I’m a bipolar writer. This is not news to anyone. As a person with bipolar disorder, I naturally have good days and bad days. Specifically, I naturally have average days and horrifically depressed days. And it impresses people that the Bipolar Burble blog manages to stay running through it all. Every week I get one or two posts up no matter what.
So people have asked me, how the heck do you do that? How do you keep a (popular) bipolar blog going through the depressed times?
Well, like a travel writer writes about travel, I write about mental health. Perhaps my type is not as common as a travel writer, but mental health writers are out there, nonetheless.
And, I have to say, it’s not easy being a mental health writer. It means talking about unpleasant subjects on a daily basis and facing parts of yourself that you’d probably prefer to gloss over. And it means forming an opinion, standing up and standing by that opinion even when it’s very unpopular. (At least, that’s what being a mental health writer means to me.)
And making a living is hard and there are no vacations, no weekends and no sick days.
I started the Bipolar Burble eight years ago anonymously. And for the vast majority of that time, no one read my blog. Oh, sure, I had a few avid readers and a person would stumble on it now and then, but even after I started producing decent content, no one read it.
Which initially was OK by me. I didn’t write for others, I wrote for myself, so if I had one, lonely reader, then that was fine, I still felt the urge to push pixels around.
Until, of course, it wasn’t fine. Then I had to figure out why no one read me and figure out how to actually get people out there to know about me. And so people ask me all the time: How do I get people to read my blog? How do I find an audience?
Figure Out What Your Blog is About
Ah, you say, but I know what it’s about, it’s about me!
Well, good for you. How many people are putting your name into a search engine? Unless you’re Ashton Kutcher, I’d wager, not many. You might want to alter your focus.
Pick a topic that interests you and that you can stick to, day after day after month after year – like, say, mental illness. And then be prepared to write on your topic and only your topic for a long time. Changing topics (like I’m doing right now) might confuse and fracture your audience.
Make the blog topic broad enough so that you can write many things but narrow enough so that you can identify a group of people who would be interested. For example, My Pet Parakeet, Pete is specific, but may not find much of an audience. Whereas Cheery Chairs is a pretty broad topic but it might be difficult to identify the segments of people deeply devoted to it. Chairs for Parakeets might be something in the middle.
Write Great Blog Content
No matter what you choose to write about, your content had better be stellar. It has to be something that connects with people so that people will want to go back to it again and again.
And make sure that content stream is constant – 2 blog posts per week at a minimum – more is better when building an audience.
Figure Out Who Cares about your Blog’s Subject
Once you’ve decided to go with a topic, figure out who cares about that topic and target them. Perhaps the National Society of Parakeets? Maybe the International Council for Chair Care? Perhaps Pets for Rest?
And then access those groups. Become a member. Participate in their events. Discuss things with other members. Get the word out that your Chairs for Parakeets blog is the very best.
Get an Audience – Get Loud, Proud and Social
Tell everyone under the sun you have a blog. Tell your family and friends and neighbours and school chums. If they don’t know about it, then they can’t support it or you. You can never tell too many people about your work.
And seriously, start social networking. Don’t roll your eyes at me – Twitter and Facebook have been the major drivers of my audience and they can be for you as well. I can’t go into all the ins and outs of social networking here, but set it up, do it, and use it for promotion every day. (But don’t be obnoxious.) (See how to write a Twitter bio here.) Also promote sharing and subscribing to your blog.
Learn About Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Yes, this one is last because if you’ve done all those other things, then blog SEO will (sort of) happen naturally. SEO keys in on keywords (subject focus), connections (networking) and quality content – things you should always be doing anyway. To get finer-grained, you’ll need to start learning about how Google works and that could take some time. For now just know that those other rules really matter.
Overall Tips on How to Have a Popular Blog
- Talk about what’s in the news – people are looking for commentary on it and they likely have thoughts on it too
- Be controversial (or not) – this always gets readers but you might not like the fall-out
- Answer your comments – this builds community and conversation and keeps people coming back
- Use headings, bullet points, paragraph breaks and images liberally – no one wants to read a large chunk of text
- Create solid, frequent content – oh, did I mention that one already?
- Keep articles to 400-600 words – people don’t have the attention span for more than that
- Link everything together – social networks, to blog, to homepage, etc.
- Guest post elsewhere
- Comment on other blogs or in forums where your audience hangs out
- Care for and about your audience
And keep in mind, becoming popular takes time. I have more than 6 times the traffic than I did a year ago, but that took a year. So be patient. If you want people to read you – they will – but it isn’t as simple as build it and they will come.
