50 Blogging Lessons To Know If You’re Starting Today

It’s that time of year again:  Technorati has started to share content from their annual state of the blogosphere report.  They have spared no expense this year:  instead of polling bloggers in their network to get data (as was the case in the 2008 state of the blogosphere) they have engaged a research firm to add another layer of authority.

Especially telling was some of the data from professional bloggers – that is to say, working professionals writing about their industry (not to be confused with those blogging directly for income, another type of pro blogger).  According to the this year’s report, the benefits of this type of blogging are clear as day:

  • 71% have greater visibility in their industry
  • 63% said clients purchased products and services
  • 56% stated their company was now regarded as a thought leader
  • 40% have been asked to speak at conferences

These stats support many of the reasons your small business should have a blog.  And, despite the explosive growth of real-time services, there remain far more reasons you should blog and not just Tweet.

The coming year will bring something more important than simply showing a higher number of blogs.  The secret (if it ever really was a secret) is out:  blogs are the ultimate marketing tool.  And as more become fluent in digital communications, the value of it will continue to grow for businesses and individuals alike.

With that said – as someone who blogs personally and professionally, (as both an artist and a marketer on my own blogs and others) I’d like to share 50 lessons I’ve learned over the years that continue to hold true.  These may prove especially useful for those just starting a blog today:

1.  Speed and agility win, period.  It’s not about overly refining content and having layers upon layers of approval and editing, it’s about freedom to converse and try out new ideas.

2.  If you wouldn’t do it for free, don’t do it at all.  In other words:  do it for passion and for yourself and you can’t lose.

3.  Allow an absolute minimum of one year solid commitment (posting 3-5x weekly, or even daily) before you start to see compelling results.  Be mindful of the fact it may take longer.

4.  A sharp thesis trumps planning things to a T.  What I mean by this is it is stronger to simply have a compelling thesis and create content that supports it than necessarily having a formalized editorial calendar already filled out with topics far into the future.  You don’t necessarily even need an editorial calendar if you have a group of people passionate about a topic – just a post quota (i.e., person x is responsible for 3 posts a month).  You might end up with better material this way as it will create more inspired content rather than forced.  This is applicable in solo or group settings.

5.  Branding is vital – your blog requires a strong or unique brand.  If the name of your blog isn’t sticky, you’re already at a disadvantage compared to your peers.  After enough time, you should notice a decent amount of search engine brand awareness for the name of your blog.  This is a great indicator you’re on track, as it means people have started to view your blog as a referential source.  Have some thought behind creating your blog’s name, being especially conscious that it will resonate with your target audience.

6.  It’s not going to be easy – nothing rewarding is.

7.  But it is going to be worthwhile – you will develop a voice in your industry and get involved in conversations with smart, interesting people. .

8.  Embrace being imperfect.  Trust me, you’re going to have things like typos and sentences which aren’t grammatically perfect.  Make peace with this soon and you’ll have a lot more fun.

9.  Speaking of fun – if you don’t find writing about your topic of choice fun, stop and write about something else.  If the process isn’t enjoyable, your content will feel contrived – and no one enjoys contrived words.

10.  If you’re not learning as part of the process, stop.  Blogging should be like going to the gym for your brain.

11.  You’re probably going to be talking only to your friends/business associates at the start.  But this is a good thing – use this time to refine your words, hone your style and experiment.  Having an audience before you’re comfortable isn’t a good thing – you want to be fully fluent in the process to have the greatest continued impact when you actually do acquire readers.

12.  If you’re not a leader, don’t even bother.  Your writing will show it.  The best bloggers are natural leaders and exude confidence.  You have to be if you hope to stand out in a world of infinite choice.  It’s basic sociology, why else would anyone listen to you?

13.  Answer the “so what?” question with every post.  If you have no reason for being, don’t write it.

14.  Network, network, network.  As few as 10 well-connected, interested people could be your entire growth strategy.  But realize people with real influence will never share content that doesn’t add value to their own networks.  Give to get.

