launch2 Charlie White knows blogging: he http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0240819179/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=0240819179&linkCode=as2&tag=damnfooldigitalswrote the book on it. But until August he hadn’t actually ever had a personal blog of his own. Sure, he was most recently a senior editor for tech website Mashable and held previous posts … "/>

Ex-Mashable Editor Charlie White On How To Launch A Proper Blog

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Charlie White knows blogging: he wrote the book on it. But until August he hadn’t actually ever had a personal blog of his own. Sure, he was most recently a senior editor for tech website Mashable and held previous posts running newsrooms at Gizmodo and NBC’s DVICE, but teaching others to blog at home in their PJs without having done it himself—well, that’s a little like writing a cookbook without ever testing the recipes.

Turns out Charlie’s pretty good in the home kitchen, too. Charliewhite.net launched this summer (with a post on door keys shaped like rock guitars ) covering gadgets, tech, funny videos and what White calls “inexplicable peculiarities” and now has 40,000 visitors a month and growing fast.

“I try to be a serviceable blog where people know what they’re gonna get but are sometimes surprised,” says the self-effacing scribe whose headlines tend toward the charmingly superlative.

Being Predictably Unpredictable

You might sum up White’s basic blogging advice as “Be consistent, be patient, but don’t be boring.”

Having edited for major tech sites and being a gizmo fiend himself, White says he’s perfectly positioned to review products, suss out trends and hunt down cool stuff that’s been overlooked.

“The key for bloggers…be consistent because people will start to expect to see a post from you,” White says. He posts at least 600 words each weekday (and hasn’t missed one since he launched), and says volume is important but not as important as consistency. Charliewhite.net’s portion of returning visitors has climbed steadily along with overall traffic as a result, he says.

“When I first started my blog in August of this year I had zero percent return visitors,” White adds. “I’ve been gauging my success by how many people find my blog worthy of coming back.”

His topics are a not-too-surprising but useful mix of listicle-style product reviews, how-to’s, the occasional opinion piece about technology and cool or unexpected bits of news he finds around the Web. But he has strict rules about originality and re-posting of other people’s content: he won’t jump into a topic that everyone is already covering on a particular day and he won’t re-blog something and call it “curation.”

 

Finding the Content That Works For Your Blog

Figuring out what to blog about on a daily basis is part instinct and part calculation, says White. “The first filter I use is a gut feeling. It’s either unique or funny or interesting of crazy. A topic that makes me say ‘Wow’ to myself,” he adds. “Then I have a candidate for a story. It doesn’t mean I’m going to write it.”

The second filter White applies is whether he has anything to add to the conversation that will be fresh or unique enough for people to want to read it. For that reason he finds himself drawn to product reviews: even if other blogs have covered the same ground, his take will naturally be his own and his followers want to know what he thinks. When readers come to trust your reviews, they return to find out what to buy next, he says.

And it’s not as difficult as you might think to find a niche that’s going unfilled, even in today’s content-saturated environment.  For example, when Mint.com, the popular personal finance site, came out with a refreshed iOs app, White noticed that blogs were simply rewriting the press release instead of delving into new features and design. “That’s an example of a deficiency,” he says.

Like many bloggers, White says that his biggest hits often surprise him. Because of his background editing for major tech sites, his product reviews  and how-to’s are popular. But White’s biggest hit to date started on a morning where he couldn’t think of anything to blog about and was bored by the day’s headlines. A quick glance at a reminder folder he kept of easy-to-fudge points of grammar and style turned into a post titled “50 writing errors that make you look like an amateur” which quickly snowballed in popularity, especially after he promoted it on Facebook. But runaway successes are rare, White cautions, and bloggers shouldn’t underestimate the “long tail” of content: seemingly niche articles for smaller audiences that, collectively, can generate a ton of traffic over the long term.

 

Getting Traffic to Your Blog

Attracting readers to a blog without a massive marketing budget or tons and tons of content—like Mashable—is a challenge, White admits. He got a head-start: as a popular tech journalist he amassed large followings on Twitter, Facebook and Google+ and he has been able to convert many of those into blog readers. But having a personal following and social visibility isn’t a prerequisite to gaining an audience, he says. Optimizing for search engines is a good place to start and it still matters, though less than it used to: White uses a popular WordPress plugin called SEO by Yoast to help him.

Editorial judgement also plays a role in helping readers find your blog, he says. “When you write about a product, state the name of the product in the title! That what people are going to be looking for. I’m going to have it in the first paragraph.” His reviews have the helpful word “review” in all caps in the headline.

White also spends a little bit of money on advertising to promote his more popular posts on Facebook and is considering expanding that budget to other platforms such as StumbleUpon. His typical ad spend to promote a post on Faceook: just $5 to $10. But, he says, he can see the results and pays close attention to how much traffic is generated each time. Since he puts Google ads on his own site, he recoups some of those costs with revenue and hopes to make the site break-even or mildly profitable, though it will never replace his day job as a source of income. Even hobby bloggers might want to consider spending a little to get their content out there, White adds.

“When I started with Gizmodo in 2005 there wasn’t really any social media…People couldn’t share like they do now,” says White. “Dealing with social media is just a really big part of blogging right now. If you’re not doing it, you’re going to get lost. There’s so much competition.”

 

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