12 Tips for running a Successful “Personal” Blog (and how to increase traffic / pageviews)

Want to be a 'better blogger?' These are my tips:

Blogs are complicated.

It’s surprising how much work actually goes into writing, formatting, researching, and publishing posts. Because really, there is so much more than just “posts” on a blog.

There are two types of blogs: technical blogs and personal blogs. Technical blogs are the kinds of things you find on Google search when looking up “how to change a light bulb” or “best places to visit in Amsterdam.” You read the piece that answers your question and them immediately leave.

Personal blogs, on the other hand, are more personal. Posts might have technical aspects to draw in new readers (like “10 ways quitting my high-powered job ruined my life” or “8 things I wish I would have known about college my freshman year”), but the posts on personal blogs are written in first hand and the writer often drops bits of their own life and experience into the posts.

Personally, I love personal blogs. I’m a sucker for HuffingtonPost, xoJane, and all those other sites with tons of juicy and interesting content.

Also, I run a personal blog (in case you hadn’t noticed)

And I made this handy guide for other people who run personal blogs, as a way to share what I’ve learned over the last three years of blogging.

These are my 12 tips for successfully running a personal blog, increasing pageviews, and getting more engaged readers.

1. Include pictures from your own life.

I only (regularly) follow two blogs that doesn’t post photos (“Zooming Japan,” because her writing is just that good and “My Asian Fixation” because it’s hilarious). But honestly, it took me four or five times of accidentally landing on her page while looking for something else before I subscribed.

When people read your blog, they become your friend. Or at least they get a feeling of closeness, because you’ve let them into your life and have shown them some of the skeletons in your closet. They feel like they’re your friend.

About once or twice a week, when I’m out and about in Tokyo, someone will recognize me (super flattering, by the way. If you see me, please say “hi!”). Most of them will also say stuff like “I feel like I know you because I read your blog so often!” or “Oh my gosh, Ryosuke is exactly how I imagined he would be!”

Even at our wedding, back in January, I had several family members, friends, and guests say “I feel like I’ve met Ryosuke before, since I read your blog!”

Of course, concrete, practical, and relatable advice sells. But if you can’t do that, sell friendship. I, for one, love feeling like a friend when I read someone’s blog.

And really, what kind of friend doesn’t share photos?

kyoto couple yukata kimono gaijin travel amwf

2. Remember: You’re writing for them, not for yourself

If you’re writing a blog as some sort of therapy, don’t expect a lot of readers.

I think thing a common thought in the blogosphere is “if you build it, they will come.” If you write posts, people will read them.

No. Not really.

One of the biggest mistakes I see is when someone sends me a message like “I’ve been blogger for two years and still don’t have very many followers. Can you look at my blog and give me some advice?”

So I do. And 95% of the time, the blog is structured in a “Well today I did this and then I ate at this awesome restaurant with [insert friend name] and then we went shopping and I bought this super-cute skirt and look! Isn’t it cute???”

[And the other 5% of the time is people shamelessly promoting their blog without really wanting any advice]

I had this kind of style when I first started my blog. It’s tempting. It’s very natural and easy to write. Hella boring to read, though.

I realized the error in my ways because, lucky for me, several of my friends and acquaintances started blogs around the same time I did. Some were “study abroad blogs”, some were “after college blogs,” and some were “I just had a baby! blogs.” Pretty much everyone (including me) wrote in that scrambled narrative style.

I realized if I couldn’t make it throughtheir posts (and I liked the person writing it), how can anyone make it through mine?

If you’re writing for yourself, you’re the only one who will read it (and, well, maybe your mom). If you’re writing for others, you will gain followers.

3. Craft a Tagline and find a Niche

Niches are your friend. I have a couple (I like to keep my hands in multiple cookie jars). My main niches are:

  • Expats living in Japan (or people who want to visit Japan)
  • AMWF couples (Asian men dating/married to white women, etc)
  • Long Distance Relationships (Ryosuke and I were in an LDR for over a year and a half before we got married)

Those niches work very well for me. There are also blogs about adoption, travel, living abroad, midlife crisis, handling a divorce, being a single mom, being a stay-at-home mom, being a stay-at-home dad, and really anything else you can think of.

