The Joys Of Blogging…


Well, as you can see from my long-term forecast, I’m not likely to be going anywhere interesting anytime soon!

Thailand is in the monsoon season, and parts, especially the northern Provinces, are getting rather more rain than they’d like. The west coast of southern Thailand around Phuket is also getting walloped, and as you can see, it’s on its way over here.

From the look of that forecast I’ll be doing my laundry a week from Monday. Before then I’ll become either the Naked Blogger, the Stinky Blogger, or maybe both!



Seriously wet!
Seriously wet!

Now I’ll tell you the truth. Despite the forecast I had my usual pleasant walk on the beach this morning, and my laundry is all clean and dry, because it stayed bright and sunny all day. Now, I’m just hoping the rest of the forecast is equally rubbish.

However; if it’s not rubbish, I’ll have a chance to do a planned major redesign of this blog, and I thought I’d share with you some of the joys – and irritations – of blogging.

First; why would I want to change things? Actually, there’s a whole bunch of reasons, but primarily I think the focus has changed since I moved to Thailand. Initially the blog was just a way to, well – twitter – about anything and everything. Now, it’s more focused on travel. And the overall look and feel don’t really reflect that.

The dark background is a bit funereal, and the first impression is of something rather somber and boring. Well, I don’t plan to change my writing style, so there’s not much I can do about the boring part.

dark & gloomy, or light & bright?
dark & gloomy, or light & bright?

In case you are wondering; how will I do that? Well; it’s both simple, and complicated.

If you are thinking of starting your own blog – for fun – I wouldn’t want anything in here to dissuade you. The basic task of setting up a blog is extremely simple. I use WordPress as it is by far the most popular Content Management System, and it boasts about its famous “5-Minute Install.” Actually, it doesn’t take that long. You can be up and running, and writing articles in less.

When it starts to get complicated is if you want to change an existing blog, and/or if your focus has changed to wanting to make some money from it.

People do make money. There are professional bloggers. Many are travelling the world and claim to work only a few hours a week, while making millions (insert currency of your choice) from their blog. But what they don’t tell you is that it’s taken them five or more years to reach that point, and that they have a full-time team of people working behind the scenes. They also don’t tell you that for every blogger making millions, there’s probably a million who are making nothing or next to nothing.

They also sell their own products from their blog, which I can’t really imagine doing. In fact may of them seem to sell “How to Make Millions From Blogging” books or online guides – when the answer to that is very simple. You create a blog that sells “How to Make Millions From Blogging” books or online guides!

In reality, there’s a huge amount of expertise needed, not to mention large slices of luck, in creating a successful blog. The successful ones have found niches – like a blog for gap-year backpackers, or one for fans of underwater tiddlywinks. Actually, that sounds a bit boring doesn’t it? Maybe naked underwater tiddlywinks? That’s sounds better. I’m sure that would generate lots of winks, but hopefully not too much tiddling.

Where was I?…

While my blog may have a kind-of niche – Thailand Travel – that’s very generic; and let’s face it, I still do a lot of twittering. Aside from which, making millions is not my objective. I’d like to make enough money to cover the cost of my travels, and thereby to expand my travels, and make more money to fund the expanded travels, so I can travel even more, and…. you get the picture. Well, I think that’s achievable, but only if I make changes.

Right now, I have to say, I’m both amazed and grateful. Page views have reached a whopping thousand a day. That’s astounding. But sadly, to generate income from the advertising, I need at least ten times, if not a hundred times as many readers. And achieving that is something of a challenge.

So, that’s why everything needs to be adjusted and optimized, and then promoted.

This week, I’ve taken the first steps. I now have a blog up and running on my PC. Why? Because if I made changes to this live blog, you’d see every little change I’ve made, as I made them. The blog would look different day to day, or even minute to minute. Very irritating.

Unfortunately, running a blog in-house is not so simple as the 5-Minute Install, unless you happen to have a computer running Linux – which I do, but it’s a tiny notebook that I only use when I’m travelling. WordPress needs software like Apache, PHP, and MySQL – which you normally find on a commercial web hosting site, but not on a PC. So these all have to be downloaded, configured, and made to play nicely together. Which means the five minute install took two days. But it’s working, so now I can start playing.

...themes, themes & more themes...
…themes, themes & more themes…

WordPress has a feature called Themes. You just plug one in and instantly your blog looks totally different. Your content, i.e. the stuff you’ve written, doesn’t change, but the style does. You can instantly change parameters like colors, fonts, font sizes, image placement, numbers of columns, and widget placement – those are the things that display calendars or search boxes, or lists of past articles, and more. And there’s gozillions of themes available, free, and not-so-free. So the basic job of changing the style of a blog is real easy.

But, as with all things in life, there’s no one theme fits all. I’ve found a few I like and that seem appropriate to the look-and-feel I’m aiming for. But, I always think things like – Hmm, that would look better over there, or – I need to change the color-scheme and put in some different images. And I can do that because all themes are customizable. But; it’s also possible to design your own theme from scratch. And that’s just what I’m doing to my head right now… scratching… trying to figure whether to customize or design. If the weather forecast is accurate, that decision won’t take too long.

Once I have the blog looking the way I want, the real work starts. Something called Search Engine Optimization, or SEO for short. That’s so that search engines, and Google in particular, can find the blog, and index every page and every image. It’s a weird science I won’t bore you with, but suffice it to say, many people make a good career by becoming experts in SEO. And those are the people working behind the scenes on the really successful blogs, while the blog owner travels the world.

Believe it or not, I already spend more time on SEO than I do on blogging. But I can see that it works. If I do a search of someplace I’ve been, then the relevant page from the blog quite often pops up in the first page or two of Google’s links. This is a GoodThing! And my photos too are included in Google’s “images of…” links. Strangely though, in Google’s Page Ranking, which gives sites a score of 1 to 10 for popularity, this blogs scores exactly zero! Never mind, some of the most popular blogs only score 4. But it’s something I need to work on.

So there you have it. The Joys of Blogging.

Don’t be surprised if one day you visit the site and think “WTF, that’s not Twitterings.” Hopefully it is, and hopefully you’ll like it.

Paul

...has been travelling the world for more than fifty years; having lived and worked in five countries and travelled to many many more. He likes to write about his travels - present and past - along with his other main interests of Information Technology and Motorsport, and he adds a few general twitterings along the way. More info than you could possibly need is available by clicking the ABOUT tab in the top menu line.

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