Blogging to Nobody?

Nobody on board

Oh, dear reader, I was so naive! When I began blogging, all those year ago, I thought that the aim of my endeavours was to develop a large readership. To gradually, through perseverance and good writing, increase the number of people who read my blog.

The Dream of a Big Blog

And although I’m naturally a humble kind of guy, I dared to dream that I would eventually have a loyal following, a steadily increasing band of followers. Careful readers who enjoyed my words, employed my advice and conversed in comments.

The Reality of a Small Blog

So far, that has not happened. I don’t cause controversy, or get many comments. Sometimes I wonder if anyone’s reading at all. But that doesn’t get me down.

Why a Small Blog is Still a Good Blog

My blog doesn’t need to be big to be good. Because this blog is good every time it is read by any one person (like you). If one person reads a sentence or two of my blog and thinks something positive, or gets a nice impression of me, then it’s worthwhile.

Blog – the Window into the Website

One of the web’s biggest problem is its facelessness. The web is anonymous, technological, artificial. It can be cold and scary. Blogs give us a chance to be human, and to chat a bit. We can be less formal, less contained and more revealing about our personalities.

My blog lets me drop my guard and write the way I speak. And that lets people get to know me, which seems to help them decide to employ me.

Keep Blogging!

So even if you only have a handful of subscribers and a trickle of daily traffic, keep it up! A neglected blog is never a good advert for anything.

How to Do More on the Web – A Few Ideas

How to Sell More on the Web:

A Thoughtful Approach to Crafting Success

This guide isn’t just about selling more on the web: it’s about achieving your goals, whatever they are.

That might mean selling tickets to your gigs, or getting donations for your charity, or building support for your big idea. Whatever you’re trying to do, the principles and ideas covered will apply to you. Just bend the suggestions until they make sense for you.

Good websites are full of people’s ideas. Anything worthwhile needs a bit of brain-space. As soon as you start thinking about your website your chances of success increase dramatically. Most websites suck and fail because they are designed and built in haste and then left to gather dust. Always view your website as an evolving work in progress.

If you get stuck, and can’t find a way to progress, email – if I can spare a few minutes I’ll think about your conundrum.

This guide should answer questions like:

  • Why doesn’t anyone visit my website?
  • Why do people come to my website, but never buy anything?
  • What can I do to create interest around my website?

Who is this for?

This guide is designed to help anyone with a website. If you’re a very experienced website creator/owner/manager then this guide might not offer anything new. But if your website doesn’t do a lot, then you might find a few useful ideas.

Success Doesn’t Have to Lead You to Evil

Selling more things, or recruiting more donors, or persuading people that your scheme is brilliant does not need to involve under-hand tactics. Success does not require evil.

If you’re offering something useful then you should let people know. This guide is all about how you can let people know.

Part 1: Thinking about Your Customers

Before you think about your website, you need to think about the people that you created it for: your customers.

  • Who are they?
  • What do they want?
  • Why do they want your products?
  • What can you offer them?
  • Where are they?
  • How can you get in front of them?

Who Are Your Customers?

If you’re going to sell anything to anybody, you’ll need to establish who wants what you’ve got. Are they:

  • Young, old, or in-between
  • Male or female
  • Organised around a niche
  • Highly web-literate or borderline Luddites
  • Pinko liberals or conservatives?

Identify your target audience. Think about who they are. Imagine you are them. Step into their shoes and consider their motivations. Ask yourself:

  • What do I want?
  • What am I trying to achieve?
  • What are my concerns?
  • What would make me happy?

Why Do Your Customers Want Your Products?

Okay, so you know what you’re offering, what it does and why people use it… or do you? Do you really know why people use your things, or engage your services?

You might think you know exactly what people are doing with your stuff, but you might be surprised to learn that people are misusing your products – or that they really just want your services for a reason other than the ones you intended.

Luckily, it’s easy enough to find out what your customers are up to. Just ask them. And you don’t need to set up a survey and harvest reams of data. Just call a few people and have a chat.

A few examples of products that have found unintended uses:


Thanks to the following for their suggestions:

Meeting Your Clients in the Middle

Your products and services might be valued for reasons other than the ones you know about. If people think about your work in different ways to you, address this in your website’s copy.

