what i have learned about blogging

So it turns out my blog is five years old this month.

I know! Five years ago I was blogging about tiny Flea and how we muddled through every day, and I’m still here doing the same thing, except Flea is now fully grown and her university applications were just filed.

I’m not sure I’ll still be here in another five years, or another five months come to that, but hitting 15 years feels like a good opportunity to look back.

Over those years, I’ve written more than 700 posts and shared about 40,000 Tweets and during that time I’ve learned a few things about blogging. Some of these things I’m still working on, and they may not all apply to you. But one or two of them might be useful. Here goes:

  1. Understand why you blog and hang on to that for dear life. It’s so easy to get distracted by reviews and sponsored posts and giveaways and Linkys but when your blog is a few years old, what will give you a warm and fuzzy feeling is reading posts about the stupid conversations and games and special memories. Don’t get so busy making money you forget what makes your blog priceless.
  2. You can blog without giving a stuff about technology. If it’s your hobby, then by all means learn the ins and outs of hosting and CSS and templates. If not, hire a developer. My last blog redesign took me ten minutes. All I did was point at a picture and say, “I want that, but this bit bigger, that bit on the other side, and the whole thing in different colours.” And my developer made it happen. Thanks, Dave.
  3. Having said that, there are a few basic, core skills that you’ll never regret investing the time to learn. They are – editing and posting a basic video; resizing and cropping images; linking your blog and social media accounts; setting up an email subscription/newsletter for your blog.
  4. Don’t write to a schedule. Write when you have something to say. Schedules are for jobs and chores and many other things that are Not Fun. You might not blog for three weeks. Guess what? Nobody will really notice. And that’s a good thing. blog9
  5. Blogging is social. And while there’s no law that says you have to become part of any online community, my experience is that some bloggers will become real friends, in a world where they’re pretty hard to come by. That’s pretty special, so don’t miss out just because you’re shy.
  6. Pretty much everyone who ever wrote a blog post about how they’re giving up blogging was back within the month. By all means write your Goodbye Cruel World blog post – just don’t publish it until at least a month has gone by without blogging.
  7. Don’t always get fixated on, “Are you paying me for this?” If you’re flexible and open to new ideas then your blog can take you amazing places and reward you in ways you never imagined.
  8. Don’t get upset if another blogger steals your idea. Face it. We’re all part of the same zeitgeist and the likelihood is that someone just had a similar idea to yours, at a similar time. And even if they did copy you, so what? Did you just invent nuclear fission? A new cure for cancer? No. It’s a blog post. Write another one, and bask in the warm fuzzy feeling of knowing you did it first, better, and with more class.
  9. Use your own pictures on your blog – it’s critical to giving your blog a distinct personality. But for goodness sake make them big, bright and in focus.blog7
  10. That said, if you don’t resize images and expect readers to load 5MB images on their iPhones, then there’s a special circle in Hell reserved just for you.
  11. If you’re going to write opinionated, provocative blog posts (and I hope you will) then people will disagree with you. And the more passionately they disagree, the less articulate their blog comment is likely to be. Rather than being insulted that someone just called you an evil lesbian pig troll (true story), take it as a compliment that your words moved someone to feel something so powerful. That’s a gift.
  12. Don’t sit around waiting for the world to discover you. Wallflowers tend to die undiscovered. Tweet your posts to people you admire who you think might enjoy them. Link out to blogs and people who inspire you. Add your blog to your email signature. Half the fun of blogging is in the conversation your blog creates – go make it happen!
  13. If you like to read blogs for inspiration, look beyond blogs that are very similar to your own. Lots of UK parent blogs are (for entirely understandable reasons) very similar. So inspire yourself by reading some US or Australian blogs. Read craft blogs and food blogs and extreme sports blogs. Explore blog hops and linkys in other blog niches. Make notes as you go along of images, posts, ideas and themes that inspire you, and that you might be able to adapt for your own site and readers.blog5
  14. Being a parent blogger means a LOT of free stuff comes your way. Try and teach your child to be gracious and appreciative – saying thanks for free product, introducing yourself to the host at events, passing along freebies to friends and family, regular trips to the church and charity store with things we don’t need at home. Involve your child in creating reviews so they understand this is something that – in some way – you’re earning.
  15. Never tell anyone at the school gate that you write a blog. Trust me. It never ends well.
  16. Answer comments on your blog. Manners matter.
  17. Dr Seuss wrote: “Today you are you, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is youer than you!”  If you spend your time trying to be someone or something you’re not, then your blog is always going to feel like hard work. And chances are readers will recognise that you’re not being authentic. That’s my excuse for blogging with sarcasm and frequent mentions of trashy TV box sets, anyway.
  18. Lots of people will tell you to blog “honestly” but honestly? I’m not convinced. My blog is true, but it’s far from the full story. I pick and choose the parts of my life that I feel comfortable sharing and I blog honestly about those. I don’t feel any need whatsoever to share anything else. It’s none of your business.blog4
  19. That said, if you’re a single parent and you don’t blog about your relationships, some people will assume you’re a lesbian. This is always interesting because it’s good to know if someone considers the word “lesbian” to be an insult, so you can be sure to unfollow and unfriend them as quickly as possible.
  20. Saying “my blog, my space” sounds very empowering but your blog doesn’t exist in a vacuum, and other people’s feelings matter just as much as yours. If you’re blogging about someone else, and what you write might upset them either ask their permission first or make them unrecognisable. By the way, I think this should apply to your children just as much as anyone.
  21. Comparison is the thief of joy. There will always be someone with a bigger, better, more successful blog. By all means be inspired and pick up tips, but if your blog makes you happy, then it’s good enough. Besides, those uber-bloggers are always too busy blogging to know the joy of watching eight episodes of Bones back to back. Feel sorry for them, and their empty (albeit productive) lives.
  22. When you can’t think what to write, don’t write. Read something. Go somewhere. Call a friend. Don’t churn out content for the sake of it. You’ll look back later and wish you hadn’t sullied your blog with it.
  23. Most PR people that you engage with are 25, newly graduated and living in London for the first time. Cut them some slack when they mess up. It’s PR not ER.blog3
  24. Don’t get into arguments on the Internet unless you have zero emotional investment in the outcome. Basically if you’re not bickering about TV or biscuits, your stock response should be: “What an interesting point of view. Let’s agree to disagree on that.” Then WALK AWAY from your computer, and turn off your smartphone for 12 hours.
  25. If you’re stuck for something meaningful to write on a big blog occasion, don’t cheapen your blog by relying on the tired old list format. Oh, hang on… blog1