Step 1: Look Sharp
This is true of any blog, but the visuals are key. DO NOT, we repeat, do not make the background a gigantic pixelated photo of a historic landmark that you took on your point-and-shoot. The best blog themes are simple enough not to distract from the content, but cool enough to make it memorable. Note to novices: Despite its temptations, the "Minimalist" theme on Tumblr is also not the right way to make your blog stand out.
Step 2: Know Thine Audience
You can't win 'em all, but you can maximize your blog's potential by tailoring it to your intended audience. If it's just for your mom, then a day-by-day, second-by-second description of your activities (minus any brushes with malaria, nightclubs, and walking home after 11 p.m.) is appropriate. If you're giving the address to anyone else, you probably want to limit it to the legitimately interesting stuff. If you're blogging mainly for the benefit of your friends and acquaintances, there's nothing wrong with relying on your own (undoubtedly plentiful) charms to draw in readers. If that's the case, keep it focused on your own experiences and try not to make sweeping, poetic conclusions about "what you've learned." If you're soliciting that flighty boon of the blogging world, an audience of people who've never met you, then you'll need to step it up a notch. The best mass-appeal blogs of any kind have a unique voice and a personal touch while still posting (in words, photos, or whatever) content general enough to be relatable and interesting to a wide range of readers.
Step 3: Keep 'Em Guessing
As any good internet addict knows, the world wide web is positively dripping with photo blogs, and with good reason – they're low maintenance and accessible. That's all well and good for the professionals, but unless you're Olivier Zahm (hey, what's up!), we recommend mixing in some variety with your .gifs and .jpegs. Anecdotes, scans of doodles or other artwork, poetry, short stories – it's all fair game. Unless absolutely necessary, re-blogging is best left to the vague and nameless world of inspiration Tumblrs.
Step 4: Cliché Firewall
Studying abroad is, and should be, a life-changing experience. Unfortunately that's old news and readers probably don't want to hear about how you wept when you saw the Mona Lisa. Even the best writers can sink their blog into eye-roll territory with the sort of pompous attitude that's become the stereotype of American students abroad. We get it – you feel more mature and independent after living alone in a foreign country for months, and that's great. But that doesn't mean you have to call it vino instead of wine. So, if you find your fingers typing anything along the lines of "I simply can't eat pasteurized cheese after living in la belle France" or "people in Barcelona really know how to party," check yourself!
Photo: Chad Ehlers/Rex USA