Blogging is popular among big companies and freelance translators alike. There are so many blogs that offer great content and discussions, that even the least creative writers aim to have one. However, having an idea to start blogging is one thing but continuing to write blogs (not to speak about great blogs) is something different. Many freelancers end up with writers block, disappointing results in terms of exposure and discussions or a recurring pressure to write at least something. This article covers the how’s, why’s and pitfalls of blogging and helps you to start creating a great blog in 2017.
Why blogging is important for you (and your company)
Let’s start with a personal experience:
In December 2013 I started blogging for KeukenErvaringen.nl, a website that was newly created by a friend of mine and that had to evolve into a knowledge base for consumers who were looking for a new kitchen. We literally started with 0 visitors. Every week I wrote one to three articles about kitchen-related subjects, like kitchen corners, kitchen storage and stoves. In order to gain ground quickly I first wrote articles that returned high internet traffic figures. Consistently writing and adapting the length of the content to Google’s changing search engine algorithms resulted in a growth from zero visitors in December 2013 to 50,000+ visitors per month in December 2016.
Blogging is as old as the web. When people of all trades discovered the potential of the internet they started out sharing their knowledge, ideas and opinions in online diaries called ‘weblogs’. It enabled them to create a platform to vent their ideas and attract followers with the same (and sometimes contesting) ideas. That aspect is still an important reason for people to write weblogs: blogging allows them to share their knowledge and to connect to a larger (global) group of people with the same interests.
Another reason for blogging is that it enables people to distinguish themselves. Only sharing knowledge or venting ideas can be interesting or useful but does not make others consider you as an authority in your field (or even an interesting person or company). If you want to be considered as a person with a right to speak or as an expert in your field, you should write articles on relevant topics on a regular basis. That way you can both share your knowledge and work towards an image of authority and know-how, which will make your website more attractive to websites and search engines alike and will drive up the visits people pay to your website.
The search engine part is an important aspect as well. In an era with a multitude of websites (according to Internet Live Stats there are some 1.1 billion out there) it has become more difficult than ever to stand out of the crowd and have your website ranked among the first 10 search results for a particular term. Blogging on a regular basis can increase both backlinks to your website and people’s visits, thereby creating a sense of importance among search engines, which will rank your website higher, which in turn can drive even more visitors to your website. Both the visitors and the higher ranking in search engines like Google.com can bring new clients to your company. So investing in blogging can have a real return on investment.
Finally, blogging is one of the cheaper methods to promote yourself, your business and your website. Of course blogging is not free in that it will take time, a blogging platform (a content management system like WordPress for instance) and perhaps some other small investments. However, writing a blog can be done by yourself. All you need to possess is knowledge on a particular field, some knowledge of a content editor and a computer with internet connection – all items that are part of our daily life. Having a third party to create posters, banners, flyers, gadgets and other promotional items to promote your website and company is, for sure, much more expensive.
How to start a blog
(Did you notice that? It’s a search engine optimized header for people who look for articles to start a blog. In this article it won’t make much sense, but you should really write search engine optimized weblogs in order to increase your ranking.)
The above mentioned reasons for blogging speak for themselves. Even when you don’t want to promote yourself (frankly speaking, I started my own blog because I love writing and sharing knowledge, while I was a bit afraid to get too much attention for my person) you might consider starting to blog because it can drive more traffic to your website.
I emphasize can because the overload of websites nowadays, out of which many are optimized with loads of money in order to rank high for certain keywords, makes it difficult to gain ground in Google quickly. Having a blog and ranking high on specific keywords therefore requires a long breath, as might be clear from the KeukenErvaringen.nl example above.
Back to the question: how to start a blog?
Basically blogging requires only four components:
- A topic that offers breadth and enough depth to write frequently without it being exhausted too early.
- Some basic writing skills.
- A platform where you can post your articles, ideally as part of your website.
Of course there are some secondary requirements as well, like having enough time to write a blog on a regular basis and some knowledge of website code. That however is of less importance when starting to blog.
Having a topic which you can elaborate on for a long time
Blogging is cool and you may feel the enthusiasm to start with it one particular day. It is tempting then to download a content management system (CMS), install a fancy website theme and beginning to blog. In many cases however, it won’t take long then to lose direction. Writing a single blog is not that difficult, but writing blogs frequently in order to win a crowd is much tougher. If you really want to succeed from the start you need to know what you are going to do and how you can carry it on for a long time.
According to this article in The Atlantic the bulk of websites are only here to stay for some 100 days. I bet many of these are weblogs, started by an enthusiastic person who feels the difficulty after a few weeks lacking time and inspiration. If you want to drive traffic to your website or to gain respect from peers you should write frequently. Nothing can be more disappointing for visitor of your website than surfing to the blog and finding out that your last article was posted a long time ago.
This weblog was only last updated in 2014; accessed at January 12, 2017
On the other hand you should make sure that your blog posts are not repetitions of each other. Apart from having a topic (or a field) you know like your pockets you should make sure that you can write about it multiple times without continually citing yourself from previous articles. If you as a translator want to blog, it would be a best practice to make a word web or mind map with at least 10 topics you might want to write about so you won’t easily get stuck in the first few weeks. On the other hand you should also make clear that you have the right knowledge to write about it. You will only gain respect from colleagues if you write true and solid articles that show that you know what you’re talking about.
Some basic writing skills
Translators know how to write. I mean, they are somewhat better at writing coherent and well-written articles than many professionals who are not involved in texts and content fulltime. For many translators it is nevertheless difficult to write a great article. Recently there was a furious discussion about a translator who wrote a blog in a language she had claimed to master but which she apparently hadn’t. Avoid similar pitfalls and make sure that your articles are good from the perspective of language as well.
A platform to post your blogs
Nowadays there are many platforms where you can post blogs. If you already run a website you can easily download and install WordPress (Simon Akhrameev wrote an interesting blog post about it here). Buy a theme (there are many for free as well) and start blogging.
If you don’t want a blog that is linked to your website you might choose to open a blog at WordPress.com (like this one by Emma Goldsmith) but a major caveat of it is that you will need to have a separate website and a separate blog. That’s not only difficult to manage but doesn’t work well for visitors either. Best practice is to integrate your website and blog so you can easily manage them from one platform, while all traffic you generate with your weblog is attributed to your website as well, thereby improving the overall ranking in search engines.
Endurance is all you need
It was said already: many blogs start on a beautiful afternoon with great inspiration, but die after a few months. To gain respect and website traffic alike you should have perseverance. Success in terms of respect and rankings does not come in a few weeks, not even in a few months. If you want to increase the number of visitors to your website or if you want to spark discussions among professionals you should write frequently over a long time. That sounds exhausting and sometimes it really can be. However, once you reach the heights of blogging there is no way back either. Depending on your goals you might find that creating buzz content on your weblog is too great to stop or that you simply can’t stop because there are so many more great topics to write about. But the road to success in terms of blogging is tough and tiresome. Be aware of that. Above all: be prepared. It’s the only way to become a successful blogger.