blogging (Photo credit: Sean MacEntee)

I’d love to be able to tell you exactly how long I’ve been blogging but I went through several blog platforms (Lycos’ Tripod then Google’s Blogger before settling on WordPress where I’ve been for at least 8 years now, if you’re curious) and I didn’t bother to keep the archives with every move. But I can tell you that it’s been just about 15 years since I wrote my first blog post and, in many ways, the way I blog now couldn’t be more different. Oh sure, my “voice” is still the same and I still get angry at eBay and write ill-thought out psychotic rants but the actual way I go about writing the posts themselves is very different.

Not just different. I believe better.

Everything I’ve learned about blogging I’ve learned through trial and error. And while I’m confident I’m not an expert by any means, I have learned a few things over the years, mostly by making mistakes and adjusting accordingly.

Here’s some of the quickies:

  1. The content matters much more than the platform. I obsessed over which blogging software was the best which was why I changed it so many times and, in the end, it never mattered. Unless there’s something about your blog that actively prevents people from reading your stuff or turns them away, it’s the content that will keep them coming back. It took me way too long to realize that the people who want to read my stuff don’t care where I’m blogging, they just want to read what I have to say.
  2. Just because no one is commenting, doesn’t mean no one is reading. This is one I still find myself having to re-learn frequently. It’s easy to get depressed, especially with a new blog, because it feels like no one is reading anything you write and what is the point? But I’ve found, especially in this world of social networking, that a post can become popular and amass a ton of reads while never generating a single comment. Your on site discussion may be a ghost town but, unbeknownst to you, the post’s gone viral and sparked a huge conversation on Twitter. The important thing is to keep at it and you’ll build up a readership even if they always stay quiet.  Which brings me to my next point…
  3. Tailor your blog to what your readers prefer, not some imaginary standard. For whatever reason, people that read are often much more comfortable commenting either privately or on social networks than in a public blog comment. I can’t tell you how many posts I’ve written that don’t get a single comment on the blog but yield a ton of comments when I share it on Facebook or Twitter. In a similar way, I’ll often get readers that will email me to share their thoughts on a post instead of commenting. While, as a blogger, this will drive you kind of nuts (Why don’t you people just post this on the freaking post like you’re supposed to?), in the end, you need to defer to what your audience wants. Knowing how your readers prefer to engage with your content can help you to optimize it for them. If my network prefers to comment privately or only to their networks, how can you make it easier for them to do so?

We’ll revisit this topic in more detail in a future post but what blogging lessons have you learned through trial and error over the years?