I’ve worked full time with hundreds of football bloggers for the past two years now and prior to that, another two years part time with a handful of dedicated guys (and girls). So, into my 5th year of football blogging, what have I learned? Well, the first thing is that there are plenty of people who have been doing this for a lot longer than me! But I’ll get to that. 

This is a two-part series, split into ‘the content’ and ‘publishing and promotion’ advice. There is a difference!

I asked several fantastic bloggers/writers/journalists, “what makes a great blog“. The following 8 pointers are built around the responses they suggested. They’re in no particular order, apart from the first one – it deserves to be at the top. Many of these points are related so, much like the Bible, read each in context.

Part One: The content

1) Write about what you love 
“There’s no point doing it and not enjoying it”, Jamie Cutteridge
Raised by Jamie Cutteridge (who writes a lot for TwoFootedTackle), this is absolutely key. Take any given footballer, you can often tell whether or not they love playing; it’s the same for a blog. 

You will not produce your best writing if you’re struggling to get passionate about it – if you love your subject, you’ll enjoy your writing. If you enjoy your writing then it will come naturally. And that will make it easier to write.

Importantly, if your readers feel your love for a particular club, league or season (for example) then they are more like to enjoy reading it too.

2) Are you well versed in a particular niche?

“Find a niche, a unique perspective that’s just yours”, Andy Brassell

Two writers I respect greatly both raised this point, Andy Brassell and Michael Cox (of Zonal Marking). Blogs like Swiss Ramble, European Football Weekends and of course, Zonal Marking, are shining and stand-out examples of what it means to be well versed in a niche and then write about it. They’re all truly superb sites. Some lesser known sites are also great examples; take The Groundhog for instance!

If your passion is a niche, like the above examples, then it’s a great place to start.

I takes a very considered approach to make writing about a niche something that is accessible. There will be people who find your site, who don’t know much (or anything) about what you’re blogging about; how can you write so as not to exclude these readers, but still be the authoritative voice on the subject?

It’s a tricky one. But it again comes down to this:

Is there something you love, that may be a bit off the wall or very niche, that you want to write about? Sit down and put pen to paper (or fingers to keys). Your writing will evolve and you will find the style that suits you, and your readers. There will be people out there who take an interest, but you’ll never find them if you don’t start writing!

3) What intentions do you have for the blog?
The way you approach your blog will be different depending on your intentions for it from the outset:

- Do you want to be the go-to blog for your club? I’m sure you don’t need any, but here are some examples: West Ham (KUMB), Liverpool (The Tomkins Times), Arsenal (Arseblog). This takes an extraordinary amount of effort and their achievements are nothing to be scoffed at.
- Are you a hobbyist? Someone who does it purely for fun, not worried too much about readership, some would be nice obviously!
- Are you getting into it for money? Will you be treating your blog as a way to generate secondary income? There are many out there attempting this, but I’ll use one of our own as an example, SalutSunderland.com
- Or, are you using your platform simply to keep tabs on what your mates owe you for tickets?!

There’s a direct correlation between the amount you post and the amount of traffic you get – if you’re after traffic and building a large readership, then regular writing is the way forward. But don’t let quantity compromise quality.

Set out your approach from the start, have an idea of what you want to achieve and then your accomplishments will be relative to your expectations.

4) You will never please everybody
Ah, user comments. The joy and despair of many bloggers’ lives. Just remember if you receive a negative comment, you won’t be able to please everybody.

You could write the most middle of the road post in an attempt to make every one of your readers happy, but you’re bound to receive a comment along the lines of “Have some balls and get an opinion” (feel free to add in expletives at any point you think will render the comment grammatically awful – that’s it, now you’re thinking like an angry commenter)

I added this one in because I wanted to express that you’re not alone in this if you do get a comment by Angry McRage. Here’s a superb artilce from @jonawils in The FSF magazine regarding abusive comments.

5) Learn from others – what do they do well, how can I apply to my blog?
There are some hugely experienced people out there who really do know the blogging world. All of them more so than me, as I mentioned at the start. I’ve learned so much from them in the past 5 years just by reading what they have to say. There’s a list at the end of this post you may find useful. Learn from how these people communicate their point, their opinion effectively. Follow them on Twitter and see how they roll.

Another point here is to take a look around at the blogs you love – ask yourself “why?”. Is it the writing, the design, the comments, the community? Don’t steal like for like, but ask yourself if Site A does social interaction for example, brilliantly, how can I increase the social interaction on my site? Well placed widgets, a facebook like box, these sort of things. They’re small, but there’s a reason the big sites use them.

6) What can you bring to the table that mainstream media cannot?

“Give your reader something the mainstream media don’t; don’t be afraid to be controversial”, Marcus Dysch

Marcus, is a full time journalist and Hull City blogger. In a matter of seconds (ok, maybe minutes) you can find so much news about your team. Whether you’re checking BBC, Sky, Twitter, Facebook, forums, a wealth of information is at your fingertips. And it is for everyone else too.

So what can you offer that stands out from the crowd? Maybe you want to be known for “that guy who does all his match reports in rhyme” or, more seriously, someone who only covers Manchester City reserves. Look at the most popular blogs, what do they do that sets them apart?

A blog that I recently discovered that’s a fun example of bringing something different to the table, is Chelsea 2D.

7) Why would people come back?

“Try to come up with ideas for regular features and establish a regular routine to stick to.”, Terry Duffelen

This was a point raised by Terry Duffelen and it was well worth including. Terry knows the football blogging scene better than anyone and if you get the chance, I’d fully recommend attending the next Socrates, which is a football blogger meetup. Always a great night.

Terry recommends making regular feature articles (or series) and finding a routine to stick to integral to your blog. Not only does having a routine help you when writing, but it helps your readers anticipate your next post and thus, come back to see if it’s been posted. Or, look out for that tweet/email/Facebook update to say it’s there.The inclusion of those three platforms relates back to being engaging, if your readers are engaged then it won’t be considered ‘spammy’ when you share your own links.

An example, for me, of a blog (podcast first) that has absolutely nailed this approach is the Football Ramble. On Twitter they’ve created a tag for the day that they release their newest podcast. People anticipate #FootballRambleDay because the Ramble have set in place their routine….it works for them, it works for us.

Another blog that got its featured articles spot on was The World According to KeithTheGooner. If I’m honest, I was a bit sceptical when he began his ‘ArseWars’ series (a series that turned Arsenal players into StarWars characters) but the regularity and humour of it got even me, not an Arsenal fan, looking forward to his next post!

Think about what featured articles you could write that are specific to your niche/what you love – how will you make them different? Also, what routine do you have in blogging? Do you only post every now and then, but expect your readers to remain engaged? Remember, this is difficult to achieve unless of course you have a great following already for other reasons.

But again, it comes back to, “What are your own expectations?”

8 ) Grammar, spelling, punctuation etc

There shouldn’t be much need to expand this one, so I’ll be quick….

Get it right!

(It’s at this stage you tell me I’ve made a few typos and missed a few full stops!)

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I hope those points have been of use to you, especially if you’re thinking about getting going. At the end of the day blogging about football is fun and I hope I’ve got across that no idea is too crazy for a blog, especially if it’s something you love.

There are people out there who have so much to offer – respect them, respect their time and listen to what they write about & tweet about. Or talk about, if they’re in broadcast journalism.

The second part will focus a lot more on the actual running of your blog and will be packed full of simple tips from some more great authors, on how to get the best out it.

.Ed
(Well, Sam really)

If you’ve not seen it yet, here’s Part Two: Publishing and Promotion