I started this blog in 2006, not really knowing what I was doing. Since then, and according to the FeedBurner chicklet in the sidebar (since removed), the RSS subscriber count has risen to 87,698 (the number fluctuates a little each day, usually decreasing at weekends when less people access the feed).
I’ve learned a few things along the way.
1/ Focus on what you enjoy
Two things here; focus and enjoyment. When you focus your content on a particular topic or profession, your readers know what to expect, and they’re more likely to subscribe. Unless you enjoy what you’re writing about, you’ll soon get bored and give up.
2/ Share your mistakes
We all make them. Few of us share them. You tend to open-up more when you talk about getting things wrong, and it’s that personal touch that’ll help keep readers interested. Here’s an old post of mine from 2007 that might be of use if you’re starting a blog: Seven blog mistakes to avoid. And perhaps one of my biggest mistakes — neglecting email security.
3/ Comment elsewhere
There’s a big world of blogs out there, with a big world of people reading the comment threads. Join the chat. I’m sure you have some good advice or a point of view that others want to read. You might learn something, too — I have, thanks in no small part to my valued commentators.
4/ Make guest appearances
Offer guest posts to blog owners who have already built a solid subscriber base. I did this on a couple of well known blogs, and although I’ve looked back wishing I could press ‘edit’, it was still worth doing. One thing to remember, offer your best writing. Don’t hold the good stuff back for your own blog. It’s your chance to make a great impression on your new audience.
5/ Make it easy to subscribe
Seems obvious, but there have been plenty of times when I’ve had to search for a subscription button or link. Additionally, not everyone knows the benefit of RSS subscriptions, so offer an email alternative.
6/ Publish consistently
It doesn’t matter if you publish a new post every day or every couple of weeks, but consistency breeds familiarity, leading to trust, and eventually sales of some sort. We all have something to sell.
7/ Don’t sell out to advertising
By all means make money from your blog, but don’t hide useful content behind blocks of Adsense, popups, and a raft of flashing banners. Instant turn off.
8/ Social proof
We avoid the empty restaurant in favour of the busy one next door. To a certain extent the same applies to our websites. Some people think it’s boastful to show a subscriber count. I don’t. But avoid using the FeedBurner chicklet (or whatever alternatives are out there) until it shows more than 500 or so.
9/ Don’t sweat the numbers
It’s easy to become a stat addict, constantly looking at numbers, charts, graphs, wanting to see a continual increase and wondering what you’re doing wrong if you don’t. Try to treat each reader/commentator as if s/he’s your only one. This one at a time focus keeps your writing personal, and people will subscribe to your blog because of you.
10/ Be positive
The blogs I enjoy most remind me from time to time how fortunate I am. Millions struggle every day to have the life I lead. What do I really have to complain about?
A sincere note of thanks for taking time to read what I have to say.