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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18 thoughts on “Three Lessons From 500 Posts Of Blogging”
Have a plan for how many blogs I want to write a month this year but not got to the point of planning a schedule so it is good to keep reading your blogs and getting the motivation to keep going.
Rob, do you write posts ahead of time and schedule, or just write and publish immediately as and when?
I tend to write and publish fairly immediately
Well if you want to even out your posting more, the scheduling feature on WordPress is very useful. I publish dead on every 48 hours, but my writing is far more erratic!
Wrote a post on my goal for blogging for this year. Not a set schedule but the start of one.
Approaching 500 daily posts as well Dan…no small achievement, congrats mate. The tip on drafts is a good one, though one I never do myself unfortunately!!!
Congratulations to you too Jeremy, an excellent milestone.
How do you save ideas for future blog posts?
I don’t! Just see which way the wind blows on a given day…and go from there. If I see an article or video that interests me I’ll clip it to an Evernote blog folder so I’ll go there if I don’t have something to write about on a given day. In saying that having a few drafts nearly written would be a good idea
It works for me, I currently have about 155 draft posts, so I’m never short of something to write about.
I might put a few in there as well. Cheers Dan
Congratulations on 500 posts Dan! That is quite a milestone. Looking forward to the next 500.
Thanks Jon, for reading and commenting on so many of them, very much appreciated.
My blogging goal this year is to refine my writing voice, to make it more like how I talk IRL. One of the good things I learned from the bloggers I enjoy reading is that they have fun in their writing, not necessarily following the SEO rules and whatnot. Congrats on your 500 posts! That’s a big achievement indeed ❤
Thanks Kal. A journey of 1000 miles begins with a single step!
I haven’t really thought about SEO for a decade.! I just write about what I’m interested in, and try to make it quite conversational, not too formal or academic, because this is a blog that’s mostly about a photography hobby, not a science journal.
I think a casual tone works really well, especially if backed up by solid spelling, grammar, and editing.
What can let blogs down I think, is a lack of those things, which makes it seem sloppy and like the writer doesn’t care much.
Best of luck with your plans this year.
thank you for this article. I learned a lot from it.
Thanks Bernhard, very pleased you gained something from it.
The best tip I learned was you and Jim Grey I think, talking about having many drafts in the cue. It’s made a difference since now I am not keeping ideas on paper, and I no longer feel pressure to write on every idea I have.
I think that’s important, yes, not every idea you capture will be fleshed out into a full blog post, and sometimes I find I note down a similar idea a number of times, so once I’ve expanded one of them into a full post, I delete the other very similar draft posts.