Blog writing is an essential component of the Internet’s ecology: a place for people to share news, reviews, and personal insights with their friends and personal networks. As Google continues to shift their search algorithms to give preference to shared and backlinked articles, this trend is likely to increase, despite people’s misgivings about the usefulness of blogs around the turn of the century.
Blog writing presents a unique challenge to the aspiring writer, however, as many of us just want to share our thoughts and feelings with the world without necessarily becoming Internet marketers or computer scientists.
How does someone start a blog who doesn’t necessarily know where to begin? It can be tough to make heads or tails of the confusing and exciting world of WordPress plug-ins and the other resources available to even the humblest blogs these days?
These are the exact questions that caused Arun Basil Lal to start the website Million Clues, where he shares blogging tips for beginner, intermediate, and expert bloggers alike.
First off, could you introduce yourself? Where are you based out of? How long have you been working on the internet?
Hi everyone, I am Arun Basil Lal. I am a small town boy from the southern state of India named Kerala. I made my first website in Yahoo GeoCities back in 2002. So I guess I should say for 13 years? Man, that makes me really old in Internet years.
Currently, I blog at MillionClues.com about the stuff I work on, and I maintain a personal journal and travelogue at Kuttappi.com.
What inspired you to start blogging in the first place? What made you excited and passionate enough about WordPress and blogging tips to start writing about them?
A very straightforward answer would be the desire to make money. I read about this guy who was making a living with his Blogger blog back in 2006. I checked out his blog and found out that he reviewed tech products and gave tips on various things; and I remember instantly feeling, “Hey, I can do this.” I set up my first Blogger blog and wrote my first blog post in less than an hour.
Two years later, there was a bloggers meet-up in my state. We were about 120 of them. Blogging was so new and so rare that it felt like we belonged to a closed community back them. Everyone blogs one way or the other now. Back then, it felt like we had this power to talk to the entire world. It’s still true today, but it’s more common. At the meet-up, I heard about WordPress.
Soon I started playing with WordPress and got good at solving common problems. I started writing about them, and people emailed me to help with their website. I found almost 90% of my clients through my blog. And I got better at explaining things over time. The feeling you get when you fix someone’s day and still get paid for it – that’s a good feeling.
What need did you perceive that needed to be filled to inspire the creation of Million Clues?
Million Clues was originally about technology. Then it became about blogging, and then about WordPress, and then Social Media; and next, it’s going to be about Affiliate Marketing. The blog is like a journal of the things I work on and I feel passionate about. I have noticed that there are people who find these things useful.
One of the topics you are passionate about it SEO (Search Engine Optimization). SEO used to be based around keyword density and the like, but that has been shifting with Google’s changing algorithm due to keyword stuffing. Can you talk a bit about why it is important for a blog to be well-written and insightful and fill a unique niche or need these days to attract the necessary attention?
Yes, SEO has been of interest to me. But over the last two years, Google is giving us a hard time with the constantly shifting algorithms. However, the basics are still the same. Write good content, get good backlinks. I do not think that will ever change.
Blogging is no longer a hobby, it’s serious business. There are companies that have teams of writers and spend thousands of dollars on their blogs. If you are new, it’s tough going against them. And since Google is the primary source on how new users find your blog, you can’t just ignore the competition.
The easiest way is to blog in a niche and be as detailed as you can be in that niche. Find a small piece of the pie that you think you can master and then dominate it.
I can give you an example; a friend of mine did something similar with massive success. Say you are a Windows guy, but there are so many blogs about Micorsoft Windows and it’s impossible to crack in. So wait for the next version of Windows to come out and be on watch. For now, it’s Windows 10. Start a niche blog about Windows 10, and download the beta version and install it and play with it and write about everything you can.
