Website/Blog Tips

10 Lessons Learned in 10 Months Blogging

November 28, 2011
Lessons Learned in 10 Months Blogging

There comes a time in every blogger’s life when they feel ready to give blogging advice to others. Or maybe there just comes a time when they’ve made so many mistakes they feel they can help others by sharing their experiences.

This time has come for me :)

I’ve been writing here for ten months now, and I’ve learned a lot along the way. Some lessons were learned gently, by reading other blogs and searching the Internet, while others were learned the hard way, through trial and error.

Here are 10 lessons I learned over 10 months of blogging. Enjoy!

1. Premium themes are sometimes worth the cost:

I started this blog using a free WordPress theme, which worked well for a few months. But as I grew more comfortable with WordPress and began customizing my blog site, I found I wasn’t totally satisfied with any of the free options. I ended up purchasing a premium theme from WooThemes, and have never looked back. [Update: I now use a paid theme from ThemeForest.]

If you cant find a free theme you love, consider springing for a premium theme so you can make your blog look exactly the way you would like it to.

2. Read as many blogs as you can:

I regularly read 20-25 other blogs, from big name sites like Copy Blogger and Zen Habits, to growing blogs from fellow writers such as Dan Gillmor and Kat Latham. I have learned most of what I know about blogging by reading what others are writing about and creeping about on their blogs.

3. Set up Google Alerts:

I’m surprised by how many people don’t set up Google Alerts. Google Alerts are a fantastic way to keep track of what people are saying about you and your blog online, and best of all, they’re free!

When you create a Google Alert, you’ll get an email each time the search term you specify is mentioned on the web. I set up a Google Alert for my name (in quotation marks, to ensure I’m only seeing mentions of “Carrie” that are also attached to “Mumford”) shortly after launching my blog, and have not worried about missing mentions of my blog ever since.

4. Don’t be afraid to try new things (or scrap them if they’re not working):

In 10 months, I have gone through 3 blog names, 4 urls, and countless blog pages. At one point, I even completed a full site redesign. In my humble opinion, blogs are meant to be experimented with! Don’t be afraid to try new things or stop doing something if it’s not working. Try new types of posts, add new pages, post at different frequencies. Just be sure to monitor your site stats and comments to get a feel for which pages and posts are resonating with visitors.

5. Decide why you’re blogging:

It may sound odd, but I didn’t decide why I was blogging before I started this blog. I had a vague idea that I wanted to write about writing and meet other people interested in writing, but that was about it. Since the launch of this blog, I’ve narrowed my reasons for blogging down to a tight list (that perhaps I’ll share one day). Knowing why you’re blogging will keep you going when you don’t feel like writing and help you focus the topics of your posts.

6. Be yourself:

It’s difficult to make yourself stand out in the sea of blogs available to readers today. I’ve come to the conclusion that the only way to survive in the blogging world is to be yourself. There were some posts that I wrote with my face red with embarrassment at my nerdiness, assuming that no one would read them. Little did I know, those posts turned out to be some of my most popular. Your voice, more than anything else, will define you in the world of blogging.

7. Post a photo of yourself:

I know this is debated, but I think including a photo of yourself on your blog is important. If you are using other social media outlets, like Twitter, Facebook or Google Plus, your blog readers will be able to recognize you by sight alone. If you’re shy, try using the same icon across all of your social media accounts. I used a stack of books to identify myself for several months until I was ready to post a real picture.

8. Add social sharing buttons:

Social sharing buttons fall into the “learned it the hard way” camp for me. Social sharing buttons give your readers a really easy way to share your posts with their followers on various social networks. All WordPress themes include social sharing options – you even get to choose which networks you would like to enable.

If you scroll to the bottom of this post (and you’re reading online, as opposed to in an email account), you’ll be able to see my social sharing buttons beside ‘share this.’

9. Comment on other blogs:

To me, blogs are just as social as Twitter or Facebook or any other networking site;  they’re a forum for conversation. Leaving comments is a great way to meet other people who are interested in the same things that you are, and a great way to let other bloggers know someone is out there, reading what they write. I know comments aren’t for everyone; just like the people on Twitter who choose not to follow anyone (only to be followed), there are bloggers who simply write and that’s it. For me, commenting on blogs and meeting other people is half the fun (and one of the reasons I bog).

10. Don’t give up!

Although it’s difficult to find statistics about blogging, I have read estimates that claim 60-80% of blogs are abandoned within a few months of being launched. If you manage to post consistently for more than a few months, you’re doing better than most! When to going gets tough, try reading other blogs for post ideas, or check out these links:

Michael Hyatt’s 13 Blog Post Ideas for Novelists
Seth Godin’s How to get traffic to your blog
Pro Blogger’s 5 Ways to Never Run Out of Blog Post Ideas

I learn something new about blogging every week, so I’m sure I still have a long way to go. Do you have any tips for hosting a successful blog? Please leave a comment below!

Image source: http://www.sxc.hu/profile/sqback

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  • islandeditions November 28, 2011 at 6:21 pm

    Excellent post, Carrie! Congratulations!

    • carrie m November 28, 2011 at 6:28 pm

      Thanks Susan! So glad you liked it :)

  • rutheh November 28, 2011 at 6:21 pm

    Thanks for the good lessons learned, Carrie. I am going to go and create a Google Alert tonight. I like to read the comments and I write some comments, too but somewhere I read that you should respond to each comment. YIKES.
    Thanks for the ping back a few months ago. Someone else wrote and said my photos inspired their writing…. so now I am sending a few poet friends a couple of photos to choose from and will post their response poem along with the photo.
    Premium theme, eh? I will check them out. Thanks again for your writing today.

