I don’t pretend to be an expert on the topic of blogging, education or otherwise. Some blogs get more traffic in hour than I have reached in the last 8 months. But this is what I know from being a non-entity to almost 14,000 hits in less than a year: the writing content is the easy bit of blogging, building up a community to support your blog is where the challenge actually lies. So unless you happen to be a celebrity, in which case you have a ready-made brand, you are going to have to expend effort building readers and commentators for your blog.
What’s your purpose?
Before you even decide to set up a blog you need to ask yourself your purpose. Why are you blogging? Can you sum it up in a sentence or a blog post? Knowing why you blog is important because if you don’t know why you are blogging, you won’t know who the community of your blog is and what you will be blogging about.
Authentic voice – don’t try to be all things to all people
This blog is written from the perspective of a student teacher based in New Zealand. Therefore my posts are related to becoming a teacher with occasional forays into topical educational-related issues in the New Zealand news. I don’t pretend this blog is in anyway written by an expert in educational issues which I hope is part of its charm. I’m taking you on my journey from a student teacher to a real teacher. A life in transition makes for great blogging material, so think about where you want to go as well as where you are right now.
Who is your community?
Knowing who will be reading your blog is important because you need to find ways of tapping into that community. For this blog I the know readership is going to be other student teachers, NZ-based teachers, some overseas-based teachers, teacher education lecturers, my friends and *touch wood* school leaders who are wondering what the teacher who applied to their school has put on that website she listed on her CV (the more tech-savvy ones scanned the QR code on the cover page). Because I know who my readership is I tailor my posting to suit their schedules. You might notice that my blog posts always go out in the evening New Zealand time and I don’t tend to post on a Friday or Saturday night. There’s a reason for that, it’s when I know New Zealand teachers will likely be surfing the net.
Find your community
Ok so you know who your community is, now you need to find it. I suggest you start small. Facebook is a great way to get initial blog readers who will most likely be your friends. Twitter will be the way you start reaching people you’ve never met. Getting incoming links from other blogs is a great way to drive one-off traffic but what you really want are subscription hits. Subscription hits are from people who like your content enough to put you in your RSS readers. Finally incoming searches are the hits generated when the google formulae decide your popular enough to be number 1 in that area. Case in point.
Engage with your community
There are literally millions of blogs on the internet why should I read yours? Content can only get you so far but engagement with other users will get you even further. Comment on other people’s blogs, always respond to comments on yours, link to other people’s writing and most importantly let social media work for you. My blog readership only took off when I started using twitter effectively and participated in a teacher challenges. Guest posts are a great way to drive new readership into your blog and also a great way to generate interesting content.
All this engagement doesn’t count for anything if you don’t have great, regularly updated content. Decide on a posting schedule and stick to it. Even if you aren’t generating much in the way of visitor numbers when you start keep posting. If you are engaging with your community then the visitors will eventually start arriving. In March this blog generated less than 700 hits for the month. I now get that number a week because I kept persisting and had content which makes people want to read the blog and more importantly share with others.
Great post titles
What’s in a blog title? Quite a lot if you want visitors. Gone are the days where I’ll use witty titles for my blog titles. Instead I try to use phrases that people will type into search engines when thinking about the topic, what people would want to click through to from twitter, what people will retweet and even use hashtags in the title. What can I say? I’m a social media junky but that’s where my community is.
Finally personality goes a long way
I try to keep my writing as real as possible. I’ve written about the good teaching days, the bad teaching days and everything in between because it is that personal connection which drives the community. People want to connect with a person as much as they want to connect with your ideas.
For a great list of tips check out master blogger @kathleen_morris wonderful advice on blogging for students and teachers.