In May 2011, my friend Mark Schaefer challenged me to blog more frequently. While I’ve had a blog since 2004, I didn’t post with regularity. He said that I was a good writer, but I didn’t write enough to actually build a community. His point was well taken, and I started blogging more–eventually.
Before talking with Mark, I would only write when I was “inspired.” Some months I would write several posts, and then I would skip months entirely. I wrote without consistency, focus and voice. Then in the fall of 2012 I started teaching the class on digital marketing, so I wrote with discipline and consistency. My goal was to write a minimum of two posts per week.
Lesson 1 – If you post, they will come
Below is a chart showing the data over the last two years. The blue lines are the number of posts (indicated by the numbers on the left); the green lines are the number of visitors to the blog (indicated by the numbers on the right). There is a correlation between the number of posts and the traffic to the blog. On average, every post generated about 200 site visitors.
So, the first lesson is the more you post, the more traffic you’ll generate. Got it.
Lesson 2 – Blog more, be a better human
The second lesson also is fairly intuitive: the more you write, the better you’ll write. Writing when you’re not “inspired,” is mental exercise. When you read something littered with grammatical and spelling errors immediately you develop a negative perception of the writer, which is unfortunate for me since I tend to rush through posts and leave more errors than I should. Whether writing a letter or a memo at our jobs, we don’t always want to write what’s before us, blogging with consistency provides the practice to get it done.
Writing consistently also forces you to give more thought about how you communicate. Lazy writing leads to ambiguity and increased exchanges. Writing blog posts forces you to think I’ve got one shot to communicate the idea that I’m putting on this page. As you think through the content, you’re able to form complete thoughts and leave little to interpretation. This practice makes you a better communicator regardless of the medium.
Lesson 3 – Deep thoughts by Jeremy Floyd
In a world inundated with constant data, slinging tweets at the speed of now doesn’t require deep thought. People share web pages to their following after a 3-second headline scan and the first paragraph scan. It’s rare to stop long enough to really think through the idea.
Taking a page out of Mark’s playbook, I keep a number of blog post drafts (30 at present count) with ideas that I would like to eventually write. This accomplished several goals. First, “writer’s block” is seldom a problem because one of the topics is usually interesting. Second, writing the headline starts the mental gears turning. Then when you aren’t in front of your keyboard, you continue turning a topic over in your mind. The result is usually a well-reasoned post.
Lesson 4 – Blogger, meet yourself
Until you write with frequency, you don’t really know your written voice. Are you a textbook writer? A witty author? An inspiring genius? Your posts, one after another, form your voice, and you begin to learn your style of writing. Eventually, you will be able to spot the writing that “doesn’t sound like you,” which is critical to the editing process.
Lesson 5 – The dirty little secret
There’s a lot of shit out there. There, I said it. Bits and bytes are piling on top of each other all over the Internet. Unlike our “real” lives, we don’t have landfills in our digital landscape, so we end up with a wasteland of garbage accented by islands of quality content. The lesson here is to bring value. Don’t fall into the trap of churning out more unread garbage.
This lesson is for me especially. There are plenty of posts entitled, 10 steps to better blogging posts out there, yet I’ve fallen into the trap to write a few of my own. Shame on me. I don’t want to waste time generating content that is like Wal-Mart furniture. I want to create heirloom works that have a shelf-life of longer than one day.
Over the last two years, I have spent a lot of time working on my blog. People that say they spend 4 hours a week cranking out 7 posts amaze me. Some posts take 4-6 hours for me to write, but I assume I’m a little slow. Because of the breadth of my content, the people that read my blog are very diverse from moms to business execs, but this diversity also makes growing readership very slow. I’m fine with slow. I’d rather bring a few new ideas into the world than regurgitate content that is all over the place. I’m glad that Mark challenged me, and I’m glad that I have invested the time. I hope you have enjoyed and will continue to enjoy. Otherwise, I’m just writing for the bots.