Monday, July 29, 2013

Lessons Learned From Nearly a Decade of Blogging

When I started this blog almost ten years ago I had no idea what I was doing. I was reading quite a few blogs and thought I had an idea what blogging was all about. But it has taken me almost 10 years to learn a few lessons about blogging and what it takes to become a successful blogger.

1. Be yourself

This may seem a little obvious but the fact is that the most effective bloggers are those who are themselves. It makes no sense to try to be someone else. If you're blogging you need to find your own voice and be yourself. Granted, it's taken me nearly ten years to figure this out. Perhaps you'll learn this lesson a lot faster.

2. What's your focus? 

The best blogs are those that have a specific focus. They can cover a single topic or multiple topics. But it's easy to define its mission. That's what tends to draw people in is a specific mission usually spelled out in the header so that it's one of the first things we people see when they visit your site.

3. Read other blogs

This also seems a little obvious but the fact is that you become a better blogger by reading other blogs especially those that are not necessarily in your same niche. The same way you become a better writer by reading good writing you become a better blogger by reading other effective bloggers.

4. Write about what you know but write about things you don't know about too

There is an old adage that writers should write about what they know. But that's mostly bunk. With the advent of the internet research is much easier than it used to be. You can access almost any piece of information in a flash. Half the fun in blogging is often writing about thinks that peak your curiosity and then the joy of researching the subject. Allow your blog to be an outlet for your curiosity.

5. Forget about statistics

Let's face it, we can't all be super-popular bloggers like Instapundit. He draws insane amounts of traffic. Then again, he's built his audience over a number of years. He's also incredibly prolific. But trying to replicate his or any other top 100 blogger's traffic is a futile exercise. It's difficult to tell what will cause a particular post to go viral so it's best not to try to do it.

By the same token, don't get hung up on a lack of comments. While it's great to have feedback from readers you can't take a lack of comments as rejection of what you're saying. There is also no point in saying something controversial for the sake of increasing traffic or starting a fight online.

6. On the other hand, you should promote your blog

Social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest didn't even exist when I started blogging. But all three can be used effectively to promote a blog. It's also a good idea to promote the blog across multiple platforms. Part of the reason is your circle of influence is probably not the same on each platform. For example, my followers on Twitter are not all the same as my Facebook friends. By promoting a post on both platforms I am widening the potential audience for the blog.

It also helps when you use a shortcut to do the promoting for you automatically. Here's how I do it: I use Twitterfeed to periodically scan the blog for new posts. When a new post goes online (and I schedule posts in advance - more on that below) Twitterfeed will automatically tweet the post to my Twitter followers. I have also enabled my Twitter feed to post my tweets to Facebook. It all works without my having to think about it and drives traffic effortlessly to the blog.

7. Post daily if possible

Folks are more willing to return to your blog if they can count on seeing fresh content every day (or at least every weekday). In looking back over my statistics I see I have more posts going up on the blog on a regular basis.

8. Plan ahead

Ever since I moved away from blogging about politics and current events it has become easier to write more posts and to schedule them in advance so that I always have fresh content on the blog. Nearly every host I know of will allow you to schedule posts to publish in advance. So it's best to take advantage of that option as it also helps you in promoting your blog if there is always fresh content (see #6 above). Part of the reason I do it is because of lack of leisure time to blog so it's often better for me to write several things in advance and then spread them out over the course of several days. Of course, I still have the flexibility to post something more current if there's an event in the news or something I have seen online that I feel that I should comment on.

9. Introverts make better bloggers

Since introverts tend to prefer communicating in writing rather than orally, they are naturally inclined to be better bloggers. The best blog posts are those that are well thought out and thoroughly researched. These are the kinds of things that introverts are more naturally inclined to enjoy doing. Blogging is actually a great outlet for those who tend to be introverted.

It takes time and patience to build a blog. But it's a whole lot of fun. If you haven't taken the plunge I highly recommend it.

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