Not long ago, I received a message from one of my readers. I suppose I’ll call him Socrates. He had recently started his own blog, and wanted to know if I could offer any advice.
I’m not an expert on blogging, but after four years of writing stuff and throwing it at the Internet, I like to think I’ve learned a thing or two.
I responded to Socrates with five tips for a starting blogger—well, to be perfectly honest, I responded with six. Here’s the last one: “Always be on the lookout for tips, tricks, ideas, hacks, and shortcuts.” As I wrote that final piece of advice, I thought, “You know, I could easily turn these tips into a blog post,” and here we are. I try to practice what I preach.
Here are five tips for people who are just starting their own blogs.
1. Figure out a publishing schedule that works for you, and stick to it.
When I started TMTF, I published three posts a week. That was too much. I eventually dialed it back to two posts a week, and later added the Geeky Wednesday feature as a quick and easy alternative to a third weekly post. It took me a while to figure out a publishing schedule for TMTF that I could actually keep.
If you decide to follow a strict publishing schedule, figure out one that you can keep, and then keep it. Readers appreciate consistency! If you publish whenever you feel like it—which is totally a valid way to run a blog, by the way—be transparent about your blog’s lack of a predictable schedule.
Either way, make sure your readers know what to expect, and make sure to deliver on whatever commitments you make.
2. Enjoy blogging for what it is, and don’t expect wild success or instant popularity.
I’ve been blogging for roughly four years, and TMTF still has quite a small audience. For a while, I felt discouraged because my blog hadn’t become as big or popular as others. This led me to ask myself some important questions: Why am I doing this? Is TMTF worth the effort I pour into it? Am I wasting my time?
In the end, of course, I decided my blog was worth keeping. TMTF is (usually) rewarding to write. It’s great writing practice. It has allowed me to keep in touch with old friends, and even to make new ones. This blog has also opened up some cool opportunities, including collaborations with all sorts of awesome people. At the very least, TMTF has given me a voice to share some of the things that matter to me.
TMTF hasn’t become popular or earned a big audience. From that perspective, my blog is a failure. However, from my perspective, my blog is a success.
If you’re serious about blogging, ask yourself why. Do you write your blog to develop your talents? To avoid boredom? To become popular? To share your passions? To meet people? Figure your purpose for your blog, and decide whether the time and effort of blogging are worth that purpose.
3. A community is worth so much more than a fandom, and people matter more than statistics.
When I started blogging, I hoped to earn fans. I’ve learned since that fans are overrated. A small community of people who really care is worth a huge following of half-interested fans. As nice as it is to see those blog stats rise, one nice comment or meaningful discussion means so much more.
4. Do unto others what you would have them do unto you.
I sometimes Like posts from other bloggers, and occasionally leave comments on other blogs. I’m not trying to manipulate anyone into returning the favor. I just know from long experience how encouraging those Likes and comments are to me, and want to pass on that encouragement to others. People appreciate a considerate reader, and it’s a great way to connect with other bloggers!
5. Reply to comments whenever possible.
When I started blogging, I made the colossal mistake of not responding to comments. I received so few that I had no good reason to ignore them, yet I ignored so many. At some point, I think certain readers assumed I didn’t care, and stopped commenting. I deeply regret not showing my appreciation for their comments by replying to them.
By responding to comments, a blogger shows that he cares about his readers. Not every single comment needs a reply, of course, but it’s often worth the few extra minutes it takes to write a response. Besides, that’s how discussions get started!
What’s your best blogging advice? Let us know in the comments!
7. Have a defined focus. That’s advice I didn’t take – my blog is all over the place from family vacation photos to predicting NFL results to analyzing marketing claims to whatever. As a result, people don’t know what they’ll get from my blog and so they don’t visit on purpose as much. It’s like a restaurant – if one day it’s Italian food and the next it’s BBQ and the next it’s only breakfast food, you might get some adventurous customers. But most of the people will go to a place where they know what to expect because they know what they want.
8. Leave room in your schedule to write in advance. This is related to point #1. If you publish as often as you can, you have no slack. If you do have slack, you can write a spare post or two and have them ready to go if you want a break or if something else prevents you from your normal blogging schedule.
Yours is good advice! 🙂
I think many readers appreciate consistency and predictability. As you said, a clear focus really helps by letting readers know what to expect. (I like your restaurant analogy!) A particular focus also attracts readers with that particular interest.
TMTF isn’t terribly focused. 😛 A clearer focus might benefit this blog, but it would also make TMTF much more difficult to write!
I should consider your second tip. I leave myself practically no time to write in advance; posts for this blog are often written at the eleventh hour, while other writing (and editing) projects remain undone. When things become overwhelming, I generally find some excuse for a break, like a drowning man clutching at a life jacket, and thus restore the balance.
Solid advice, Adam. I also agree with the other guy. Having a definite focus creates clarity for the audience.
Focus is important, but I think there is also value in variety. At any rate, that’s my excuse. 😛
Really great post, and I fully second all these tips. 🙂
I, for one, am very glad TMTF exists as it is a wonderful read every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Some of the best writing on the Internet, I might add. Although, this post seems to have been attacked by whichever of your monkeys handles the Bold button. 😛
Aw, thanks. 🙂 You’re very kind.
In past weeks, I’ve tried out advice from a blogging buddy and put key points in bold type. The idea is to make each blog post more accessible by allowing readers to skim through it, reading only the bold text and getting an abbreviated version of the post.
I’m honestly not sure how well this is working, and I could really use some feedback. Does the bold text help? Is it annoying? Distracting? PEOPLE OF THE INTERNET, I SUMMON YOU FORTH TO ANSWER THESE QUESTIONS!