Related blog post:

Apple’s Honesty Policy

What Can You Offer Your Customers?

Are there other ways you could help your customers? Are there additional products or services that fit with your existing range? What would people like from you? How can you make people’s lives better, easier or more fulfilling?

Don’t just assume that your products and services have to stop where they are now. If there’s something more you can offer – something real, something useful and desirable – then start offering it.

Crafting Your Offer to Match Your Customers

Many businesses decide what they do, then create products and services that they think are required, then offer them for sale. Rarely do businesses ask what is required – what is wanted – and then offer it.

It’s easier to sell the thing that people want, than it is to sell the thing that you need to sell. So if you’re struggling to sell something, consider changing it until it meets people’s needs.

Again, it’s a good idea to spend time talking to your clients. And don’t make it complicated. Just pick up the phone, dial a number, say hi, ask some questions.

Related blog post:

Don’t Treat Your Website Like a Commodity

End of Part 1

That’s it for Part 1. Part 2 will look at your products and services (although really we’ve already thought about this, but in relation to how your customers think about your products and services.) Part 2 is the shortest section.

In Part 3, we’ll explore the aspects of your website that might be failing. This will cover SEO, social media and other wonderful things.

The Absence of Marketing

Oh, and did you notice that I haven’t mentioned marketing ? There’s a good reason for that. Many people in marketing are disreputable,  unlovable rogues who smarm their way through life with slick grins and thin lies. ‘Marketing’ is a word so loaded with negative connotations that I prefer to discuss ‘marketing’ without using the word.

Recent Contributions to Other Blogs

I’ve been a promiscuous blogger! Hope you enjoy the following posts:


Freelance Advisor

Freelance Supermarket

Ryanair’s Marketing Suicide – Idiot Bloggers Bite Back?

Ryanair responded to a blogger’s post about a glitch on their website with juvenile, aggressive comments. (You can read the full Times story of Ryanair’s peculiar response to a blogger’s innocuous post here: Ryanair, best for cheap.)

Ryanair are a budget airline. The entire business is run on a shoestring in order to provide cheap flights. Clearly, shoestrings don’t create the most joyful of workforces, and perhaps this is the cause of the vitriolic reaction to a well-intended post by a blogger.

The interesting thing about this story is that Ryanair have followed up negative and bitter comments on the original blog post with official statements that are even more damning:

“Ryanair can confirm that a Ryanair staff member did engage in a blog discussion. It is Ryanair policy not to waste time and energy in corresponding with idiot bloggers and Ryanair can confirm that it won’t be happening again.

Lunatic bloggers can have the blog sphere [sic] all to themselves as our people are far too busy…”

Now, the reason this is crazy is because, even if Ryanair really don’t care what bloggers think or write, and even if Ryanair are happy to create such a negative media storm needlessly and pointlessly, then they should care about the effect of all the negative links. “Idiot bloggers” may have a considerable impact on the results that appear when people search for Ryanair.

Perhaps the people who want extremely cheap flights don’t care about the negative publicity…? Is that why Ryanair think it’s acceptable to behave in this manner?

Whatever happens, it’s sad that Ryanair couldn’t have joined the online discussion in a more sociable way!

Refusing Blogs – Should You Tell Clients: “No blog for you!” ?

Hard work can hurt
Blogging is hard work. It’s not a quick, easy way to build web traffic. It’s time consuming and easy to get wrong. So should web developers and social media consultants be less keen to offer them to clients?

Andy Budd recently blogged about social media consultants, and his post got me thinking.

As Andy points out, many corporate blogs are dull, unpopular and don’t reward the effort expended on them. Some organisations are never going to be able to blog well. If everyone’s too busy – or too bored – to blog, what’s the point in having one?

Should web developers and social media consultants think twice before loading another organisation up with a blog? Perhaps there should be a test to prove commitment to the blog before you’re allowed to have one.

Of course, the question of whether blogs are suitable for an organisation applies to other social media tools. And I think that’s the point – not all social media tools suit all organisations.

It reminds of me of pet ownership. Everyone wants a pet, but nobody wants to pick up the poop, or walk it. Well, you want to walk it at first, when it’s fun. But then it’s cold, or raining, or Top Gear is on, and you don’t want to walk it any more. Who is going to keep blogging when Top Gear is on?

