13 Blogging Lessons I Learned The Hard Way

What I Learned From Two Years of Blogging

What my blog taught meWhile good bloggers can make blogging look easy, the reality is that showing up at your computer on a regular basis with fresh ideas is hard work that involves more than just content creation.

After close to two years of writing this blog, there are things I’ve learned that I wouldn’t have anticipated. Hopefully, they can help you improve your blog.

As the second anniversary of this blog approaches, here are thirteen lessons I’ve learned, either directly or indirectly. 

  1. Start with well-defined blog goalsBlogging well takes time and resources. Therefore you need to know what you’re trying to accomplish. “Make money” Isn’t sufficient. Actionable Blogging Tips: At a minimum, start with at least one objective you want to achieve with your blog. The more specific and measurable, the better.
  2. Dive into blogging. Don’t wait for the perfect time. Once you’ve decided to blog, just start doing it. Until you actually write posts in a live blogging environment, you won’t appreciate what it takes. Actionable Blogging Tips: Write a minimum of ten posts to find your voice before you open your blog. Keep five of them in reserve so you have something to publish for those occasions when life intrudes. Of course, you have to add new posts for every reserve post you use. Afraid to publish? Write guest blog posts or join a group blog.
  3. Serve a variety of compelling information. Just as having the same thing for lunch everyday gets boring, so does writing about the same topic, the same way. Mix it up to make it interesting for you and your readers. Actionable Blogging Tips: Offer an array of different types of columns such as news roundups, interviews, editorials and other options. To help build your audience, offer special formats on certain days like guest blog posts. To this end an editorial calendar is helpful. Here’s how to make your blog content compelling!
  4. Respect other people’s ideas and copyright. It’s important to research your facts but don’t steal other people’s ideas. Respect copyright and provide attribution information for your sources including links where appropriate. Once you’ve had your content scraped and plagiarized, you get a different respect for other people’s intellectual property. Actionable Blogging Tips: Add a Creative Commons license and a Terms of Use page to your blog.
  5. Be prepared for the non-writing aspects of blogging. Blogging is more than just writing posts. Creative/design, copyediting and technical support are needed. You can either do these functions yourself or get outside support. Actionable Blogging Tips: Since the non-content creation aspect of blogging takes time, find ways to get additional support. If you’re a solopreneur or personal blogger, ask a family member you trust to proofread your content.
  6. Encourage conversation in the form of comments. Understand than only a small proportion of your readership will comment. If you only read top bloggers, you’ll see lots of comments because they’ve got lots and lots of readers. Don’t let this discourage you. Actionable Blogging Tips: Ask a question at the end of your blog post. Also, participate on other blogs by adding your insights on their posts.
  7. Plan for social media engagement. Unless you’re a rock star, it takes time and work to build an engaged following. Actionable Blogging Tips: Among the options are automating the social sharing of your content, including social sharing buttons and participating in social media conversations such as Twitter chats.
  8. Build your email house file from the beginning. Capture email addresses early because a significant proportion of your traffic turns over. Have a “don’t make me think” approach to getting them to read your content on a regular basis. Actionable Blogging Tips: Entice prospects to provide their email address with a download or ebook. Also, if you collect email addresses, make sure that you respond with a confirmation email in a timely fashion.
  9. Keep evergreen blog posts ready to publish. These articles can be used anytime on a topic that’s not time sensitive. Regardless of your best intentions, occasionally something will happen that keeps you from blogging. Evergreen content that can be quickly adapted and posted will keep your audience engaged so that you won’t have to make excuses across social media platforms. There’s nothing worse that writing a blog post at some ridiculous hour because you had no backup and didn’t want to let your readers down. Actionable Blogging Tips: Replace an article as soon as possible after you’ve used a reserve column or you’ll deplete your stash.
  10. Track results but don’t obsess over them. While it’s important to develop blog metrics to track your success, checking your stats five times a day to see if anyone’s stopped by doesn’t move the needle. There are much more productive things to do with your time. Actionable Blogging Tips: Use a good analytics package such as Google Analytics (it’s free!) and check it on a regular basis. When you first start blogging, it’s better to check your results on a weekly basis so that you don’t get disheartened with your results.
  11. Get a blogging buddy. Blogging can be a lonely endeavor. Have a colleague with whom you can brainstorm new column ideas, test out title options and discuss other blogging challenges. At a minimum, you can keep each other on track. This is particularly important for solopreneurs and personal bloggers who don’t have a team to work with. Actionable Blogging Tips: Find other bloggers who are interested in having a blogging buddy at social media events like #BlogChat or live blogging events.
  12. Stick with your blog – it takes time to yield results. After the initial thrill of starting your blog dissipates, keep on blogging. Results accrue over time. Bloggers like Rand Fiskin of SEOmoz and Jay Baer of Convince and Convert have both made this point in presentations.  Actionable Blogging Tips: Set yourself a blogging schedule that you can live with. Don’t expect to be able to go from never writing to writing every day. You need to build up your writing muscles and skills.
  13. Give yourself permission to fail. While blogging can be fulfilling, it can also be daunting. Since it’s not only a big commitment but also a public activity, allow yourself to make mistakes. Every blogger does. Actionable Blogging Tips: Find ways to turn your mistakes into teachable moments and use them to create better blog content.

Understand that blogging requires work and an on-going commitment. You must show up at your blog on a regular basis so that you develop the habit of creating great content and your readers develop the habit of stopping by to read and comment on it.

If you’re a blogger, take a moment to congratulate yourself on your progress making it to this point.

What lessons have you learned from blogging and what would you recommend to other bloggers?

Happy marketing,
Heidi Cohen

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Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/george_eastman_house/3333259091/s

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