Passing away of an avid blogger

Arun Jaitley, India's ex-Finance Minister and a well-respected political leader, passed away today. 

Besides being an orator, a parliamentarian, a lawyer and an administrator, he was a blogger - and his posts used to be full of pithy analysis on topical economic and political matters.
    
arun jaitley
Arun Jaitley's blog
    
Jaitley was seriously ill for many months and due to this he declined to take up a ministerial berth in PM Modi's cabinet when the party came to power second time in a row in May. Yet, he kept on expressing himself on his blog - mostly on the big decisions taken by the government. Like other politicians of today, Jaitley was also active on Twitter, but the blog, which later became a full-fledged personal website with many sections, always remained his primary platform for reaching out to his audience.

Just two days before his health took a serious turn and he was admitted to hospital, i.e. 8th August, he wrote a piece titled 'PM Narendra Modi and HM Amit Shah Achieve the Impossible' explaining how they managed to get a record number of bills passed in the latest sesssion of Parliament despite all odds.

A big loss to the Indian politics, also to the Indian blogosphere.

For success in blogging, first correct mistakes

You might have read many tips for success in blogging. But they do not work the way they should, because bloggers make mistakes that they can easily avoid. 

Not only new, even established bloggers often ignore the blogging craft. In the present post, I share common blogging mistakes, and also tell how you can avoid them.

In the next post, I will give a list of blogging mistakes that have ethical and legal overtones. 

You have started a blog but...

Let me assume that you are one of the two types of bloggers: either you have already started a blog or you are new to blogging and are thinking of creating a blog now. 

You might have some (or no) knowledge of blogging. Chances are that some of your friends might have blogs, and one or two of them often boast about the money they have made out of the blog. You might have seen that a friend's blog is quoted by others for its good articles or photos. 

You know the subject (at least that is what you think) and you can write some articles on the blog's subject, which people will like to read. Or, you might have thought of starting blogging without much expertise, to earn some pocket money.

Perhaps you have also applied the SEO tricks that you read on the web and even paid a few dollars for promoting the blog.

Whichever type of blogger you are, you are prone to making mistakes on the blog, which look small but impact the blog in a big way. These mistakes make your blog unreadable/ dull and boring. And your blog does not receive much traffic.

Without going into the thory of why some things work and others do not work well on a new (even established) blog, let me take you straight to what you should NOT do on the blog. If you take care of such mistakes, the chances of your success in blogging improve in a big way.

1. Improper blog title

Look at your blog's title carefully. If it does not relate to the subject of the blog or is too abstract or witty to make good sense, you must change it. Luckily, you can change the blog title any number of times as it is not related to the domain name (or URL or web address) of the blog.

Let's see some examples of poor titles:

  • Mayank's Blog (no relation with topic; this title can be OK if Mayank wants to profile himself on the blog and he does not write on specific topics)
  • Yoga for everybody (too broad, commonplace)
  • Mystery that I am (abstract)
  • Homepage (no title given)
  • Start a blog effectively (action oriented, but not clear about what specifically lies in the post)
  • Reducing belly fat (passive)
  • Recipes from the far east (passive heading; also not defining the geographical region clearly)
2. Poor post headings

This is similar to having a poor blog title. If you are one who does not bother about the headings of your posts, change that habit. If your posts have headings that do not prompt readers about what the post talks about and they are not sharp enough, you need to revise them.

Passive, too descriptive, confusing post headings are not liked by readers; they also are not easily indexed by search engines. 

It would help to look at the headings of your old posts and make them direct, action filled, even provocative. A heading that tells the reader that answer to his problem lies in the post. Modern search engines also love good titles that directly answer search queries.

CoSchedule headline analyzer is an excellent free tool for improving headlines.

3. Poor display and Clutter

If you believe that writing is good enough for a blog, think again. Your blog is like a newspaper or magazine, and if you do not spruce it with visual elements, it will look too boring. 

Put photographs or other types of images, even videos, to support the written part. When putting images or videos, make sure you have the right to use them.