(Picture courtesy of normalityrelief via Flickr)

Writing for Bloggers

As requested, here’s a blog post version of my writing guide for bloggers, which is also available as a PDF.

Writing for Bloggers –

A Quick Guide on Style, Substance and Strategy

This is a short guide that wants to encourage you to blog, and to blog well. The most important thing to remember is that blogging is about conversing – discussing the things that interest you. When you blog, you join in the online discussions that are happening all around us.

Blogging is about sharing your ideas and thoughts, and it’s about contributing. Blogging is not about poetry, great literature or polished prose.

So join in the conversation, and don’t be afraid of getting things wrong. It’s better to stumble your way through blogging, learning by doing, than to spend hours agonising over every blog post.

Why bother?

Before we look at how you can blog well, and enjoy it, let’s consider why you’re doing this. Think about which of the following apply to you:

  1. To promote your business
  2. To reflect on your personal development
  3. To announce your news
  4. To share discoveries
  5. Because your boss says you have to
  6. To stake out your corner of the web
  7. To improve your website’s Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)
  8. To get recognition for your work
  9. To connect more personally to your customers
  10. To provide a platform for customer feedback

Conversational communications

Blogging is very different from traditional media (like newspapers or TV) because the web allows everyone to become the producers and commentators of every item of news. Your blog should acknowledge the conversations already taking place around you.

How can you hold a conversation on the web?

  • Invite comment from your readers
  • Respond to commentators’ opinions
  • Freely link to relevant blog posts
  • Comment on other bloggers’ posts

What to write?

An empty blog can be intimidating – and as uninspiring as a blank page or white screen. Before you start blogging, it can be difficult to decide what subjects to cover. You may be wondering:

  • What is permissible?
  • What will be interesting?
  • How will I come up with ideas?

Deciding what’s right to write about

Your understanding of the ‘subject’ of your blog will probably change over time. As you write more blog posts, you’ll learn which things work and which things don’t. To start with, stick to what you know, or what you feel most comfortable writing about.

A note on subjects you know and subjects you don’t know:

You don’t have to be the world’s foremost authority on a subject in order to write about it. Blogging is about discovery and development as much as it’s about sharing ideas or knowledge. If you’re not certain about a particular topic or subject area, say so. Your readers will appreciate your honesty.

Where do ideas come from?

The hardest time to find ideas for blog posts is at the start. That’s because you’ve said nothing at all, and everything remains to be said. Once you start blogging, ideas flow as though a dam has burst – one idea leads to another, readers suggest new posts, comments beg to be answered, the Blogosphere* draws you inwards, onwards!

To begin with, try brainstorming ideas with a friend or colleague. Look at other blogs for inspiration. Try a list – something like ‘The Top 10 Tricks for…” Turn a list into a series – so rather than giving away ten ideas in one blog post, create ten blog posts – publishing one a week for the next ten weeks.

Why not write about…

  • A book you’ve read
  • A problem you’ve solved
  • A question you can’t answer
  • Something that inspires you
  • What motivates you
  • A recent project
  • A favourite client


How often will you blog? It’s a good idea to set a target. If you’re starting out, aim for one post per week, as a minimum. Twice a week is better.

Once you have a list of blog post titles or rough ideas for posts, outline a schedule for posting. Decide which post you’ll publish on which day. Mark the posts on a calendar. Tell your readers when you will be posting, and don’t let them down!

Writing for your blog

Luckily, the way we communicate has moved on from the lessons we learned in school. Here are some old-school rules you can forget about:

  • Split infinitives. What is a split infinitive? It doesn’t matter.
  • Contractions. Words like: can’t, don’t, shouldn’t. Feel free to use contractions, especially if they make your writing sound more conversational.
  • Repeating words. If you’re writing about computer networks (for example), it’s okay to repeat the words ‘computer networks’.

What’s the point?

The best way to start writing a blog post is by defining your purpose. Answer the questions:

  • What am I trying to say?
  • Who am I writing this for?
  • What do I want to achieve?

