Somehow, the 10th anniversary of my blog passed without notice. I wrote my very first blog post back on October 25, 2005. Back then I was on LiveJournal, but all of those posts found their way here when I converted to WordPress a few years later. Ten years, and 6,032 public posts later, I’m still having fun writing here. Now and then I hear that blogging is dead. Maybe that is true, but it is not dead here. And I’m not sure I believe it is dead in other quarters. My Feedly and Medium are always full of interesting reads.
A few days ago, a coworker of mine asked if she could get some advice on blogging and social media. I don’t know that I would call myself an expert on either subject. But I offered some lessons I’ve learned over the last ten years. Here is some of the advice I offered on blogging.
1. Post your best work
I’ve tried to get better at this over the years. For a long time I did my blog writing without a net. That is, I typed what I wanted to write directly into WordPress and then pressed Publish. These days, I write these posts in Scrivener, and I schedule them, often days in advance. I don’t rush to get them out. I re-read them and tweak them. I spend time trying to get them as clear as possible before I publish them. It my way of posting my best work.
For someone just starting out, I can’t emphasize how important posting your best work is. It is like submitting a story for publication. You always submit your best work. With the blog, there is not editor or gate-keeper to provide a quality check. Instead, there is an audience, and you want to make a good impression with that audience. The best way to do this is by posting your best work.
It is okay to write stuff and not post it. Looking through the things I have in my Scrivener blog project, I see five pieces I’ve written in the last month that I decided either not to post, or decided that they needed more work before I post them. For me, this is a sea-change from the days when I felt compelled to post something the second I’d finished typing the last word.
When I get asked about blogging, I am often asked about how to get people to read my blog. My response is always post your best work. If it is good, people will read it.
2. Consistency is more important than frequency
My friend wanted to know how frequently to post on her newly created blog. I told her that my experience is that consistency is more important than frequency. If you decide to post once a week, be sure to hit that mark every week—at the same time, if possible. If readers enjoy what you write, they’ll look for it regularly, and there is a schedule they can count on, regardless of the frequency, they’ll know when to look for it.
Consistency is more than when or how often you post. It is also means maintaining a consistent quality to the posts. Not every post will be a winner, but don’t forget the first piece of advice: post your best work.
Knowing how long it takes to produce your best work will help you figure out how frequently you can maintain consistency. If it takes you a month to produce a good post, then don’t try posting more than once a month until you are comfortable with the schedule. If it gets easier, you can increase the frequency of your posts, but only if you can avoid sacrificing quality. Quality is the most import part of writing.
3. Be patient
This blog was, by no means, an overnight success. In fact, I never really cared much about the site statistics until I’d been blogging for 5 years. In 2010, I started following the stats for the blog. I was getting something like 30 visitors each day. In 2011 (I think) I set a goal: could I improve the quality of what I was writing enough to triple that number and get 100 visitors each day? I had a year to do it, and I succeeded. From 2011 – 2014 things kept increasing, and I peaked at around a daily average of 4,000 visitors/day. In 2015, the numbers started falling. You know why? Because I was focused on other things, and I was no longer being consistent in when I posted.
These days, I’m back to posting regularly with a consistent schedule (the main post at 9 am each morning, with an occasional announcement or supplemental post in the afternoon), and guess what? The numbers are back up. Since December 1, I’ve been seeing 4,000-5,000 visitors each day on average. Here is what patience looks like on a timeline:
My point here is not to brag. On the contrary, it took me 5 years of posting on consistent schedule, the best possible work I could write, day-in and day-out to get from 30 visitors a day, to 4,000 visitors a day. There was no magic bullet. There was no trick that I tried to get a bigger audience beyond trying to write interesting posts.