I’m not the best person to have as a blogging accountability buddy, but I’m more than happy to share some of the lessons I’ve learned over the past few years of blogging. Some of these you’ve likely heard, some of them, maybe not.
At any rate, I hope they help.
First, I want to preface all of this by saying that I’ve been blogging off an on throughout high school using during platforms (all the way back to BlogSpot and even some earlier, far more primitive services). None of those blogs were “successful” but they were fun and I was able to consistently write on them.
So with that said, here are four points that I usually share with people whenever they’re looking to get started with blogging.
1. Narrow Content Focus
A lot of people say that want to blog about X (let’s, for the purposes of this post say that X is WordPress). So someone sets out to blog about WordPress - and that’s great (it’s even kind of meta since WordPress is made for blogging - but it works to which many of us can attest :).
Anyway, the next step is to define what are you going to talk about when it comes to WordPress. Design? Development? Plugin Reviews? Themes? News? The people involved? And so on.
There’s obviously a lot that can be covered. Early, when you’re just establishing your blog, pick a narrow subset of the general topic - such as, say, Plugin Reviews - and just hammer out a post a week about a single plugin that you like, that you dislike, or that you’ve selected to review just for the sake of sharing about it.
For example, maybe it’d be work going through Tidy Repo and reviewing all of the plugins listed there. Become a companion site for it. I digress - these are just ideas.
Anyway, back to the point: Don’t worry about talking about anything except plugins. Overtime, you’ll end up building a reputation as a site - a go to blog - for plugin reviews. From there, it won’t be uncommon for people to then come to you and to ask for you to review their plugin.
This could lead to higher traffic, a plan of monetization, or other factors that may contribute to the growth of your blog (however you may define growth). But, again, this is far in the future once the blog has been established and likely after you’ve begun to blog more than once a week.
2. Expanding Schedule
And speaking of once a week, I generally tell others that it’s easy to pick one day a week and to make that day the day you’re going to run a post. Maybe it’s Tuesday, maybe it’s Wednesday, maybe it’s Friday – it doesn’t matter so much as long as it’s not on a weekend.
Some people may argue against this, but in my experience, weekend posts generally perform worse than those during the week; however, if that’s when you have time to blog, then write the post and schedule it to go out the next week.
Once you begin to develop a rhythm and a backlog of posts, then turn it up to twice a week. As it becomes more habitual to write - and it will - then go from there. During this initial phase, you’re going to end up finding a format with which you’d like to follow for your posts, the type of voice with which you want to write with (which is usually your own - how casual or formal is up to you) - and so on.
Once you’ve gotten in the habit of writing, more and more ideas are going to come naturally. If you’re writing about plugin reviews, then something is going to happen such that you’re going to begin thinking about things that are tangentially related. So if you’re writing regularly and you have a decent readership, then you can slowly begin to expand the topics as long as they tie back to the heart of what you’re writing about.
3. It Takes [A lot of] Time
The blog I write on now as been a project (for lack of a better term) for four years. Not everyone takes that long and some take longer. I still don’t have the readership that I want, but I don’t let that bring me down.
Instead, I write about what I know, focus on the content, respond to the comments, and move forward from there. For me, it’s really been about organic growth - I haven’t done any advertising or trying to tie myself to any other sources of traffic, though I’m not against those ideas - I’m just not a marketer at all so I stick with what I know.
I have a decent source of traffic right now, but I’m always looking at what I can do to increase it, not just for the sake of increasing traffic but for the sake of trying to reach more people in order to help them with their WordPress development efforts and to help learn from them along way.
4. There’s No Magic
People love recipes and they love to know what they work they are putting into something won’t be in vain. But that’s a risk you take in blogging - some people may make it, some people may not.
But what does it even mean to “make it?” That is, when have you achieved your goals in blogging? Is it when you’re consistently posting once a week? Three times a week? Is it when you have 1K visitors or 4K visitors?
Ultimately, I think it’s a moving target. You should always want your blog to be maturing so that the work that’s going into it is contributing so whatever goal you’ve set next for it. Sometimes it’s going to be increasing readership, sometimes it’s going to be updating the theme to make it more accessible for those who need it and for those who are on mobile devices.
Some things that you do are going to work and some things that you do are not going to work. Or, more blatantly, you’re going to succeed with some things and fail at others. Don’t be scared of that word “fail,” though. School does that to us - but come on, in blogging? All it means is that you tried something and it didn’t work.
So what? Try something new. If it works and you like it, stick with it; otherwise, drop it and move on to the next thing.
At any rate, that’s the best advice I can give. First and foremost, lay the foundation for developing a habit. It’s like working out when you haven’t done so in a long time - it sucks. It’s kind of painful. But then you exercise that muscle and it gets stronger. Then it gets to a point where you’ve gotta mix it up in order to keep growing so you don’t plateau.
I know you’re looking for more accountability and I hope you find it here on WP Chat, but don’t hesitate to ping me on Twitter either. The least I could do is check in periodically and say “Leland, missing a blog post. WHERE IS THE LATEST?”
With that said, I hope this helps you (and anyone who opts to read it).