I recently received a notification from WordPress congratulating me on the anniversary of my blog.
As of June, it’s been around for 5 years! That might be a long time to some, or a short time depending on how you measure things, but in either case, it’s enough to learn a lesson or two, so I’m sharing some of what I’ve discovered about blogging since 2017 and I hope you find it helpful.
Lessons Learned From 5 Years Of Blogging
Make Things Easy To Find And Easy On The Eyes
While you’re free to choose any layout for your blog that takes your fancy, don’t forget that it’s important to make sure it’s functional for your readers.
They are the ones who will navigate it, so my first lesson is to make it as effortless as possible.
While I’ve stuck with my current look/theme for a while, I started with a darker one that matched my book series rather than the content of my blog.
Now I have a “light” look that incorporates pictures I’ve taken and fits better with posts about writing and productivity. I also follow these tips:
- Make your fonts and color scheme easy to read.
- Use good quality pictures (you can get free ones from Canva, Unsplash, and Pixabay).
- Don’t over clutter the sidebars.
- Have a clean, intuitive site menu.
- Keep pages like your About and Contact updated with the latest and correct info.
- Make sure the parts on your site that you want viewed/used are up front and center. Don’t make it hard for visitors to find things. As an example, for the first few years, I had the standard Subscribe and Follow buttons halfway down my sidebar where they would get the occasional subscription/follow. When I moved those buttons to the very top of my sidebar, I started getting new subscribers/followers almost daily.
- Organize your posts. While I’ve missed the boat on putting my posts into categories, the tag feature is great for grouping things together. Using widgets like the Recent Posts and Top Posts in your sidebar is also an easy way to automatically help readers find your best content.
- If you have a specific group of posts that you’d like to direct attention to, consider adding them to their own menu. For my site, I have menu listings for my Writing Checklists and my book series, Blackbirch so they can be found easily.
Be Organized And Try To Work Ahead
One key to consistent posting is being organized with your ideas. Knowing what you want to blog about and when will go a long way to helping you stay on top of your blogging.
Does it mean you need to have 6 months’ worth of posts ready to go? No. Some bloggers do that and it works for them. If you think it’ll work for you too, go ahead. I like to blog no further than a month ahead, mainly because if I’m working on more posts than that, I won’t get any other writing done.
If you can’t get a month ahead, try just one blog post ahead. That way, if the unexpected comes up, you have a reserve post to either use while you’re gone, or to take the pressure off when you’re back because the work is already done.
Being organized also means a blogging routine. I separate my book writing into one week, and my blogging into another. It helps me focus on a particular type of writing for a limited time without the guilt of choosing one over the other or the chaos of trying to do both at once. You can read more about this routine in my blog post, The Art Of Authoring.
Try to keep your ideas organized in your go-to method (Word, notebooks, the notepad app on your phone, etc). I use Scrivener and I sort my ideas and drafts into years and then months (as pictured below on the left).
Some of the note files are just titles, some have words already added, and some even have research. When I’ve published the post, I’ll copy the published version of the text into the note file and replace the icon with a tick.
This allows me to keep my own up-to-date records of all my posts and makes it easy to create social media graphics for things like my #WritingTipWednesday posts, which are based on the info in my blogs.
Having all of your blogs listed together like this also ensures you aren’t writing content that is similar and then posting the topics too close together (it happens). It’ll also stop you from naming your next three blog posts all “6 Ways To…”
You’ll Always Feel Like You’re Shouting Into The Void
It takes time to build up your content and for that content to find a place, even if your goal is just to put your blogs out with no expectations or plans to get thousands of followers or make money.
If you stick with blogging long enough, there will be a time when views and likes on your posts will be good. You’ll gain followers without trying and you’ll have a run where it seems as if every post is a hit. But even that will fade.
While things won’t go back to zero, they will slow down. Interactions will wane, and posts won’t be shared, liked, or commented on with the same ferocity.
You’ll be back to shouting into the void. That’s the nature of blogging, and the best you can do is go with it.
Know Your Limits And Change Things Up
If you’re serious about blogging, you’ll need to post regularly, and it will take up precious time.
Some bloggers post daily. Others weekly, biweekly, or monthly. You can even post every quarter if that’s what works for you. Know your limits and stick to them. It’s better than blogging every day for two months and then neglecting your blog for two years because you couldn’t keep up the pace.
A lot of bloggers who were around when I started 5 years ago aren’t now. Life, COVID, and everything in between just got bigger than blogging for them. They knew their limits.
I used to blog every week. When my first book was released in 2020, I realized that was no longer viable if I wanted to actually release my second, third, and fourth book. I dropped my blogging to three posts a month, stopped my newsletter, and turned that content into my Monthly Roundup blogs.
Those are the changes and limits that allow me to keep blogging regularly and still make progress on my other writing goals.
Know your own limits, make the changes that ensure regular blogging works for you, and enjoy it.
Some Posts Will Work, Some Won’t
While every post written is done with care and you’ll hope it will connect with your readers, not every post does.
Sometimes the blogs you like the most are the ones that fall flat. Then there are some that just take off, surpassing all of your expectations.
My first big post was Writer Resolutions For The New Year (And How You Can Achieve Them). I published it during my second year of blogging (2018) and it was picked up and featured in the Discover section of WordPress. Why this post? I have no idea. Perhaps because it mentions Beyonce? It was the first of my blogs to be shared widely and it really bumped up my follower count.
The next big post and the one that now has the most views (over 4,000 and counting) was from my first year of blogging (2017) called The Importance of Writing Badly.
This post didn’t actually take off until 2020 when someone shared it on Reddit. Why this post and why 3 years after it was first published? Another mystery.
My latest post to do more numbers than usual is Grieving A Writing Life. I published this one last month (June 2022), but it resonated with other writers and took off on its own, gaining triple the stats of my new posts.
So, that’s 3 out of 233 blog posts in 5 years that have worked better than any others.
If there’s a secret formula for nailing a blog post every time, I don’t know it.
What I do know is that there will be weeks when trying to come up with a topic or even penning a blog post will be like pulling teeth.
Then there will be times when inspiration strikes and you’ll churn out posts and ideas like it’s the easiest thing in the world. Trust me and go with those moments and ride the inspiration train to the end of the line.
Write about topics that inspire and interest you. There’s always someone out there that will relate. And then sometimes, now and then, for reasons that may never be known, a lot will relate.
Celebrate The Wins
My last lesson is to celebrate the wins. Blogging is a fun activity and should be treated as such.
Choosing how to celebrate is up to you, but don’t just wait for the big milestones. Celebrate your first post, the one that hit a certain number of views, that first comment, the first share, even the post you absolutely loved writing that barely made a ripple when you posted it. It’s all worth savoring and appreciating.
I’ll end with a big THANK YOU for a great 5 years! I’ve met some wonderful writers, bloggers, and now real-life friends through my blog. You guys keep me motivated to blog, and I hope my posts give something back to you. I’ve also learned a lot from finding, reading, and following your awesome blogs, too.
An extra special thanks also to Chris, Sandy, Felicity, Annette, and Victoria, who are always the first to share and support my posts on their own blogs and social media feeds. And to Glynis, Stuart, Alexander, Ari, Jaya, Audrey, Michael, Jeanne, Pete, Rhiannon, and Rebecca who have kept the comment section alive for a few years now. I love chatting with you all whenever a new post goes up, and always appreciate your feedback.
Here’s to another 5 years! 🥂
— K.M. Allan