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Blogging Responsibly: An Owner’s Manual

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.

Protecting yourself from lawsuits should be something that you should strongly practice. You should state your disclaimer, privacy policy, and terms and conditions on your blog to safeguard yourself. You can get insurance to protect yourself from libel, but there is not a single insurance company I know of that will insure the blog itself.

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.

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Comments

  1. Beth Hewitt says:

    Aidan,

    This is a really thorough post. You listed some very big milestones in a bloggers life. Who would have thought when they first started out that they would ever be making such big decisions as those you have outlined above.

    Blogging about what you love it so important and it’s really important to fine tune the niche early doors and continuously to learn and be an expert in your field. I think it is absolutely fine to blog for dollars and there should never be any hesitation if you have always been providing quality content and will continue to do so for many years to come.

    I think you raised s really important point about being prepared for the unknown. Blogging is always going to be a long term strategy or hobby and it makes sense to think of every eventuality.

    Thanks for sharing, some great insights,

    Beth :)

  2. Samuel says:

    When you start out in anything, there is a feeling of much strength.

    But as time passes, the strength starts to fade.

    That is where the will of an individual needs to take place.

    That is blogging my friends!

  3. Lee Davy says:

    This was one of the most informative posts I have read in the past few weeks.

    Thanks for sharing it.

  4. I write 4 posts a week and will continue to do so. I plan to grow with my blog and I hope my community grows with me :)

  5. Trevor says:

    Thank you for adding some perspective to this whole blogging thing. I’m new to blogging, and as much as I enjoy it, I had never even considered any of these points.

    The idea that we must be responsible custodians of our blog, and considerate of our readers, resonates with me. Though we blog for ourselves, by opening up our little corner for the world to see, we invite others to join and participate with us — ultimately we must take ownership of that aspect of blogging as well.

    You’ve provided some thought provoking considerations. Much appreciated.

    Cheers!

  6. I wrote an article 3 pieces for the first 3 months every day, this is for the new blog to be indexed faster and in search engines. There may be a better technique than I do now?

    • You must have a fair bit of content. 3 articles a day is almost too much for one person to write, even though it’s good to post regularly – you don’t want the quality of your content to decrease.

      Content is primarily the best technique to rank in search engines, it’s the king. People will share unique content that is helpful to them, you’ll also get more backlinks naturally from all this. Of course, it involves a bit of manual promotion as well, Facebook, Twitter, wherever your audience is based.

      I personally write 3-4 articles a week, my blog’s in its early days at the moment, but that figure will probably stay intact.

  7. Carly says:

    I find it hard to attract readers to write comments. I’m always asking for feedback, but most of my audience is from either Facebook or restaurant review sites. I have a moderate readership but no followers… Having trouble converting my blog into one that is followed or commented on

  8. Wow! Great article. Now that’s blogging life should be … create willfully, live with it responsibly and end it gracefully. Thanks for this sharing.

  9. Vivek R says:

    Thanks for this intuitive article.

  10. Christiano says:

    Probably when the strength fades, you should start something else.

  11. Hi Aidan.

    Very intelligently-structured post. I like what you did in this article. The basic points are simple and common-knowledge yet you have the ability to explain it elaborately.

    I admire that since there are times in writing when we try to expound on an idea but we just can’t seem to give intelligent explanations.

    This article is a perfect example of just that. Continue writing and show us your art.

    Regards,
    Fonzy Montenegro

    • Aidan says:

      Hi Fonzy,

      Thanks for your kind words. I hope to contribute more and share with everyone what I have learnt.

  12. I’ve been blogging for just over five years with my primary focus on one blog in particular. It draws the most traffic and earns money from affiliate commissions and some paid advertising. I definitely don’t make enough to earn a living, and many times I’ve thought of throwing in the towel. Usually I have to take some kind of a break to get refreshed and get new perspective for continuing. On the other hand, the thought of selling it has crossed my mind. If someone came along with an offer to buy the site, I’d consider it, depending on the circumstances and who was involved.

  13. babanature says:

    I write 6 times a week and i am not intending to stop because i am doing what i love. by the way, this is a nice post

  14. I agree, this was informative and encouraging. I have been posting regularly once a week for three months now. So far, I have not run out of things to post, but there have been a few times I was strugling to get something valulable completed and posted.

  15. Sonia says:

    This is a very informative post. It definitely helps in putting the essence of blogging into perspective. Thank you!

  16. writers block is a symptom of complacency.

    Us humans tend to move constantly from a state of starvation and desperation to abundance and surplus then finally complacency.

    When we set out to accomplish a goal we become extremely focused. Once we climb the mountain we get bored.

    If you are ever having a problem writing its because you are sitting on top of a mountain board.
    Why not find another one?

  17. DJ says:

    Great post! There’s a lot of things in there that people just don’t really think about too often like the whole issue of security. Great insight!

  18. Kevin Ocasio says:

    Great article Aidan, thanks for sharing! I think you make a great point when you say “bloggers should focus on their readers, or the readers they wish to attract.”

    So many bloggers seem to write for the search engines and not their readers. Without readers, what’s the point to having a blog?

  19. This was an extremely informative/eye opening post. There are so many things I have never thought about, like preparing for the future of my blog, or for unexpected issues like illness and death.

    As a relatively new blogger, I’m still trying to figure out the start of my blog, and can’t even conceive of the end. But it makes sense when you think about the fact that I should have an end goals in mind, at least, for my blog.

    You’ve given me a lot to think about while planning for 2013. Thanks.

  20. Tony Yao says:

    I’ve been blogging for 2 and a half years now, but feeling that real-life responsibilities are creeping up my back. I might have to scale down a bit, since when it comes to writing, it takes a while to think of something.

  21. Kcube says:

    wow.This certainly is an amazing article.especially i love that “blogging for dollars” concept!