensible blogger. Blogging (like life, I guess) is not and should not be a competition, but in certain circles it has become more and more so over the last couple of years. Some of us feel that we need to try and compete, whereas others are quite happy to do our own thing. As mentioned on probably too many occasions, whilst I would like to belong to the latter category, sometimes I can't help but slip into the former. And, given my lowly status in the Blogosphere, it's probably not good for me...

<< Home

<< Home