15.  Be as consistent as possible.  But not at the sacrifice of your signal to noise ratio.

16.  Learn the intersection of social media and SEO.  And don’t just read about it, live/breathe it.

17.  Become a web analytics geek – learn to interpret what all the data points mean and how to use this data to help create killer content.

18.  If it doesn’t move you emotionally, don’t write it (realize emotion is relative – it doesn’t have to move every member of your audience, but if it moves you then you’ve done it right:  it’s going to impact someone else that way too).

19.  Realize there are no formalized rules or best practices – just start and find what works for you.

20.  If you’re ever stuck, just start to write (that’s just one of 15 tips for how to overcome writer’s block).

21.  Don’t worry about writing short posts or long posts.  Learn the art of the lede and you can create content of any length you wish.

22.  Brainstorm blog post ideas that generate buzz and break the mold.  Remember, buzz is a vital element of digital PR.

23.  Get creative with the ways you link out.  Consider making every post a link post.

24.  Think critically about how the the 48 laws of power apply to blogging.

25.  Hold tight, it will only get easier.

26.  Take the viewpoint that blogging is a marathon, not a sprint.

27.  The idea of a “blog launch” is a bit of a fallacy.  You launched, but who cares – you’ve proved nothing so far.  You haven’t put in the effort and earn permission to earn a true opt-in community interested in seeing you grow.  Most of the biggest name blogs launched with little fanfare and grew organically over time, bit by bit.  As Seth Godin likes to put it:  drip, drip, drip, you win.

28.  Ignore the naysayers who say “blogging is dead/dying” – the fact that these posts are generally written by bloggers says a lot – it’s pure linkbait and nothing more.

29.  Make subscription options the most prevalent CTA.  Every interested visitor who does not subscribe is a missed opportunity for your growth.

30.  Give a full effort – if you’re going to give a half effort don’t even bother, there is far too much competition here for that to work.

31.  Try causing some controversy to see what happens.  In the social web if you don’t have share of voice, you have nothing.  And with so many others playing it safe, those who embark down a controversial path stand out like a beacon on a shoreline.

32.  Realize that persistance rules – this is possibly the most common quality of successful bloggers.

33.  Focus a majority of attention on your blog, not on the externalities it spawns.  The best blogs are products of success from pull, not push.

34.  Consider how blogging is in many ways like chess – develop strategies accordingly.

35.  Use social proofing to your advantage to help grow your blog’s brand.

36.  Learn from power users and influencers in your niche.  Reverse engineer what they have done to become a success.  The web allows you to see this in black and white.

37.  Ensure that your blog is building affinity with people in a meaningful way.

38.  Once you find a formula that works, don’t be afraid to keep using it.  If it ever stops working, switch it up.

39.  Write on a compelling intersection of topics.

40.  Write detailed, in depth posts.  In a world over-saturated with short attention spans, draw out the smart people by not shying away from detail – they’ll appreciate it.

41.  Provide real value to people without expecting a thing in return.  Embracing this philosophy, I am continually amazed at the returns it brings.

42.  Never worry about what others will think.

43.  Don’t be afraid to have opinions or take sides.

44.  Realize that promotion is secondary to content.

45.  Utilize search engines for research and to back up your content with facts/stats to add authority to your ideas.  It’s easy and free.

46.  Stay away from the echo chamber – start conversations instead.

47.  Become an outlier in your niche.

48.  Link out to the people you want linking to you – in time they will if what you are doing is worth linking to.

49.  Create linkbait – links are the lifeblood of your blog and will help you gain authority in the engines, plus good linkbait content will convert new subscribers.

50.  Be a catalyst to action for readers:  inspire them to do things which lead to happiness, success and prosperity.  There’s so much negativity in the world that sometimes a bit of positivity can be that missing element which tips the scales and helps you succeed.

image credit: Gravicapa via Shutterstock