Monday 13 March 2017

How to write a successful blog

Last week was the most successful in the history of this blog, in terms of blog hits. We had an unprecedented surge in hits, over 25,000 in a single week.  Our most successful ever month was November 2012, where we had a staggering 46,000. It could well be that we beat that this month. Only time will tell. The Barnet Eye has never set out to be anything other than a hyperlocal blog, dealing primarily with issues in and around the London Borough of Barnet. Since I was diagnosed with cancer in 2011, I have also written blogs on this subject, as well as dyslexia (which has been the bane of my life since I was a child). I felt it was important to come out as a dyslexic, when it became apparant that the blog was successful. We also have a weekly joke, a weekly poem and blogs on music (as that is my lifes passion). If nothing else I hoped that it may inspire other dyslexics to catalog their experiences. Another vital ingredient are the guest blogs, which we occasionally carry. We will, sometime soon breach the 2 million hits. I can honestly say that I never expected anything like this level of success.

I sometimes get asked what is the secret of the success of the Barnet Eye? There is no single magic trick, but there are a number of key elements in the recipe that makes the pudding. Here are my top five ingredients for success.

1. Sheer hard work. When I started blogging, I was told that it was important to have new content on a regular basis. I took this to mean every day.  Since 2008, I've written 4972 blogs on this site. If each one took an hour (about the average), that is 207 full days blogging! I've averaged more than one a day. Generally, I spend the idle moments of the day mentally composing them. I work our what I want to research and what stance I want to take. Often when I research the subjects, I change my mind on the issue. For every blog I've written there is one I've abandoned. Often I've woken up at 5am, needing to resolve an issue. In 2012, I was told that it is not good to get too stressed, so I've cut down on the volume, as I was writing nearly two a day then. I read two newspapers a day, cover to cover. These are the Daily Express and The Guardian. I think this gives me a balanced perspective. It has been sad to see the degeneration of the quality of journalim on both over the eight years of the blog. It is good to get a left and a right wing perspective. Sadly both have got much more preachy over the period.

2. Be consistent. It is good for readers to know what to expect when. That is why the joke is on Friday, the Poem on Wednesday, the Tweets of the week on Sunday and the List on a Saturday. On subjects such as cancer and dyslexia, I put a preamble, so new readers know the background. I put "don't read this if you've been following the series". It is also helpful to use the keywords as an indexing system. It also helps me if I need to look at what I've said previously.

3. Write about subjects that matter to you. When you write with passion, it is always better for the reader. It is also important to be honest. There are some subjects I don't write about, because I don't want to share personal information with readers and I couldn't write a blog without one. Parenting is one such issue. There are things I'd like to say, but I have to respect my wife and my children.

4. Try and keep it short. It is very easy to write overlong and overly boring blogs. I've done it myself, especially when I started. I read some of the older blogs and think "did I read these back?" I sincerely believe less is more.

5. Be brave and take risks. I don't mean libel people, but I do mean write things that may provoke people. It is important to have facts to back up what you have to say. Don't just regurgitate tittle tattle though. It is amazing what you can find out if you bother to look. In my case, I found that looking at members registers of interest and expenses said everything I wanted to say, when researching dodgy politicians. It was never necessary to make accusations. I simply published comprehensive evidence of bludging. It did the trick (well that and a lot of hard work).

So has it made a difference? Very much so, I've not achieved everything, but I've acheived far more than I believed possible when I started in 2008. Here's to the next nine years.

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