By the way, my tagline is: “The adventures of a Texan girl married to a Japanese Salaryman, living in Tokyo.”

4. Make your life like a reality show

I don’t usually watch TV (I don’t have the time), but when I do, I watch dramas. Some of my favorites are Bones, Modern Family, the Mentalist, and the Big Bang Theory.

I love the stories. I love seeing successful human relationships, hilarious screw-ups, and people doing good things with their life.

I’m the same way with blogs. I love reading interesting stories about interesting people. I’ve read through most of the “It Happened to Me” section on xoJane.

Your main job as a bloggers is to entertain (remember, you’re writing for them, not for yourself!). If you can’t entice repeat visitors with your hilarious stories and narrative, your blog won’t get any bigger.

YOUは何しに日本へ japanese national tv grace and ryosuke couple amwf interview

5. KISS (Keep It Short, Stupid)

Short is (usually always) better.

I can see the irony because this post is massively long. Sorry.

Basically, if you can say it in 300 words, do it. If you need 1000 words, that’s ok too. Just cut the fluff. I’ve noticed the best posts fall in the 700 – 1000 word range.

6. Post regularly and don’t ever stop posting (without warning)

If you can’t commit, don’t start.

Every once and a while, a blog I follow takes a 3-4 month hiatus without warning. Something comes up, I guess.

But the thing is, I have a “blog list” … and if I check a blog for several months without an update, I remove the blog from my “blog list.” The sad fact is that most of bloggers who quit never go back to posting, so it’s a waste of time to keep checking. And I know I’m not the only one who removes blogs from my list after a decrease in posting.

Maybe you’re different. Maybe you really will go back to regular posting after your short hiatus. Just remember… you might have already lost some of your fans.

[By the way, I’ve come to notice that if you start every post with a “Sorry for the late post, I’m going to write much more regularly now,” it’s a problem. And a sure sign your blog is going to be abandoned soon]

7. Make it search engine friendly and build your website rank

SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is your friend. Really, you’re not a sell-out.

Google Search is one of the single best sources of free advertising on the internet. If you don’t take advantage of this free exposure, you’re kind of an idiot (no offense).

When brainstorming a title for your post, make it the kind of thing you would click on if you were researching the topic on Google. Pick titles that are engaging and loaded with keywords.

For example:

You should also build your website rank through guests posts on other sites and backlinks (getting sites to link to your and linking to older posts within your posts). Also, please avoid Black-Hat SEO. If you want to make your blog more popular, spend a bit of time researching how to build up your website’s ranking. 

  • About 10% of the posts I write are just for SEO purposes, to draw more people to my blog. A lot of my followers have said things like “I found your blog while searching for [food, location, thing] and have been a fan ever since!”
  • The other 85% of my posts are things I generally want to write. Of course, they’re optimized for SEO too.
  • The last 10% are updates and filler posts.

8. Don’t give up!

The only way you can “fail” at blogging is if you stop blogging altogether. Yes, it’s rough. Yes, it eats up your time, causes stress, and exposes you (sometimes) to incredibly vile trolls.

But it can also be very rewarding, if you stick with it long enough.

  • I started this blog in September of 2012, when I first moved to Japan. For those first 4 months, I averaged 16 views a day (1,700 total views for the year). I was pretty proud of that.
  • By 2013, my blog picked up steam. I averaged 1,000 views a day, with 375,000 total views that year. I was getting 60 TIMES the number of views. Needless to say, I was thrilled.
  • It’s 2014 now, and my blog is still going strong. I average 6,000 views a day now, with 1.8 million views so far this year. Now my blog actually contributes to my income.

It will take 3+ years to get really good at blogging, if you’re lucky. Don’t give up too soon.

