Tomorrow (May 31st) marks the one-year anniversary of when I started (or, really re-started) this blog and all I can say is wow, I did not expected to stay this consistent for a whole year.
There have been definite ups and downs, and plenty of shit posts, but in the process I have connected with some amazing people, had some good fun, and learned some really great things.
So to commemorate this one-year milestone, I’m gonna share 10 things I’ve learned in 1 year of blogging.
Here’s to learning even more and sucking even less!
1. It pays to be prepared
The worst habit I’ve had all year is to not plan content out ahead of time… more times than not, I’ve written my blog post the day before or even the night before, and that has caused all sorts of unnecessary turmoil and frustration.
Unfortunately, writing and formatting [good] blog posts takes time and energy… even if you’re doing a simple, 500-800 word post with the bare minimum number of bells or whistles, like I do. Doing these things ahead of time not only prevents a mad scramble to push “publish,” it also ensures better, stronger articles. More time to think. More time to proofread (see number 7).
It has taken me an entire year to finally get to place where I’ve planned content out ahead of time and actually written it. And the way I accomplished this was to hold myself doubly accountable: blocking out time to write and sticking to it. Plan it out over a few days if you’re not one for sitting still for long periods of time. As so many successful people have said (I think), when something matters to you, you make the time for it.
2. Niche down, then niche down again
I just learned about this concept called double niching, and I think it’s exactly what I needed to hear. Because as you may know, you can’t be everything to everyman; you have to choose a topic and stick with it. But it’s one thing to say, “I’m going to write about fashion.” It’s an entirely different thing to say, “I’m going to write about fashion for girls in their twenties on a shoestring budget.”
Does every single article you write have to be exactly that? No, but getting specific about your target audience and what, specifically, in your niche you want to cater to will not only help you know what to write about, it will help your audience find you.
If you’re one for SEO, hitting those specific keywords that don’t have tons of big name competition will drive traffic to your blog easier, and it’ll be traffic that you want: the people you’re trying to inform, educate, and/or entertain.
If you try to please everyone, you end up pleasing no one. So something I’m really going to be working at in the next few weeks is niching down… double-niching, because I think I’m too general as a book/writing blog. Who am I writing to? What do they want? What problem are they trying to solve?
These are the questions we all have to ask ourselves, blog-wise.
3. Consistency is key
This connects to number 1 but adds a little something: even if you are planning your content and posting regularly, it helps to also post consistently. The same day and even around the same time, if you can help it. I definitely felt like I was at my sloppiest and most disorganized when I wasn’t doing this, when I was posting a day or two late.
But I’ve always endeavored to post on the same days, and I think that’s really beneficial not only for the reader, but for you, so you know how to schedule your time.
4. Content is king
This almost goes without saying, because if you’ve been around a while, you’ve probably heard it before. Content IS king. I mean, titles are super important, and SEO is good (see number 6), but above all, it’s the article you want people to read. And if the article is shit, then, well, they’re not gonna read very much of it, are they?
This leads into all sorts of things like voice and knowing your topics, but the best piece of advice I can give that has proven true for me time and time again is that if you’re not enjoying what you’re writing about, the audience won’t enjoy reading it. So pick things that matter to you and really spend time on them. I could definitely stand to do more of that, so consider this advice more for myself than anyone else.
5. Make friends
To be blog, one must read blog. As the great and powerful Cristian Mihai of The Art of Blogging says, networking is one of the best ways to grow your blog organically. But of course, you can’t be spammy about it. People will pick up on that real fast.
Look to make friends. Blogging is a community, and I guarantee you, there are others in your niche (and outside your niche!) who are going through the same things as you. Connect with them. Comment on their posts. Not only will you learn something and get a sense of what others are doing, 9 times out of 10 you’ll get a like or comment back. (And if you don’t, don’t get pushy.)
Bloggers are eager to support other bloggers because we know how frigging hard it can be to grow our readership. Every little bit helps. The principle of giving and receiving is a thing, people, and if you give freely, you’re likely to receive.
6. SEO is a good idea
SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is the bread and butter of bloggers and content producers. I have not been doing it, mostly because I’m operating on almost the lowest level of WordPress and have no plug-in with which to track it (like Yoast, which I use for work), but you don’t necessarily need one if you know what you’re doing.
SEO means that you’ll show up in search engine results when people Google your “target keyphrase,” which is a phrase anywhere from 1-5 words that captures the topic of your article. It’s usually (ideally) the first few words of your title and then sprinkled throughout your article in appropriate places.
Casual bloggers (such as myself) don’t really care too much about this, but if you have vital information to share or you’re looking to monetize your blog, this is everything. “Ranking” (showing up on the first page of search results, or even better, in the top 5) ensures that people visit your site, read your stuff, click your affiliate links, etc… and it all starts with a few well-chosen key words.
7. Reread, reread, REREAD
See number 1, because the earlier you can draft your post, the more time you’ll have to do this. It’s a little difficult to catch your typos when you’re typing up your post at 11 pm the night before it’s supposed to go live, which means that when you take a glance at it in the morning, you’ll do what I’ve done so many times: curse and go back in to do some quick edits, even though the majority of your readership has already read it, typos and all.
8. If you’re not having fun, neither is the reader
This one’s pretty self-explanatory. See number 4 for more details, but know this: if you’re stumped about what to write about, either take a break and gain some clarity, or think about what YOU would like to read. So many times, our target audience is ourselves.
9. Catchy titles are catchy
I’ve got nothing to say about this that can’t be said better than The Art of Blogging said it in this article. Think about your titles. Like newspaper headlines, it’s the first thing people see and it’s the ONLY thing that’s going to convince them to read your damn post. Make it irresistible… but not click bait-y in the sense of misleading. Make sure it actually delivers on its promise to the reader. Definitely something I could stand to get better at.
10. Have grace on yourself
I’ve made so many mistakes. Like, so many. Like I said before, I’ve been flying on a wing and a prayer for most of this year. I’ve been lazy and unmotivated at times. I’ve chosen Supernatural or Parks and Rec over the writing I TOLD myself I’d do that night. My freelance work has been up and down, but has gotten especially busy over these past couple months.
Basically, my point is, you’re human. You’re going to have off days. You’re going to miss a post (or two). Especially if your blog isn’t making you any money right now, you may not have a whole lot of motivation to write at times. Work, school, or the fact that we’re in a f**king pandemic may have upset your schedule. So what? At the end of the day, it’s just a blog.
Yes, it’s important and you should take it seriously, but it’s not more important than your mental and physical health. So if you fall short, or lose your passion, or write a shit post, have grace on yourself. If this really matters to you, then you’ll get back into it.
To be totally cheesy and cliche, it’s not those who never fall who succeed, but those who pick themselves back up time and time again and keep moving.
Bonus: a thank you!
Thank you to everyone who has followed my blog. Over 150 of you! I’m really honored, actually. I know it’s not that much in the grand scheme of things, but it’s more than I could ever ask for, especially considering how little networking/promoting I’ve actually done.
Thank you to everyone who has ever liked and commented on one of my posts. You know who you are (and I hope I do too, because I try to respond to every comment!) and I appreciate you.
Thank you to everyone who’s ever taken the time out your day to read one of my posts. I mean, all the things on the internet to read, and you choose my haphazard blog? Wow. Just wow. I’m flattered, honestly.
Here’s to another year of awesomeness and stuff!
And now, a shameless plug…
I actually don’t do this enough, so here we go I guess…
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