Photo credit with thanks to Ian Low, the Silver Chef.
How to be a Top Blogger?
OK, now I got your attention :D
Actually, I am no top blogger but just an ordinary blogger trying to be better everyday so that I can achieve my mission of "putting every good street hawker on the world wide web".
I started Johor Kaki blog on 20 Dec 2011. (This is the first Johor Kaki post.)
I took part in the MITBC contest (2012) and OMY contest (2012) in order to learn from the more experienced and better bloggers. Johor Kaki blog didn't make it to the list of finalists that year :P
The following year, I took part in both contests again and won the Best Food Blog awards in both MITBCA (2013) and OMY (2013). I believe that this is the only time so far, where a blog was awarded best in both Singapore and Malaysia in the same year.
In this post, I share about my blogging journey and the useful blogging tips that I learnt along the way. I am hoping that this may make the blogging journey of new bloggers a little easier. I benefited a lot from the advice of experienced bloggers like Ilya Houben and David Hogan Jr, so I hope my experience can help others too.
These ideas worked for me but may not be for everyone. With that, here we go.
Have your own voice. Have a clear purpose why we have our blog. It has to come from inside us. Ask yourself, why do you blog?
Think big. By that I mean, have a purpose bigger than yourself, beyond yourself.
Only big goals can fire up one's passion.
For Johor Kaki, it is to "put every good hawker on the world wide web." I was moved to action because our heritage hawkers (in Johor and Singapore) are retiring fast and their life's work and craft have not been documented adequately. I want to fill that gap, urgently.
Find your niche by following your heart. If you choose a topic only because it is popular or "viral", the blog may not last because there is not enough passion to power it through the inevitable distractions, disruptions and disappointments.
Address a Need. Make our blog address a genuine need. For example, Johor Kaki provides a convenient reference for people who are looking for food in Johor. I met many people who told me that they refer to Johor Kaki to pick their place for food, be it breakfast, lunch, dinner or supper in Johor. This resulted in Johor Kaki receiving over 10,000 views a day.
Here's a more specific example. Most of us here in Malaysia and Singapore are durian lovers but choosing a good durian is not easy. Most of us have been cheated by unscrupulous durian sellers before. So, I wrote a post about "How to Never be Sold a Fake Mao Shan Wang 猫山王 Durian Again". This quickly became one of the most read posts in Johor Kaki blog, now with over 20,000 views. This post receives a spike of views whenever durians are in season.
In short, give readers real value that they want to come back for.
Post often. I do my utmost to post everyday. Readers told me that they wait for my posts everyday. If this is not possible for you, write as often possible on a fixed schedule. If you miss a post, get back on schedule as quickly as possible. Readers appreciate predictability in our publishing schedule.
Write about everything that is relevant to your niche. Search Engine Optimisation is partly a numbers game. Fill the web with good quality content, so that your blog will turn up in the page 1 search results of any Google search in your niche. For example, Johor Kaki blog will show up in almost every search containing the word "Johor".
Total sensory blogging. Sniffing the aroma of a Spanish potato omelette.
Photo credit with thanks to Nicole Poi, PinkyPiggu
Write for everyone. Everyone experiences the world in a different way through our five senses i.e. what we see, hear, taste, smell and touch. Some people mainly perceive the world by what they see, others by what they hear, or feel and so on. So, when I write about a food tasting, I describe how the food looks, tastes, smells, feels in the mouth and what I hear when chewing the food or what I hear around me at the stall. In this way, I connect with more people and the reader has a total sensory experience.
Use a story telling style. People like stories - our brains are wired to be receptive to stories. Johor Kaki blog has a story telling style, because I am basically a story teller. Each post tells the story of my tasting session, the story of the food, and the story of the hawker or restaurant.
Use pictures. Many people perceive the world and make up their minds by what they see. So, I use pictures in my posts to tell the story, like a photo essay.
My posts have two basic elements. A story told with words and a parallel narrative told with pictures.
In this post about heritage food stalls in Johor Bahru which I submitted for Singapore's OMY competition in 2013, I used the three elements I mentioned above i.e. write for all five senses, tell a story with words and pictures.
Take better pictures. I keep working on my photography skills. All the pictures in the first year of Johor Kaki were taken with a point and shoot camera. When my point and shoot camera broke down, I replaced it with a basic DSLR and realised that it is easier to take a good picture with a DSLR as it gives me better control over the settings.
A DSLR is a worthwhile investment.
I join photography club activities and attend workshops on photography to improve my knowledge and learn from experienced photographers. I learnt to compose my pictures better.
