5 Essential Tips for Singaporean Bloggers - The ladyironchef story
In this blog I will share with you 5 simple tips on how to become a successful blogger. Since ladyironchef aka Brad Lau is currently ranked number one in our most popular bloggers in Singapore list, I think he makes the perfect case study. I've decided to do a bit of research to give readers and fellow bloggers some insights into how he became so famous. I hope to share with you some tips so you can achieve something similar with your own blog.
I do not know Brad personally, but as a web developer I've been able to use some tools to uncover some interesting facts like how his blog used to look. Because his blog used to look just like any normal food blogger starting out - I find his story very inspirational and something that should be shared. Yes this was exactly how his blog looked in 2008!
Should I start a blog?
First of all - blogging is not easy. If you want to start a blog just to be called a "blogger" or to get the "benefits" that come with being a blogger, my advice to you is DON'T. You will just end up wasting your time.
There are a whole bunch of fame hungry bloggers out there that give the rest of the bloggers a bad name. They don't even enjoy the process of blogging! Don't be one of them.
If you've decided you're starting your blog for the right reasons, here are 5 tips on how to succeed.
1. Be truly passionate about something
The best bloggers need to be truly passionate about something and derive pleasure from sharing that passion with people. Leslie Tay truly loves discovering and promoting hawker food. Bagahloicboy truly loves bags and fashion. Ladyironchef truly loves photography and food. And political bloggers can type up encyclopedias about what they are passionate about - their beliefs.
On first sight, you probably wouldn't think this amazing blog belongs to a Singaporean.
These passions are genuine feelings and people pick up on that. Their passion leads to them becoming well experienced in these fields and soon they become trusted authorities. Their passions drive them to create high quality articles on a consistent basis that people enjoy reading. This in turn signifies to google that they are quality content producers and they rank higher. Its a good positive cycle. Find your passion.
If you don't have passion, you end up submitting half baked posts and abandoning your blog halfway because there is just no motivation to continue. It takes an incredible amount of time + effort to get recognised as an influencer and chances are if you lack passion you will not last long enough to see any substantial benefits from your blog.
All the 'popular' bloggers you know today have been blogging for the last 5-10 years consistently. I would say a lot of Brad's success can be attributed to a mixture of him working hard about something he was passionate about and working smart, which brings me to my next point.
2. Improving your skills by working smart
Being a hardworking blogger is pointless if you don't know how to market your blog and only your mom ends ups reading it. And when that happens you feel disheartened and give up halfway, like so many of the bloggers ladyironchef started out with. Every single blogger I clicked on in one of his 2008 posts had abandoned their blogs.
That is why dedicating some time to do "boring stuff" like reading up on basic SEO so you know how to structure your posts so they get picked up by google is important. Nobody likes to do boring stuff. The people who have the discipline to do so end up improving, succeeding and standing out from the crowd. In terms of photography, from his old pictures I believe ladyironchef dedicated a fair amount of time developing his craft.
The picture at the top of the article is exactly how his website looked shortly after he started in 2008. The thing that separated him from other food bloggers was how he steadily improved himself over the years.
He realized taking good pictures was important to attract readers. He removed the watermarks and dedicated time to improving his photography. In my opinion he and Miss Tam Chiak are the bloggers who take the best photographs in Singapore. They both love photography and worked hard at it.
Work smart and don't give up!
In conclusion, both Tip 1 + Tip 2 results in giving your readers that something special when reading your blog. Either visually through good pictures, or educationally through providing trusted information. And then what could have been one-off readers end up coming back for more and soon you have a following.
It's very easy to succeed when you have passion but passion without direction is simply not enough. You need to pro-actively work towards improving to provide that something extra of value to your readers to stand out.
3. Learn basic SEO
Why learn SEO? So more people can discover your blog.
SEO can simply be described as a way to communicate to google that your site is important so they rank you higher in search results which in turn helps you improve your traffic to your blog. First up, here is one essential tip. Set up an account with Google Webmaster Tools.
- After you add and verify your site, click on the gear button at the top right.
- Set geographical target to Singapore. This has a tremendous effect on your blog, especially if its geared to a local audience and you will end up getting much more traffic from Singapore.
Because right now google doesn't know the difference and your site could very well be about Jamaica. Of course if you site appeals do an international audience, don't do this.
Another basic part of SEO is building up a strong backlink profile, which in layman terms means getting other websites in your niche to link to your blog. It is especially important if your site is new, or it won't even be indexed in google and remain lost on the internet with 10 billion other web sites.
It sends a message to google that "Hey, these important sites are linking to this blog, it must have good content so it deserves a higher rank". For those who do not know, higher ranked sites = more visibility in search results = more readers.
