Four solid reasons to start a blog: audience, content, skill and a feel for business

A couple of months ago I got together with Steve Sutherland, one of my friends in Taipei, who was wondering if he should start a blog or not. If you remember from earlier posts, he runs the Education Agents website, AgentsChat dot com. He was thinking about installing the WordPress software on a separate domain, and starting a blog about the World of Education Services. So should he run a blog? That got me to thinking: should he?

I can outline four reasons (and two caveats) why I think he should consider starting blogging:

1. He has an audience: His community already has 1500 members and it is growing constantly. In the forum, there are ample opportunities for writing post like articles, and in fact, Steve has already done some writing in the forums. It’s quite clear that while forums are good for chatting, longer articles are often the backbone of a good community as they allow writers the space to expand their ideas, develop their content, and write top quality articles. With an audience already present, he’s got an easy start, and by integrating SMF with WordPress, he’d be able to take advantage of the strengths of both applications.

2. He has something to say: As you’ve seen, Steve is already well capable of writing good pieces that his audience would enjoy reading. I’ve spoken to Steve on many occasions, and I think he has a lot of incredible ideas about his industry that would easily find an very specific niche. In fact, I have a strong sense that with his insight into his industry, his blog would quickly establish itself as a top blog because of its first-mover chance. I amn’t aware of any blogs that would be competing for his space.

3. He has the technical skill to manage a blog: Learning WordPress can be a little daunting at times for new users, but in general the principles of managing a blog are similar to, and easier than, managing an online forum. By fine tuning the operation of the blog, you can be left with the primary task of just focusing on writing. He’s also familiar with many of the Internet resources that he would need to develop a blog properly.

4. He has the business skill to run it well: Many bloggers (myself included) started blogging without much concern for the business side of it. For the most successful ones, monetization almost came as an afterthought to the blog itself. This isn’t necessarily the best way to build a business. Steve’s got a rich experience, and knowledge of, running businesses, advertising, marketing, etc., all of which would serve him well to get started. Combined with an established audience, advertisers, and networks, he’d likely have a solid foundation for the blog to be successful in the long term.

So I believe that these four “Winds of Blogging” are all blowing now and it could be the perfect opportunity for him to start. But I also know he has reservations about blogging, especially on the commitment side; and the confidence side.

So, let’s deal with the confidence issue first. Most people, when confronted with the idea of ‘having’ to write, react in a similar way – with HORROR! And, rightly so.

Your words, ideas and organization are all going to be read by dozens, possibly hundreds of readers, are you good enough? Is your writing good enough? Do you really have something to say? To which I have only one thing to say: blogging is pretty much an adventure… as such, you’re allowed the space to develop as a writer (hey, look at my posts a year ago, and you’ll see what I mean!).

Too often to new writers, the goal is to write the perfect piece of writing with the best organization and best content. Well, it isn’t going to happen any time soon. So quit worrying! Once you quite worrying about your writing, you’ll really begin to enjoy the process, the adventure of blogging.

To progress as a writer, and as a blogger, you DO have to make a commitment: with yourself, with your blog, and with your audience. What the nature of that commitment is can be totally up to you! If you want to post daily, then you can. If you want to post weekly, or even monthly, then you can. Obviously, you’ll experience different results whichever method you choose. But there’s no obligation to post on a daily basis. But like most skills, the more you practice, the better you will become.

So, in short, to people who are considering blogging, and can’t decide. Perhaps this post will help to clarify what it is that is holding you back. For me, though, it was a nexus of different things that helped to get me posting regularly: I already had a blog and a hankering to write something, I also had a strong motivation in my content area, then I discovered BlogDesk, and later Payperpost. Somehow all of this coalesced last year, when my daily posting schedule came about.

What helped you to get started blogging? When did it happen? Share with us in our comments section below.

Getting Traffic From Forums: all it needs is your signature!

Many bloggers are members of forums, and tend to be quite active members at that…! But many forums prohibit or curtail promotion of your blog in posts. However, it is possible to promote your blog alongside any posts you make… how? In your signature!

Your Signature

No, it’s not your name. It’s text that appears at the bottom of posts that you want to tell the world about. It can be anything: from links to text to images… Whatever.

In PHP, SMF and VB forums, there is usually a space for your signature, and in that signature you are typically free to include text, links, html (on occasions), and graphics. The only restrictions tend to be: using the BB code formats, and the length. BB code is a simplified way to enter basic codes using square brackets and special tags:

[u]underlined text[/u] will produce underlined text and so on.

To create a link in BB Code, you simply type:

[url=]Post Title[/url], so in BB Code I’d type the profile area in ‘edit signature’ (VBulletin)… (note that the tags have to be closed properly).

bbcode example

Which will produce this profile…


And this looks like…

sample post

See how the code looks like a clickable link, and the title takes you to a post in my blog!


What do you link? Where?

Of course, this isn’t really anything special. But if you have been blogging for a while, and your membership of forums covers your blog focus for sure (at least in part), then you will likely have posts that would be of relevance to readers of your blog. In this blog, there are nearly 900 posts that I can draw on, though I’d prefer to choose something more recent and more relevant.

So for example, the Forum above is called Forumosa and covers a wide range of issues related to Taiwan. I noted that many readers are likely to follow Taiwanese blogs and blogs about Taiwan, so I added links to some of my posts in this blog about Taiwan. In another forum, on business, I’d choose some with a technology or business theme. In a third forum about education, I’d go with those posts.

So much in so little space?

The real challenge though is on some forums cramming enough links into the allotted space. Forumosa allows 1100 characters, but some forums only allow 500 or even 300 characters. Steve Pavlina’s forums really challenged me to create a meaningful array of posts in my signature in 300 characters, but it can be done. I had to cut the ‘www’ part of each address, shorten the titles to key words, and cut additional padding, but I managed to cram four links into my post… that was 295 characters, in all.


The real challenge was to create appealing ‘titles’ in just four words or less! But it can be done…

A Useful Friend (updated)

Additionally, one tool I found quite useful was OpenOffice’s Word Count Tool which can also count characters. That saved a lot of unnecessary editing! It’s easy to find in the Tools >>> WordCount submenu. It is instant, and accurate. I am guessing that MSOffice also can do this, and it may be in the same place.


And the results.

While my traffic from my forums really depends on how much I post, even posting just a couple of times a week in prominent threads, and making relevant points in the discussion, can benefit. In fact, traffic from forums account for about 4.7% of my total visitors in the past 30 days. It’s not a great deal, but that was before I really optimized my signature. And I didn’t take much part in discussions. But with regular posting it should be possible to generate even more visitors. And compared to my Google Traffic (just over 10% in the last 30 days), it’s not to be sneezed at. Over the last eleven months, it has attracted just over 7% of my total traffic! That’s quite respectable.

(update: in the last 24 hours, since I updated my signature on Forumosa, and posted three times, I’ve attracted 14 click throughs. So it works quickly.)