This is a picture I took on Johor Kaki's first day. It's even got date stamping :P I think I've come some ways from that, thank goodness :D
Use effective post titles. Make your post title meet three criteria. Let me explain using this post as an example:
- Keywords. Include search engine friendly keywords in the title to increase the post's chances of appearing in search results. In this post, keywords are "top blogger" and "best blog".
- Curiosity. Pique the reader's curiosity to encourage them to read the post. The curiosity words in the title here are "Secrets and Tips".
- Promise value. Tell the reader what value the post intends to provide. Of course, the post must deliver on the promise (or else, the blog will lose trust and credibility). In this post, the promise is "How to be a Top Blogger". I hope this post delivers on it's promise in good measure.
Be personal. In the first year of Johor Kaki blog, I blogged anonymously. I just used the initials "JK". Over time as I met readers and fellow bloggers, my picture got "tagged" by others on Facebook. Initially, I was uncomfortable as I wanted to stay anonymous and let the focus to be on the hawkers.
Soon, I realised that readers want to connect with a real person, not just a banner or blog name. So, I now just go with the flow but without losing focus on my blog objective. When readers connect with me personally, they too become attached to my mission to promote our hawkers. This helps me achieve my blogging objective.
Most people know me as Tony now, though many still call me "Johor Kaki".
Engage readers. I make efforts to engage my readers in conversation through social media such as my Johor Kaki Facebook page, Johor Sedap and Johor Yummy groups. I seek their suggestions on where to eat, what to eat. Many of the best food finds are the suggestions of readers.
When I blogged about a place recommended by a reader, I acknowledge and thank the reader in the post.
Engaging my readers also allows me to know my audience - who they are, what do they like, what do they need, how I can serve those needs and so on.
Blogging and social media is a community building activity.
Encourage your readers to stay. Once a reader lands on your blog, give him/her good reasons to stay and read more posts. Link internally to relevant posts in your own blog. (You can see some examples of internally linked posts, in this post itself.) In addition, install a Related Content widget such as LinkWithin or nRelate.
Guest blog. I accept invitations to guest post on relevant websites. I do my utmost to write the best guest post as this honours the host website and it's readers. Readers who like your post, will follow the link back to your blog and are likely to become your fans as well.
Engage and contribute to related social media communities. For example, there are several Facebook groups on Johor food, such as 柔佛新山美食. I post good food finds in these groups and comment on the posts by other members.
As the groups have different rules, I make sure that I abide by these rules respectfully as a member. For example, some groups do not allow members to post their own blog links.
Reach out to fellow bloggers. I often go group blogging and to meetups with fellow bloggers from Singapore and Malaysia. It's fun! Many become my best friends.
We learn from other, help each other with blogging issues, and support each other in the blogging journey. In my humble opinion, there are no real social media experts yet - blogging and social media is a new and fast evolving frontier. Everyone is learning and has to keep learning.
So, share and grow together.
Photo credit with thanks to Maureen Ow, Miss Tam Chiak.
This is a picture of us after our group blogging at Soon Huat Bak Kut Teh shop in Singapore.
Meet fellow foodies. I am first a foodie, then a blogger. I meet up with foodie group members and share a good meal together and trade foodie stories. For example, in Singapore we can join the monthly Makansutra makan sessions which is the oldest and most happening foodie forum in Singapore.
As a food and travel blogger, this is important also because if I'm too obsessed about blogging and neglect to enjoy eating and travelling, it will show in my content. The posts will lack depth, substance and enthusiasm which readers can detect.
The Malaysian travel bloggers gang
Diversify our blog. While the core of my blog is clearly on Johor food, I am willing to let the boundaries be fuzzy to include travel stories and even instant noodle ratings. This allows me to engage in my other interests besides Johor food.
Diversification also lets my blog grow and reach out to new audiences but I am careful not to go overboard. Three areas of focus is probably fine and 10 is far too many :D
Have fun. We began this journey because of love and passion. Keep it fun and enjoyable, the journey is long - there will be blind alleys and pit falls but love will keep us going.
There were times when a hawker, not understanding what I am doing (after all, social media is so new) chased me away. Of course, it affected me a little, but reflecting on the original reason why we started Johor Kaki blog always got me back on track and raving to go for the next blogging adventure :D
This is all for the time being.
Do come back regularly to this post as I am updating this regularly along the way as I learn more about how to blog better.
This post is a work in progress, because Johor Kaki blog will always be a work in progress.
Return to Johor Kaki home page.
First published: 18 Feb 2014
Latest revision: Nil