Successes and Mistakes: Blogging in 2013

I am glad that what has essentially been a rather difficult year has come to an end and (like most others, I am sure) I’m in a reflective mood. I had prepared several posts that reviewed the various events of the last twelve months, but I decided to combine them.

At times, I can be extremely lazy.

A year ago this blog didn’t exist. I created it in April after spending years writing random thoughts in various notebooks, which I never finished – Paperchase was making a fortune from me and my bedroom cupboard was stacked with beautiful books that all contained one or two pages of (often repeated) scribblings. The Bloke, my partner of four years, directed me to WordPress and thus Suzie81 was born. I chose the name quickly and without much thought – my name and the year I was born – I didn’t have any expectations, other than perhaps a few nerves about it being discovered by people that I know, I had no plan, theme or any idea of what I wanted to write about – the important thing was the process of writing itself.

In the last eight months my little blog, and my life, has grown beyond all expectations. As I write, I have gained over 3,000 followers and my posts have received over 70,000 views. Compared to some, this is tiny, but I have been absolutely gobsmacked by the response that I have received. I’ve been spoilt with nominations for numerous awards, I was Freshly Pressed in November and for the first time in years I have a project that I never seem to get bored of – I love every minute of it and can easily spend hours at a time reading posts and writing my own. I have found something that I genuinely want to do. I’ve met some amazing people, formed small relationships with them and I have started to get to know a little about their interesting lives.

For me, blogging has involved trial, error and experimentation. I’ve tried things that have been successful and lots of things that haven’t, and if I were to go back to the beginning I would change quite a few elements of the way I originally started. I have posted this sort of thing several times before over the last few months, but I hope that by sharing my successes and mistakes it can be useful to some of the newer followers I have gained recently.

A theme is not necessarily important, but a title is.
I hate the name of my blog. With blogging, as with life, I am impatient and hastily chose a name so I could get started quickly and as a result I am now contemplating changing it to something more representative of myself and my writing. Take a little time to think about who you are and what message you have, and choose a title that will draw others in. However, despite what seems to be common opinion, the content of your blog doesn’t have to have a specific theme – I’ve written about everything from books, films, politics, my daily adventures and things that I have experienced, to opinions on controversial topics, things that amuse me and I have taken the opportunity to post photographs that I have taken. Whatever you choose to write about, you will always find others that share similar interests.

Choose a layout that is easy to follow.
As with my title, I dislike my layout. It has taken two or three changes to get an idea of what I actually do want, but I wish I had taken more time to do this in the beginning. Choose your layout wisely – I have read hundreds of posts that are very difficult to read because of a clash of colour or font, with no links to other posts, and this discourages me from continuing further.

Quantity versus quality.
I originally felt that it was important to post as much as possible, as often as possible and in a way, I still stand by this. The more consistent you are in your approach to blogging, the more likely that your traffic will increase. There are no set amount of times you should post – I follow bloggers that post daily (sometimes three or four times daily), weekly and monthly. However, avoid posting something just for the sake of it. When I first started I was excited and desperate to release all the different thoughts that were swimming around in my head, but upon reflection I should have slowed down and thought about it a little more. I reviewed my earlier posts about a month ago and was genuinely disappointed by what I saw, so I am now in the process of deleting some and re-writing others. Out of the 550 posts I have churned out this year, I think that about 10% of those are what I would consider to be of an acceptable standard, with a further 10% that need editing. Content is king.

Read, read and read again.
I’ve lost count of the amount of times I have published something and then noticed mistakes. Take time to actually read what you’ve written before you post it. Incidentally, while we are on the subject, avoid writing like you would on Facbook and Twitter. I’ve said this before, and I may sound snobbish for doing so, but I switch off the minute I read ‘lol’ and ‘so, like.’

Credit where credit is due.
Use images – it will make your site far more interesting. Make sure that your images are of good quality and are relevant to the topic of your post or you may confuse your readers. If you use something that you haven’t created, make sure that you credit the person who did. I still occasionally forget to do this. However, I would like to add here that I personally do not wish to see harrowing images of cruelty – I appreciate if a blogger is discussing a particularly heartbreaking subject, but these images stay with me for a long time. I’ll read a post about dog fighting and what can be done to stop it, but I don’t want to see pictures of it. This is one of the reasons why I rarely use Facebook.