When I say everything, I mean be as detailed as you can be. Even simple things like “How to change the wallpaper on Windows 10,” “How to do this,” and “How to do that.” Of course, you are not going to get a million visitors for your article on how to change the wallpaper, but maybe you will get, say, 10 readers a day? Imagine you have 1000 useful posts like that. Thats 10,000 visitors a day. Now you are in business. Add a newsletter, sell an eBook, sell software, advertise, sell the website on Flippa – you can make a decent income out of your hobby if you can be disciplined and persistent.
There: I just gave you a plan to make a boatload of money. You can thank me later.
You wrote a review recently of the Divi WordPress Theme, which you are quite fond of. First of all, what is it about Divi that you like so much? Secondly, what are some things you look for in a WordPress theme? What are a few others that you’ve tried and liked?
Divi is one of my most favorite WordPress themes right now, and I use it on many of my websites. You can read my quick review on my blog’s sidebar.
I love how easy it is to use and how little code I have to do to customize it to make it look the way I want it. The drag and drop page builder, its mobile responsiveness, and how well it integrates with my plugins… I can go on and on.
The things I look for in a WordPress theme are usually mobile responsiveness, cleanliness of the code, and the typography. I am a fan of Elegant Themes and most of the themes from StudioPress.
You wrote a post recently about making a mess of WordPress categories. What are a few reasons it’s a good idea for people to keep their tagging clean and straightforward?
Keep things simple. Your blog, in most cases, is not going to be what you originally intended it to be; it will evolve. So start with broad categories and use tags to attach posts together.
You also wrote a post about How To Write A Good Guest Post. Can you talk a bit about why it’s a good idea to post on other blogs, both in terms of SEO as well as raising awareness for your business? What are some other reasons it could be a good idea to write guest blogs?
Guest Blogging is my favorite means of link building because it’s not just about the link. You get direct access to another blog’s readership and often for free. It is your 500 words to fame. As long as you understand the audience and provide some value to them, they are going to come over to your website – and some of them will be your readers too.
You also have a post about How To Publish Good Guest Posts. First of all, what are some criteria to consider as to what makes for a good post or not? Secondly, what are some reasons why guest posts are a good idea for someone’s blog?
The only thing I look into lately is if the guest post provides some value. Fluff posts are a total no-no for me.
Guest posts bring in free content and free traffic. Your readers get something new, and you get more readership. It’s free for you, so why not?
For companies or individuals who have not yet taken the plunge and started their own blog or WordPress site, what are some reasons why having a blog is a good idea? How can it help someone’s SEO ranking and raise awareness of their existence?
If you are not doing it, your competition is taking away your profits. It’s not even optional at this point. If you have an online store (if you do not, you should have one), your customers are not always going to come looking for a product; they might be looking to solve a problem and stumble on your blog, learn about your store and check out your products.
You cannot control your profits or your sales. The only thing you can control is the number of people that see your products, and a blog is a great way to reach out to them.
It seems like there used to be a lot of skepticism as far as making an actual living on the Internet, but this attitude seems to be shifting. In your experience, does it seem like blogging and writing for the Internet is becoming a legitimate industry? What advice might you have for someone who wants to be a professional blogger?
Making a living on the Internet is very real. I do it, I know people who do it. But it’s not easy to get started. You need to spend time – maybe weeks, months or years – trying to figure out what you can do and then actually do it. I believe that if anyone sets their mind and start chasing something, the path will magically appear. But the magic will only happen once you start doing something. Most people just research and never take action.
To be a professional blogger, you need to learn to write damn well. Of course, you can say that your writing is terrible. That’s okay. You are not expected to write a Shakespearian play. But you should be able to express your thoughts in simple words. If you are not good now, you will be in a year if you keep writing.
My advice is to start a blog and start writing. Then approach other bloggers who might hire you to write for them and write for them. There are writers who write for multiple blogs and earn a comfortable living.
Or you can start your own blog and write for yourself. This route will be slower, and it will take time before you see a single dollar in return. But eventually you can scale it up and have a team writing for you. Writing is fun – I would do it for free.
For more updates from Arun Basil Lal and Million Clues, follow him on Twitter and connect with him on LinkedIn.