Photo by Jerry Bunkers via Creative Commons
I've been blogging for almost 10 years. A lot has changed in the world of blogging since I started, and honestly a lot of it has just passed me by while I wasn't paying attention. I'm terrible with SEO, I don't even try to monetize, I insist on writing a horribly unfocused personal blog (the experts say that's a total waste of time), and I'm honestly very half-assed about using social media or building networks.
But still, I've been at this a long time, and I've learned a few things. If you are willing to take some tips from an old dog who insists on doing everything the hard way, I'll tell you what I've gleaned from the experience.
Quality over Quantity
I realize this is an odd thing to say when I'm in the middle of a post-every-day challenge, but bear with me.
I know that in order to fill my calendar for 31 days straight, I'm posting some light-weight stuff. I can see which kinds of posts are getting more comments and higher page views, and it is safe to say it isn't the light-weight stuff.
In a way, that's really reassuring. I've been putting my energy into the right places in terms of content. I don't need the filler (except when I'm participating in a blogathon!).
If you write well, you do not need to post every single day. Focus your attention on writing good, quality content and your readers will respond.
Respond to Your Audience, but Don't Be a Pushover
It has been interesting to watch page view stats and comments this month to see what pieces get attention and which do not.
My readers like essays about my life and my experiences. My readers think the list of links that I used to do on Tuesdays were totally boring. This helps me know what kinds of posts my audience will respond to best when I go back to a more sane posting schedule.
But a few years ago, I could have drawn a different conclusion from examining my stats. Most of my essays drew no comments but all my photo posts were popular. I kept publishng essays because that's what I like best to write.
Either my audience has changed, or I've become a better writer (or both), but if I had stopped writing essays back then my blog would have suffered and I probably would have lost interest in blogging and quit.
So write about what excites you, and write in the way that you love to write. The right people will eventually find you. Which leads me to...
The longer I write - not just on my blog, but write in general - the more confident I am in my voice. The more confident I am, the stronger my writing is. And the more I am myself, in my voice and in the stories I tell, the more positive feedback I get from my readers.
The lesson? Be yourself. Readers visit your blog becasue they want to hear what you have to say. You. Not somebody else filtered through you.
Break the Rules
You can find the "rules" of blogging on ProBlogger and on any number of blogs with "Blog Tips" in their name. Do a search on Google for "how to blog" and you will get hundreds of hits. How to get more readers. How to build a post. How to write a title that will draw readers like flies. How to go viral. Put outbound links in your posts. Don't put too many outbound links in your posts.
I've learned a lot by reading what other people do with their blogs, but I do what feels authentic and true for me and my blog. So I blatently ignore a lot of the "rules" of good blogging.
I'm not an A-list blogger and I have a smallish (but growing!) community of readers. And that's OK with me.
Know why you are blogging and what your goals are. If your goals are not served by following the rules, you have my permission to ignore them.
Except When it Makes Sense to Follow Them
And here I will contradict myself again. My natural way of writing is long sentences in long paragraphs. Which doesn't work well on the web.
I am stubborn and was committed to being myself (see above), so I persisted for a long time.
But then, as an experiment, I tried following the highly-recommended convention of paragraphs no more than 2-3 sentences long. And I got more comments. Because people could actually read what I was saying without getting lost in a long block of text.
Know why you are blogging and what your goals are. If your goals are served by following the rules, apply them.
Sleep on it, And Then Edit Again
A couple of times I have written something I think is achingly beautiful just the way it comes out of my fingers. I loved it so much that I posted it immediately.
And then nobody responded to it.
When I went back to read the piece again I realized it was full of grammatical errors, long, clunky sentences, and bad metaphors. As first drafts usually are.
Don't post first drafts. Walk away. Come back later and edit with fresh eyes. Cut out a third and it will almost always be a better piece.
Appreciate Your Readers
There are millions of blogs out there. You could be reading any of them. Instead you are here, reading me. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
I try to respond to every single comment, though sometimes it takes me a while. Know that I read them all and love you for leaving them.
Wherever you write, make sure to acknowledge your readers for giving you the gift of their time and attention.
Don't Just Live in Your Blog, See The World
This lesson is two-fold.
First, in order to have interesting things to blog about, you have to live. Do not let your blog take over your life.
Get away from the keyboard and live your life.
Second, the best part about blogging is the community of people who can grow up around a blog and between bloggers. But you have to interact - respond to your readers and comment on other blogs - to facilitate that community.
I admit that this is a hard one for me because my time a the keyboard is so limited. But trust me when I say that it is worth it to get out of your editing window and see what other poeple are writing about.
Find a new blog this week. If you love the writing, leave a comment. You will make that writer's day, and you might gain a new reader to boot.
What have you learned from blogging, whether you are new to it or have been doing it forever?