Sunday, April 06, 2008

If You Want to Write a Blog...

Recently Linköpinglivin’ received some exciting news.

After the March reader poll, it was clear that a whopping 70% of all readers are Swedish. I hope it has been apparent just how much I have enjoyed that percentage of readers as the Swedes themselves have made such an irreplaceable contribution to Linköpinglivin’. However, that percentage may change in mid-May…

Back in January, at the recommendation of a good friend of my mother, I submitted Linköpinglivin’ for a travel blog search in one of the most widely read American travel magazines, Budget Travel. A month later they emailed me to wish me congratulations as Linköpinglivin’ will be one of 15 (out of “hundreds” submitted) travel blogs featured in an upcoming article titled “Best Bloggers,” which will give recommendations and advice for other would-be travel bloggers about what to consider and be aware of before you start this wild and time-consuming adventure.

Since Linköpinglivin’ was originally intended only to be a simple update for family and friends, it is quite humbling to have it be recognized in this way. And in case you’re wondering as I was, Budget Travel has a monthly readership level of….

2 million! If this article is published as planned in the way that I've been told, more than 2 million Americans will be presented with this link in the middle of May. That is more than 1/5th of the entire population of Sweden. That number almost caused me to fall out of my chair when I first heard it.

So this week’s entry is a brief summary of some questions I answered for this article about helpful tips and advice to keeping a travel (or any type of) blog:

What’s the best way to start a travel blog? Any tips for beginners?

It’s really important to determine the purpose of your blog. Will it be just a journal on the internet? Is it just to keep others updated? How serious do you intend your blog to be? Are you going to submit it to some paper or publication? Another question: Will it truly be about travels or will it become political, uncomfortably personal or just a soapbox for opinions? Also, who is your intended audience? Is it ultimately for yourself and your personal reward or will it not be worth it unless you have a certain number of readers every week or month? The tone, language, writing style, content and approach will all be dictated by the answers to these questions.

Most bloggers start their blog with enthusiasm, then lose the commitment when the enthusiasm decreases. Most bloggers maintain their blog for the first three weeks to three months, then it ends with no real conclusion. Decide what you can realistically achieve with regard to quantity and quality in the beginning, then commit to that so your readers will know what to expect. Consistency (second only to quality content) for yourself and your readers is the key to any successful blog.

Where do you blog from? Internet cafes? Home? Do you search for Wi-Fi hotspots? What’s the best way for novice bloggers to locate an Internet connection on the road?

I prefer blogging from my own desk, but in order to keep entry consistency, blogging from the road must be an option. Plus, when you’re on the road is when your readers are most interested in what you’re experiencing. This also creates a “real time” feel to your journey and is very rewarding for both blogger and reader.

On the road, my first choice is an internet café so the connection is reliable and there is a familiarity to the setting. Wi-Fi hotspots aren’t always reliable or end up costing more than you intended to pay. Whether in big city or remote village, asking locals where the nearest internet café is usually your best bet.

Describe some of the challenges of maintaining a travel blog. How do you overcome them?

Whether writing a book, an article or a blog, the key to gaining your reader’s trust and return visit is one thing, quality of content. And, because of the medium, a blog must have consistency – no one likes clicking on a blog over and over and not seeing a new entry. Continually creating quality content and keeping reliable consistency is the most challenging part of maintaining a travel blog.

Two things help me to overcome this challenge: 1) Making sure I remain a curious and open-minded traveler always asking questions and seeking more understanding about the culture and nuances of life in a certain place and 2) routine and structure to my blogging schedule so that I make sure to allow the time needed to create an entry worthy of reading for the common browser.

What’s one great piece of advice you’d give to someone considering starting a travel blog?

A blog is simply a relationship between blogger and reader and needs to establish and maintain trust like all relationships. A blogger must define their specific purpose, declare it, stick with it and continually work to improve the content with consistent entries that readers can rely upon.

Another important piece of advice is regarding family and friends. Never assume or expect that friends and family have read or will read your blog. Occasionally remind people or send along what you think is a high-quality posting, but no one likes to feel like they got “caught” not reading your blog. If your blog is worthy of their time, they’ll read it and if not, they won’t and it shouldn’t affect your relationship to that person. Share things with others that you have written without assuming that they have read it.

It’s much better to assume that no friends and family have read your blog and be happily surprised when they actually have than it is to assume everyone has read your blog and be disappointed when they haven’t…

Tell me about your schedule. Do you blog the same time every day or every week? Do you specifically put time aside to blog? I imagine you must also have a full-time job—how do you make time to blog?

I am a very structured person, which helps tremendously in keeping a consistent entry schedule. I have a personal deadline of “by bedtime every Monday night,” but usually start working on the pictures and general outline on Sunday night. Topics and entry themes are considered and wrestled with weeks and sometimes months in advance. Like any other commitment, unreliable enthusiasm and energy must be offset by a well-thought out schedule and discipline.

How do you drive traffic to your blog?

Start small and let it grow with time (actually, you have no choice). Tell friends and family and occasionally remind them. Perhaps consider passing your link along to various publications. Take advantage of opportunities to share your link in various settings. Make it a fun part of your life that you genuinely enjoy sharing with others and it will grow, slowly but surely (if your content quality and consistency is good). Watch for any and all opportunities to get the word out about it and take advantage.

What’s the most rewarding part of having a blog?

In the end, my primary motivation for keeping a blog must be for my own satisfaction and personal reward (along with a nice keepsake from my journeys and adventures living abroad). Yet to know that there are some people out there who enjoy reading what you (or perhaps some popular commenters) have to say has been the most unexpected and enjoyable part of this whole experience in Sweden, except of course, for fika.


Lisa said...

Congratulations! It is great to see a loyal and talented blogger get recognition!

Anonymous said...

Congrats on getting your blog published in Budget Travel. You will have to let me know which one it gets in and I will go and pick up a copy. :) Hope things are going well in Sweden for you. Also do you mind if I add you to my blogroll? (I just started this blogging thing myself) Have a great one! Shelly :)

Anonymous said...

Grattis for having your blog recognized for what it is: a quality insight into living abroad. Your dedication to weekly updates and interesting topics really shows in your blog. I stumbled across your blog by accident last year - no family, friends, or local relationship - and I find it so entertaining that I read it each week.
It's a nice way to spend a few minutes during Tuesday's lunch break to read up on your latest adventures or opinions.

Crystal said...

Wow- now I can say "I knew you when..." :) Enjoy the time with Todd- and enjoy "your" day this Sunday, okay?


Bryn said...

Congrats Sean! I have a subscription to BT and you better believe your page will be up on the fridge. It's like you're a celebrity now.