I’ve been blogging since 2001. This current blog started in late 2004. In 2005-06 I had some pretty serious traffic and a large following. Then things tapered off for a long time. Recently I’ve been trying to breath new life into this blog. Right now, my typical daily traffic is double what it was six months ago and close to three times what it was this time in 2010.
Of course, I’m still a small fish is a huge ocean of blogs. I’ve made a lot of mistakes along the way. But, my recent post Are Personal Blogs Making A Comeback?” attracted a good reaction and started some conversations about what we can learn, today, from the insights of those earlier years of blogging. Here’s some ideas I’d suggest for newer bloggers – and, maybe a few things some older bloggers have forgotten.
You Don’t Have To Post Every Day
In the past year, I’ve seen a lot of bloggers set themselves the goal of posting every day. It makes me ask – why? Blogs were a technological breakthrough, because they allowed us to create sites that were easy to update and self-organised by date. Blogs looked like diaries, but bloggers soon realised there was no need to let the format dictate what you did in this space.
And, once we were able to track our numbers more clearly, it became obvious that we could attract a similar amount of monthly traffic, posting good quality every few days, rather than post mediocre stuff every day or two.
I know some will argue that blogging more often will increase your traffic. But, that is only ever incrementally true and, only so long as your quality doesn’t drop. Besides, there is so much noise on the internet as it is. You’ll never become an A-lister, or even a B-lister, incrementally.
Cherish Your Comments
I get why some people turn comments off on their blogs. It’s hard to style comment sections well, moderating comments is a pain and you are always exposing yourself to anonymous attacks (anonymity plus the internet is a known recipe for the worst in human communication). But, comments were always an important part of blogging revolution.
At the beginning, we loved comments, because the made blogs feel more alive than static sites. They show the world that you are open to new ideas and differences of opinion, or, to put it another way, that you are willing to learn. Comments also give you the opportunity to further explain your ideas. Some of my best blogposts have come from ideas thrown around in comments, either here, or on other blogs.
Don’t be Selfish
There was something in the water in 2009-10. A lot of really “selfish” blogs were launched. It was like the new bloggers were allergic to posting links to other bloggers, giving credit for ideas or sharing the attention in any way. Each blog was an island.
But, when blogging started to take off, a lot of us grew our sites in collaboration, rather than in competition. It really was a case of “a rising tide floats all boats” with plenty of goodwill being shown in sharing links and highlighting either good posts on other blogs, or new blogs with potential.
In Hong Kong I saw a great example of this with the food blogging scene. Most of the high profile bloggers were very generous with sharing praise for each other’s work and also meeting to encourage each other (and enjoy some good food). This created a “scene” in the artistic sense and great opportunities (like writing for local papers and more inside access to the food industry) came as a result.
Design, To The Best Of Your Abilities
Today’s blogs often look so good. But, many bloggers start out obsessed with getting the design, categories and other bits of architecture right before they even have anything to say.
The first blogs were very basic and a lot of the biggest names in blogging ran hugely popular sites for years with very rudimentary designs. Give yourself time, to work out the best categories, tags and design elements and concentrate at the start on having something unique and interesting to say.
Blog Like You Haven’t Made It
It’s easy to be seduced into thinking you are an expert online. People get a thousand followers on Twitter, a hundred readers a month for their blog and suddenly, the delusions of grandeur set in.
Perhaps the biggest difference between blogs today and blogs ten years is ago is back then, bloggers were more honest about their struggles. Blogs were a way to tell the real story (especially in faith-based communities), to be more transparent about who you were and to make yourself publicly accountable for some change in your life (like learning to cook to becoming a better parent).
There’s always a place in the world for the experts and trend-spotters. But, there’s a bigger place in our hearts for people who take risks in public, who share their talent with us and who are honest and vulnerable.
I was so glad to see Ze Frank making a comeback. His original video blog, the Ze Frank show, ran for a year from March 2006 until March 2007. To me, that was a golden time in blogging, not simply because of Ze’s show, but because blogs really were in the limelight. Quality and traffic was high.
But, in a few years a lot of people moved their attention onto social media and many bloggers got caught up in the niche blogging approach I mentioned last week. The Blogosphere just seemed a lot less fun.
To me blogging was so important, because it gave us a way to publish and broadcast our own thoughts in our own words. Blogging was a way to learn, to grow and to be accountable. And, to borrow the words of Robert Frost, it was a way to unite our avocation with our vocation; to bring together the things we love and the work we do, with the goal of hopefully creating a new and better life for ourselves.
I still believe that and, I believe blogging shouldn’t be a chore. Rather, it should be an adventure, a way to meet amazing people and a chance to have a lot of fun.