Greater than 7 minutes, my friend!
Successful blogging as a translator in 2017 (with infographic)
Blogging is popular among big companies and freelance translators alike. There are so many blogs that offer great content and discussions, that even the least creative writers aim to have one. However, having an idea to start blogging is one thing but continuing to write blogs (not to speak about great blogs) is something different. Many freelancers end up with writers block, disappointing results in terms of exposure and discussions or a recurring pressure to write at least something. This article covers the how’s, why’s and pitfalls of blogging and helps you to start creating a great blog in 2017.
Why blogging is important for you (and your company)
Let’s start with a personal experience:
In December 2013 I started blogging for KeukenErvaringen.nl, a website that was newly created by a friend of mine and that had to evolve into a knowledge base for consumers who were looking for a new kitchen. We literally started with 0 visitors. Every week I wrote one to three articles about kitchen-related subjects, like kitchen corners, kitchen storage and stoves. In order to gain ground quickly I first wrote articles that returned high internet traffic figures. Consistently writing and adapting the length of the content to Google’s changing search engine algorithms resulted in a growth from zero visitors in December 2013 to 50,000+ visitors per month in December 2016.
Blogging is as old as the web. When people of all trades discovered the potential of the internet they started out sharing their knowledge, ideas and opinions in online diaries called ‘weblogs’. It enabled them to create a platform to vent their ideas and attract followers with the same (and sometimes contesting) ideas. That aspect is still an important reason for people to write weblogs: blogging allows them to share their knowledge and to connect to a larger (global) group of people with the same interests.
Another reason for blogging is that it enables people to distinguish themselves. Only sharing knowledge or venting ideas can be interesting or useful but does not make others consider you as an authority in your field (or even an interesting person or company). If you want to be considered as a person with a right to speak or as an expert in your field, you should write articles on relevant topics on a regular basis. That way you can both share your knowledge and work towards an image of authority and know-how, which will make your website more attractive to websites and search engines alike and will drive up the visits people pay to your website.
The search engine part is an important aspect as well. In an era with a multitude of websites (according to Internet Live Stats there are some 1.1 billion out there) it has become more difficult than ever to stand out of the crowd and have your website ranked among the first 10 search results for a particular term. Blogging on a regular basis can increase both backlinks to your website and people’s visits, thereby creating a sense of importance among search engines, which will rank your website higher, which in turn can drive even more visitors to your website. Both the visitors and the higher ranking in search engines like Google.com can bring new clients to your company. So investing in blogging can have a real return on investment.
Finally, blogging is one of the cheaper methods to promote yourself, your business and your website. Of course blogging is not free in that it will take time, a blogging platform (a content management system like WordPress for instance) and perhaps some other small investments. However, writing a blog can be done by yourself. All you need to possess is knowledge on a particular field, some knowledge of a content editor and a computer with internet connection – all items that are part of our daily life. Having a third party to create posters, banners, flyers, gadgets and other promotional items to promote your website and company is, for sure, much more expensive.
How to start a blog
(Did you notice that? It’s a search engine optimized header for people who look for articles to start a blog. In this article it won’t make much sense, but you should really write search engine optimized weblogs in order to increase your ranking.)
The above mentioned reasons for blogging speak for themselves. Even when you don’t want to promote yourself (frankly speaking, I started my own blog because I love writing and sharing knowledge, while I was a bit afraid to get too much attention for my person) you might consider starting to blog because it can drive more traffic to your website.
I emphasize can because the overload of websites nowadays, out of which many are optimized with loads of money in order to rank high for certain keywords, makes it difficult to gain ground in Google quickly. Having a blog and ranking high on specific keywords therefore requires a long breath, as might be clear from the KeukenErvaringen.nl example above.
Back to the question: how to start a blog?
Basically blogging requires only four components:
- A topic that offers breadth and enough depth to write frequently without it being exhausted too early.
- Some basic writing skills.
- A platform where you can post your articles, ideally as part of your website.
Of course there are some secondary requirements as well, like having enough time to write a blog on a regular basis and some knowledge of website code. That however is of less importance when starting to blog.
Having a topic which you can elaborate on for a long time
Blogging is cool and you may feel the enthusiasm to start with it one particular day. It is tempting then to download a content management system (CMS), install a fancy website theme and beginning to blog. In many cases however, it won’t take long then to lose direction. Writing a single blog is not that difficult, but writing blogs frequently in order to win a crowd is much tougher. If you really want to succeed from the start you need to know what you are going to do and how you can carry it on for a long time.
