Starting a blog can be a very rewarding experience for any expat living overseas. It’s a great way to explore and embrace your new surroundings, settle into an unfamiliar environment, and also learn more about yourself. Whether you’re a budding expat writer or a trailing spouse with some extra time on your hands, blogging about your experiences abroad can be a very simple but enriching process.It’s something that your friends and family back home are sure to appreciate, while a wider audience may also find your efforts helpful, interesting and/or enjoyable to read. So dive straight in and take on board some of our useful tips to help get you started.
Choose Your Platform
Deciding which platform to start your expat blog on can be tricky. On the one hand, there are several free options, such as WordPress.com or Google’s Blogger, which let you get started immediately after a quick signup process. They offer basic customisation options and a few themes to choose from. Your blog address will accordingly have a .wordpress.com or a .blogspot.com extension.
On the other hand, you can opt for a paid hosting service such as Bluehost, Hostgator or Godaddy, which for a small monthly or annual fee will give you your own web space to create your blog, and also your own domain name (with a shorter .com or .net extension, depending on availability). If you’re expecting heavy traffic on your site, you may want to get a dedicated server too, which will give you additional speed, control and customisation abilities.
It’s best to spend some time researching the numerous options available to you and then deciding which best suits your needs. You may want to begin with a free-to-use blog and then shift to a hosting service once you are confident publishing regular content, making it worthwhile to spend some money on it.
2. Pick a Suitable Name
It’s really important to choose a good name for your blog. With dwindling attention spans in today’s online world, a catchy, memorable name can be the difference between developing a large readership and being largely ignored. There are a number of expat and travel blogs already in existence, so try and think of a creative name that isn’t similar to one already being used. For example, words like ‘expat’, ‘traveler’, ‘nomad’, ‘wanderlust’, ‘adventurous’ and ‘wanderer’ are quite commonly found in this space, so steer clear of them if possible.
You’ll want a name that reflects your blog’s theme and who you are, while also being unique and unforgettable. Try not to be too specific by tying yourself down to a particular place or topic, so that you can expand or change your focus down the line without having to change your blog’s name.
Additionally, ensure that the name reads well when it’s squashed together into a website URL and maybe do a quick check to see that it’s available on the social media platforms you want to link it to – such as Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, etc.
3. Be Yourself
Don’t try and copy an expat blog, magazine or writer whose work you are familiar with. Readers are always looking for new and fresh content, so don’t be afraid to express yourself. Focus on your own strengths and passions and deliver work that reflects your distinctive point of view. If you’re a keen photographer, click away and share your collection of photographs. If you enjoy making videos, put together some clips from where you are and upload them to a platform like Youtube. Be brave enough to experiment and differentiate yourself from the other expat bloggers out there.
It’s always more fun when you are blogging about things that you enjoy. You can create your own niche and you will attract like-minded people if you put your heart and soul into it. Try and find things that other expats may not have discovered yet and highlight some ‘hidden gems’ that your readership will appreciate. Don’t compare your work to that of others and instead concentrate on building your own special brand.
4. Focus On Quality, Not Quantity
Publishing sub-standard work on your blog is a sure-fire way of losing your audience, maybe even forever. Each post deserves your full effort, or else it’s just a waste of your time and it will put people off visiting your blog again. Like it or not, your blog is going to reflect a part of your personality and so you always want to share your best work. There’s no point in filling columns of space with sloppy writing because readers are going to switch off as soon as they realise it isn’t worth their time.
If you can’t think of anything interesting to write about for a few days, it’s better to post nothing at all than damage your blog’s reputation for quality content. Be honest with yourself and be selective about what you publish.
If it isn’t interesting to you, it probably isn’t going to interest anyone reading it. Proofread what you write and avoid basic typos, grammar and spelling errors which can portray a level of unprofessionalism which you do not want.
5. Keep Your Target Audience In Mind
There are so many expat blogs around today, and quite a few of them fail to make any headway. One of the major reasons for this is that the authors don’t make a connection with their audience, or add any value to their lives. While a picture of what you had for breakfast might interest a close relative, the majority of your potential readers aren’t really going to care about a stranger’s eating habits. Ensure that your posts are informative, helpful, and/or entertaining, so that people are encouraged to come back for more.