    • carrie m November 28, 2011 at 6:37 pm

      Fantastic news about the photo-sharing, Ruth! It would be wonderful if the poets could publish your photos alongside their work (should they want to go down that route).

      I’ve heard varying opinions on responding to every comment. I think that if you write a post that gets an overwhelming number of comments, you can get away with responding to those people who post longer comments, or those who ask questions. I’ve found readers are generally understanding about the speed at which you can type :)

  • Katherine November 28, 2011 at 6:32 pm

    Wow, this is great! I love how a blog post about posting blogs can be so well written. I’ve been blogging for about a year now, although I switched sites (blogger to tumblr to wordpress) as well as changed my focus and therefore created new pages (originally when I worked at a Camp over the summer I wrote a post each day for 90 days, explaining what happened that day… Additionally I wrote a letter, in a post, to my boyfriend each of those days, because we couldn’t see each other or talk. My third, and current blog, is basic highlights of my life, and interesting happenstances) I have also learned most of what you wrote here.

    I did not know about Google Alerts (I have just registered a few terms) and therefore I am so grateful. I was just pondering today that I need to post more pictures of myself, without crossing that boundary of narcissism or vanity. The only thing I can’t do, at the moment at least, is buy a theme, because I won’t let myself put ads on my page, so it won’t pay for itself.

    Keep up the great work!

    • carrie m November 29, 2011 at 8:08 am

      There is a fine line, as you mention, for posting too many pictures of yourself, or too few. One blogger that I follow, The Simple Life of a Country Man’s Wife: http://thesimplecountrylife.com/, does a great job of finding balance in posting photos. She rarely posts pictures of herself, but will often include her shadow in photos.

  • Elizabeth Anne Mitchell November 28, 2011 at 6:33 pm

    Great insights, Carrie. I have been blogging a little bit for six months now, and have a lot of work to do with my site. I’m saving for the upgrade to my poor little free WordPress blog because the typography is killing me! I’m a printer’s daughter, so I want FONTS!

    Your point about voice is something I’ve found. I would write something (and I’m a card-carrying nerd), get little or no response, and get all depressed about it. But then those are sometimes the posts that keep drawing people, months later.

    I’m way behind you on the learning curve; I am going to take all your suggestions to heart.

    • carrie m November 29, 2011 at 8:10 am

      Upgrading to a premium theme does have the added bonus of different fonts in many cases! Or I think you can add them for the free WordPress themes, for a fee.

      I think each of our learning curves are different, so don’t beat yourself up about it too much :) Really as long as we’re still writing, that’s what matters! Good luck with your blog!

  • LittleMissVix November 29, 2011 at 4:58 am

    Great post Carrie!

    • carrie m November 29, 2011 at 8:10 am

      Thank you!

  • faultlessfinish November 29, 2011 at 7:37 am

    Love this post, Carrie. Thanks for the push to keep writing :)

    • carrie m November 29, 2011 at 8:11 am

      Glad you found it helpful :)

  • kristin nador November 29, 2011 at 10:09 pm

    Great tips! I love that you give bloggers permission to experiment. I think there is so much advice out there that you need to follow a ‘formula’ and stick with it to get readers/subscribers that bloggers are afraid to discover who they are. I’m in a transitional phase with my blog and have felt pressured to find my blogging identity. As you said, just sticking with it is huge, and I think you have to experiment to find your true voice. Thanks for the encouragement!

    • carrie m November 29, 2011 at 10:13 pm

      I’m glad you found them useful, Kristin! I checked out your blog, and really enjoyed the few posts I had time to read. I’ll definitely be following along as you find your way (although really, to the outsider, it already looks like you’ve found it :)

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    Great post, Carrie. I’ve been blogging since May but have so much to learn. I learned some good things from you. Thanks. (I’m here from Gene Lempp’s Blog Treasures.)

    • carrie m December 5, 2011 at 8:45 am

      One of the things I like about blogging is that there always seems to be more to learn :) Thanks for stopping by – nice to meet a fellow reader of Gene’s wonderful blog!

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  • Alex Ttn (@AlexTtn) December 9, 2011 at 1:13 am

    I just started recently, this has been very informative. Thanks for sharing! :)

    • carrie m December 9, 2011 at 4:54 pm

      I’m glad you enjoyed the post – thank for dropping by!

  • tagalog lyrics December 10, 2011 at 2:47 am

    I got inspired by you , I almost give up.

    Thanks for giving me hope, I have a blog that 4 months old and my average visitor per month was only 400 and below.

  • Glenn December 10, 2011 at 10:51 am

    Hi Carrie,

    1st time reader of your blog, I liked what you had to say :)

    I think the elements that you speak about in “Read as many blogs as you can” & “Don’t give up” are very relevant, I always try to read other peoples blogs, some of the best I have come across are smart passive income by Pat Flynn, young pre pro by Onibalusi Bamidele and traffic generation cafe by Ana Hoffman, of course there are many others and the ones you mention are great too, but it is important to have a hard core of blogs that you view to gain inspiration from.

    As for not giving up, I am thinking that maybe the figure you mention could be even higher, with possibly the main factor is that people aren’t seeing the income levels that they thought they would.

    Anyway, I’m glad I came across your site & look forward to catching up with you sometime soon.

    All the best,
    Glenn

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