Thursday, June 6, 2013

What Your Blog Says About You: Part Two -- Content

Closely related to the personality of your blog, is the content. One informs the other to a certain extent. I mean, if you want the personality of your blog to be humorous, you don't want your content to be about death or terminal illness or human trafficking or climate change or... I'm sure you get the idea. Although, now that I think about it, a humor blog about death could be, well, funny.
Don't eat the salmon mousse, right?

Your choice of content is the biggest factor in determining who's going to read your blog. In that respect, choosing a topic like "writing" is going to significantly decrease your potential audience. Sure, there may be lots of people out there that think they can write a book and many people with some scribblings, but most people don't want to spend a lot of time reading about how to write. And if your specific topic is grammar... well, good luck with that. No matter how funny you are [See, grammar is one of those topics that most people don't relate to humor, like history. Or quantum physics.], you are not likely to be attracting the masses.

So, then, it's important to look at whom you want your audience to be before you settle on what you want the content of your blog to be. When I started my blog, I knew I didn't want to just talk about writing, because I didn't want to just have other writers reading my blog. Again, as many people as there are out there writing, it's still a small audience, relatively speaking, especially since most people who are out there trying to be writers do it without bothering to really know anything about how to write. (The overall quality of self-published works wouldn't be so piss poor if that were not the case.) And, well, there are so many bloggers that will tell you in excruciating detail the way to be successful as a writer that I didn't want to get mired in all of that.

Which brings us to goals. You have to know the goal for your blog before you can figure out what the content should be. Who is it you want reading your blog? Do you just want other writers? Fine, focus your blog on writing related topics. Do you want your blog to be informational? Focus on the data and post links. Do you want to moms to read your blog? Talk about kids and how to make your house function more efficiently. [Yes, I know that that is somewhat sexist, but it's also mostly true. Hey, it is what it is.] Do you want Republicans? Or Democrats? Talk issues and bash the opposing party. As often as possible. Do you want the whole universe reading your blog? Post silly pictures of cats.
Oh, wait, look!
No, I do not know what went down the drain.
And if you're trying to get readers? Well, one thing you shouldn't do is spend nearly every post you write badmouthing readers. Seriously, this one guy I follow (and, no, I don't know why I still follow him other than that it was a subscription thing and comes into my email and I haven't taken the time to make it stop (Make it stop!)) spends almost every post (and thank goodness he doesn't post frequently (which is another reason why I haven't gotten around to unsubscribing)) complaining about how readers are just bunch of cheapskates that can't even spend the price of a mocha to buy his books. Or, like in his latest post, he published an email from a reader (I'm assuming without permission, because I can not imagine anyone giving permission for this) and went on to "defend" himself against the allegations the writer of the email had put forth against him. I'm not thinking this is going to help win him any new readers.

So, yeah... What is your goal for your blog, and do you have content to match it?

For example, one of the things I believe (and from comments I've received from people, I'm pretty sure I'm correct) is that people that like Star Wars will like The House on the Corner, so I talk about Star Wars. A lot. Not posts and posts about Star Wars, but I make sure it comes up in conversation. So to speak. See what I just did there?

Once you've decided on your audience and your content, stick to it. People will come to your blog to deliver the type of content you've said you'll have. For instance, I tend to stay away from political stuff and religious stuff and sports stuff. Mostly, that type of content just causes controversy, and I carry enough controversy around with me to want to delve into topics already filled with the stuff. Which is not to say that you can't make the occasional exception, like I did back in this post, but, mostly, you need to keep your content pretty consistent. Do the kinds of posts you do and stay away from the kinds of posts you don't do.

Oh, let me just add that I don't stay away from any topic because I'm scared of controversy. Anyone that's been around here for any length of time ought to know that I have strong opinions, and I don't mind sharing them. However, I dislike getting involved in arguments that aren't (ever) going to go anywhere, and any time you start talking about politics or religion or, even, sports, people already have their minds made up and no amount of talking about it is going to change anyone's opinion, which I talked about back in this series. See, I'm a Cowboys fan--I have been since I was a kid--and no amount of arguing with me about it is going to get me to change my mind. Fortunately for you all, I don't really care about football, so saying that I'm a Cowboys fan really isn't saying much. But I'm still not changing my mind.

All of this talk about content has made me look up at my heading (you can look up at it, too). That's the stuff I decided I'd be talking about when I started up my blog. Yes, that hasn't changed since the blog started. That's still the stuff I talk about: writing, reading, movies, pop culture stuff. I've branched out just slightly from that in that I now talk about my pets and kids and whatever general kind of thing might come to mind, but the core of what I blog about is still that stuff at the top.