Blogging is hard work – building traffic.
If you have your sights set on becoming a professional blogger, be prepared to really work for it. Unless you create a post that goes viral, your blog is not going to be a success overnight. Or over a year. Or two. Or even five. Your blog will not be viewed by 50 million people simply by pressing the ‘publish’ button. If you are a stat whore, (as I have become) the number of views you will receive will depend on the way you promote your blog:

  •   Meet other bloggers. Read their posts, chat, get to know them a little. WordPress offers Daily Prompts, Weekly Writing Challenges, Weekly Photo Challenges and a Community Pool that provides fantastic opportunities to meet others who are covering the same topics. However, if you wish to build more of a relationship with others, avoid the ‘follow to get a follow’ policy. I have noticed that this started to creep in recently – I instantly move away upon pleas for follows, likes and reblogs. I follow a blog because I like it, not because they have asked me to.
  • Tag your posts properly. The tags should relate to the content of your posts and will help you reach readers with similar interests. When I first started, I only used two or three, now I use between eight and twelve.
  • Use a catchy title. These will instantly grab the attention of a passing reader.
  • Use other forms of social media and include an email button. Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Linkedin… all are extremely useful for promoting your blog to a wider audience. I don’t have a Facebook link and only recently joined Twitter, and if I were to do this again I would establish these links earlier.
  • Host ‘Blog Parties.’ Invite bloggers to share their favourite post and encourage them to meet others. However, you should only do this when you have a larger following or you may end up being sorely disappointed. Trust me.
  • Share the work of others. There are some bloggers that have been extremely generous when promoting my posts and as a result I have gained lots of new followers. I like to return the favour by reblogging posts from some of my favourite blogs. I have also invited lots of guest bloggers to write post for me, and have guest blogged on other sites.
  • Take the time to respond to those that comment on your work. As my following has grown I have found this increasingly difficult but I try to reply them as often as possible – a lovely comment boosts my confidence in my writing and I always try and say thank you. Avoid any trolls that may come your way – I’ve had little experience with these but I have seen others who have received quite a bit of backlash, mainly due to the jealously of others at their successes.

Bloggers enjoy a debate.
When discussing a somewhat controversial subject, invite others to give their opinion. Questions as simple as ‘What do you think?’ at the end of a post will encourage readers to join in. I’ve had lots of really interesting discussions as a result of this.

Most importantly, enjoy what you write about.
I’ve slugged away at many posts that I haven’t been happy with and as a result I haven’t received the response that I wanted. Your passion for your subject will be evident to your readers and will encourage them to read on. Isn’t that the point of writing in the first place? Again, content is king.

What do you think? Have you got any useful hints and tips for new bloggers?

You can also find me on Twitter @Suzie81blog

239 thoughts on “Successes and Mistakes: Blogging in 2013

  1. Again I am behind on looking at these past posts. I am printing this so I can keep it for future reference. I too am a very novice blogger and would like to earn some money from it. I am a boring person but would very much like to have a good blog for everyone. I can always use all the help I can get. I am not good at debating though, I’m always right! Lol. (just kidding!)

  2. Hi Suzie, This is the first time I’ve visited your personal blog. I made it one step towards meeting you from your PowerBuilder blog. I am the author or DisplacedGuy and some other blogs. I kind of started doing my personal thing on DisplacedGuy then later wished I had broken the making money online aspect into a different one. Now I have a blended site, but am branching out with new niches. It is really FUN. This is the first year I broke free from the corporate world and went out on my own. I am pretty sure I’ll make it — but may need to fall back to the corporate job again. Well I enjoyed this article and will be back to read more!
    Take Care,
    Rich (aka DisplacedGuy)

    p.s. I sometimes regret my blog name… it says nothing about me other than that I was once displaced, and it prompted me to do something about it and make my own job!

    • Hi Rich, thanks for your comment! That isn’t my blog – they reblogged my post but I’m really pleased that you found me on here! You must have had a lot of guts to go out on your own – I’m too scared to do that yet!