According to this article in The Atlantic the bulk of websites are only here to stay for some 100 days. I bet many of these are weblogs, started by an enthusiastic person who feels the difficulty after a few weeks lacking time and inspiration. If you want to drive traffic to your website or to gain respect from peers you should write frequently. Nothing can be more disappointing for visitor of your website than surfing to the blog and finding out that your last article was posted a long time ago.
This weblog was only last updated in 2014; accessed at January 12, 2017
On the other hand you should make sure that your blog posts are not repetitions of each other. Apart from having a topic (or a field) you know like your pockets you should make sure that you can write about it multiple times without continually citing yourself from previous articles. If you as a translator want to blog, it would be a best practice to make a word web or mind map with at least 10 topics you might want to write about so you won’t easily get stuck in the first few weeks. On the other hand you should also make clear that you have the right knowledge to write about it. You will only gain respect from colleagues if you write true and solid articles that show that you know what you’re talking about.
Some basic writing skills
Translators know how to write. I mean, they are somewhat better at writing coherent and well-written articles than many professionals who are not involved in texts and content fulltime. For many translators it is nevertheless difficult to write a great article. Recently there was a furious discussion about a translator who wrote a blog in a language she had claimed to master but which she apparently hadn’t. Avoid similar pitfalls and make sure that your articles are good from the perspective of language as well.
A platform to post your blogs
Nowadays there are many platforms where you can post blogs. If you already run a website you can easily download and install WordPress (Simon Akhrameev wrote an interesting blog post about it here). Buy a theme (there are many for free as well) and start blogging.
If you don’t want a blog that is linked to your website you might choose to open a blog at WordPress.com (like this one by Emma Goldsmith) but a major caveat of it is that you will need to have a separate website and a separate blog. That’s not only difficult to manage but doesn’t work well for visitors either. Best practice is to integrate your website and blog so you can easily manage them from one platform, while all traffic you generate with your weblog is attributed to your website as well, thereby improving the overall ranking in search engines.
Endurance is all you need
It was said already: many blogs start on a beautiful afternoon with great inspiration, but die after a few months. To gain respect and website traffic alike you should have perseverance. Success in terms of respect and rankings does not come in a few weeks, not even in a few months. If you want to increase the number of visitors to your website or if you want to spark discussions among professionals you should write frequently over a long time. That sounds exhausting and sometimes it really can be. However, once you reach the heights of blogging there is no way back either. Depending on your goals you might find that creating buzz content on your weblog is too great to stop or that you simply can’t stop because there are so many more great topics to write about. But the road to success in terms of blogging is tough and tiresome. Be aware of that. Above all: be prepared. It’s the only way to become a successful blogger.
20 thoughts on “Successful blogging as a translator in 2017 (with infographic)”
Great article, Peter. I feel your advice was specifically written to me, as lately, I’ve been feeling worn out and uninspired as far as blog post writing goes. I also feel my posts are not being visited nor shared, which can be disappointing and drain my energy to move forward. You talk about planning out blog post topics beforehand, but what happens when nothing comes to mind? Good insights to ponder. Thanks for your input!
Thank you for your comments Beverly!
My experience is that you can’t force ideas to come up. So when I have an idea I write it down immediately. I now have a list of about 25 topics, enough to fill my blog for a year. However, in the process some of them will remove or merge with other ideas, while others will survive a year or longer (indeed I have articles I would have written last year but that didn’t make it yet). Make sure you have a balance between easy to write articles and in-depth articles. If you fail to write the latter on a single day you might opt for the first and work towards the complex article at a different pace, so you can publish it afterwards.
I sure wish I could come up with ideas as fast as you do, Pieter! I guess if I was seeing the reward of finding direct clients via blogging I would definitely feel more motivated to somehow find some inspiration and write more. The clients I’ve worked with lately have found me via Linkedin or Twitter through a referral (thanks, Dmitry!). I just feel the time I spend dedicated to my blog and social does not compensate what I’ve received in return. Maybe 2017 will be a new year for me and things will change. Thanks!
