I’ll confess: sometimes I find it hard to do my job.
You see, the Travellerspoint Overlords have assigned me the task of finding the cream of the daily crop of Travellerspoint members’ blogs. Easy task, right? Not always.
Out of the 50+ blog entries written every day, I’d estimate about half are not aimed at general readership. Quite a few appear to be aimed squarely at loyal family and friends desperate for the latest news from their loved one. Fair enough - but it doesn’t make for particularly engaging reading for those who don’t know the blogger.
Out of the other half, there are usually a couple spammy blogs, a handful of “testing, testing” blogs and a dozen blogs that are not written in English. That usually leaves about 10 blogs that are in English and geared to a wider audience.
How do I pick one to be featured on the main blogs page? Glad you asked
Inspired by a couple posts about writing great travel blogs on Brave New Traveler, I thought I’d apply the concept to Travellerspoint. While there’s quite a few things to think about when writing your blog for a wider audience, today I’m going to focus on one aspect that will instantly pique my interest (and hopefully other readers’) in your blog: a quality introduction.
Why should I care?
There are a few reasons why a quality introduction is particularly important on Travellerspoint:
- After you post a new entry, your blog will be listed for a while among the most recently updated blogs on the main blogs page. Besides the title, people will be able to read the first couple lines or (if you wrote one) the subtitle.
- Similarly, if people are subscribed to the RSS or Atom feeds of your blog or the main blogs page, they will be able to read the title and first few lines of your entries.
- If you write a really great entry, I may decide to feature it on the Travellerspoint front page and the main blogs page. To feature it, I select a sizeable chunk of your introduction that I think will make other Travellerspoint members want to read your blog. If your introduction isn’t all that interesting, there’s a good chance your entry won’t get featured.
Is that enough inspiration to really care about your introductions? I hope so! I have 2 suggestions for ways you can spice up your introductions.
Tell your story
In my experience, the most successful introductions are the ones that launch straight into a story. They don’t waste a paragraph on explaining where the blogger is, where they travelled from, or which hostel they’re staying in. If it’s important to explain those things, do it briefly or try slotting it in a little further down, when your readers are already entranced by your fine prose. Take, for example, this excerpt from brynster’s blog:
"Sandro, I can´t climb trees!"
That was Julia, the extremely pleasant but more than slightly nervous British tourist who had accompanied her husband and son as well as Geoff and I on a hike through Madidi National Park.
Sandro was our amazing guide, whose indigenous community has lived in the park for 500 years and now owns and wholly operates Chalalan Ecolodge, a jungle lodge located five hours up two tributaries of the Amazon River.
And the concern over climbing trees was voiced because we were being approached by a herd of 150 white-lipped peccaries, sharp-toothed wild pigs prone to unsettling grunting and clacking noises - and of a more immediate concern, the same type of wild pigs that once ate an unlucky hunter from Sandro´s village.
Danger. Suspense. Maybe it’s because I’m a boy who grew up watching too many movies of the Die Hard - Lethal Weapon variety, but a start like this is bound to suck me in. It also made for an ideal introduction to use for the front page when I featured the entry. True, there was actually a one-line intro before this, but I didn't mind that too much because it was short (that said, I think the post could have been stronger without it).
Evocative descriptions and funny observations
Evocative descriptions are engaging because they invite the reader to imagine the place you’re describing - and if there’s one thing people on Travellerspoint enjoy doing, it’s imagining foreign places! Comical observations work in the same way, although they don’t tend to be quite as descriptive. Humour makes up for it:
Trains and toilets: two things that have struck me as very different from what we are used to. Although I could lengthen that list to include: people cycling on pavements (which drives me nuts), the post service redelivering things on request at helpful times such as 7pm-9pm and obsessive rubbish sorting to name a few!
But for today I will just stick to the subjects of trains and toilets.
Toilets here range from the most basic squat toilet (I'll spare you the details) to the rolls-royses of toilets! The more sophisticated kind include heated seats, emergency-call buttons and a whole range of buttons that, judging from the pictures, will pump water or blow air just about any place you can imagine.. and then some. I haven't had the guts to experiment with these.
Ah, good old toilet humour, courtesy of Matt and Meli's blog!
Once you’ve fashioned the world’s finest introduction, you can start thinking about how to develop the rest of your content. We won’t go there today, but watch this space for more articles about how to craft your travel blog into the most engaging and interesting blog it can be. If you want to be updated by email or XML, feel free to subscribe.
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