I’m a pretty busy gal right now, so not a lot of time to write new material. I promise I’ll try to get to something new next week.
- Last Minute Holiday Tips for the Bipolar – just published today. Here are four things you should know before you get any deeper into the holidays.
- What 2011 Taught us About Mental Illness – a wrap-up of the top ten things research taught us about mental illness last year including: bipolar misdiagnosis, bipolar treatment success predictor, mania treatment comparison and antipsychotic information. Part one and part two.
- You’re Narcissistic! Getting Over Insults – How one reader got to me even though I knew they shouldn’t have.
- Celebrating Mental Health News – on why we should celebrate the good moments in mental illness.
- How to Choose a Good Psychiatrist – one I’ve touched on here but in more detail.
- Bipolar Disorder Thought Types – have you ever considered the odd types of thoughts you have a person with a mental illness? I have.
- The Importance of Self-Care in Bipolar Disorder – tips on self-care plus a video.
- Sexual Health and Bipolar Disorder – the sexual concerns of people with mental illness.
You might recall, I’m taking part in a reader engagement and feedback program through WEGO Health.
Thanks to all of you who have taken the time to give me your opinion, but there’s more to do. Only about half of the people who have clicked on the survey have filled it out. We can do better than that!
So, Please Take One Minute to Fill Out This Survey
The goal is to find out more about you, my reader.
The more information I can gather, the better this blog can be for you because I want this to be a place that you find useful and engaging.
Hate something? Love something?
That’s what I want to know.
Two of you will be the first to receive my new ebook – for free!
Please take 60 seconds and fill out the survey. I appreciate it.
– Natasha Tracy
PS: And not to worry, this is the last nag article :)
You might have notice I’ve been soliciting more reader feedback lately. This is for two reasons:
- I want readers to fully-engage with the site.
- I want to provide you with information you find useful and helpful.
Because without those two things, this site turns into me just talking to myself, and well, I do that a lot already. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned about readers it’s that they surprise you. Actually asking you what you want is infinitely better than me guessing.
Thanks to My Readers
I appreciate everyone who has taken the time to share their thoughts with me. You’ve provided me with great topics to write about, and of course, your questions inspired the posts on mood tracking and the series on mixed moods in bipolar disorder, which is currently underway.
Today I’m launching a 60-second survey to get a bit more information about you. This survey is completely optional, but I would appreciate one minute of your time so I can learn a bit more about you.
I’m running this survey through a site called WEGO Health. WEGO Health focuses on finding people who are leaders in health communities. These are people who:
- Engage on health topics
- Answer questions
- Ask questions
- Share information on health topics
Basically, they’re looking for many of you. I know many readers here fit their profile and would possibly benefit from their services. Note that your information will not be shared or sold by WEGO Health.
Um, What Kind of Services
WEGO Health runs webinars, chats and whatnot on health topics. You never have to attend if you don’t want to.
I Don’t Want to Sign Up for Services
That’s perfectly fine. There’s a checkbox at the bottom of the survey that will opt you out of all emails.
Your Feedback Will Be Anonymous
One of the good things about running it through a third party is you’ll be anonymous to me so you can be completely honest. If there are things you don’t like here, it’s OK – be honest about them.
What You Will Get
By taking this survey you will get customized social media tips provided by WEGO Health.
And as a bonus, two lucky survey responders will receive my new ebook, currently in production: Electroconvulsive Therapy – Everything You Need to Know Before You Go Under the Electrode (it’s a working title, I know, inflammatory).
Go Answer the Survey
OK, go spend 60-seconds for me. I appreciate it.
(Note: I have no direct or financial ties to WEGO Health. If anyone has any questions about the survey, feel free to leave a comment here or contact me directly.)
If you’ve been around for the last couple of weeks either at the Burble or at Breaking Bipolar, you know it’s been pretty much all suicide all the time. And there will probably be more to come on suicide as it’s an awfully big topic.
But I do have a question for everyone:
What topics would you like to see on the Burble?
Are there questions about me? Bipolar? Mental illness in general? A timely topic?
A reader recently suggested a topic on mental illness and euthanasia / right to die. A great idea. (Although really hard. Someone is clearly wanting me to tackle a rather large challenge.)
I can’t promise I’ll address all your questions / suggestions, but I would like to hear them nonetheless. Because if there’s one thing I’ve learned by writing the Burble for so long: Readers will surprise you.