Today, according to WordPress, is my 7th anniversary of blog writing (nearly 6 with this blog). I started this blog because I got my first story sale with my short story Death Watch, which was published by the good folks over at Liquid Imagination. Originally my blog was my website, and though I have since separated the two, a lot of people still find me through this blog.
When I started out, I really didn’t know what to expect. And seven years later, I still really don’t know what could happen. But here are at a few things I have learned since starting out.
1 – Getting traffic to your blog is hard.
It took me a long time, a really long time, to gather up any type of blog traffic. I tried funny posts, writing posts, life posts, and mixtures of all three. What I learned is the topics don’t really matter, it just takes time to start showing up in search results and for people to come to your blog looking for certain content. Which leads to number two.
2 – Pick a topic for your blog
Pick a topic for your blog and stick to it. Does that mean I don’t blog about life? No. It just means that the general topic of this blog is books and writing. I love the movies, video games, and hockey. Sure I mention those in my blog, but I don’t think I’ve written blog posts on those things. This doesn’t mean you aren’t allowed to write on other topics, but you’ll get a better following if your blog has a theme.
There are exceptions to every rule. My post, Eight Things I’ve Learned Since Moving to Washington is not writing related at all, but it is the only post that gets a hit at least once per day.
3 – If getting traffic is hard, getting a following seems impossible.
For the longest time, my family were my only followers. It look a long time to work up to a decent following and to keep them following. There are a lot of ways to get the regular following and keep them, and many of those are involved in these things I’ve learned. The truth is, no advertising ever worked. The only followers I ever got were from reading a post of mine and liking it enough to follow the blog.
4 – Losing followers is very easy.
People stop following a blog for many reasons. The most common, you offended them. Society has placed a lot of weight on being offended, as if it really means anything. I’ve lost followers when they found out I’ve got LGBT characters in my novels. I’ve lost followers because I’ve mentioned I own guns. I’ve lost followers because I made a Trump joke. You will also lose followers if you don’t blog in a while. I lost most of mine during my two year hiatus.
5 – You can’t please everyone.
So you may be thinking that you should sterilize your blog from any possibility of offence. I tried that in the beginning of my blogging days. Hell, I used to try that in the start of my writing days. Well, fuck ’em. People will get offended by what you say. If they don’t, does your writing carry any real passion anyway? As I said above, people think being offended means something. It doesn’t. What I have learned is that more people appreciate the honest writer connecting with his audience than they do a sterilized blog. You can’t please everyone, so don’t try.
6 – Listen to your audience.
Many of my blog post ideas come from blog comments or my social media. I’m not saying you need to ask them what to blog about next, though you can a time or two. But pay attention to what they are saying about your blog. As a self published author, I noticed many of my readers were talking and interested in that aspect. As a result, I wrote Self Publishing, a post in which I explored what Self Publishing was all about. It took more work than most of my posts do, but it was also the most successful post.
7 – Read and connect with other bloggers
You really need to read and connect with other bloggers. For one, you will see what is trending and discover what other bloggers like you are doing. This will let you know if the topic you want to blog on is over-saturated or that it is of no interest to anyone. But also you can work with others to do guest posts and other connections to attract their followers to you and your followers to them.
8 – Guest posts are great.
Guest posts are a great way to drive followers of others to your blog. For a long period of time I was doing an author focus blog series that allowed guest posts from other authors. It drove new eyes to my blog that may have otherwise not visited. Don’t expect a ton of new followers from it, but you just might get someone poking around your blog for other stories.
9 – Don’t expect your blog to be a revenue stream.
I’m not sure I have made any book sales from people who came to read my blog. In most cases it is the other way around. People have come here after reading my work. Some to complain, but most because they liked what they read and wanted to see more. Also, ad riddled blogs suck to read (of course we have no control over the WordPress ads). One ad maybe, or sponsored content is okay. But some blogs read so heavily of sales pitches that they become no fun to read.
Also, don’t overly self publicize on you blog. It isn’t wrong, but it is a fine line between content and advertising. The point of a blog is to connect with your audience, not sell them shit.
10 – It is okay to blog for yourself.
It is absolutely okay to write a blog for yourself with no aim to gain followers. You might accidentally acquire a few anyway. But not every blog has to be for fan connection or to gain more readers. Some can be for the hell of it. You can have as many blogs as you like too. The choice is yours.
BONUS: We’re all full of shit.
Here is a bonus thing I’ve learned, everything on the internet about how to write a great blog is full of shit. This one included. What worked for me may not work for you. Lord knows I read a lot of crap, that when I tried it, did’t work for shit. More to the point, articles with things I’ve learned titles are there to help you see what was learned. You can use it, or you can toss it. The choice is yours really.
It is your blog, write what you want, but I’ve shared what I’ve learned. Your results may vary.