Recently, I published the 500th post on 35hunter, which for someone who loves stats and figures, is something of a milestone.
It also took me firmly past the 447 posts of my previous blog, making 35hunter the longest running and largest body of written work I’ve published online.
Here are the five most important lessons I’ve learned from my blogging experiences.
1. Set a schedule.
As with anything in life, if you wait until you have time, it doesn’t get done. With blogging I set a schedule – currently one new post every 48 hours – which gives me a strong framework to work with.
The beauty of blogs is the ability to schedule your posts ahead of time so they’re published at regular intervals.
I don’t sit down and write a whole post precisely every 48 hours, then publish immediately.
Instead I have a collection of draft posts I work on at certain times during the week in batches, then once they’re ready to be published, line them up in the upcoming posts queue.
Typically I have between two and five posts in the wings.
Some days I might write two and a half new posts, other days none. But overall, over a week, I set aside the time I need to write enough to publish every 48 hours.
Others publish every day, some perhaps once a week.
Finding a frequency that works for you is part of the challenge and fun of blogging (and indeed photography).
But whatever your publishing schedule, you need to set specific time aside each week to meet it.
Don’t wait until you have time – make time in your schedule then let other less important activities (social media, YouTube, eBay, TV, news) fall in around this, or better still, drop them entirely if they’re not serving any meaningful purpose for you.
2. Save new ideas as draft posts.
I currently have 153 draft posts saved for 35hunter. This didn’t happen overnight, and from time to time I go through from the oldest to the newest and delete anything that has either since manifested itself as a similar post with a different title, or just isn’t something I wanted to write about in the end.
But the most important part is to capture ideas as drafts as soon as you have them.
You can use an intermediary medium to record them, like a notebook or a notes app on your phone.
I’ve used both extensively in the past, and earlier in life when I was a shop assistant by evening and writer by night, I used to scribble down ideas on scraps of till receipt roll in between customers.
But then there’s an extra step of organisation and effort required to get those ideas from the note form into a new blog post. Along the way they can get lost, forgotten or otherwise not followed through.
So these days, because I always have my phone with me, I just jot down new ideas directly into WordPress as a new draft.
A title (even a working title – it can be polished later) and a line or two about the content, is sufficient to capture the essence and thrust of the post idea, and enable you to pick it up and finish it off later.
As you start to do this, you’ll notice something almost magical happening – the more ideas you capture, the more ideas you’ll have.
It’s like all the ideas floating around without a place to go hear they’re always welcome round your place, and come flooding in, for you to welcome them with open arms.
So you’ll never be faced with the fear of a blank page/screen and wonder what to write about next.
3. Encourage conversation.
As I’ve mentioned many times, whilst writing in itself is an activity I greatly enjoy – and does help me organise my own often fragmented and overspilling thoughts – the major appeal of a blog for me is as a gathering place for a community.
Somewhere that others who share some of the same interests and passion as you can get together and chat about them, sharing their own particular and unique experiences and adventures.
I’ve found that ending every blog post with a specific question related to the subject I’ve just spoken about prompts far more conversation than just ending with “thanks for looking”.
Then, when people are kind enough to leave a comment, I try to respond to every one, and keep the conversation flowing.
If someone has taken the time and thought to write here, the least I can do is respond with equal thought and care.
Plus then of course other readers benefit from the replies.
My original post is just a starting point, and often there is more juice in the comments we can all then gain from.
So to recap this tip, ask specific questions of your readers, then respond.
In my first full calendar year of writing 35hunter (2016), I had a grand total of 125 comments. Assuming half of these were my responses, that’s about 62, or about five per month.
Last year (2019), by posting on a regular schedule, and encouraging conversation in the ways outlined above, I saw over 3200 comments. Again assuming half were my replies, this is around 1600, or about 130 a month. Quite an increase – over 25 times the amount!
4. Decorate invitingly.
I’ve written a number of times about what I enjoy seeing in a blog myself, and quite recently about why I stopped following two of my favourite photography blogs.
It’s easier to list what I don’t like – ads, too many columns, distracting sidebars, pop ups, invitations to follow on social media, too small writing, difficult to read fonts, tiny images (on a photography blog) and so on.
I guess a summary of what I do like would simply be a clean and uncluttered design and layout, with nothing to distract the reader from immersing themselves in the words and images as fully as possible.
This ties in closely I believe with the idea of community again.
Whilst a community can be formed in virtually any surroundings, it’s more likely that people will be drawn in and feel comfortable spending time and conversing in relaxing and inviting places.
Think a quiet, homespun, simple coffee shop with old but super comfy sofas in a small town, rather than a noisy, garishly lit fast food chain in the midst of a metropolis.
Which of these two does your own blog most resemble? What about the blogs you enjoy reading most?
5. Keep going.
Finally, there’s no better “secret” to building a body of work and a community than persistence.
You can’t write hundreds of thousands of words or dozens of blog posts in an afternoon.
Not every post you write will be popular, easy to write or highly responded to.
But if you keep writing, one word, one sentence, then one blog post at a time, you can build.
In the first full year of 35hunter, 2016, I received a total of 5400 page views. Last year, 2019, this was just over 115000, over 20 times the amount.
I believe this is down to two factors.
First, by publishing regularly, you build a collection of writing that people will find and follow.
Second, by publishing regularly, you increase the likelihood of anyone else finding you, as you have more points of entry to your blog, in the form of older posts.
All else being equal, a blog with 100 posts in the archive is going to be more likely to be discovered than one with five posts. A blog with 500 posts will be even more visible.
What also happens when you persist of course, is you develop your own personality and style, and figure out what you enjoy writing about most along the way.
When I started 35hunter I was deeply immersed in shooting 35mm film.
These days my favourite cameras are ageing digital compacts (or digital classics as I like to call them), and writing about how this has evolved over the years has helped me understand and enjoy it more too, and continue to move in a direction that fits my needs.
Hopefully you can take something from these five blogging tips and ideas.
If you’re a blogger too, what’s the one thing you’d like to change with your own blog? What’s the best tip you’ve ever learned from another blogger?
Please let us know in the comments below (and don’t forget to tick the “Notify me of new comments via email” box to follow the conversation).
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