All of that to say, or to wrap up, or something: Your content is important. There are a lot of blogs that I have given up on because they never say anything. Wait, no, because the blog doesn't say what it says it's going to say. How many of you (those of you that do) would continue to follow Alex if he started talking about his guitar all the time. Every post. It was all about how great rehearsal was or how he'd learned some new song or whatever. He's established a particular type of content, and, if he morphed into only talking about guitar practice, people would quit stopping by. And what about Matthew? What if he quit doing his query letter thing and started talking about his love for ping pong? All the time. I'm guessing not many of you are that interested in a blog about ping pong.

Content may be more important than personality where blogging is concerned, and I almost used it as part one, but I'm gonna guess that most of you never thought specifically about the content of your blog and just let it develop from your personality, which is fine. As I said back at the beginning, the two things inform each other. I chose the topics I chose because I like those topics, so it makes it easy to have things to write about (as opposed to choosing grammar and trying to make gerunds funny (and I think there's a very in-poor-taste joke there about Richard Gere just waiting to happen, but I'm not going to try and figure out what it is)). So, if your content has flowed out of your personality, it may be worth giving it a think, figuring out what your goals are, who you want your target audience to be, and making some adjustments to your content. Or not. It's just one of those things you should at least think about.


  1. Oh, we can make human trafficking and death funny. We have on multiple occasions. Or... at least *I* think it's funny.

    You're absolutely right. It's all about diversity. One of the things that kills me is seeing a writer with a blog that only talks about writing, and then they ask, "Why can't I sell any books?" or "why isn't my blog bigger?" Well, that's because you aren't reaching out to readers. You're only reaching out to writers. And your average reader doesn't want to get online just to hear about some random writer's writing process. They want to be entertained or to learn something. So give that to them. Both if possible.

  2. Good points. Now, you've got me thinking - dangerous!

  3. Again excellent advice. Like you, I try to stay away from controversy because my blog is supposed to be weird and wacky, but sometimes you wouldn't believe the bashing I get from people who clearly have no sense of humor.

  4. I bet Matthew could make ping pong interesting.
    My publisher told me up front not to follow only writers or focus on that. As I feel completely unqualified to talk about writing anyway, that was a no-brainer.
    Bashing one's readers doesn't seem like a good idea.
    Took me a while to find my groove. I just blog about what I enjoy and offer a variety while still sticking to my key topics. When a blogger is all over the map, it's difficult to follow because there's no consistency.
    If I thought I'd attract the attention of John Petrucci, I'd blog about guitars more often though!

  5. My philosophy on blogging is: treat it as an afterthought and the masses will follow.

    Wait, when I write it down like that it doesn't sound that great. Damn.

  6. I don't have a strategy when it comes to blogging. I think part of it is just the way my brain works. If you knew me in person, you'd probably say, "Mike, focus. You're always switching topics mid conversation." And I do. I don't know why. My friend James (who's known me for decades) thinks I have undiagnosed Attention deficit. Anyway, until I get medication for it (which probably isn't going to happen as I feel I do okay and I don't need to be medicated) then my blog topics will be just like me: going from one thing to another.

  7. My main blog is rather bizarre in that the people who follow me aren't directly effected by what I write about (addiction). I always found that kind of strange. Then I began a second blog so I could share my passion for writing and that one tends to have more people who share a common interest.

  8. ABftS: Well, yeah, but your blog's not -about- death or human trafficking. If every post had to be about one of those topics, I think you'd actually grind to halt. Okay, well, maybe not with Death.

    T.: It wouldn't fun if it wasn't dangerous, right?

    JKIR,F!: Well, you know, sometime controversy can jump out of nowhere. I don't actually mind controversy; I just don't like it in areas where people have already built trenches and won't be moved by reason.

    Alex: It is difficult when you can't figure out what a blog is about. Like, my wife and I just tried out Magic City, and three episodes in, I'm still wondering what the show is actually -about-.

    Rusty: You just need to post more cat pictures or videos or something. It completely works that way.

    Michael: Your blog has a pretty distinctive flavor even if you don't think you have a strategy to it. Your content comes from your personality. It seems to be working for you, so that's good.

    Elsie: It's probably of some interest to them or they wouldn't be there reading.

  9. You're absolutely right, content will drive traffic, even more than interaction (visiting other blogs). It always has.

    Personally, my blog isn't really about readers. I don't have any books out, so there wouldn't be much point to it if it was. My blog is about connecting with other writers. That may have to change some day, but not yet.