Don't bother with getting backlinks from sites with low page / domain authority, google ignores backlinks from them. You can use this free tool to check their ranks, which developers use as the true metric of page authority that replaced google's old measure of "PR". Generally anything below a score of 10 is worthless. The art is getting these blogs at least above 20 to want to link you, and that is not easy. Why would these high authority blogs want to do you that favour?
At TheSmartLocal, we have a PA score of 47 and we actually encourage bloggers to write reviews with us so you can leave a backlink and promote your blog on a high authority site and at the same time contribute helpful content (reviews). Also make sure these links are not 'nofollow' links (e.g wikipedia, thats how they discourage link spam) otherwise that is useless. Its important to look out for mutually beneficial opportunities like ours when building your backlink portfolio, they aren't easy to find. However, do note we have a very strict moderation policy so only well written reviews will be accepted.
Another method of building up your backlink profile is by creating guests posts but those take up much more time. Picking up basic SEO concepts to drive traffic to your blog is extremely important and deserves over 50 articles around the length of this one. I'm just scratching the surface here.
4. Outsource talent
There are times where you simply don't have the time to develop a certain skillset. It doesn't make sense to be a jack of all trades either. If you can't do it yourself, PAY someone with the skillset to do it. It will be well worth it if you engage the correct people.
Brad got a proper SEO company to handle his site's design and navigation. It is nothing out of the ordinary, but it's still a great example of the service and design to expect from a good SEO company. And that IMO was one of the biggest differences between his success and say, another very popular food blogger who writes better, has a higher profile in real life but in the online world gets absolutely massacred (in terms of traffic) because he does the 'SEO' himself.
Outsourcing to experts who do this sort of work for a living sometimes can be extremely good.
Another simple form of outsourcing? Buying a premium template for your wordpress blog created by a professional team. Forget the free templates that look generic and terrible. I still don't get how some bloggers opt to stick to them just because they are free. Here is a random template I googled that goes for $37. I could see this being a very pretty menu navigational system for food bloggers.
A well designed blog will help your blog significantly. It becomes easier to read, has a more SEO friendly navigational structure and a good design helps attract and retain readers. This is another example of 'outsourcing talent' and with crowd funding the price for a custom theme drops from thousands to only $20-$40. Its well worth the price and its not something you should skimp on.
The fact that you're using blogger, wordpress or tumblr is a good start already. It means you outsourced the custom creation of your website by using a pre-built user friendly CMS. So why not go further!
A lot of traditional marketing executives are clueless about digital marketing. They perpetually think 'bloggers' are the in thing. They can't differentiate between a blogger with actual influence and a blogger with a daily readership of 20 people. As long as they engage a blogger in their campaign they feel satisfied and current. They end up engaging random bloggers for a campaign then don't get the results they are after and then think blogger engagement is bad.
Instead of proper metrics like Alexa rankings or Klout scores, one of the metrics these traditional marketers use to gauge value is how the blogger behaves. Cold. To the point. Business. These actions communicate 'high value.' So does having an existing portfolio. A blogger on the surface can seem popular with a string of media invites but in reality there is little traffic and this is not good for the advertiser since they aren't getting 'eyeballs.'
Warm / friendly is confusing to them. Why is he so friendly? He must not be getting advertisers so must be compensating by being nice. Thoughts like these fill their heads, but hey, that's how it is in the 'real word' they are used to. When important people don't have the time to be nice its usually because they don't need anyone and can get away with it because they are 'high value'.
If you see ladyironchef's screenshot above, you can see how friendly he used to be. His blog back then had more soul. It was so much more relatable to users and I'm sure he used to get a lot of interaction in his comments.
"You are always welcome to ladyironchef!"
"Come join me on a gastronomic food escapade!"
After awhile, he became more important and started acting that way. He changed his online demeanor from warm and inviting into something more professional and up market that would attract advertisers. And it worked out brilliantly.
ladyironchef TSL Reviews
primate: "My go-to website is Lady Iron Chef's blog, because he provides insightful opinions about the food at different restaurants, and about 90% of the time, my sentiments are the same as his.
This is saved me from going to places that I would probably not enjoy, and this has thus saved me quite a load of cash. Good money should be spent on good food. I am eternally grateful for this blog."
xiaochaboh: "Ladyironchef really inspires me. He has an awesome collection of reviews of almost every restaurant in Singapore. From western cuisine to hawker fare, to dessert buffets, Brad Lau has it all covered. Just google his 'ladyironchef (name of restaurant)' and most likely his review will pop up.
Also, it is because we have kinda same taste in food. What he likes, usually I will like too, with few exceptions.
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