Lessons Learned From a Novice Blogger

Well butter my butt and call me a biscuit. This is my 50th blog.

Fifty posts into this unemployed calling as a life observer-commentator, I reckon I can lay claim to the unofficial title Novice Blogger.

That hardly qualifies for “been there, done that” in this undertaking. I’ve got a looonnnggg way to go to achieve even the teensiest level of credibility. As evidence of that statement, if I crank out a dozen more posts, I’ll have written more blogs than I have subscribers.

That statement is a tad sad. More on that later …

Upon the occasion of this “noteworthy” accomplishment and with hopes that I can provide a modicum of assistance to anyone else kicking around thoughts of going this route, I offer the following observations and lessons learned.

You’re the boss

The first thing I have to offer after 23 months is that blogging starts by simply sitting in front of the computer with some cogent thoughts and a game plan, just as I have done for 40-plus years, only not getting paid for it. My wife frequently wonders aloud about the sanity of this choice of how I’m spending my time.

It’s an exercise that allows you to be the boss of yourself — in my world, such opportunities don’t often present themselves. There is something comforting in knowing that there are no Board members or bosses critiquing your work or asking you to cut the length of your messages. In fact, blogging is like work but without the intermittent thwarting that periodically comes at you from several directions at your job.

Blogging is just writing. Having a conversation

One doesn’t have to be an essayist or a wordsmith to blog. The only requirements of a decent blogger are the ability to express oneself clearly, the capacity to tell a story, and the passion for discussing a topic. As I noted in my first post, I started down this path with a promise that I would write as if no one is reading my stuff — to write for the sheer joy and diversion of writing and to post and not look back. That simple premise assumed that I had something to say. Cyril Connolly, an English literary critic and writer in the 1940s, summed up this curious craving as, “Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self.”

Blogging can be fun. Sometimes. Like anything that causes you to dig deep and tap your creative gene, there are efforts of good intentions that you seemingly just … can’t … push … up … that … hill. If your standards are high, as they should be, expect to generate a great many drafts before you’re happy with any particular effort. Expect, too, that some topic ideas will forever stay on the drawing board.

Use simple technology to remember blog-topic ideas. If something makes you smile during your day and say, “Hey, maybe … “, tell Siri or Alexa or some other electronic beast your briefest thoughts so they are captured and not forgotten. I have found myself scribbling ideas on napkins and the backs of envelopes when nothing else was handy. Anyone who has jumped out of bed after a dream and frantically searched in the dark for something to write with and on knows what I mean.

Keep writing

Don’t let too much time pass between your blog posts. Even if your audience is small and reactions to your efforts paltry, stay on point and focused with your writing. If you don’t keep cranking, before you know it months will have quickly passed without new posts appearing on your site. Pretend that your followers are kinfolk you genuinely like and who love hearing from you. You have to be relatively consistent with your posts or you’ll lose even small numbers of followers.

Good design

It’s essential to take as much pride in your blogsite’s visual presentation as you do in your prose. Grabbing a reader’s attention and communicating information in a visually appealing manner with crisp images, clean and balanced layouts, and simple and consistent page structures makes a huge difference in credibility. Good design is a crucial component of your blogsite that makes it worth revisiting. Such attention to detail will be appreciated by visitors to your blogsite.

The RIGHT Path For Blogging Success … Unfortunately Wasn’t Mine

If your goals are big readership numbers and, potentially, even advertisements (read: revenue) for your blogsite, don’t go the route I chose. Here’s the deal — you have to write for Google and for what people want to read about if you want a large audience. This is why topical blogs such as BBQing, parenting, nonprofits, pickup trucks, football, fishing, woodworking, DIY, etc., do so well. Their bloggers write about one thing over and over and over. Such blogs establish expertise, authority and trustworthiness. They give Google a reason to rank them high for high-volume search terms. Single-subject, top-shelf blogs provide readers enough value to stimulate subscriptions to their newsletter/blog, encourage frequent revisits for a look-see at what’s new, and generate followings on social media.