My first (full) year of blogging – 2013

blog stats page views

My second (full) year of blogging – 2014

blog stats page views

9. Reply to all comments (until you get too big)

I you get 10-20 comments a day, you really ought to be replying to all of them. They don’t have to be in-depth replies, of course, but a simple “Thank you” will do wonders. Why? Because if you don’t, you might really end up losing someone who could be an amazingly devoted fan.

I discovered a blogger about two months ago who had written a book. However, the link to the book was “broken” and I couldn’t find the book on Amazon. I left a comment on the post (there were only 3 others; this was a rather small blog) and sent an email asking where I could buy the book.

And then I forgot about it.

A couple weeks later, I checked her site. The link was still broken, but she had posted new stuff since then. Six weeks after I sent an email, I got a one-line reply on my comment saying “buy it from my store.” (which, by the way, was really difficult to find on her site).

No “thank you.” No “Sorry for such a late response, it’s been crazy!” No “Thank you for buying my book!”

Really, I’m not the kind of person who gets bent out of shape over customer service, especially when it comes to blogs. I have probably pissed off my share of people because I won’t write paragraph-long replies to emails, comments, and questions.

But I always reply.

And I always say “thank you.”

10. Don’t be a jerk to your readers

I guess this kind of flows into the late one (hey, I’m on a roll here!), but seriously, don’t be arrogant in your posts. Also, don’t lie. If you get caught in a lie once, your readers will start to wonder what else you’ve lied about. It’s not pretty.

My mother told me a while back the easiest way to become a better writer is to become a better person. I completely agree.

Blogs are very personal. You get a window into the author’s soul… and a lot of the time, I don’t necessarily like the racism/sexism/homophobia/arrogance I see in that window.

So I stop reading.

11. Use Social Media. Lots of it.

I use Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube. I also created a Pinterest account recently and will go crazy with that once I get more time.

People use different channels. The subscribers I have on Facebook and very different than most of my Youtube fans. Cast a wide net over several social media platforms to get a more loyal following.

12. Don’t attack the defenseless (and don’t use names)

I have very little respect for people who use a public forum to attack someone (“undeserving”) who can’t defend themselves.

There is a very large difference between calling out a corporation that racially profiles new hires and a friend that back-stabbed you.

Trust me when I tell you that I have been tempted to use my blog to call someone out. Or “get even.” Seriously, I used to fantasize about it. Basically, I’m a horrible person.

But I never do it. I don’t use names. And if I’m using a backstabbing ex-friend or acquaintance for a lesson in a blog post, I make sure to change enough details so that they can’t tell who they are.

[The one time I didn’t bother to change any details was from this post – the example I used at the end, but in my defense, the ‘friend’ in question was sending Ryosuke private messages asking him out to dinner so they could “talk” and inviting him over to her house alone. No. That’s not cool.]

Also, as I talked about in this postI don’t use names when I blog. I’ve found my own name a couple times on other people’s blogs (months/years later) and it always made me feel very uncomfortable.

13. Read the blogs, connect, and comment on other bloggers in your niche

There are a lot of things I’ve learned as a blogger. There are also lots of things I struggle with (privacy, trolls, what to post online) that someone who is not a personal blogger typically doesn’t understand.

At the very least, by connecting with other bloggers, you have a chance to pick the brains of the people who have come before you and learn from their mistakes. And, by commenting and guest posting on their sites, you can also gain a whole slew of new followers. 

texan in tokyo comic banner header

About Grace Buchele Mineta

I got into the writing business by accident. Now I live in the countryside near Tokyo with my husband, Ryosuke, where I draw comics, blog, and make videos about our daily life. Contact: Website | More Posts

49 Comments on 12 Tips for running a Successful “Personal” Blog (and how to increase traffic / pageviews)

  1. Wow, this is SO encouraging for me. Thank you so much :)

  2. I have just seen a link to your post about tips and I find it very useful and precise! I am impressed what you have achieved in three years and I wsih you many more followers and inspiration!

