When I wrote my very first post in October of 2008, I knew there would be a few things to learn about blogging. Back then, I figured my 16 years of small company marketing experience could take me most of the way, and I would simply fill in the gaps with a handful of articles and one good book from Amazon.com. Little did I know how much time I would waste, how many mistakes I would make, and how many roadblocks I would encounter between then and now.
As many of my regular readers know, I have a habit of being introspective about my blogging (see 7 Reasons Why I Suck at Blogging, and What I’m Going to Do About It for more information) and would like to continue this theme by sharing a few more lessons I learned . . . the hard way.
Lesson #1: In Order to Keep Going, I Need to Believe More in What I’m Doing. After almost a year and a half as a blogger, I have come to a conclusion: writing good content is easy. That said, writing good content when no one is reading it is the equivalent of getting kicked in the stomach. To date, some of my best and most heart-felt articles have zero comments, no search engine rankings, and no measurable traffic. Does this tend to de-motivate me? Almost every single day. But whether or not it’s true, I have convinced myself that people WANT to read what I write. If I didn’t believe this, I would be spending my 30+ hours of free time each week doing other things. Like sleeping, for example.
Lesson #2: I Can Either Produce Good Content, or Make Money—But Not Both. As a part-time blogger with a full-time day job, I have a pretty good handle on what I can accomplish over the course of a week. During any seven-day period I usually have enough time to write a new article, maintain my Twitter account, comment on a few blog postings, and make a design change or two on my blog. But all of the search engine work, back linking, social networking and keyword optimization necessary to make a few bucks on my pay-per-click and affiliate ads often detracts from the quality of my writing. And because I care more about content than I do about a quarterly $100 check from Google, I have chosen to concentrate on my writing . . . until I go broke or lose my day job.
Lesson #3: I Will Never Run Out of Ideas for Articles. Thinking back to when I first started this blog, I can’t help but laugh at how worried I was about running out of content. Truth be told, I was so afraid of ‘going dark’ that I wrote seventeen complete articles (about 20,000 words) before I made my blog live. Because my 4-month case of writer’s block never actually materialized, today I am sitting on enough drafts, research and backup articles to start selling term papers to MBA students ( hmm. . . ). Was running out of ideas really ever a problem? Nope. But running out of time to write them all down is a daily challenge.
Lesson #4: There are Ten Times More A-Holes in the World than I Ever Imagined. When it comes to blogging, one of the most common misconceptions is that bloggers hide behind a website and write, with no consequences and very little stress. This may be the case for some, but in my case owning and hosting a blog has put me out there for literally anyone on the planet to find . . . and screw with. Since starting my blog in October of 2008 I have had to completely rebuild it from the ground up—three times—because of hackers. I have also been banned from Google, kicked out of Technorati, and lost my best performing links to something called ‘open URl redirection.’ Being a blogger is not the stress-free experience most people believe it is, and I have hundreds of tech support emails to Google, Technorati and Network Solutions to prove it.
Lesson #5: Sometimes, I Have to Ask for Things—No Matter How Uncomfortable It Might for Me. As a guy who grew up with very little, I’ve always been hesitant to ask people for things. My parents were staunch advocates of the “pull yourself up by your own bootstraps” motto, which espoused things like pride and independence and self-sufficiency. Although these were great core values as a child, in my adult years they resulted in a lonely and un-successful blogger. It took me almost a year to realize I couldn’t build a successful blog by myself, and have since started asking for help. When I need Retweets, I contact my Twitter followers directly. When I’m short on article comments, I email my site members. And when I believe an article is good enough to be published, I send it to all of the Editors I’ve come to know over the last few months. Although asking doesn’t work every time, it’s worked well enough to generate dozens of comments, hundreds of Retweets, and four syndicated articles. By the way . . . any chance you could push the “Retweet” button at the beginning of the article?
Lesson #6: The Only Way to Get Something From My Social Network is to Give Something First. Forging relationships has never been easy for me in person. And surprisingly, it has been difficult online as well. In retrospect, I now realize I spent too much social networking time selfishly trying to make the Internet work for me. For example, I am embarrassed to admit that during my first year as a blogger I managed to get over 200 article Retweets . . . and never issued a single “Thank You.” During that same period over 300 people took the time to comment on my articles—and again, I was non-responsive. I also never posted comments for other bloggers, never Retweeted anything unless it was mine, and never signed up for a single RSS feed. This overt selfishness stunted my blog’s early growth, but since making a few changes I have watched my blog post triple-digit increases in web traffic, site registrations and Twitter followers over the last few months.
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