I started this blog in April of 2006, it was really just an effort to
find an alternate outlet for my theatrical rants and ravings. My friends
were sort of sick of my posturing and pedantry, and my family have
never really been interested in anything theatrical, let alone musically
So I started a blog. I figured it would be something I would get out of my system and that it would fall by the wayside, like so many other evanescent passions I've indulged in over the years.
Along the way, I've met a lot of wonderful people, some of whom have become very dear to me. (You know who you are.) I've received my share of hate mail, from both writers and performers, but I've received even more words of encouragement and appreciation. And I've learned a lot about what it means to make a meaningful contribution as a self-styled critic. Hopefully, as I continue on this path, I will continue to receive both kudos and brickbats. (I happen to feel that, if no one is mad at you, then you're not being a very incisive critic.)
I recently received an email from a reader asking for advice on how to get started as a blogger. As I composed my response, I thought that this might be something worth sharing with my readers as a sort of encouragement for more of you to enter the critical fray. Because one thing the Internet has taught us is that more voices is almost always a benefit. (Except in YouTube comments...) The good voices tend to last, and the not-so-good voices tend to fade away.
So, here goes. For those of you who are thinking of starting a blog, and a theater blog in particular, here are some points to consider:
Which blogging service should I use? There are numerous blogging platforms, with various levels of flexibility and ease of use. The three I've had experience with are, in increasing order of complexity, Blogger, Typepad and WordPress. I currently use Typepad, because Blogger is too inflexible for my needs, and Word Press is far too complex. But that's just my perspective. If you don't want to do much in the way of customization, Blogger might be the way to go. If you really want to have as much flexibility and opportunities for customization as possible, you're likely better off with WordPress.
How do I build traffic? Overall, it just takes time, but here are some tips:
- Links, links, links. Include lots of links in your text. Google likes links, and it's all about Google. Bing, Yahoo, and all the other search engines combined don't even come close to my Google traffic.
- Use descriptive titles. Make the titles to your blog posts as descriptive (i.e. boring) as possible. Google searches place priority on words in titles and in links, as opposed to just the text of your posts. Think about what you'd enter into a Google search to find your content ("Review Broadway Matilda Musical," "Worst Musical Ever," "Andrew Lloyd Webber Melody Thief," etc.)
- Content content content. The more you post, the more likely you'll rank higher on Google. In some ways, it's really that simple.
- Create lists. "The Best This," "The Worst That," "The Most Overrated/Underrated Whatever." They're easy to create and people love reading them. My list of the 100 Best Musicals Ever is my number-one traffic driver. Nothing else even comes close. People love lists.
- Connect to social media. Create a Twitter feed and a Facebook page to drive traffic to your blog and to promote your posts. You might also create a Tumblr mini-blog for quick posts of photos and sound clips and video. Again, this can drive traffic to your main site.
- Trade links. Contact other bloggers in your content area and ask them to include your blog on their blog roll. A lot of my initial traffic came from my fellow bloggers, and my blog now drives traffic to a lot of those blogs in return. What comes around goes around.
- Find a niche. Even if you want to focus on theater, find something that no one else is doing within the genre. I was surprised to find how few theater blogs focus specifically on musical theater. Also, since I teach the history of musical theater at the Boston Conservatory, I like to bring a sense of historical perspective to my reviews. Maybe you're particularly interested in political theater, or feminist theater. Find something that particularly interests you, and chances are it will interest prospective readers as well.