  3. Thanks for your tips! Reading my blog now. I think I made a mistake of writing the first few articles too personal without even giving tips for readers! Damn! Thankfully, the latest ones have tips and I will do it moving forward.

  4. Thank youuu for this!!! :D

    I just started blogging now that I’ve been here for almost two years and even though I used to blog years ago on LiveJournal, I feel like the blogging community and life is a whole lot harder these days. (0_0)

    I really appreciate these posts and that despite the fears and anxiety surrounding it all you preservere through!
    You are so strong Grace! <3

    Will do my best with my blog! (^-^)/

  5. *jawdrop*
    Why haven’t I seen this post before? (O__O”)
    Ok, it was probably because I was insanely busy with preparing to move and all. ^^; SORRY!! ;___;

    I feel so honored that somebody actually thinks my writing is good. I really do!
    As you know English is not my native language and I always feel my writing is pretty bad. I sound like an elementary school kid. I would love to be more elaborate, but I lack the vocabulary, I guess.
    I’d be a better writer in German, I suppose, but I’ve only always blogged in English and I want as many people as possible to be able to understand my blog. ^^;

    What a great write-up!
    The thing is while I know all this stuff, I commit most of the sins you’ve mentioned here regularly. ^^;

    I’m too paranoid to share more about my personal life than I already do.
    I’m too geeky to ONLY write about things that will get many hits. I just love sharing yet another hidden spot I found in Japan – even though most people aren’t THAT interested in it. Just can’t give up on that one. ;P

    I used to go on hiatus when I was travelling a lot, but at least I usually informed my readers about it and kept them updated with lots of photos on social media. XD

    I think it’s amazing how much your blog has grown in such a short time.
    But I can totally see WHY! :D

    I like how honest you were in this article.
    Having a successful blog is a LOT of hard work and I suppose a lot of people don’t know that. ;)

  6. Great post, i used to blog a lot and even made blogskins. But it was just filled with random ramble about my young teenage life. I actually found your blog because i was googling about LDR. After reading one post I went on a binge and read almost all of your posts. haha. Also a small note, i think #8 you meant 60 times more views rather than 6 times. Love your blog and your comics. :D

  7. I will say only one thing: You are an inspiration for my blog about board games http://latourades.wordpress.com/ . Thank you again!! Hope to be able to see when you will be in Texas!

  8. You were right about catching followers researching topics on Google–I found this site when your how-to-onsen post came up and have been hooked since :D (Which is some feat, since this is my first and so far only subscribed blog.)

  9. Great post Grace! I have been thinking about starting my own blog for ages and this was one of the most useful things I have read. It is really impressive to see how far you have come!

  10. Thank you for writing this post! As a blogger, this is very helpful and encouraging. The numbers (visitors per day and analytics) are also very interesting.

  11. Oh! That was the same person. I see…. A friend of mine once ran afoul of Japan-is-not-the-U.S. in that she had once met this couple at a barbecue, They’d omia-ed. Turned out the guy worked right across from my friend’s apartment. A few months after that, he contacted her and asked to meet so that he could practice his English. She’s short on friends and thought he was just being friendly, though at the first cafe meeting, he suggested she not mention this to the woman because “Japanese girls get jealous.” I suspected he was trying to get in her pants, because um I have a general opinion of most men. Turned out he’d turned down the omia. Well, my friend found herself accused of being a man-stealer, and one older Japanese woman had taken “He broke the omia and is eating with her, and she lives next to his work!” and decided that my friend had MOVED to live near the man’s work in order to steal him from his fiance etcetcetc. Actually, the ex had to point out to her that this in fact was not what had happened. At any rate, throughout all of this, I was the only one who said “That cold-hearted arse!!” And other words.

    • Eek. That doesn’t sound good.
      Never mess with a women scorned. I’ve heard even more stories like that from people who have either been dumped/cheated on/accused of stealing a man.
      It’s brutal.