Many things matter in deciding the appeal of a website (including blog), and nothing destroys the appeal more than clutter - too many elements scattered aimlessly. Too many widgets. Too many columns. Too many photos and video thumbnails. Too many different blocks of texts.

I have seen many blogs in which there is weird coloring of text or background. This looks childish - and should be used only on kid blogs or blogs on creative/ performing arts, not on other type of blogs.


Keep your blog neat and clean, the way a good homemaker keeps his/ her house. A bad web design (and a good website design that is spoiled by too many elements), both make the blog unprofessional and clumsy. 

4. Poor readability

We are still on design, not on the quality of writing (the next point). 

Some actions by bloggers that reduce readability are: 

  • reverse text colour display [white text on black background]
  • poor contrast between the background and the text: light text on light background or dark text on dark background
  • background image with varying contrast
  • too fast or too slow scrolling text
  • animated text
  • animations over text
  • too narrow reading column
  • unconventional experiments with font and text display
  • prose written with central or right alignment
Do not let your blog's great content suffer just because you have made it such that it irritates the reader. 

Also make posts as big or small as would suit your blog's personality. If you can write only short posts, you should better be writing on Facebook or Twitter. If you write too long posts, don't forget to make sections with distinct sub-headings and to put images so as to break monotony and improve understanding. 

5. Poor writing skills

When you don't care for language and proof, your reputation as a blogger goes down. People might forgive sloppy writing and errors on a personal blog, but not on a professional blog.

Some of the common problems with writing are:

  • ‘I-don’t-care’ attitude towards language. This happens because of attitude and sometimes to hide language illiteracy.
  • random experimentation with language
  • grammatical mistakes
  • proofing mistakes (wrong spellings, improper use of punctuation marks, wrong capitalization, etc)
  • language not easy and flowing for the web: long-winded, sentences; long paragraphs; no text variation and highlighting, especially when a large number of things are discussed; very long posts [and refusing to break them into two]; using obscure expressions and quotes; linguistic show-off
6. Irregular posting

You create an outstanding blog with a great design, highly relevant domain name, great content and what not. You write a few great articles too. But after that you take a long break, thinking that visitors and money will keep flowing in.

Don't do that if you want visitors to come to you regularly and look for updates. Without visitors coming to it, the blog would die. Don't let that happen.

7. Not doing any promotion, especially offline

To think that the quality of your writings will propel the blog does not pay on the web, unless you already are a celebrity, a popular influencer or a recognized expert.

Your blog is like a small shop in the crowded market. Unless you tell people about what you sell, people will not know about the shop or its merchandise. They will pass by it without pausing and making a purchase even if your product is best in the class. You need to put a good sign board, maybe a signage at the turning, perhaps also an advt in the local paper and a pamphlet inside newspapers.

If you do not engage with fellow bloggers, flaunt the blog on social media, submit the blog to directories, send emails to your friends and make the blog posts friendly to search engines, very few people will visit the blog. 

You must promote your blog even if you do not want to make money out of it. Since blogs are a more serious way of expressing oneself than Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and WhatsApp, the blog will wither away if you do not promote it on your social networks and also through email etc. 

8. Too much money-seeking, too early

I have also seen some less bloggers putting many advertisements on the blog without letting the blog to mature and establish itself.

A big number of people, especially young adults with engineering/ IT background, are drawn to blogging and website-making just for earning quick bucks. Their blogs are stuffed with keywords and they apply SEO tricks to earn money by fooling users and search engines.

Too much money mindedness can derail you from your path to being a successful blogger. If you are not passionate about a subject but want to blog because it will get you BIG money and QUICKLY, you better look at other avenues of money making. 

9. Dividing time un-intelligently

If you spend disproportionately big time on one aspect of blogging, you are likely to ignore other important aspects. The result will be that the ignored area will act as a bottleneck in the growth of the blog.

If you give too much time to many areas but you do not have the capacity to keep doing so, it may lead to burnout. I have seen many bloggers concentrating on writing only OR doing SEO all the time while writing poor content OR socializing too much but not writing enough. Many bloggers give up when they find that they cannot cope up with the work.