I feel with you. However, don’t assume that it’s that easy for me 😀 Sometimes I come up with 5 single ideas in 5 minutes and sometimes I need to wait a month (but I have some backups then from the first 5 ideas) 🙂 I didn’t find clients by blogging either and I wonder how many of us really did. I blog because I love to share knowledge and fortunately I don’t need to find clients at the moment. Blogging is a kind of fun for me then while it at the same time improves my SEO ranking (by receiving backlinks from other websites and because I sometimes consciously write SEO articles as my article “Is a ProZ com membership worth it). It was a surprise to see that I rank 5th currently on “Freelance translator English Dutch” as I didn’t aim for that. So indirectly blogging can still return new clients. And you’ll loose nothing when you write some articles in front if you experience a dry spell 😀
Save Save Save
Just another tip because of your comment that your blog posts are not visited nor shared: it’s a matter of time. Share your posts where you’re active, be it on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter or where-ever. People will then pick them up, read them, share them, follow you and it will return you a steady reader-base. You should be patient as the conversion from readers to followers is quite low but in the end it will grow on a steady pace. If that’s your goal, you should start today 🙂
“but what happens when nothing comes to mind?”
I have found that most of my writing ideas come to me when I least expect it, a lot of times exercise also stimulates brain activity and you might come up with an idea or two. The key here is to teach yourself to keep track of your ideas or have a simple way to write down all your new ideas. Some people will use pen an paper for that other would prefer apps.
Writing ideas are everywhere. You just don’t have to give yourself a break and try not to force anything. Let the brain do its thing 🙂
Very true, Dmitry.
Remember my tweet last year when I took of 15 minutes to relax and suddenly came up with 5 blogging ideas: good for 2,5 months of articles.
The key is indeed to save them somewhere. And: think out of the box. Blogging is great but if you can reach out your audience by other means like vlogging, infographics, etc. you should certainly do that!
Yes! Webinars and podcasts FTW! 🙂
Great post Pieter!
Be more active on the writing side, be it post on my blog, on Linkedin or Facebook or wherever online is one of my resolution for 2017.
Writing often is a passion translators have, as part of our profession, but it involves many challenges: lack of ideas, as Beverly pointed out, or for example the necessity to write in English to reach a wider audience.
Since English is not my mothertongue, I have to convince myself I can do it anyway. I started working on it some times ago, and at least on this ground I’m up to my resolution.
So be confident, all of you which aren’t native English translators. we can do it!
Thank you for commenting Silvia!
I am not a native speaker as well, so I always send my texts to an editor (that’s keeping us busy, doesn’t it :). It’s both securing me that the text is much better then when I should post it unedited, while I also learn from the feedback I receive 😉
Hi Silvia. You could try partnering up with a native speaker to proofread your articles before publishing. It could be a great way to forge new relationship and help promote knowledge-sharing. Or you can write in your native language and ask someone to translate it into English and publish a bilingual version on The Open Mic.
If you’re working with an editor make sure to give them credit for their work and always mention their name in all your articles.
I would like to second Dmitry’s great advice, Silvia. Since one reason for blogging, as Pieter noted, is to build up one’s authority in a field, and since our business is language, it is crucial that translators demonstrate to colleagues and potential clients that they are masters of the mechanics of language. If we write in our second or third language, it is almost inevitable that there will be errors or awkward grammar — but that should not cause us to abandon the effort. Partnering with another translator or copy editor in our foreign language to revise each other’s texts is, like Dmitry said, a fabulous way to build great professional relationships — and besides, it’s so much fun! It is one of the fastest ways to expand one’s translation skills as well. And, unlike hiring a copy editor, having a two-way copy editing partnership is free. It requires a certain degree of trust to turn over one’s imperfect texts to someone else to correct, but that trust deepens as the partnership evolves, to the point where it can become one of the most gratifying, profound professional relationships one can have.
Most important, partnering with someone to trade copy editing can provide both people the confidence to express their ideas. As Pieter wrote, this is a prime motivator for a blog and, when coupled with the strategies for discipline he suggests, can make for a great blog that will attract many readers.
We’ll be eager to see what you write, Silvia!
Love everything that’s been said about finding an editing partner and plan on implementing it myself. Thanks for this food for thought!
Yes Pieter, excellent occasion for CPD!
Very useful advice, Pieter, thanks for writing it up.
A good tip I heard in a presentation by a blogging editor was to write up half a dozen posts before even launching a blog; once you start it, try to always have a reserve of at least two (preferably more) posts waiting for publication. This way, you’ll always have something ready to publish even during times when you’re too busy to write or the ideas just aren’t flowing. This tip complemented another one the speaker gave, which was to publish on a regular schedule (once a week, once a month, twice a month, whatever). This not only lends you some discipline and a structure for the writing habit to develop, but it also satisfies your readers’ expectations of a certain predictability to your publications and makes you seem more businesslike. As long as you have a reserve of two to six posts, you’ll always be able to meet this schedule.