  10. After a year or so of blogging I noticed the number one topic driving people to my site (aside from the title of the blog) was "women warriors." So, yeah, I decided to start my Badass Women series based on the apparent interest. Though, in reality, I know 99% of those searches were looking for pics of warrior women in metal bikinis. And, well, naturally my most popular post is one offering up a pic of a woman in a metal bikini. :P

  11. Matthew: One of the big things that has driven traffic to my blog is one of the posts about my dog. A new big one is the post on how to be a werewolf. I never thought there would be people out there looking that up for real.

    L.G.: Maybe you should post more of those? I'm kidding. Mostly.

  12. Don't think I won't. Things are so slow in the blogosphere right now I might just post a naked warrior woman every day and see what happens. :P

  13. I'm commenting as I go. This is a comment written in real time, as it were.

    "Salmon mousse?" I went and looked it up. AH. A Monty Python joke. My feeling? Monty Python is only funny when you are being told a Monty Python skit by someone who loves it. It's not funny in the original.


    Grammar can't be funny? CHALLENGE ACCEPTED. I have just added a category to my "pop" blog categories: "Grammar Funnies." I'm not sure what I'll write in there yet but I will not die until I have written a hilarious grammar column.


    There are probably Dad Blogs out there. In fact, Babble,

    has a list of the top 50 from last year. NO, I didn't go read any of them. But there's no doubt you're right: Mommyblogs, which I think we should call "Mlogs", are big business. HUGE Business.


    As are photos of cats.


    Also, I split up my blogs into topics for that reason: if you want to read about kids, you may not care what I think about Obamacare. Not that I do much political blogging anymore. I find I go in and out about that.

    Blogging, I mean. And politics. You can only stay outraged about our president, even the 'good' ones, invading our privacy and ordering explosive missiles detonated against US citizens without due process for so long.

    Which is sad, but also true, but also why we have presidents, even the 'good ones' who get to invade our privacy and blow us up with drones without due process: because even our best and brightest (e.g., 'me') can only remain outraged for so long. Possibly it is the cat pictures that mollify us.


    I think you're right that people who like Star Wars will like House. Then again, people who use the Internet will like Star Wars. Then again again, Star Wars is the root of all Western (e.g., "ours") culture, so you really can't go wrong mentioning Star Wars.

    True Fact I Read (by which I mean it's true that I read it, not True itself): Google uses the first three words of posts to determine how to rank you. That's why on my "me, annotated" blog I've started starting every post with "Sexy". I may make every post be "Sexy Star Wars," followed by a number. Confusing? Yes. Hit maximizing? Probably.

    (A blog called "Sexy Star Wars" that posted only pictures of cats recreating Star Wars scenes might be the single most confusing/wildly successful blog EVER.)



    *Boycotts blog*

    *Ends boycott*

    I can't quit you.

    You don't like Romo, do you? Is it because you grew up in the South? What about the Saints? Did you grow up in the South? The Cowboys are horrible. Not at football -- they're mediocre at that. They're horrible at... I don't know, not being likeable.

    Anyway, I'm a Bills fan. Your 'boys stole two Super Bowls from my team. And by "stole" I mean "legitimately won, darn you."

  14. continued...


    Hey, I just realized something. YOU BLOG ABOUT GRAMMAR fairly frequently. Are you just trying to scare people away from that topic? Is this like when The Maestro told Jerry there were no houses in Tuscany?


    I would read about Alex's guitar. I very much prefer blogs about people's lives over blogs that try to teach me something. Alex's blog is pretty amazing, but it could use more guitar.


    In that, I didn't know up until this post that Alex played guitar.


    I don't know Matthew. Do I?

    Here's what I think: blog about anything at all, if you write interestingly. I am interested in people who write interesting things. You write in an interesting way and talk about interesting stuff. That's why I can read an entire post about "Magic" and not think "Huh. I'll just go watch a video."

    So a blog about ping pong might be fascinating, if it's well-written and contains interesting stuff.

    In part, it's easy to be interesting or get followers if you write about stuff that's easy to write about. A blog about Star Wars will probably get lots of hits even if it's basic or poorly written. Sports blogs can get followers pretty easily. It's tougher to have something unique or interesting or well-said, and tougher still about topics that don't easily lend themselves to being interesting. Liz writes about substitute teaching, which is pretty interesting in and or itself, and about knitting, which isn't -- but she makes it more fun.


    I never thought at first about what my blogs would be about. I first had "Thinking The Lions" because it was a blog I had. That was all the thought I gave it. Then I started what was then my horror fiction blog and now is defunct, really, because I wanted to post short stories.

    Then I tried to buy a refrigerator one day, and the experience was so frustrating that I thought "I could easily be upset and annoyed and enraged about this, or I could see the humor in it," so I wrote a post called "Why Can't You Just Buy A Refrigerator?" and decided that my blog would be a mostly-funny look at my life. Then I read David Sedaris and thought "Yeah, like that."

