How to run a successful science blog

I have been running my blog Avian Hybrids for a couple of years now. This blog has grown over the years, attracting a loyal readership and getting some attention from scientists and bloggers. In my humble opinion, it has become a successful science blog. Or to rephrase it, I am happy with the current status of the blog. In this blog post, I would like to share my ideas and experiences on how to run a successful science blog (i.e. a blog that makes you feel satisfied).


1. Don’t do it for the clicks

There are many (science) blogs out there. The competition for ‘clicks’ is fierce. If you want to create a blog to attract visitors, you can start writing about food, fashion or celebrities. To me, this feels like selling your soul to the devil. It is okay to write mindless posts about your favorite pasta dish, but will you feel satisfied with this?

I once wrote a blog post on how spoonbills manage to eat big frogs (they actually break their limbs one by one). I posted this article – with the catchy title “Break a Leg” – on Reddit. The result: more than 700 views in one day! But somehow I did not feel satisfied. Most readers just glanced over the article without really being interested. My goal is to teach people something new, not to support them in their procrastination.



2. Find your niche

As I wrote above, there are many science blogs. There is a lot of information on the internet. If you want to stand out from the crowd, you will have to find your own niche. For example, there are so many blogs on evolution. My first blog – Evolutionary Stories – could not compete with the more established ones.

Luckily, I managed to find my audience with my blog on hybridization in birds. To my knowledge, I am the only person blogging about the scientific papers on avian hybrids. There is another blog – Bird Hybrids – that focuses on how to recognize certain hybrids, but we cover different topics and that blog is not so active (last post is from 8 May 2017).

'See, Baldwin? It's all about finding your niche.'


3. Content, content, content

If you want to establish your blog, you will need to create a lot of content. This will be very difficult in the beginning. You will write several blog posts, only to see that nobody is reading them. My advice here: keep writing. Eventually, people will find your blog and start reading it on a regular basis. Some of my earliest posts are still being read to this day. For example, my first blog post on Avian Hybrids (in 2014) – Thrush Migration and Speciation – has attracted four readers this year. Not much, but it’s better than nothing.

Another benefit from a lot of content is that you can refer to previous blog posts in your writing. I always to try to add links to related posts so interested readers can click and check out older stories. Make sure that a new window pops up when readers click on your link. You don’t want them to get lost while browsing through your blogging history.



4. Sharing is caring

Just writing a lot of posts won’t attract a lot of readers. You will also need to actively advertise your blog. The best way to do this is through social media. Share your posts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, … Again, in the beginning, this might not attract many readers. But keep sharing!

In addition to social media, I also contact the authors of the papers I blog about. I have only received positive reactions when doing this. Scientists feel proud when their work is picked up by other people. They appreciate the effort and often send you other papers to blog about. Not only will you attract new readers, you are also expanding your network.

social media


5. Write positive

My final tip is more personal. During my years in the blogosphere, I have noticed that I prefer to add a positive vibe to my writing. It is easy to write critical posts about how someone else is wrong. For instance, I used to regularly write articles about the flawed arguments of creationists. They often misrepresent evolutionary biology and spread lies. But attacking creationists did not make me feel satisfied . The negative tone of the posts bothered me (and there were other issues, you can read about that here). So, I decided to focus on positive things, namely the latest findings in research on avian hybrids.

So…I wrote a fantasy book

I sat down behind my laptop and looked out the window. It was dark outside. “Just fifteen minutes,” I told myself. I started the timer on my cellphone and let my fingers brush over the keyboard. At first, the words came out slowly, but after a few minutes the sentences were almost magically appearing on my screen. I drifted off, totally immersed in the developing story. Suddenly, my writing flow was broken by an annoying beeping sound. My cellphone was vibrating. The fifteen minutes were over. I put my cellphone aside and continued typing. About an hour later, I closed my laptop. 

This short story describes one of my successful writing sessions. Getting into the zone and producing several paragraphs. Unfortunately, not every evening went this smoothly. There were times when I barely filled the fifteen minutes with writing. But if you want to write a book, you cannot wait for inspiration to strike. Flashes of real inspiration are rare. So, I forced myself to write for at least fifteen minutes every evening. It paid off. I finished my first fantasy novel a few months ago: The Dragon with the Blue Scale.

de draak met de blauwe schub

The cover of my fantasy book.



Why did I want to write a book? It felt like to logical thing to do. A large part of my time involves writing. For my work –  as a postdoctoral researcher – I write technical papers on the evolution of birds. In my free time, I write blog posts about bird hybrids. And occasionally, I contribute to the Dutch popular science website Scientias.

I have always dreamed about writing a book. It seems like the ultimate goal for a writer. So, I didn’t think about it too much and just started writing. The main story for my book has been in my head for some years. It was just a matter of putting it on paper.



What is the book about? It is difficult to describe because it contains several disparate elements. You could describe it as a detective story in a fantasy world with some elements from science fiction. Hopefully, the synopsis will bring some clarity.

On the planet Hodra, dragons and people live peacefully together. But the quiet society is shaken up by a series of kidnappings. Several children disappear without any trace of the culprit. Detective Charlie has almost given up until someone sees a dragon flying away with a child in its claws. The dragon is pitch black with a striking blue scale. The intense search of Charlie – assisted by the clumsy trainee Freddie – suddenly becomes even more difficult, when a civil war breaks out on Hodra and General Oana commits a military coup.

What follows is an action-packed adventure in which several characters travel across Hodra – and even to other planets – to solve this mystery.


And now?

The book will be published this year (in April or May) by Beefcake Publishing. This publisher works with crowdfunding: the more money we collect, the more books will be published. The crowdfunding is also reward-based, meaning that you get something in return. For a contribution of 20 euros, for example, you will get a copy of my book. If you donate 50 euros, you get two extra books from the publisher.

The only issue for my international friends is that the book is written in Dutch. Perhaps there will be an English version some day. I can imagine you don’t want to buy a book you cannot read, but perhaps you have some Dutch friends or you just want to support my book project. All support is welcome.

Here is the link to the crowdfunding: