This guest post is by Aidan Huang of Onextrapixel.com.
It invariably happens to everyone who starts a successful blog: the blogger sits down to write, but runs smack into a stretch of writer’s block.
He thinks, “When I started this blog is was meant to be fun, but now it feels more like work! Why do I continue to do this? Maybe I’ll just take today off, and my fans can just wait until I’m in the mood to create my next post.”
Writing a blog post shouldn’t feel like work you don’t want to do, but even bloggers have off-days.
It’s during such times that bloggers must focus on their responsibilities.
For bloggers who are confused about their responsibilities, I’m here to help. Here are a few tips for both new and established bloggers that will help create a sense of responsibility toward readers—an asset that will help you attract and maintain a wider audience.
Writing what you love
Bloggers generally begin blogging because they have a knack for writing, write what they love, and are full of information they feel must be shared. They are basically a community of writers who express themselves and everything they’re passionate about.
But this doesn’t mean that the act of writing is always an easy task.
The golden rule of being a responsible blogger is: write through the hard days. Without entries that are posted on schedule, bloggers will soon find themselves without an audience—or worse, without ever having built an audience. Internet surfers are always in search of fresh content, and without it, it’s only matter of time before your blog’s traffic completely dries up.
To get through those days where writing seems like nothing less than the worst imaginable chore, bloggers should focus on their readers, or the readers they wish to attract.
When a blogger decides to forgo creating regular entries, he just may wind up as his only reader. Creating content is the foremost responsibility a blogger has to his or her audience, and without fresh content, the blogger can hardly hope to attract one.
A blogger would be wise to take advice directly from his blog’s comments section. By using readers’ advice, he can craft a better experience for his audience. New bloggers can seek immediate feedback by sending links to friends and family members via social media.
If you give them mechanisms for direct response—such as special “talk back” entries—readers will begin to feel a sense of ownership that will deepen their experience with your blog, and help you generate a wider audience.
As incoming blog traffic increases, a blogger becomes responsible to a larger crowd. At this point, it becomes important to recall those reasons why the blog seemed like a good idea in the first place, and to carefully plan its future.
With greater power comes greater responsibility—as well as the possibility of ad revenue.
Blogging for dollars
After a blog attracts a stable readership, the question of money arises. Long-time readers will quickly ascertain when a blog begins attracting ad revenue, so it’s important to be up-front and honest with them.
Bloggers who collect ad revenue aren’t betraying their readership by being paid for their work, but it may seem that way to some. Readers will understand that bloggers are human and have bills to pay too. As a blogger begins to monetize a site, it’s important to keep the content up to the task of maintaining and attracting readers.
It’s important for a blogger to indicate whether a particular entry is sponsored or serving as a paid review or advertisement. By making this distinction, bloggers are letting readers know that their time is valued.
It’s also important to distinguish between affiliate links and all others, because modern blog readers expect to be treated as valued customers. They typically have a good understanding of how internet advertising works, so they won’t be easily fooled.
Many writers make a modest living or nicely supplement their income by running a blog, and manage to do so without any conflict between readers and advertisers. After the dollars begin rolling in, bloggers may feel the need to post more entries each day, but, again, it’s important not to let the quality level drop even remotely. Readers who are subjected to advertisements are all the more likely to become steeper critics.
Bloggers shouldn’t let the prospect of making money result in watered-down posts, either, as this may be more harmful than helpful. After all, a successful blog attracts viewers based on content quality, not quantity.
Acquisition: to stay or to go?
When a blogger reaches the heights of the blogging summit, the acquisition offers may start rolling in. Now the blogger is faced with a number of new decisions: should s/he sell the blog to a larger company? And if s/he does, should s/he continue to write for it? Or can s/he move on and start another blog?
All of these options are viable, and although loyal readers may be disappointed when a blogger decides it’s time to move on to other blogs and leave this one to be run by someone else, they’ll understand. However, a blogger has an obligation to let his readership know just what it is that’s happening here.
If the blog is being acquired, readers are likely to notice, and so it’s important to take the initiative and simply tell them in advance. A blogger should also explain whether he plans to stay or go after the acquisition; inquiring minds (and loyal readers!) will surely want to know.
A fresh start can mean a lot once you’ve been blogging for a while. You can build a new venture having learned from earlier mistakes and experience, but the thought of going back to square one can be overwhelming.
If you get a nice pay check from selling your blog, what will be next? Would moving to an island and and sipping pina coladas all day really satisfy you? Will money alone truly make you happy? Are you sure you’ll like that more than running a blog you actually enjoy and believe in?
Preparing for the unexpected
As a blog grows in popularity and size, so do the dangers that come with it. A popular blog is often the target of hackers, competitors or other malicious attacks. A big part of being a responsible blog owner is to protect and secure your blog so viruses or malware will not affect readers.
If these fail, the blog owners should immediately inform and update readers about what’s happening through available channels, like social media and newsletters, and assure readers that they’re fixing the problem.
Another unexpected circumstance to take into account is the inescapable fact that we are all mortal. We may fall sick—and even leave this world.
A responsible blog owner should know themselves, and figure out how he or she should react to these situations before they arise.
The blogger can find someone that they trust to carry on the blog. A trusted friend or spouse who shares the same interest can take what you have created and help keep it growing into the future. You can state your decision in your will, or in a draft post to be published when you are gone.
Blogging responsibly into an uncertain future
Writing a blog is a bit like raising a child: the blog starts small, with only the blogger to guide it, but it can grow into a massively successful enterprise. There comes a time for many bloggers, however, when the blog must end or be passed on to the next blogger—much as a child grows up and moves on.
In reality, blogging is a job. It may be a beloved job, but it still involves quite a lot of work. As a blogger’s career and personal life develop, there may come a time when blogging must become a thing of the past. When the time comes, it’s important that a blogger maintain the professional courtesy readers have come to expect.
A blogger should reveal the future of the blog to readers long before that future actually arrives, just as they’d give notice before leaving one job for another, or retiring altogether. A blogger might explain that the blog will be ending completely, or that a new writer will be taking over—whatever the case, honesty is key.
On the web, a blogger’s every movement is visible to all those who are watching. Professionalism is a must, no matter what else happens, especially for those bloggers who choose to forgo anonymity.
Once again, responsibility to the readership becomes key to blogging responsibly, but instead of providing regular content, the blogger must now inform readers of the blog’s future, so they can update their links and bookmarks accordingly.
Creating the perfect ending
There often comes a time when the blogger has reached the end of his blog. The least-responsible thing a blogger can do in this situation is to abandon the blog completely, without notice. Readers will resent the fact that their once-favorite blogger wasn’t respectful enough to close the blog properly or to point them in the direction of new, recommended content.
Bloggers who treat readers with respect and care will be remembered for doing so. Readership is really what makes or breaks any blog, but that doesn’t mean that marketing must be a blogger’s first priority.
The most successful bloggers begin writing for the love of creating—not in the hopes of building an audience and putting the blog up for sale. Readers won’t appreciate being treated as if they come with a price-tag; surely they receive enough of that treatment from television networks and news outlets.
Are you a responsible blogger? What’s your plan for your blog? Do you update it on a regular basis? Are you just starting out, or thinking about selling the one you’ve built? Please share your thoughts with us.
Aidan Huang is the editor-in-chief of Onextrapixel.com, a popular web design and development magazine. You can subscribe to get the latest information about design and development through their RSS feed. Aidan has sold a few blogs successfully and is always thinking of starting a new one.