What they didn't tell you about blogging – A few more items

The links to the earlier posts in the same series are here

Here are ten more:

31. Not only is blogging addictive, blogging stats are addictive too…

Blogging can  be addictive. Checking blogging stats can be addictive too.  

Imagine you were fascinated with a video game. At first, it is hard to clear level one. Once you clear level one, you want to go to the next level. After that, to another level. Then to another level.

Blogging game is similar but except there is no clear top level. You can keep on going for a long time – fascinated by the growth (or no growth) of the traffic on your blog. There are many things to be fascinated about blog traffic

* where are the visitors coming from
* what are they reading
* where are they clicking through (as they go out)
* how are they finding your blog (search terms)

One clear reason you can be carried away with blogging stats is the “surprise” factor associated with it. Think about it –

* Which of your posts get popular?
* Which posts get linked most?
* Which posts get the most number of comments?

There is no way to predict the above or a dozen other questions. You can be pleasantly surprised or disappointed. Nothing is certain. The only way to find out is to keep watching the traffic 🙂

32. Barring exceptions, older posts are considered dead

Posts in a news site have a short shelf-life for obvious reasons.

I have been a big proponent of creating “timeless” content – meaning content that stays relevant for quite some time. That is only the first step. Just as you won’t go past a few pages of search results when you are searching something, don’t expect your audience to keep browsing back to the day you wrote the first blog post. Posts go dead faster than you think.

There is hope though. Think about what you can do creatively to ensure that some of your best posts stay alive. Here are a few ideas:

1. Create a section for the most popular posts and highlight them

2. Create categories to organize your posts

3.  Create a series of posts and number them. If some posts in the series create an interest, chances are that readers will seek out other posts in the series.

4. Create lenses with a topic where you are an expert and link to all relevant posts on your blog.

5. Publish a manifesto on changethis.com with excerpts from your favorite posts for a topic.

Invent your own ways to keep the posts alive.

Fair warning: Don’t try to trick your readers by linking to posts that waste their time. Link back to high-quality posts only. Otherwise, it will hurt you more than it will help you.

33. Variety helps; too much variety hurts

Imagine a speaker who speaks with a monotonous voice from beginning to end of his speech. That can be boring. That won’t work, right?

You seek some variety.

On another extreme, imagine a speaker who, in the middle of his speech starts dancing and singing that have no connection to his speech. That won’t work either

Some variety is good. Too much variety (especially if it is incoherent) hurts.

Blogging is no different. When you blog, think that you are on a stage and talking to a set of people. They need variety. But not too much.

34. Blogging is personal

Blogging is more personal than creating a book. The audience expect to discover your personality through your blog. If the content is the king, the emotions associated with every post will be the queen. A good combination is desired.

Look at the last few posts. Do they represent you – do they say who you are. If not, go back and add some emotions into them. Bring out your personality in each of you posts.

Consider the act of writing a blog post – it may take you only a few minutes from start to finish. Contrast this with the publication of a book. A decent effort with the book is at least an year-long affair. It goes through several rounds of changes and editing before the script is finalized.

Which one is more personal – you be the judge.

35. Traffic is not the only metric of success in blogging.

Actually, if you just go after traffic, you may do some things that you might regret later. Your have to define your goals for blogging based on your needs not based on what someone else has done.

Here are some reasons why people are blogging:
* get more leads for their business
* to secure speaking engagements
* to promote their books
* to park their thoughts for future books
* to extend their personal brands
* to build new relationships
* to extend their company’s reach
* to share their expertise to the world
and so on.

Think about your own life goals and see how blogging fits in it. If it does not, but you are just trying to fit it in – because everyone around you are doing it, at least know that this is what you are doing 🙂

36. Name of your blog matters

Not much if you are celebrity. Otherwise, choosing the wrong name may “box” your blog.

For example, it is hard to write about anything other than Java if the name of your blog is “Java Only” or “Java Unleashed”.  It would be out of place to write about training cats on a blog titled “All about Dogs”.

