Blog Talk: Tips for a successful first year as a new blogger
Once upon a time I considered writing a “first year’s review of a blog” post (it's the latest craze). Actually, I had it completed and then decided against it. It was long and tedious (not unlike some of my other posts...or this one) and in the end I don’t think it said anything extremely noteworthy. I had blog visitor stats, demographics, clicks, time spent – everything you can get from Google Analytics. But in the end, it was by personal observation that I was really able to tell when my blog was doing “good” or “bad”(which of course is all very subjective).
So instead of posting my first year stats to bore, shame, excite, or elicit smugness in others, I’ve decided on a simple post that states exactly when I had the greatest “success” for this blog; success in terms of shares, comments, and interaction.
These tips are really nothing new. You can find similar thoughts on pretty much any “successful blog” Google search, but these are personal observations for this site and a source for confirmation of what other bloggers have been saying all along. These are in order of greatest value to me, however, they all really go hand-in-hand so it’s hard to say that one resulted in a greater following that another.
1. When I started making friends – You hear this everywhere and it really follows the same in real life: If you go out and make friends, then those friends are more likely to want to hang out with you, talk nicely about you, and help you out. I learned this pretty quickly because I had heard it from others, but it took me about 2 months in to get serious about it. Mostly because I wanted to tweak my site to be aesthetic and user friendly before I started recruiting friends and followers. No one wants to follow something that looks like a hot mess and has no foundation. Once I was comfortable enough running my blog then I jumped on some blog hops. One of the best ones, personally, was Feature and Follow Friday; a weekly hop put on by Alison Can Read and Parajunkee. I liked this hop because it had a different writing prompt every week which gave me material and a place to show it off. Two birds with one stone, great people, and entertaining – what more could you ask for?
2. When I became sincere – This probably sounds awful, but let’s be honest, when you first start a blog it’s easy to get caught up in the numbers. You want visitors, and comments, and ratings, etc. In a naive but honest effort, you might start link dumping, turning to clickbait, or unknowingly spamming communities with link drops. I wasn’t intentionally trying to be the @ss of the blogosphere, but I was just following what I saw others doing. On blogs I’d comment with a “just stopping by” or “great post” and my link. I didn’t add to the conversation. Not that I didn’t want to but I had some times visited so many sites previously that I just started leaving generic comments. Other times I was just commenting to let them know I existed. There’s nothing wrong with leaving one of those comments, but if you are expecting a visit in return then you should think about adding to the discussion. Something as simple as saying you agree and with what part you agree with doesn’t take much more time than leaving a generic comment and it is more likely to engage the blogger and peak their interest in you/your blog. Just spend 10 minutes of your day (whenever you’re checking into your blog) to hit others’ and leave a genuine comment. See what happens.
3. When I let it go and just did me – Don’t get caught up in the fight for the top. Easier said than done. But let’s be real, those guys at the top have been around a long time. Your one week to three years doesn’t have much on them. When you start blogging for you – which is what why many start blogging in the first place – then you start writing more original and interesting pieces. Thus the visitors and comments come more naturally. This ties in with the sincerity point. If you post the same thing as everyone else just because you heard that it is the “hottest” topic or “most interesting”, but you yourself do not think that it is, then that lack of interest will come across in your writing. It’s like forcing yourself to write a philosophical reflection the ever-beloved Hamlet. Sometimes you just don’t f#@%ing like Hamlet. Or Shakespeare for that matter. Furthermore, readers like variety and if they’re following the same blogs that you are retrieving ideas from, then it is even more so in your best interest to switch up the topics.
4. When I found my groove – Everyone’s groove is different and you’re probably not going to hit it right away. But you probably won’t realize the exact moment that you hit it either. I certainly didn’t. But at some point you start to look back and realize that you’re pretty comfortable with your writing topics, writing style, and writing process. Your readers will notice it too and that consistency is what brings the repeat readers (true followers) back. At this point you’ll likely notice the high visitor numbers from spam sites drops and your uniqueness and repeat rating increases. It all comes with practice. My first posts are vastly different than they are now. Not that they were particularly bad, but I found what worked and what didn’t work for me.
5. When I was everywhere but couldn't properly dedicate time to those places – And by everywhere I mean everywhere; Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr, BlogLovin, Networked Blogs, Book Bloggers (NING), Goodreads, and more! Everyone has a different niche. I quickly found out that I was not a Pinterest or Tumblr person (even though my sites are still up). But the others have worked out quite well for me because they each reach a different set of readers. My casual readers come from Facebook and Twitter, consistent followers from BlogLovin, and authors/publishers/marketers from Book Bloggers. Now, instead of trying to post the same thing everywhere and keep them all UTD, I just post specific topics to my target audiences’ respective site. It’s easier for me and it doesn’t load their feeds.
I don’t have the most popular blog. But that isn’t my idea of “success”. What I do have is a pretty strong core of readers who follow, comment, and share posts with those who share interests – which is my idea of “success” – and it took a solid two years to this level. Don’t give up after your first week/month/6 months/year. Your blog will develop, perhaps slowly, but surely if you take into consideration these fundamental blogging points.