As I wrote earlier this month, December 2015 marks the 10th anniversary of my starting The Wardrobe Door.
Having blogged for 10 years at the same site doesn’t make me an expert, but it does give me significant experience. Over that decade of blogging here, along with several other personal and professional sites, I have learned some valuable lessons that may help others in the world of online writing.
Here are 10 lessons I’ve learned from my 10 years of blogging.
1. Keep writing. It sounds simple, but this basic reason is why most blogs end — people just stop putting in the time it takes to write.
You won’t always feel like. In certain seasons of life, you may need to take a break, but the longer you stay away from it the less likely you are to return.
Plus, there are practical personal benefits to writing. Blogging gives you an easy avenue to experience those advantages, even if you don’t notice them immediately.
2. Buy a domain. Yes, it is a financial investment to purchase a domain, but it’s one I wish I would have done sooner.
Let’s be honest, it cost less to buy a domain name than it does to eat out at Applebee’s. Sacrifice one night a year at your neighborhood bar and grill to give your website more respectability.
This small financial investment lends exponentially more credibility. It doesn’t improve your writing, but it absolutely opens more doors for people to read your writing.
3. Be authentic. It’s such a buzzword right now that I hesitate to include it, but it is so important that your writing comes across as authentic and real.
Giving readers what you think they want can draw a momentary crowd, but it is impossible to maintain.
Eventually, people will figure out what you are doing. But even if they don’t, how much can you possibly enjoy continually writing as someone else?
4. Don’t chase fads. If I’m honest, I learned this the hard way. When I first starting blogging, I wrote about what everyone else was writing.
Political blogging was huge then. This site’s first year (2004) was the year of Rathergate, when blogs challenged CBS News’ negative reporting on George W. Bush and caused them to change their story.
Those political news blogs were gaining headlines and traffic, so I jumped into that arena, gained some (read “tiny”) notoriety, but ultimately grew tired of writing about that. It was popular, but it wasn’t me.
5. Find a niche. It’s more than just being authentic and not chasing fads, you have to find your piece of the blog world. What can you say that no one else can?
In what areas do you have experience and expertise? Where do you have passions? What are you constantly thinking about?
Those questions can help you find your niche on the web. It can be deep theological discussions or funny stories about being a parent. Find the place where you already feel comfortable and write from there.
6. Don’t feel constrained. Find that niche, but do not feel as if you cannot push the boundaries from time-to-time. It’s your blog and your readers appreciate you and your voice for a reason.
While most of my original posts are about the intersection of faith and culture with some C.S. Lewis quotes, I will always be a nerd. So I’m going to write about the crazy ending to the latest comic book movie.
And, if I’m honest, those bring in more traffic than most of my other posts — all because I felt the freedom to go beyond what I normally write about.
7. Traffic is not predictable. Don’t try. You’ll drive yourself crazy.
One post that you felt was mediocre will go viral with little to no effort on your part, while another post you felt was deserving of a significant audience struggled to get 50 page views.
One month, a post on a certain topic catches the eye of several significant bloggers, while a similar one the next month languishes with no links. Just prepare yourself for this.
8. Traffic can be cultivated. You can’t predict it, but you can cultivate it. That comes from writing consistently well on a certain topic and paying attention to cultural conversations.
Two of my biggest posts came after seeing a discussion happening in broader culture and writing a post that answered a frequently asked question.
One was on a pro-life issue and the other was about a comic book movie. I’ve written extensively about both of those issues.
9. Make relationships. It doesn’t matter how well you write, if no one actually knows how well you write.
My blog had seen slow, but steady traffic growth over the first eight years, then I started my current job and formed relationships with other bloggers, some of whom had less traffic and some of whom had significantly more.
Being friends with other writers (both in real life and through social media) has made me a better writer myself and expanded my audience.
10. Don’t stop. Yes, this is basically just like “keep writing,” but it needs to be repeated.
You will have every opportunity in the world to quit and spend your time doing something else. There will always be a book to read, a show to watch, a project to complete.
You will never have “enough time” — write anyway. Most nights, I get less sleep than I probably should, but I know I can’t stop writing. I won’t stop writing.
The next post may be one that catches fire and is read by 100,000 people. Or it may be one that is read by 10, but encourages and challenges one person.
Maybe it’ll cause a thousand readers to think or give a handful something to laugh about. It’s totally worth it either way. And if I’m honest, even if you never read it, sometimes it’s still worth it.
Sometimes, the very act of writing about a subject helps me think through it more clearly and process my own perspective.
If you blog, if you write, you’re probably the same way. Don’t stop. Keep writing.
That’s the biggest secret to blogging success and longevity because no one wants to do it.
Have you been blogging? What keeps you going? What lessons have you learned?