    Later blogs came later, and for other reasons.


    My goal is to tell stories.

    And talk about stuff.

    I want to try to entertain people outside of my immediate circle with the stuff I do, and show them a bit of how my life is and what my viewpoint on the world is.

    And I use my blogs to write stories, actual stories.

    And I use them to talk about things that people in my life don't care so much about, but which I want to talk to people about, so I use the Internet as a discussion group.

    (Occasionally monopolizing some poor guy's (e.g., "you") blog comments to do so.)

  15. I am one of those bloggers who is all over the place, I blog about whatever interests me at the time of writing and hope my readers will enjoy what I write.


  16. L.G.: That sounds like an interesting experiment.

    Briane: I find a lot of it funny in the original, BUT you have to have the right company when you start out on it.

    I think grammar can be funny in small doses. Gerunds are hilarious. Just say it, and you'll understand. However, I'm not sure there's a lot of sustained funny if you're teaching grammar, only in grammar mistakes.

    I think you have a winner with your Sexy Cat Star Wars. I can't wait to see that. Although I'm not really sure how you'll go about it. Maybe, cats have a union or something, and you can just hire them? It might, though, make the Internet implode. In your house.

    Actually, I was born in Irving. I'm from a family of Cowboys fans. I think it's genetic or something. I haven't been remotely interested in football, though, since Aikman and Emmitt retired. Staubach was my quarterback, although Aikman was a pretty good stand in.

    I never watched Seinfeld, so I'm not grokking your reference.
    I mostly try to avoid blogging about grammar, because it's difficult to make it funny.

    And as for the rest, yes, I agree that you can blog about anything if it's well done, but you might have a hard time getting people over to your blog to begin with if the focus of your blog is, say, dental floss. You could tell me, "Man, I found the most hilarious blog today!"
    And I'd say, "Really, what's that?"
    And you'd say, "It's about dental floss..."
    And I wouldn't hear the rest, because I'd be thinking, "What the heck? Dental Floss? Why would I want to read that?"

    In that respect, the content is important.

    But, yeah, if you can drive people in, write what you want to write. Or write what you want to write without worrying about whether Field of Dreams was correct or not.

    Jo: But you have recipes, and people know to expect that. The rest is kind of like icing.

  17. I've GOT to go visit Briane P...that was one of the best comments I've ever read! Hilarious!

    The purpose of my blog is to practice technically I can write about anything, and have, but mostly, as you know, I write about my family and embarrassing things I've done to myself, and childhood stories. I also like blogfests. A LOT. I'm a joiner, what can I say...
    It is funny to look at what people search for when they end up at my blog. For example, I told a true story about a semester long prank I pulled on my physics professor. One of my post popular posts. It's called "How to Survive Physics" or something close to that, and it's THE most frequent search that hits my blog. That and a picture of a catamaran...What I'm wondering though is why would a person turn to the internet to see how to survive physics instead of asking a fellow student??? But then again, I went to college WAAAY before the internet...
    Tina @ Life is Good

  18. Forgot to subscribe...

  19. Tina: I hate when I forget to subscribe!

    I love Briane's blog(s), even when he's doing sponsored posts.

    Okay, now, I have to go see how you pulled off a semester long prank...

  20. You can also tell when people are blogging for SEO or blogging because they enjoy it.
    It's important to know where you're at with that, too.
    I started out blogging for SEO.
    Now that I have an audience, and found that I enjoy it, I blog to share my thoughts and inspire others (barf). It's a small addiction. Hey, at least it's not heroin.

  21. Hayley: Um, I can't tell that. I'm not really sure how you would blog just for that purpose. I mean, I understand that having a blog would help, but I'm not clear on how you would use a blog to increase your ranking.

  22. I guess goals can change. Mine do at least. I'm all over the place with my eclectic blog. Maybe I lose readers over it, though I'm more inclined to believe that my lack of commenting in the past few months has contributed most to that decline.

    The fact is that I get bored sticking to one thing too much and I like to use my blogs for experimentation. Maybe that's a hindrance, but I think it's also become a bit of a trademark for me. It's good to be somewhat predictable, but not predictable all of the time.

    I like the controversy because I like comments like some of those I get from you and others. I don't try to stir up controversy for the sake of antagonizing anyone, but to stimulate discussion that hopefully includes more sides than one.

    Tossing It Out

  23. Lee: Part of it being eclectic is it being all over the place, though, right?

    If people would just listen to me and accept that I'm correct, we wouldn't have need for any controversy anywhere. :P
    But, yeah, I never got the idea that you were doing it just to cause trouble.