You can always change the name of the blog. However, it costs to make a name change (be it a company or a person or a blog) and you should be willing to pay that price. Rather than that, think carefully before you pick the name and the associated URL for your blog.

Here are two simple steps:

1. Assume that you won’t be changing the name of your blog for the rest of your life.
2. Once you decide on a name, think about what will people think when they hear the name of your blog.

Is this what you want? If not, go and re-visit the name again
If you already have a blog name but you are not happy about it, better change it today. The longer you operate a blog with a wrong name, harder it gets to change it.

37. Create tipping points for your blog

Unless you have a huge personal brand before you started the blog, don’t expect your blog to be an instant success. Every time you hear an “instant success” story for a blog, look at who was behind that blog and how long they worked hard to create their identity before they started the blog.

For the rest of us, we got to create our own tipping points for our blogs. In simple terms, the tipping points are those circumstances that will lead to the proverbial hockey stick growth for the blog.

Personally, for the first few months, my blog would get only a few hundred page views a day – most of them from my friends and family.  Here are a few things that helped me take my blog to the next level (not in any order)

1. Publication of the book “Beyond Code” (foreword by Tom Peters)
2. Reviews of my book in online and offline outlets
3. Publishing a free eBook “When you can’t earn an MBA…” (downloaded more than 80,000 times)
4. Publishing a free eBook “Personal Branding for Technology Professionals” (downloaded more than 100,000 times)
5. Publishing a manifesto on ChangeThis – 25 Ways to Distinguish Yourself (one of the top 10 manifestos at ChangeThis)
6. Publishing a free eBook “Lasting Relationships
7. Squidoo lens (especially: Blogging Starter Checklist)
8. Help from many many friends (too many to list) online and offline.

What could be the tipping points for your blog in the next few weeks or months?

38. You can get carried away sometimes

When you are just getting started, you have a ton of ideas. Ideas are easy as long as you don’t have to execute on them. Execution is the real culprit. Here are some examples:

* You might want to start a separate blog for every area of your expertise
* You might want to start a separate blog for every book of yours
* You might want a separate audio-blog
* You might want a separate video-blog

You get the point. If you don’t play the full scenario – for the next few years, you might be setting yourself up for failure. Any new initiative takes time. And, blogging – it takes more time as you go along.  If you are successful, it takes you more time than ever – as you have to live up to progressively higher standards that the marketplace sets for you.

So, before you get carried away on the multitude of blogging initiatives, think again!

39. Set time aside for your blog fans

When you speak in public, at the end of the talk (provided you spoke well) people will come and talk to you – ask you questions, clarify things and share their personal experiences. It is your time to interact with your fans.

Blogging is different. Some people are not comfortable writing comments on your blog. They may send you an email or two. Unless the request is unreasonable, you are expected to interact with them. If you don’t have time to respond, people will think you are a operating a broadcasting station rather than a blog.

All it requires is to add a small percentage of time that you are setting aside for your blogging activities. If you are spending 50 minutes in a week to blog, make it 60. If you are spending 300 minutes per week on your blog, make it 330.

40. You can join the discussion but you got have something original to say

One way to get attention is to join an on-going discussion related to a hot topic. Chime in and link to the other relevant blog posts. Trackbacks from those posts will bring you some traffic. However, if you don’t have something original to say to add to the ongoing discussion in a meaningful way, it will hurt you more than it will help you.

Imagine giving free tickets to a movie you know is bad. You make the person feel good for sometime but if he knows that you knew the movie was bad, he or she won’t like you anymore.

Before you invite anyone to your blog, get your house in order. That way, you not only make a good first impression, you will get them to visit again soon.

When you add some original thought to the discussion and raise the level of thinking, you will get noticed. If you just say things like – “What a great post” or “You got to read this” you are not adding much to what is happening.

Remember, when someone “discovers” your blog by some means, it is only “relevant and remarkable” content that will bring them back.

Have a great weekend all of you.