No two good blogs are the same. There might be many duplicates out there, but the good blogs, the ones worth your time, all have a unique take on a particular niche. That means that blogging advice will necessarily vary by niche and by blog. After four years of blogging in two completely unrelated niches — baseball and BlackBerry — I’ve picked up plenty of specific advice. But more importantly, the disparity of these topics has allowed me to find common threads that can apply to all blogs, no matter the subject matter. So, in celebration of a successful four-year run, here are the four most important things I’ve learned along the way.
1. Interact In The Comments
One of the most frustrating things for a new blogger is looking at a post that receives zero comments. It’s easy to see comments as a form of validation, that your post inspired someone to respond. But comments suffer from the experience paradox: in order to get comments you need to have comments. It’s a long cycle that some bloggers never break.
Once you do get comments, though, make sure you respond. On the BlackBerry blog this worked mostly as technical Q&A. We make posts that dispense advice about the BlackBerry. People then ask related questions, and we make it a point to answer every single one of them. People then realized they could get their questions answered if they asked in the comments, and that fostered more comments. Our interactions made all the difference.
On the baseball blog the comments took the form of a discussion about the post, but it operated in the same manner. People would comment on the post, and we would make sure to respond if it was warranted. That continued conversations and encouraged other people to chime in. This would not have been possible if my co-authors and I hadn’t been proactive in commenting.
Bonus Tip: Once you do get comments, you are going to get flamed. Take it in stride. Remember, even if you get a lot of comments, commenters typically account for a small fraction of your readership. That means nasty comments account for less than one percent. Let it go.
2. Don’t Overdo Content
At some point along the way someone — and I’m pretty sure it was Nick Denton at Gawker — decided that more posts was better. And so for a while we had popular blogs pumping out 15 to 20 posts per day. We still see some of that lingering effect. Honestly, it’s overwhelming and probably not for most bloggers. It’s absolutely not something that a single blogger can handle.
You’ll have more time to create valuable content if you stick to one or two posts per day. One well-constructed and thought out post trumps a dozen short, meaningless ones any day. Putting your focus into more in-depth posts helps keep you motivated, too. Nothing causes burnout like overwork, and posting every little bit of news or minutiae is an easy way to lose interest and shut down your blog completely.
If you have multiple authors, that’s great. That will allow you to post multiple times per day without burning yourself out. But make sure that everyone is committed to one solid, unique post per day. Otherwise you’re not doing anyone any favors, and you’ll likely lose audience and interest quickly.
3. Go Mobile
Post ideas will not always come easy. Even some ideas that come easy will not easily develop into posts. Blogging might seem easy, but maintaining a high quality blog is anything but. It takes a certain ingenuity to come up with post topics day after day. Sometimes chancing your environment is all that you need.
If you visit a coffee shop like Starbucks you might see, at any given time, plenty of people with laptops open. If they’re tapping away at the keyboard, they might be writing a blog post. This is one way to get away. I find that park benches are great for really clearing my head and getting to the heart of a new post.
There are plenty of ways to take your blogging mobile. You might prefer your laptop. Some people blog from their smartphones. I personally prefer my Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1. It’s easier to carry around than a laptop, it has a bigger screen than a smartphone, and because it has a data plan I can access the web from anywhere. However, you want to do it, make sure you change things up. It keeps the mind fresh, which will keep your posts fresh.
4. Accept That You Will Be Wrong
Every blogger, at some point in her career, will write something that is completely, unequivocally wrong. That might happen in her young days, when readership is scarce and comments are nonexistent. That might seem like the best time, but in the long-term it might be the worst. There’s a learning moment there that might not pass if the blogger is not held accountable.
It might seem like a bad thing to be wrong when you have a readership and comments. People will remark about how you are wrong, and many will do it in a nasty, demeaning way. Do not fret about this. Take the opportunity to learn why you were wrong. Where in the process did things go off track? Then take that lesson and learn from it, so it doesn’t happen again.
This is why new bloggers might not recognize the opportunity. They might think no blood, no foul. But that’s the opposite of the truth. We can’t sweep our wrongs under the rug. It’s only when we learn from our mistakes that we grow. Embrace that. Your readers will appreciate you even more for it.