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5 Things I Wish People Told Me Before I Started up a Blog

April 12, 2010

Regular readers may have noticed something slightly different about today’s post. More on that in a sec.

I’ve been regularly blogging for about nine months now, and whilst I have loved it for the most part, there are a number of things I regret. Every so often I’ll throw up my hands and grumble as to why no-one ever told me about “this” or “that” sooner…

So here are 5 tips I wish people had given me before I started on my blogging journey.

1. Use WordPress instead of Blogspot
Now to put this into context, if you told me to go off and build a website I would stare at you blankly; I’m not a technical person or a web developer by any means. So when I first considered starting up a blog my criteria was pretty simple: free and easy!

To be completely honest, I didn’t spend a whole lot of time researching different blogging platforms, a mistake I regret in retrospect. A lot of my favourite blogs at the time used Google Blogspot, and hey, it was Google… You can’t go wrong with Google. So Blogspot it was.

This is not to say that I’m a Blogspot basher – Blogspot does what it says on the wrapper (and I’m sure with the right skills, you can tweak and add to it). Over time though, I found there was a lot more I wanted to get out of my blogging experience than simply writing content and pressing a publish button. This is when I started experimenting with WordPress. In fact, a few months ago I started up a blog in WordPress (totally unrelated to marketing) to see how the free versions compared.

How I regret not starting off my blog in WordPress. I found it offered up easy customization to help the most non-technical of people make their blog look and feel more like their own (including the ability to add different widgets, easily display Twitter and RSS feeds, change banner images etc.) as well as options for better reader interaction, such as ratings and polls.

There’s a bunch of other cool things too. In Blogspot, the only way I could track whether people were reading content was if they clicked to it from a bit.ly link that I provided (for example, via Twitter). Any data outside of this was a bit of a mystery, and required a lot of manual tracking. This was first brought to light when I worked on a post about how to measure the success of your blog (the data really was a complete nightmare to get). In WordPress, however, you can easily see basic data such as visit numbers and other cool stuff, like when other sites link to your blog.

So for these reasons I decided to eventually move SEM Booty over to WordPress. In the meantime, I hope my 12 Blogspot followers will follow me over here to the not-so-dark side 🙂

2. It’s ok to have an opinion
I think Rebecca Kelley put it best when she told the SearchFest conference audience to “Encourage participation and comments in your blog by being an asshole”. As a case in point, I think her most successful blog post of all time was about how vegetarians can’t appreciate good food.

This observation (about being an a-hole, not the veggies) is true. What I’ve found is that if you sit on the fence on a topic, it doesn’t really compel people to comment or voice an opinion back (unless you’re someone like Pete Cashmore and the like). On the other hand, if you stir up the pot a little and focus on more controversial topics and viewpoints, then people will be more than willing to raise their hand, share their thoughts and start a discussion.

3. Pace yourself
When I first started out I knew that blogging on a daily basis was totally unrealistic. So I set myself a goal of twice a week. After a few months, and as more and more topics got crossed off the list, I started to regret that decision. Eventually, my posts went down to once a week… something at the time I felt quite bad about.

However, @unmarketing summed it up nicely when he said that it was better to blog once a week with quality instead of three times a week watered down. A good lesson to keep in mind… and one that made me feel a lot better!

4. Share your content through a range of media
When I started out, I would just use Twitter to share new posts on my blog. But if you limit yourself to one channel, think about all the other eyeballs you are potentially missing out on.

So where it makes sense, don’t forget to post links to your blog content on channels like LinkedIn and Facebook. Talk about your blog to colleagues, peers and friends who may be interested. Also experiment with Reddit and Digg. A friend of mine posted my non-marketing blog post on Reddit recently, and the number of visits to that post increased tenfold (thanks Simon!). And thanks to WordPress, I was able to actually see these visit numbers (unlike in Blogspot).

5. Enjoy it
Last, but not least, just be yourself, show your personality and enjoy the blogging experience. I really believe that this will come through in your writing. As soon as blogging starts to become a chore, your readers will know.

Well that’s all for now folks. It’s been an interesting experience pulling my blog content over. I’m interested to hear your tips on the blogosphere, as well as views on the Blogspot vs. WordPress debate.

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