I signed up to be a Sponsor as part of the Newbie Blogger Initiative< earlier this month and I admit that I got sort of sidetracked between World of Warcraft, Diablo 3, Magic the Gathering, and some pretty fun times in my personal life. With that said, I did want to write some sort of post, in which I give some advice to either up and coming bloggers or bloggers who might be returning to the scene after a hiatus. While I have covered this topic once before with Ophelie on an episode of the Double O Podcast<, it still feels good to get all of this out in writing, for my own peace of mind and for those who didn’t get a chance to listen to the episode in question that we talked about most of these things on.
So without further ado, here are my top 4 tips or pieces of advice for bloggers of all stripes.
Find your niche
One of the first things I always tell people who are considering starting a new blog is to make sure that they carve out a niche for themselves or that there is something about them that sets their blog apart from the rest of the pack. For example, let’s say you want to start a new blog and you’re a resto druid. Well, she’s< a resto druid. So is he<. And so is she<. You have to bring something more to the table than just that, otherwise you are most likely going to get skimmed over in favor of others who have been doing this much longer than you have. If you look a little closer at the three people I just mentioned, you can find very subtle differences in their writing style, their personalities, or other topics that they choose to write about which sets them apart. While they are all resto druids, one of them likes to roleplay and writes stories in character, the other sometimes covers personal topics and tends to skew more towards the hardcore side of raiding, while the other is usually at the forefront regarding changes to druids and spends a lot of time interacting directly with the druid community in various ways.
Finding a niche or something that makes you unique will not only help define you in a sea of other bloggers, but it will also give you something else to write about when you can’t think of anything else regarding your primary topic or subject of expertise. There will be times when there is nothing to report or when things are just sort of trucking along. You want to make sure that you don’t spend too much time away from your blog, if this is the case, and having a secondary topic to write about can help you stay active and keep people interested in your blog during those slow periods.
Saturate the market
Do you ever notice that when an actor or actress is about to break out in Hollywood that you see them everywhere you go? They are doing handfuls of movies a year. They are on the covers of magazines all over newsstands. They are doing interviews on any TV or radio show that will have them. Then once they become a bit more famous or established they start to scale it back a bit. They do one movie a year, maybe even one movie every two years. I tend to look at blogging the same way.
When you’re just starting out in the business of blogging, like show business, nobody knows who you are. You are but one blogger in a sea of other bloggers, all clamoring for Retweets and comments and space on other people’s blogrolls. You have to make people see you, make them see what you are all about and exactly what you are up to. Once you have established yourself as a presence in the community, you can start to scale it back a bit. Post once a week. Maybe once every two weeks. People with established audiences can afford to take a break from time to time because they have such loyalty from their readers that they know people will wait for them to post something again. When you are a new blogger, you don’t have that luxury. You have to keep people’s attention on you and posting frequently is one way to do that.
Dare to be different
One of the things that attract me most to a fledgling blogger is when they take a stance on something that is different than what others feel about something. It can be very tempting for you to want to fit in or to crave acceptance from others by falling in line with what they want you to feel or what they think you should write about. At the end of the day, you are the one that has to be comfortable with what you choose to do with yourself and your blog. Write about what you want to write about. Make your blog look the way that you want it to look. Put whomever you want to on your blogroll. Moderate your comments as you see fit. I think the blogosphere would be an incredibly boring place if everyone felt the same way and nobody dared to feel otherwise. It’s important to give people some variety, in case they don’t agree with the status quo. Who knows? That opinion or that perspective that you feel puts you in the minority could suddenly turn into the new majority. You never know unless you speak up or speak out.
Ignore the numbers
The hardest mental road block for any blogger, new or old to overcome is most often the one involving the numbers. It is incredibly easy to get wrapped up in the number of page views that you accumulate, the number of subscribers that you have, the number of Followers that you have on Twitter, etc. Ignore all of it.
The number one reason that I see up and coming bloggers give up on their blogs and on themselves is because they buy into the numbers. If you are getting into blogging simply because you want lots of Followers and readers then you are blogging for the wrong reason. Let’s get that out of the way right here and now. There are bloggers with 65 Followers whose posts I live and breathe for and then there are those with a thousand Followers that I find to be the tritest personalities in the entire world. These numbers have no bearing on the work that you do, the quality of your writing, your worth as a human being – none of it. They are the last thing you should be looking at, in terms of viewing yourself or your blog as a success or something that is worth doing.
Another reason why it doesn’t pay to worry about your numbers is because there is no sure fire way to keep track of them all. If you use WordPress, the site counter is going to tell you that the number of page views or referrals that you have received is different than what something like Google Analytics would tell you. Different feed readers will give you conflicting information, in terms of how many subscribers that you have and Twitter has been known to randomly Unfollow people, through no fault of your own. You would spend more time trying to get all the numbers to line up than you would trying to focus on churning out new and exciting content and it’s just not worth it. Do not fall into that trap.
To this day, I still don’t know how many subscribers that I have and I choose not to know. I don’t obsess over how many Followers that I have on Twitter. I don’t sweat my page views like I used to. And to be honest, I think I’m better off for not knowing or not caring. I write what I want to write and it is great if people choose to tag along and come along for the ride with me. But I think taking away the emphasis on other people and their validation helps me focus on why I blog and what really matters to me. It is a very liberating feeling.