Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Lessons Learned from Two Years of Blogging (Part I of III)

Happy Birthday! Today this blog is two years old. I never knew that it would add so much to my career, but oh boy, has it.

Following are some lessons I’ve learned from the past two years of blogging.

1. Determine Why You Blog: I liken this to driving without directions. How do you know where you want to go unless you have a destination in mind? Having a purpose in mind will also focus you more.

If you decide to monetize your blog, you will have a concentrated body of work right at your fingertips. This makes for a tighter, more concise and interesting blog.
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2. Appreciate Your Style: My writing style on this blog is what I term “conversational business-like.” I throw in a bit of self-deprecating humor to illuminate points, and voila, I have a writing style.
As a blogger, especially in the beginning, you may get intimidated by other bloggers. You may wonder, “Am I too personal, too business-like, not funny enough, too sarcastic, etc.”

My advice is, whatever your writing style, embrace it. Don’t try to be like anyone else. You will never please everyone and you’ll spend too much time trying to “sound” a certain way. This, IMHO, defeats the purpose of blogging, which is to convey information.

The best – not to mention easiest and quickest – way to do that is to be true to you. Not only will you write better, you’ll enjoy the process more.

3. More is Better: As in, more posts. Update your blog regularly for maximum effect. Search engines are driven by content. The more you feed the hungry search engine monster, the more popular your blog becomes, the more links you get and the higher your PR rankings.

4. Blog Fearlessly! As in, don’t be afraid to tackle controversial topics, angles, etc. As we all know, controversy sells. Don’t gratuitously cover controversial topics, but don’t back down if the occasion presents itself.

For example, my 11/706 post was entitled, Should Freelance Writers Have a Minimum Wage? In this article, I proposed a minimum pay scale. I got some flack from that. BUT, at least it started a debate (or rather, continued one that’s been raging fiercely since content writing became the rage).

5. Blog Topically: As in, tie in what’s going on in the news to what you blog about. The article mentioned above is a good example of this. I got this idea for an article while watching CNN one morning as they were discussing the new minimum wage that went into effect in 7 states this year. I need to do more of this myself.

Many times, there won't be an obvious connection from topic to topic, but if you think for a few minutes, you can usually come up with a relevant spin on an issue you've heard/read about that’s currently in the news.

6. Stay Away from the Obvious: Many times I will click on an article on the web with an interesting title, only to be bored to tears with obvious information that can be found on the web in a two-second search.

The post, 34 Reasons Why Readers Unsubscribe from Your Blog on bears this out. “Redundant, repeated or recycled news is one of the top five reasons why people unsubscribe to RSS Feeds,” according to feedback sent in from readers.Surfers are looking for information.

Respect your readers enough to give them useful information not easily found everywhere else. This where I think blogging about what you know/do comes in handy. I pepper my posts with personal experiences because this is inside information that only someone who does what I do for a living (freelance writing) knows.
Over time, this will build you a loyal readership – which pays dividends in numerous ways (product sales, interview requests, ad revenues, etc.).

7. Don’t Overpromote: As in, your products, services, etc. Remember, readers want useful information. While using your blog to promote your products/services is fine, too many ads or too much self-promotion is a big turn-off.
I mean, think about it. Who wants to interact with someone who is always trying to sell them something? By all means, use your blog as a selling too, but unobtrusively so.

Tomorrow: Part II of this post.
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