I think that a lot of soon-to-be and just-arrived expats create blogs as a way to carve out a special identity on the web. Your blog becomes a "home away from home" of sorts that is always there no matter where in the world you may find yourself!
Lately I've had a few emails come through asking for blogging tips and how to create a great expat blog. There's a crop of newbies looking for advice and I'd love to share, so here we go:
Use your real voice Write in the way that comes most natural to you. Don't try to copy or impersonate the writing style of bloggers that you admire. You will typically come off sounding silly or unnatural. Most importantly, only use words and phrases that you would actually use in real life. Here's what I mean: covet, desire, dreamy, lusting, crushing -- these are all words that if I said in real life, in real conversations, my friends would probably laugh at me. Yet, they are words that lifestyle bloggers use all the time. It never, ever sounds natural to me as I've never actually been in a conversation where someone has used these words in a non-satirical way.
Write consistently I give this piece of advice with full self-awareness that regularity hasn't always been my strong suit (I've got a 3-month editorial calendar for fall already created to help solve that problem), but writing consistently is so key to success. It's great for two reasons: (1) your readers love it and (2) Google loves it.
Create a niche + find a focus My favorite expat blogs are the ones that have a real, solid editorial angle. For instance, with Michelle I know to expect high-level dialogue on topics related to motherhood, parenting and women's issues. When I visit Georgette's blog, I know I'm getting a insider's look at the best places to eat, visit and see. Obviously, they both write on other topics occasionally, but their blogs thrive because they have chosen a subject matter to really focus on. Sometimes it takes a while to find what you're passionate about -- here's a tip: keep an eye on the posts that are the easiest and most enjoyable to write.
Don't worry about being perfect In the Pinterest/Instagram age it's so easy to become convinced that people live perfect, magical lives -- particularly with expat blogs. While it's important to cultivate an image and brand for your blog, it's also important to keep it real with your readers. Authenticity means hanging the dirty laundry out sometimes so that people know you are human. Leading by example: the photo at the top of this post is what our workspace looked like once...when I styled it specifically to photograph. Most days, it's insanely messy.
Use SEO and Google Analytics to inspire you, but not box you in. This blog gets a lot of traffic. I mean, a lot. But, I make a point to only check my Google Analytics account once a month -- tops. That's because I find myself overly-interested in the search terms that people use to find me and how I can better optimize my site. It's great to optimize yourself for traffic, but it's detrimental to authenticity to create content based solely on what's going to bring people in. In 2011 I focused a lot of creating SEO-juicy posts and while my traffic soared, my number of returning visitors didn't...and I didn't like that. I want people to come back to my blog often, read lots of my posts and stay connected with me. Lots of traffic doesn't make up for lost connections with your readers.
Take and use your own photos IMHO, photos are what really separate good blogs from great blogs. In the beginning you may be nervous to share your photos, but the more you take and the more you share, the better your photos will get. If you read up on the basics of composition and how to use light, you can get away with populating your blog almost strictly with mobile photos.
So, there are my top tips. I hope expat blogger newbies find these tips helpful and informative!