I’m still contemplating what I want from this site and how I see it fitting in with my writing aspirations. In so doing, I’ve been thinking about my old blog - what worked, what didn’t - and I’ve identified a few mistakes that stopped it from being a real success.
I didn’t write accessible content
Writing for a blog is different, in the same way writing a novel is different to a short story. When you have a dozen websites begging for your attention, on top of everything on Facebook, Youtube and Twitter, you want to get the gist of a blog post straightaway. It needs to be accessible.
I didn’t dwell on that. I just wrote, full stop. The result was often long paragraphs, lots of detail, little personality. That was fine for me, because these were my thoughts and ideas I was thrashing out, but it wasn’t so good for grabbing the attention of other people.
The other problem with writing like that was it rarely gave the reader anything more to add at the end. So, they often didn’t. No comments, no tweets, no shares. That’s a killer.
I didn’t do guest posts
And now a little history for you. I started my original blog around the same time as another guy, called Leo Babauta. I started to notice him popping up everywhere, writing guest posts for a wide variety of sites. Before long his blog exploded.
Now this isn’t to say that guest posting is the secret ingredient because he had a lot of other things going for him. But here was an example of best practice staring me in the face, and I didn’t take the hint. Research other successful bloggers and you’ll probably find that some of their best posts are guest posts.
Me? I begrudgingly wrote a handful of guest posts. I thought it was hard enough writing enough content for my blog, never mind creating even more for some other website that wasn’t my own. Crazy logic, considering I was more than capable of churning out at least three posts a week.
I assumed blogging was enough
Running a successful blog requires a broad range of skills, and (good) writing isn’t on the top of that list. Promotion on the other hand…
Looking back, I didn’t really promote myself. Or the blog. Or my ebooks. Or the other tools and content I created. Not only was this another failure of my writing, a reluctance to shout “Hey! Check out this really useful shit I’ve made!”, it also highlighted naivety on my part. If you create it, they will come. Er, no they won’t. Blogging alone isn’t enough.
Basically, I didn’t treat it like a business. Well, actually, this is only half true. I certainly pored over the stats like a CEO. But I didn’t think of my blog posts and other content as “products“, with all the added skillsets that that involved. Too often I put my attentions into pursuits that might have made the blog look pretty, but didn’t move the “business” forward. Speaking of which…
I was a perfectionist
A headbanging problem at the best of times, but particularly when you’re running a blog. The irony of perfectionism for me was that the end result was often inferior to what could have been created if I’d just chilled out a bit.
The biggest example of this? Appearance.
Because I was fussy, I designed my own themes. Repeatedly. It freaks me out just thinking about how much time I pissed away tweaking colour schemes and font sizes, especially when there are so many great ready-made designs out there. Ditto for ebook layouts and all the other content I created.
And let’s not forget the phase I went through of tidying up the archives, as if it would just take a quick spit and polish to turn a duff post into gold.
It’s not all bad
Of course, after all this self-reflection/bashing it’s easy to think I was rubbish at this blogging game. But I was getting hundreds of visitors every day at my peak. Okay, not crazy numbers, but still significantly better than what most ever achieve. I must have been doing something right!