After 1,000,000 blog hits, here's what I learned about running a blog
Think Save Retire recently crested the 1,000,000 pageview mark since my first post, and I learned a thing or two about running a blog.
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Think Save Retire recently crested the 1,000,000 pageview mark since my lame first post that had something to do with Starbucks. In the time it took me to build up a respectable audience, I learned a thing or two about this whole "blogging business".
Blogging is about more than just typing a bunch of shit into a computer. I'm a personal finance and lifestyle blogger. That means this blog is full of personal details about my life, including our net worth and the fact that Erin Brockovich is one of my favorite movies. Don't judge.
It's fun to blog. I enjoy the process. It is amazing to be able to write with the knowledge that thousands of people will eventually read it. It's humbling. Almost like a "high".
As with most things in life, in blogging, you get out of it what you put in. If you're a fly-by-night blogger who posts occasional rants or "10 things..." posts without truly getting involved within your blogging community, blogging ain't going to be much fun, and that leads me to my first - and perhaps most important, lesson.
Find your blogging community
Most of us blog about a particular subject. That's good. It keeps our blogs focused and direct. And, chances are you aren't the only sucker blogging about your subject, either. Others write about exactly the same thing. Find your community's hangout. Where do all the successful bloggers go just to shoot the shit? If you're lucky, your community will have an email list or discussion forum that you can join.
This integrates you into the community. You get exposure. But more importantly, it gives you the opportunity to learn from those around you and get ideas about how to blog. Not just about the subject matter, but the peripherals around this business. How to get the most out of Wordpress, for example. Popular plugins. Killer new themes.
In the personal finance community, the Rockstar Finance Forums is a popular spot where a lot of us hang out. In other communities, Reddit might be the place. Or a Facebook group. Whatever - you get the point. If you blog, find your community. Integrate.
The more integrated you get, the more informed you'll be. Surrounding yourself with successful bloggers WILL make you a more successful blogger. It has me.
Get social and be public
I don't care if you hate Twitter or Facebook - social media definitely helps increase your blog's pageviews. It's a free platform to throw out your content to potentially thousands of people. Instantly. If you are looking to build up a blog, get social and be public about it.
Make sure folks can easily find your social media profiles on your blog, too. On Think Save Retire, I have links to Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest to the right of the title of every single blog post. Honestly, I could probably do a better job by coloring them or something, but I like the black for now. Those links are also at the bottom of every blog post. And in my email signature. They are there, too.
And if you're using a Wordpress plugin that allows the readers of your blog to share your stuff on Twitter, be sure to include your Twitter handle (username) in the message. Including your username will help to increase awareness of YOUR Twitter profile and also lets you know who is sharing your brilliant content.
Instead of: 10 things I hate about 10 things articles - http://www.mycoolblog.com/10-sucky-things
Try this instead: 10 things I hate about 10 things articles - http://www.mycoolblog.com/10-sucky-things By @MyCoolBlog
If you don't have a presence through at least a couple social media outlets, change that. In the personal finance community, Twitter seems to be the most popular outlet. But, your community might be different. Find it. Use it.
Other bloggers need not be "competitors"
Don't think of other bloggers in your community to be competitors. Even if you're selling something on your blog, think of other bloggers as nothing more than that: Other bloggers. They are not necessarily taking pageviews away from you. In fact, establish relationships with other bloggers (hint: the "community" thing again). You never know what'll come from these relationships.
Some may link to you from within one of their blog posts. Or better yet, they might put your blog in their Blog Roll or links page.
Think engagement, not pageviews
It is no secret that I'm not a big fan of those "10 things/ways/hacks..." posts. They tend to be dry and uninteresting, and I refuse to accept those types of posts when people ask about guest posting opportunities on this blog. The reason is those posts tend not to help engagement. Engagement happens when your readers take a genuine interest in YOU. As human beings, we enjoy story-telling. Following someone's journey that we find interesting captures our interest and tends to hold it. In the end, this helps engagement. Engagement equates directly to long-term blogging success.
Not every pageview is created equal. For example, I was featured in a Forbes article about my early retirement plans. After the article went public, my blog's pageviews saw a dramatic increase. But, that increase also didn't last.
This is the difference between engagement and pageviews.
The hits I got from the Forbes article were not hits from loyal blog readers who were particularly interested in my story. They saw the Forbes article and were curious enough to click over to my blog. Then, 99% of them probably never returned. This is extremely common in blogging. These hits weren't engaging. They were "One-and-Done"-type clicks.
Make no mistake about it: Exposure on popular or well-read websites is great. The more that happens, the greater your pageviews. But unless you happen to get featured all the time, those pageviews tend to be temporary. They are fleeting, just like Bill Cosby's popularity.
Think engagement. Encourage people to comment. To care about your story. Give them a personal connection to your life and you create an implicit motivation among your readership to continue following your journey.
Haters gonna hate; let 'em
I cannot stress this point enough: You will never be able to please everyone. Ever. Don't try.
I don't care how kind, caring, compassionate or sensitive that you think you are. Eventually, you are going to piss someone off. You will write something that someone will take the wrong way. Mark my words - it will happen. If you're already blogging, then it probably already happened whether you realize it or not.
And in the words of Seinfeld, "Not that there's anything wrong with that."
Stay true to yourself and push forward with whatever you believe is best for your blog. Don't worry about offending people. Some readers are impossible NOT to offend. Those people probably aren't your target audience anyway, and they definitely are not worth changing your blog or writing style to accommodate. Offer no apologies (unless, of course, you were a total dick to someone).
I never set out with the purpose of offending anyone. But if it happens, it happens. I honestly don't care. This blog is a reflection of our journey from full-time job-keepers to full-time explorers (Ha!), and that's the way it's going to stay. My words. My thoughts.
I cuss. I talk shit. Every once in a while, I'll post something that is sure to rile up feathers. It happens, and I am cool with it.
My policy is simple: Don't like what I write? No problemo. Move on to another blog.
That's it, fellers! Have anything to add to the conversation? There's a nifty little comment section below. Try it out. :)