Not really knowing what I was doing, I started this blog in October 2006. In the years since, and according to the FeedBurner chicklet in my 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).
It might’ve taken five years (those looking for a quick-fix should take note) but I’ve learned a few things along the way and want to share some blogging advice.
1/ Focus on what you’re passionate about
Two things here; focus and passion. 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’re passionate about what you publish, you’ll get bored long before a few years have passed.
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 articles to blog owners who have already built a solid subscriber base. I did this on a couple of well-known blogs. I sometimes look back wishing I could press ‘edit’, but still, worth doing. One thing to remember, offer your best writing. Don’t hold the good stuff back for your own blog. You only get one chance to make a first impression with the 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. Put it in a prominent position on your blog. 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 blog post every day or every couple of weeks, but consistency breeds familiarity, which breeds confidence, leading to trust, and eventually to sales of some sort. We all have something to sell.
7/ Don’t sell-out to advertising
I encourage you to make money from your blog. It makes sense given the amount of time you’ll invest. But a blog that hides useful content behind blocks of Adsense, popups, and a raft of flashing banners is a sorry sight. 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 blog’s 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 to every one of you who takes time to read what I have to say.
If you have any additional tips or advice to share, please do.