It is not that too much work is involved in blogging but bloggers get exhausted when they do not use time intelligently. So, divide time between writing, optimizing & making the blog appealing, promotion and monetization.


blogging success tips: avoid mistakes

Let me end this post by repeating what I said at the beginning: for success in blogging, it is equally important that you avoid mistakes. I will talk about more mistakes that bloggers make, in the next post. Till then, good bye!

TikTok and now Shoelace: trying to change the social networking game

You have heard of TikTok but not of Shoelace, right? Perhaps yes.

While TikTok is presently the most downloaded app on Google Playstore, much ahead of Facebook and Instagram, Shoelace is not yet there.

Let's talk about TikTok first.

TikTok is a video sharing social media app owned by Chinese IT major, ByteDance. It allows users to post short videos, and is very popular in a number of countries. Though less popular than Facebook and some other social media platforms, its growth in recent years has been phenomenal. It is available in as many as 75 languages and is among the most downloaded mobile apps.

Since one can create a short video instantly and add many effects, the app tends to be highly popular among groups of young people who like to communicate with entertaining videos. In areas where it is very popular, it has given rise to 'TikTok celebrities'. Some of them claim to be making big bucks from advertisers.

TikTok's popularity has led to its inappropriate use and thus the platform has courted content related controversies. Some countries have even banned it temporarily or permanently because of such content, which includes pornography, cyberbullying and blasphemy. Data privacy has been a big issue with the app.

Next, Shoelace.

Shoelace is Google's new social networking offer: a new app. It is available only in NewYork right now and you can download it only if you get an invite for that. Unlike major other apps, it is hyper-local, i.e. meant for networking in a specific geographical area.

Shoelace is meant to keep poking you on new happenings around you so that you get social in your real life. You are also suggested like-minded people and social activities such as dining together. 

You can learn about Shoelace first-hand here: Shoelace New York

While TikTok is about quick sharing of videos and the new smart-phone savvy generation has lapped it, Shoelace may succeed or it may wither like many other experiments - including some by Google. The experimentation is important even if it fails, because new platforms and new ways of socializing that we see today are the outcome of such experimentations.

shoelace by Google
Shoelace

How frequently should I update the blog

This post is in response to queries I have received about how frequently one should update the blog.

The questions are like these: Whether I should blog everyday? How frequently should I post? I am updating my blog regularly but not getting much traffic, why?  What is the minimum frequency per week for a blog to be popular? How many times in a week should one blog so as to earn from it?...

You should update your blog according to its niche, your content, competition's posting habits, and interest of your audience - all of them are linked.  Of course,  a big deciding factor would be how much resources you want to spend on the blog and what you want to achieve from it. 

Since organic traffic does not chase blogs any more because of competition from social networking and instant messaging sites, social media integration is as much important as frequency of posting. You must publish all your major blog posts on your social networking sites, after proper modifications.

It has been documented that traffic on the blog goes up when frequency of blogging is increased. However, the increased is less when the frequency is raised to a very high level.

The right frequency of posting on the blog is important for success in blogging. Too less updation makes the blog lost in the crowd of millions of new posts being written everyday. On the other hand, too high a frequency might take too much resources without corresponding benefits. A high frequency also means most of your posts could be without adequate research. 

frequency of updating blogs
   
I will close the topic with some examples to illustrate the points made above about the desirable frequency of posting for different types of blogs:
  • If you write about daily news of your area, you will need to update it at least once a day and sometimes more than that. If there is a breaking news or something really big, you might need to be online all the time. 
  • If you write on gadgets, you will be expected to update the blog at least once a week as new gadgets are regularly released. Since there are hundreds of bloggers and consumer websites are your competitors here, you will need to be quite frequent and on the dot. You will need to post immediately when a gadget that was being anticipated for a long time is released.
  • If you write on very serious topiccs, e.g. research in a specialized field, you may write when a new develpment takes place in that field, and that could be rare. However, so as to keep the blog active, you should keep writing knowdge-based posts.
  • If your topics deserve well-researched posts of a good length, your readers will not expect short posts. They would patiently wait for your long posts even if you publish posts only once in a while.