The simple bottom line is that readers subscribe to blogs when posts provide an informational or entertainment value so great that it would be their loss not to subscribe.

From the get-go, I opted to write for myself on any topic about which I wanted to wax poetic — blogging what I live or lived, not living to blog. There is nothing wrong with that approach; however, such a path creates a scenario where, as a blogger, you have to get lucky to generate decent traffic versus embracing a methodical approach to establish yourself as a thought leader on a topic.

If you want people to follow your blog (and social media channels), they first have to find you and, second, have to like your writing style much more than they like your niche.

There are many good articles that can help a wannabe blogger take an approach that works — visit the googles. The term “Professional Blogger” is no longer an oxymoron. Further, I suggest you do five things as you get started:

  • Define your audience persona and write about what they care about and what they search for on Google.
  • Find other blogs in your niche that are larger, and offer to write some guest blogs for them with links back to your blog.
  • Find influencers in your niche who have blogs, emails, social media channels, etc., and ask them to follow and share your work … and perhaps even offer to pay them if you want to drive traffic to your site.
  • Use social media platforms such as Instagram, Twitter and Facebook to promote your blog. Social media marketing is a complex subject, but its fundamental goal is to increase brand awareness and community engagement.
  • Recognize that people will not subscribe to your list unless you ask. Try incentivizing them by giving them something extraordinary in exchange for their email — e.g., a free e-book, checklist, access to a video, etc.

Some of these tactics are for bloggers trying to attract enough eyeballs to make a living off of their efforts. Of course, that would take a lot of eyeballs because ad revenue is pretty negligible, and sponsors only come to fairly robust blogs. Some successful bloggers are willing to compromise their editorial ethos just a bit to chase eyeballs, and are also willing to spend money on advertising to promote their content far and wide.

I do this for the money, prestige and power … said no blogger ever

In addition to being a writer, part of my makeup is that of a longtime stats guy. It’s a mindset I’ve embraced during my career (e.g., trends and budgets) and in my hobbies (e.g., baseball). My blog’s “analytics” aren’t anything to write (pun intended) home about. Naturally, I wish they were higher, but that’s not the glass-half-full way to look at them. I am blessed to have generated the number of subscribers I have after 50 blogs. I look at such data not as numbers, but as what they actually are — people — reminding myself that those numbers don’t exist in a vacuum. Those are actual human beings who enjoyed what I wrote. How about this for perspective … If I invited my relatively small number of subscribers to supper, would I have enough chairs for all of them? Not so much. I must have done something right.

I won’t compromise my vision for this blog for fear that this endeavor will cease to be fun. As I have many pressing financial commitments in my life, live on a fixed income as an old-fart retiree, and am blessed with a better-half who likes sercies and nice things, I won’t be spending ad dollars to promote my blog.

At least for the foreseeable future, I will embrace the heavy-sigh approach, try to be smarter with my prose and creative with my ideas, aim to help a few folks with my topics, and keep writing because I enjoy it and take pleasure from engaging with the public. Without question, it is satisfying to make folks smile, generate a scattering of hmmmms and comments, and educate readers about “stuff” I purport to know something about. I’ve learned that the currency of good blogging is authenticity and trust. That’s good enough for me.

Soooo … That’s the game plan for now. I’m going to stick to blogging my way.

That being stated and in closing, if anyone reading this blog has quasi-prominent friends, relatives or contacts who have umpteen kazillion followers on social media, please consider doing me a huge favor and ask them to “like” one of my musings and repost it. I suspect that becoming a digital media conglomerate and a member of the Blogosphere Elite wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.

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Addendum from LSomerbyCooke:

If you are interested in subscribing to my blog, visit here … meander to the right-side column … scroll down past Recent Posts, Categories, Archives by Month and Blogsite Images … and you’ll find the link “Subscribe to Blog via Email.” More than you know, I appreciate your support.