Remember your reader

Be nice to your reader. Think about them as you write. It’s them that you are writing for:

  • After writing a blog post, leave it overnight, then review it again. You’re more likely to spot mistakes or problems with your posts after taking a break.
  • Use sub-headings to break up the text. Remember that reading on screen can be hard on the eyes. Sub-headings help people to scan your posts – great for readers in a hurry!
  • Use a spell-checker.
  • Ask a friend or colleague to read your blog posts before you publish them. Ask them to check that your posts make sense.

The Internet: nothing to fear

Some people worry about the reaction their blog posts will receive. You shouldn’t worry. As long as you write informative, useful blog posts in a friendly, considerate way, you will receive friendly, polite responses from your readers.


Hyperlinks, or links – the clickable text that leads you from one website to another – are one of the things that makes the web such a special place. You can use links to provide evidence for your claims, or support for your argument, or additional resources for your readers. Use links in your writing wherever they might be useful.

Writing makes you a better writer

I hope this brief guide has given you a few pointers to get writing. With any kind of writing, the only way to learn and improve is to write.

Imagine that you have a writing muscle. You might not have exercised this muscle recently, but all you need to do is start writing. So start writing, and flex your writing muscles!

Key Points:

  • Blogging is conversational – write as you would speak, and be open to comments from your readers
  • Schedule your blog posts in a calendar and blog regularly
  • It’s okay to split infinitives, use contractions and repeat words
  • Use short sentences and headings to make your writing easier to read on screen
  • Ask someone to read your posts before you publish them, and use a spell-checker
  • Regular writing practice will improve your writing skills
  • Don’t be afraid of making mistakes – become a better blogger by blogging!

Thanks to the following for their input: (who responded to my request for readers on Twitter)

Writing for Bloggers – A Quick Guide on Style, Substance and Strategy

So here it is – my second guide to writing for the web.

Writing for Bloggers – A Quick Guide on Style, Substance and Strategy

This guide focuses on blogging, and things bloggers can do to improve their writing. It’s a very short guide, intended to cover the basics and remove obstacles in the paths of new bloggers.

If you would like the white label version to give your clients, email me and I’ll send you a copy. Please distribute freely – I want to encourage people to blog.

Thanks to the following for their input: (who responded to my request for readers on Twitter)

Bloggers vs. Journalists

This recent article from the Guardian suggests that journalists should learn lessons from bloggers, and adapt.Lego Blogger

While I agree with the author’s assertion that journalists should be less suspicious of bloggers and their work, I don’t agree that "there is no perfect example of journalists and bloggers working in harmony". Surely bloggers and journalists are working in harmony all the time? Journalists write articles which appear in news outlets, and then bloggers discuss them. It seems like a happy union to me.

For a business that is blogging, or considering blogging as a way to increase the life around their website, the important point to take from this article is the reminder that blogging is a conversation . To quote Adam Tinworth :

"Most media people don’t realise that blogging is a community strategy. They think of it as a publishing process… They certainly don’t think of it as a conversation."

You’ll have much greater success as a blogger if you invite discussion, allow comments and refer to other bloggers. Although, if you prefer, you’re quite welcome to sit and talk to yourself .

(Lego Blogger picture courtesy of minifig )

Calling all Brighton Geeks – Project Brighton Needs Your News!

Have you got a Brighton technology or new media story? Has your organisation got something going on?

Project Brighton wants your news.

Project Brighton is a series of projects and initiatives promoting and supporting the digital community in Brighton.

Project Brighton wants to tell the world about Brighton’s thriving geek community.

I’m going to be blogging for Project Brighton so if you have a story to tell or an interesting project you’d like to shout about, get in touch.

Brighton’s Best New Media Content Collected

James Wragg’s Planet BNM website collects blog posts from Brighton’s new media bloggers.

Anyone interested in what’s happening in Brighton’s digital scene should take a look. And if you’re blogging new media in Brighton, join the list!

Blogging for Business – Free White Paper

Free White Paper – Blogging for Business (click here to download PDF document)

Have you ever wondered how your business can use blogging? Or wondered why blogging might be useful?

Our new white paper looks at the benefits blogging can bring your business, and gives clear instructions to get you started.

If you’re not sure what a blog is, click here.

Thanks to Madhava Bailey of Dharmafly and Raj Anand of Kwiqq – fellow bloggers who also worked on this white paper.

Let’s chat about your projectContact us