  12. Thank you for the awesome tips! I am just starting out on trying to blog more than I used to in the past and these tips really did help a lot. I have been following you for a few months now and I really love your style. I can’t wait to see what else you will have for us in the future! ^_^ Best of luck!

  13. Behind the Story // 11 November, 2014 at 7:02 am //

    Thank you for the excellent tips. BTW, I enjoyed your mom’s comment above.

  14. I think I belong to the group of people who have some great ideas planned for their blog but are actually too lazy to get it started. I have some ideas about improving my blog and the whole theme, furthermore I wanted to expand my social media sites already for a years but hey, its just a year, not that bad yet :p

  15. Thanks for this post. It was really interesting to read it. I want to start a blog when I will be travelling in Japan in 2016, but even before to get used to it\improve my english. I will probably start only next year because I dont have time right now for it…but your post will be really usefull !

    I’m not sure I understand what is Niche ???

  16. let’s follow your advice and see what happens! :>

  17. Great food for thought. It has actually never occurred to me to write my blog for anyone other than myself. Seeing as I am a poor writer, it’s a wonderful, valid point that I will try to incorporate. Cheers.

  18. Thanks for the tips! Really great to read!

    For me, the hardest part of blogging is the consistency. I love blogging, but it takes me so many hours to write one blog post because I’m a perfectionist freak. Recently I’ve tried to let go a little and I was surprised it worked, so I guess I should do that more often.
    But yeah, I think the worst I did since I started serious blogging was one post in a month. I’m ashamed of that! Usually, I try to stay with a post per week, but I can’t lie, it’s really hard. I admire you a lot to be able to post many things on your blog every week.

    Keep up the good work!

    • Right? It really is hard…
      Good luck with consistency. It really is hard. But… very important. Don’t let your blog die!

    • Oh god, I’m exactly the same! ^^;
      Furthermore I’m writing in a language that’s not my mother tongue, so I double- and triple-check. ;P
      But I’m also trying to let go a little. It’s hard, but baby steps are still better than nothing, right? *g*

  19. Grace's Mom // 10 November, 2014 at 8:57 pm //

    Great post Grace, a big help to lots of people I am sure! BTW, did you include the reference to your Mother in #10 to see if your Mother really does read all your blog posts? (She does!)

  20. Thank you for the tips Grace! I’m hereby crossing off #13 and will work my way around your other tips :)

  21. Thanks for this post. There are some great tips here. I think it’s pretty clear that how much time you’re willing/able to spend on your blog contributes to its success. A lot of these tips are quite time consuming. But I guess that’s the reality of keeping a blog. Now I just need to find more time to commit to mine and to connect with other bloggers. ;)

  22. Great post. Smart, simple tips that cover a lot of important ground.

  23. Several months? For me, one month and I will strike them off my Follow list. You are right, “Sorry for the long hiatus, I’m back” will usually be followed permanent silence.
    And I do feel like I am your friend now, I don’t mind reading super long posts if it is worth reading ;)

  24. I guess that #1 is my #1 mistake! I have been debating whether or not to include photos of myself on my blog – maybe one day I will take the big leap and share my photo to the world!

    • It’s really hard. And kind of dangerous/embarrassing.
      I mean, you already share so many lovely photos on your blog – so missing personal photos isn’t TOO much of a hurdle. I like your blog.

  25. Great tips. Thank you so much for this!

    Incidentally, the link to the post about the woman trying to get Ryosuke does not link to a post about that.

    • Ah yeah. It’s linking to the “fighting” post. At the very bottom, I referenced someone who spent quite a bit of time telling my relationship was toxic because Ryosuke and I argued. She bragged her and her boyfriend had never had a single (even small) disagreement in their three years together.
      Later that week, he dumped her.

      A couple months after that, she turned her attention to my then-fiance.

2 Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Improving your game | ribbons of shame
  2. Today, my blog has 5 MILLION page views!! | Texan in Tokyo

Comments are closed.

error: Content belongs to Texan in Tokyo
%d bloggers like this: