I'm very excited to be interviewing Robin Houghton, author of Blogging for Creatives, a fab new book I've been reading. It's jam packed full of useful info helpful to even the most seasoned blogger! Read on to hear what she has to say about why she blogs.....
How long have you been blogging?Since 2007
Why did you decide to start blogging and what was the main purpose of your blog when you first started?My first blog was my business blog, which morphed out of the ‘online marketing tips’ email newsletter I’d been publishing since 2002. The time seemed right to embrace blogging and make the whole thing more of a conversation rather than a broadcast. I kept that blog pretty active until about a year ago. In 2012 I began two new blogs – one to support the publication of my book and the other on the subject of poetry, which I would say is more my passion these days.
How often do you post?The answer to this one is different for each of my blogs! For the first six months I kept to a schedule for the ‘Blogging for Creatives’ blog and posted 3 or 4 times a week. This meant it built up a readership and together with a Facebook page was a good promotional vehicle for the book when it was new on the market. Once the book had established itself and accrued a good number of ratings and reviews, it was always the plan to then scale down the activity on the blog but to keep it going with one post every month or two.
I post to ‘Poetgal’ two or three times a week, sometimes more. Although this is my ‘hobby’ blog, one of my goals this year was to develop opportunities to combine what I love (poetry) with what I get paid for (online marketing/communications/social media). There’s not a lot of money to be made in poetry, but I do now teach courses for writers on how to create and manage your social web presence, and my mentoring services also cross over into this area. This is one way I justify the time I spend on Poetgal!
I update my business blog at robinhoughton.com less often now, partly because my interests are now wider, and also because the online marketing blogosphere is now so crowded you have to be extremely dedicated to be relevant and be heard. Nevertheless I’m proud of the archive of material I built up and a lot of my earlier blog posts are still referenced even now.
Who reads your blog and why do they enjoy it?Those who find and read my business blog can be anything from small business owners & freelancers to comms professionals in larger organisations. The earlier material was all aimed at small business – tips, case studies, education - but in the last couple of years I’ve been blogging a lot of about internal comms, social media behind the firewall, social business and corporate comms issues. I would say on the whole the blog is about how digital and social is changing the way we work & do business, and people read it as a way of picking my brains in order to think about the challenges and find solutions. The ‘Blogging for Creatives’ blog gets a steady stream of visitors who are (going by the stats) looking for blogging tips and examples. ‘Poetgal’ is read by poets and other creative writers, plus a smattering of small publishers. The most popular posts are my accounts of workshops I’ve been to, writing tips from leading poets and actual poems by guest poets (I post very few of my own, as that would mean they couldn’t be published elsewhere.)
What do you think are the important ingredients of a successful blog?Passion and dedication. There are many, many other ingredients but without a genuine love of what you’re blogging about, and a willingness to work on it, you won’t really engage people. Readers can tell if you’re just going through the motions.
How do you promote your blog?I know all the things you’re advised to do, such as on- and off-page SEO, regular guest posting, requesting links, leaving comments etc. I’ve written the book! However what I do for clients isn’t necessarily right for me. In the past I have had promotional strategies, but these days I tend to rely more on my existing level of visibility and length of time online, and let the promotion happen more organically. I was at a conference recently when an SEO speaker more or less said nobody who wants their blog to be found should be using a hosted solution because you’d be dead in the water. I prefer not to give black and white advice like that. Readers find my blogs through a range of means, direct referral, serendipity… I am all over the social web, and people talk.
What kind of opportunities have arisen as a result of your blogging?I suppose the biggest thing was being commissioned to write a book about blogging! Although I think of myself as primarily a writer rather than a blogger, and I learnt a huge amount while researching the book. I’m regularly asked to give talks and sometimes asked to present at conferences. I’ve given a few interviews, like this one, for blogs or print publications. Blogging, together with other social media activities, mainly Twitter, has opened up a wide world of new contacts, projects, ideas and friendships. It’s also helped develop my own writing.
How do you manage your time with our blog and your other commitments?These days I’m more focused/prioritised and I no longer stress about not keeping up a particular frequency of posting. It’s great to have a schedule but not to become a slave to it. I blog on my ‘own time’, at home and when my husband’s at work. When I’m in the office I do client work. If I know I’m going to be busy I can always write and schedule blog posts in advance. It’s also just as important to read blogs – I tend to skim through my Feedly and/or Wordpress Reader on a regular basis to see what’s new in my blog community.
What are the benefits of blogging?Many – but it kind of depends on what you want to get out of it – one person’s benefit is another’s ‘whatever’. For someone in business, blogging gives you an opportunity to develop a direct connection with your customers & prospects: not just to promote your business, but to learn about your customers and from your customers. It can also improve your reach and lead to more business. On a personal level, blogging can improve your writing & communications skills, develop your ability to listen and respond to alternative opinions, broaden your mind, widen your network of contacts, open you up to new opportunities and build your reputation and standing on the social web.
What advice would you give to new bloggers?Buy my book! Just kidding. (I’m not earning royalties!) I would say start by subscribing to (and reading) some of the great thinkers and doers, they will help set you on the road to great blogging. Chris Brogan, Seth Godin, Brian Clark (Copyblogger), Darren Rowse (Problogger) are a few to start with. Then ask yourself a few questions. Why do you want to blog? What are you looking to get out of it? What resources do you have – tech skills? design skills? writing skills? time? money? (NOT all of which you need in order to blog, by the way.) Set yourself some realistic goals. Do some research on different platforms, types of hosting - make sure you know what you’re getting into. Forewarned is forearmed. Having said that, there’s no substitute for getting stuck in, playing around with themes and templates, having a go and learning as you go along. There’s a huge community of likeminded people out there – reach out and connect with others blogging on your topic, you will find all kinds of camaraderie and support.
Biog Robin Houghton is a communications consultant and writer. She has nearly 15 years’ experience in online marketing: after learning HTML in 1998 she went on to study for an MA in Digital Media, worked for a digital agency during the dotcom boom and started her own online marketing business in 2002. Robin is also an award-winning poet.