While your personal experiences are important and will shape what you have to say, present them in a way that reaches out to your audience first and foremost. Your blog isn’t simply a record of your daily life in a foreign country, so it’s best to avoid publishing completely personal musings, anecdotes and photos (you can instead post those to a private social media page, to share just with close family and friends). Identify who your target audience will be and tailor your blog’s content to suit them.
6. Be Consistent
It’s advisable to post quality content to your blog regularly, so as not to lose touch with your audience. It’s quite a common phenomenon to see expat bloggers follow up a great piece of writing with a long gap, even after promising to post a second part shortly afterward. This has an adverse effect on your credibility and tends to distance you from your readership. If you are in the habit of posting articles or pictures at regular intervals, it’s a lot easier to develop a loyal following who will check in with you from time to time.
Also, be consistent with the quality, theme and subject matter of your posts. Set high standards for yourself and aim to maintain them, if not improve further as you gain experience as a blogger and spend more time in a new country. As an expat you have to realise that your knowledge-base is going to be limited to begin with, so stick to what you know well and focus on that instead to branching out to areas unfamiliar to you. For example, if you are a parent, concentrate on your experiences of raising children abroad and helping others who may face similar challenges to you. Don’t assume that a brief period living a country makes you an expert in their culture or traditions, so be willing to learn and don’t generalise your observations.
7. Create An Interesting ‘About Me’ Page
One of the first links a visitor to your blog will click on is the ‘About Me’ page, where you are expected to provide a brief autobiography. If you have an interesting story behind your blog or how you became an expat, it’s more likely that they will want to explore your site further. Spend some time drafting this page to ensure that the content isn’t dry or boring because it’s a direct reflection of who you are (or who the reader will assume you to be).
You can reference other successful expat blogs to see what the authors have written about themselves before writing your own description. It needn’t be a long and drawn out story; a few witty or humorous lines can suffice, as long as you’re giving people an honest glimpse into your life. You can also take this opportunity to state any objectives or aims that you have for setting up the blog and address your target audience.
8. Establish A Social Media Presence
Once you’ve set up your blog with a unique name, it’s advisable to register on some of the various social media options available to you, regardless of whether you will be using them immediately or not. These include Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest, Tumblr, Youtube and Google+.
Depending on the type of content you will be producing, certain platforms will be more suitable than others (for example, Instagram and Pinterest for photos, Youtube for videos, Twitter for concise updates). Even if you’re not interested in them at the moment, you can register your blog’s name in case they become useful to you in later months or years.
Posting links and promoting your blog on social media is a great way to increase your audience by connecting with other expats who may be interested in your content. Instagram, Pinterest and Snapchat are currently the fastest-growing platforms and joining them can help you expand your reach considerably. They also all have mobile applications that you can download and play around with until you decide which ones best suit your blog’s needs.
9. Connect With Other Expats
The best way to stay in touch with relevant trends is to connect with fellow expats in your area. They can be a great resource for you to determine what issues and topics to address in your upcoming posts. Join any expat groups that may be in your region or simply make friends with expats who live in your neighbourhood. Social media and other online portals can also be useful in locating expats nearby. Don’t hesitate to make the first move and reach out to them, as you might be surprised at how helpful and friendly they can be.
It’s also a good idea to ask your expat friends and acquaintances to give you honest feedback after going through your blog. You can leave comments on other blogger’s sites and develop a mutually beneficial relationship that way. Take their thoughts into consideration and see if you can incorporate any of their suggestions into your future work. You’ll have a better idea of what your audience thinks and be able to deliver content that better suits their needs, thereby becoming more popular and effectively expanding your reach.
10. Don’t Give Up
It isn’t easy to draw attention as an expat blogger, and it takes many, many hours of your time and effort to make an impact. You may have to write dozens if not hundreds of blog posts before you see much traffic coming to your site, but don’t be discouraged by a tepid initial response. Continue to put in your best efforts and with time you will gain credibility and a wider audience. Facing difficulties and challenges is part of the process, and those who don’t quit in the face of adversity are the ones who go on to be successful.
You may find that you have to alter your approach somewhat and make some changes to your strategy. Look over your work with a discerning eye and take on board any constructive criticism that you receive. Keep at it, try new things and don’t be disheartened, because there’s no reason you can’t be one of the many successful expat bloggers out there who have made it.