One question I have is when you said, “If you don’t want a blog that is linked to your website you might choose to open a blog at WordPress.com . . . but a major caveat of it is that you will need to have a separate website and a separate blog.” I’m confused by this: I’ve never heard this proviso — except in relation to websites where you are selling products paid for through the site (with a virtual shopping cart, accepting credit cards, etc.). Since most translators aren’t doing this, they can perfectly well have their blog right in their business website (usually on its own page), with all the benefits that entails for SEO and getting found by search engines. There are plenty of examples of translators doing just that. Perhaps I misunderstood what you were trying to say, in which case could you explain further what you meant?
Thanks again for your thoughtful article!
Thank you for your useful comments Catherine! That tip of the blogger is pretty good! I wrote about ‘frequently’ and ‘regular’, which boils down to the same thing you mentioned as the second tip. I also learned that search engines will come back with more or less the same frequency you’re publishing at, so you won’t only satisfy your customers but influence your search engine position as well.
What I have seen among translators is that many of them are not website savvy and hence are satisfied with only a website. When they at some point want to start blogging, they can have a lack of money to invest in a new website or a lack of technical know-how to start integrating a blog in their website. That’s why I suggest to have a separate blog and website then. However, I won’t prefer this approach (for the reasons I explained above).
Hope it’s a bit more clear now 🙂
Thanks, Pieter, for your response. However, I’m not sure the problem is cleared up yet. While it may be true that a translator doesn’t have enough extra cash to hire someone to set up a website and/or a blog, that’s the reason why going to WordPress for a DIY (do it yourself) site is such a great option. It’s free or inexpensive, intuitive or easy to learn, and there’s tons of advice for any problem someone might run into. Some technophobes might still find WordPress confusing (hey, for some, even a cellphone is daunting 🙂 ), but that’s an entirely different issue than what you said in your article: “If you don’t want a blog that is linked to your website you might choose to open a blog at WordPress.com… but a major caveat of it is that you will need to have a separate website and a separate blog.” “Major caveat”? “Need to have”? To the contrary. Saying they must be separate not only risks discouraging aspiring bloggers from ever trying (“Yikes, two different projects?!?”), but it’s also incorrect. The whole purpose of WordPress is to enable people to have a website WITH a blog incorporated in it (sitting in one of the several different pages of the website), especially if they want to boost their visibility on the web. It’s true that WordPress.com doesn’t allow commerce websites (selling commodities paid for through the site); if someone wants to sell those, not services, then that person should move to WordPress.org, which does allow commerce — but even there, a blog can be easily integrated into the same website. For those who want a noncommercial business website — offering services like translation — then WordPress.com is ideal for people who have something to say in a blog that will give them a creative outlet, with the added benefit of boosting their authority and, in the end, the SEO value of their entire website.
Assuming I understood your quote as cited, I hope what I’ve explained here clears up any misunderstandings potential bloggers might get. Like you, I hope many translators will give blogging a try — and your article offers them wonderful encouragement to do so. Thanks!
Yeah, the wordpress.COM vs wordpress.ORG is often super confusing, especially for folks who are not tech-savvy. .ORG offers way more control, but it’s probably suited best for more adventurous folks who like learning and setting everything up themselves. While .COM is perfect for those looking for a ready-made solution.
My personal recommendation is find a reliable hosting company first and ask them to install WordPress for you. It literally takes minutes and at a very low fee of 4$ a month you can be a proud owner of WordPress-powered website.
And then it’s time for some “fun” aka “learning”. It’s time consuming for sure, but it’s very rewarding to learn new skills.
I am not sure whether I understand you correctly, so let’s give me a try.
What I mean is that if you use a blog at a platform like WordPress.com and a self-hosted website, you need to maintain two different systems while all traffic you generate with your blogs is directed only to WordPress.com. So you might be a successful blogger then but it doesn’t increase the exposure of your professional website, while you can need that to keep your business running. I would therefore recommend to integrate the blog at your website (like via WordPress.org) so you 1) need to maintain only one platform and 2) benefit from traffic that’s directed to your website as a whole (blog + professional website together).
Please let me know if that’s unclear 😀
Like Dmitry said, the distinction between WordPress.com and WordPress.org can indeed be confusing. So can the subtleties of describing how to integrate a blog into one’s website. I suspect that, in the final analysis, both you and I are saying the same thing, just coming at it from different angles. Both of us are encouraging our colleagues to blog and, when doing so, to make sure to keep the blog and website in the same place.
Again, thanks for your post with such great advice about blogging!