What I Learned During My First Year of Blogging

A new blog is created somewhere in the world every 13.5 seconds. Alright, I totally made that statistic up but I am sure the number of new blogs started daily is HUGE. Let’s imagine something for a second. Every single blog you read both big and small, all had a starting point. I don’t know about you, but thinking back to a time when John Chow dot Com, Problogger or Copy Blogger didn’t exist seems a little odd. It’s hard to imagine that the big boys were at once where all of the beginning bloggers are currently.

However, over time their blogs grew, became popular and eventually their hobby blossomed into something much more than just a pastime. Now I am no blogging guru and I am surely not at the level of John or the others but I have learned a lot in my blogging experience over the past year. My website turned one year old in October 2009; when I look back I am just amazed at how much it’s grown and developed into something I never imagined it’d be.

Here are a few things I’ve learned throughout my blogging experience that I think we all need to take a second look at sometimes.

Writing First, Design Second

After I first picked out my domain I began theme shopping. I probably spent an entire month before I settled on something and I only settled because my web guru said I either “pick something now or forget about blogging altogether.” I settled on a nice little premium theme from WooThemes with a bit of customization added for kicks.

I actually moved some content over from an older blog I had started on a WordPress.com domain and then began writing fitness articles. It was slow getting started but I picked up some momentum rather quickly. The main point is that I wrote first and worried about design second. I left my original design up for about six months and just focused on content. Then once I had more content, more readers and an idea of where I wanted it to go with all of it, I then decided to hire a designer.

Once I knew I wanted a brand new, custom design I immediately bought the Thesis theme as I knew there were some really awesome designers out there using the framework. Not only is Thesis great out of the box in terms of SEO, it’s highly customizable and easy to hack and snip CSS when warranted. I ended up locating a great designer and getting exactly what I wanted with the overall look of my website.

My main point is this. Never start with an elegant, fancy theme. Never start off by paying a designer two to three thousand dollars on a blog you haven’t even started working on yet because chances are very high that you will not stick it out. Focus on content first and once you are serious about continuing, then look at a premium design.

Forget About Structured Posting Frequency

This is something I researched ten times over when I was getting started. How often should I be posting? I read so much information about how you must stick to a strict schedule when updating your blog; if you failed to stick with your schedule, it would cause reader attrition, lack of interest, blah, blah, blah. Then I also read that in order to be successful you must post frequently, as in three to five times per week. Some blogs were posting multiple times daily. How was I to keep up? I was getting overwhelmed but I also found other blogs that were posting only two times per week, some only once per week and still humming along just fine.

I decided to just do my own thing and post bi-weekly for a while. For some time, I always posted on Monday and Thursday. Then I thought about something. I started thinking about all the blogs I read. I asked myself, “Do I really care whether or not JoeBlogger posts on Tuesday instead of Monday?” Of course, my answer was no and I am sure everyone agrees. All I care about is that JoeBlogger posts quality content, period. As long as he does just that, I maintain my subscription. Now of course I would rather it be more frequent than not but I don’t get upset if he doesn’t post every third day.

The bottom line is that it really makes no difference how often you post as long as it’s updated fairly often (don’t leave your blog dormant for months at a time). If your stuff is good, your readers only care that you hit publish, not when.

Keep On Keepin’ On

I would say the two biggest challenges beginning bloggers face is making it past your first 90 days and getting your first 100 subscribers. I know I struggled with the first 90 days because I often got out of the writing habit, felt like I had no direction etc. It was then when I had to go back to my blogging plans to get back on track. Yes, I developed a plan; it included what I wanted to write about and how I was going to go about producing the content. Planning, especially in the beginning is crucial to succeeding long term.

Building up your first 100 subscribers seems like the most daunting task. I find that many people set a really steep goal of having “x” amount of subscribers by a certain date and find they fail miserably. The main reason is because they are so new to this blogging thing that they haven’t really learned how to promote their blog just yet. They may have all this great content but no one is seeing it. Building up subscribers takes time but as you get more exposure the subscriber count climbs faster than it did in the beginning. Keep on keepin’ on.

Writers Block

It happens to the best of us. There really isn’t a whole lot you can do about it but just accept it and be ready to cope. What I used to do is have three to four articles written in advance; this way if I get behind or can’t think of anything to write about that weekend, I still had content to post. This was when I was still worried about rigid posting frequency, which we now know doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme.

My number one tip for dealing with writer’s block is to always be ready to take notes of some kind. I find I am always getting ideas for articles in the craziest places. In most cases, I usually just pull my phone out to save a quick note and then write a more detailed outline when I get back to my apartment.

Great Content, as Always, is Key

I figured I would save the best for last. If you suck at writing and/or your content is subpar your chances of building a popular blog are slim. People always want to read something that is coherent, useful and oftentimes entertaining. They want value and quality as opposed to most of the run-of-the-mill websites online today. If you cannot produce great content, then nothing else I have written matters because content is the lifeblood of your blogging.

So how do we create great content? There are a few ways.

  • You must know what you’re writing about. People would laugh at me if I started a blog on golf because the first article or two would make absolutely no sense. I know nothing about golf. I only know that a golf ball is small, plastic and bounces on the cement. Other than that I know zilch, nada, absolutely nothing. There is no way that I could create great golf related content.
  • You must really enjoy what you are writing about. I suppose you can call this part of the equation passion. If you are not passionate about what you’re blogging about, people will notice and will often get turned off because your writing will just seem like any other dull website.
  • You must be proficient at writing in the language you intend to blog in. This goes back to readability, coherence, grammar and even style. People like easy reads. People enjoy reading something over a cup of coffee. I personally like to read for relaxation. There is nothing more frustrating than reading something that is actually pretty good on the content and information part but terrible on the grammar and syntax side. It’s a turn off and you easily lose credibility.

While I am in no way an A-list blogger, I believe any beginner can start here and get just as far as I have without many issues.

This post was written by JC of JCDFitness.com, a No-BS Approach to Looking Great Naked where he writes about all things fitness related.