  3. Thank you for this post it’s helped me stay focused on my goal with my collaborative blog, even though its only been out there for 3 months I have to control my urge to rant. When I started out I didn’t use a whole lot of pictures, but now I’m seeing that by using pictures your giving your readers more eye-candy and in turn probing (that sounded odd) them to read more of your posts. So far I have 3 blog authors and it’s wonderful because my schedule gets rather busy so it’s nice to know I’m not forced to publish something for the sake of it. Last month I deleted several of my early posts due to their lack of conversation buildup or lack there of.

    Cheers for letting me rant a little,
    James

  4. I agree with most of this, especially the part about getting to know other bloggers and responding to comments. One of the first things I look at when I go to a new blog is whether or not the blogger is responding to readers’ comments.

    Your point about quality is also well-taken. That’s one of the reasons I’m so disciplined about posting only one, or at most, two pieces per day.

    Other social media is useful, but only if you actually maintain a presence on those other networks. I’ve experimented with nine or ten different social media networks since November, and I’m in the process now of scaling back to using just the ones that are working for me. (WordPress, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest, mostly). I’m actually posting a revision to my social media plan sometime in the next few days.

    • I’m finding it difficult to keep up with all the comments I get at the minute, but I do read and appreciate every single one. I’m trying to catch up with a few at the minute!

      Looking forward to reading it!

  5. Thank you for this suzie81. I’m just starting and am blogging ‘just-for-fun’. I’m a little nervous about what responses I may get, but am looking forward to some constructive comments. I’ll be trying to follow your advice as I really do not have much idea about what I am doing. I’m thinking of opening a second blog for more contraversal topics rather than having them mix with the ‘fun’ things. I was wondering if you think that would be a good idea.
    I like your blog – it looks very interesting.

  6. Thanks for a good read. I think I’m doing most of what you say but I would love to attract more folllowers. I see people visit and view my blog, but very few leave comments or like, even though I’m always asking readers to comment and give feedback. My twitter friends read it and post comments on Twitter instead of here! Well done and congratulations on your blogging success!

  7. I found this link from your twitter. Some great advice! I’m new to all of this and not sure I’m doing all that well! Will have to have a good re read in the morning 🙂

  8. Dear Suzie, thank you very much for the tips you share with us. I used to blog regularly and very actively on a German site from 2000 to 2002. It was rather a forum where we could write about special topics or just our daily lives. A pity that the site is down for many years now and I was not wise enough to save my contributions. Well, your advice that you publish here is very useful as I am rather new in the blogosphere. Interesting is your tip to write about anything you like if only the title is good and the content, too. From other sources I have it that you must concentrate on one topic and develop excellence in it in order to find a large audience of followers. What luck that you have made other experiences as I do not wish to develop several blogs or concentrate on one thing only.

    I am in my trial-and-error phase as a beginner and it is plain to see that I must be more active with reading and writing. But it is like this: I do not wish to plan, plan, plan and over this lose interest and energy in bloggings. It is like the piano student who starts his lessons full of enthusiasm and who during the first months must practice scales only instead of combining the basics of which scales are certainly an essential part of with the success of playing a first simple song on the piano – knowing one or two scales only.

    For my blogging this means that I collect first experiences with writing in an international blogosphere, and during writing and reading, learn more from people like you – combining doing and learning instead of learning only and losing interest; or writing, writing, writing and being ignorant to the framework and experiences from others.

    So, for the end, congratulations for your success in blogging and you have gained one more follower. / Greetings from Frankfurt, Germany.

  9. I too starting blogging thanks to my husband, who nagged me pen my thoughts and rants to an audience. A month in, and I am loving it…..If nothing else it is outlet for my swirling thoughts and verbal diarrhea!

    Since I am such a newbie, post such as these really interest me…

    Simple but engaging blog by the way!

  10. Thank you for that wonderful post. I started blogging a couple of weeks ago and I didn’t do know anything about anything. My blog is doing fairly well now but I am always looking for tips. This was wonderful. I look forward to reading more from you. Cheers.

  11. Pingback: Take A Look At This Great Blogging Advice «

  12. I’ve made a lot of these mistakes, too. I love blogging because there is always something new for me to learn. A new blog to discover, a new topic to blog about, a new layout to try.

    I feel like my blog is slowly evolving, and the more I understand about blogging, the more doors open up.

  13. When you learn from an expert you become an expert too.The information you put down has got a lot of meaning to us who have continuously kept asking ourselves why we do not receive respondents as others.In fact,I WILL try and keep trying…

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