I often get questions about blogging. And in the five years I’ve been writing this blog, there have been a lot of changes in the blogging world. There are a lot more blogs out there than when I started. It’s more competitive. Social media has entered the picture. Ads on blogs, which used to be considered too slick, are now commonplace. Many bloggers dream of earning an income by blogging.
It’s so easy to fall into the trap of comparing your blog to other blogs, of thinking that your blog has to have certain elements to be considered a successful blog. If you’re researching, you can find all sorts of tips on that sort of thing. I suppose all of them are valuable in their way.
But they are not essential.
Look, I’ve done my share of research in this area. In the days when I was first blogging, advice from other bloggers was welcome. I’m the kind of person who likes to research things, so it was a natural thing for me to do. Some of that advice has been valuable for me. Some of it simply doesn’t interest me. Practical advice on spam control, plugins (for WordPress), how to use PicMonkey or any other photo editing tool, how to size photos….all of that is much appreciated.
But then I run into rules about SEO, keywords, branding, social media and Google+, finding a niche, stats, short posts with lots of photos and my eyes glaze over. Who said I have to do any of that?
SEO? WordPress comes with SEO (Search Engine Optimization) capability. I’ve never done anything with it.
Keywords? I’m not going to write a post with keywords in mind. I’m simply not. I’m going to write from my heart because that’s the way I do things here. Keywords are just too calculated for me.
Branding? Branding is more for those who run a business with their blogs – where a logo and a certain look is needed for the blog, products, etc. I suppose you can call my little lamb with the party hat my “brand” (if it is one) because it’s on my blog and my Etsy/blog business cards. But I didn’t choose that with a brand in mind. I chose it because I love it.
Social Media? Yes, I did add that widget to my sidebar. The one that has some links for Facebook and Pinterest and Twitter. Truthfully? I have tweeted about 5 times. If I see another hashtag (#) I might scream. I’m on Facebook, yes. But it doesn’t rule my life. I added a Facebook page for this blog because I thought it might be fun, not because I wanted to reach a certain number of “likes.” I don’t care about that. Pinterest is nice, but I go for long periods of time without ever visiting Pinterest.
In other words, I don’t tweet about this blog unless I have to for some opportunity on BlogHer. If you want to visit my Pinterest page, you are more than welcome. You won’t find all that much there. Most of my time on Facebook is spent reading about former students and colleagues and catching up with them. I do like the chats we have on the Mockingbird Hill Cottage page but if it wasn’t fun, I wouldn’t do it.
Google+? No. That’s my short answer. Google has enough of the pot. I started to sign up with Google+ when Picnik was going away because I thought it was the only way to edit my photos and, frankly, because Google made it seem like that was the only option. I didn’t like it. I think Google knows enough about me already, thank you very much. Fortunately, other photo editors came along. So I opted out.
Ads? There are opportunities out there if you’re interested. But just because we see them more and more on blogs doesn’t mean you have to have them. The fact is that very few bloggers make any sort of sizeable income from ads. A very small segment of bloggers do, but they are the exceptions. Believe me. And I would place a bet that the vast majority of them are niche bloggers.
You have to have a niche? Again, why? If you want to write only about one thing, have at it. But you don’t have to do that. I’ve written before about this subject. I would have to slit my wrists if I could only write about one thing. That would be a guaranteed trip for me on the crazy train. It’s not me. So I’m not doing it.
Stats? I check them out occasionally. But I don’t let them influence me. Because then I would be letting figures on a chart shape the content of this blog. Not going to happen.
Keep the amount of text to short paragraphs and use lots of photos? I see this bit of advice all the time. By now, you know my response. Why? Why do I have to write a post in a certain way? Why do I have to keep my words to a minimum? Presumably to keep readers interested in this short-attention-span-world. Why do I have to take a post and divide it up into several shorter posts to make sure readers come back? That’s not my world. I have no intention of supporting or shaping my posts for those who have a short attention span.
I write the way I write. That style may not be to everyone’s taste. That’s fine. If writing and the love of words isn’t your thing, then I suspect you won’t come back. It is my thing. And this is my blog. Therefore, I will craft my posts in the way I feel is true to me.
This is my point. If you want to have lots of things on your sidebar, do it. If you want a clean, spare design – go for it. If you don’t care about all the social media stuff, ignore it. If you just like a lot of photos and very little text – okay. If you like to write and your blog is a vehicle for that, great. If you care about all the things I said I don’t care about, wonderful. If you don’t care about them, equally wonderful. If you want to link to parties, do that. If you don’t, that’s okay, too.
Your blog should reflect you. It shouldn’t look like anyone else’s blog. It shouldn’t sound like anyone else’s blog. Write about what you care about. Write your text in a way that is true to your voice. Share those things that matter to you. Don’t waste a minute of time worrying about how many followers you have or how many comments you have.
I say this because there are times during the past five years that I have worried about precisely those things. I understand. I’ve been there. But I’m here to tell you that, thankfully, after five years of this blogging adventure, I’ve found what works for me. It may not work for anyone else. I’m never going to be a niche blogger or a big blogger. I like things the way they are.
It’s not a competition. You may be interested in trying to grow your blog. That makes perfect sense to me. But grow your blog in a way that is true to you, not in a way that you think you must choose because that’s what others are doing. It reminds me of what my mom used to say, and I suspect a whole lot of other moms said as well: “Everyone’s doing it? If everyone jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge, would you?” Even though it was irritating to hear that when I was young, she was right.
Every response I have to those “shoulds” I referred to earlier in this post is my own. Your response may be very different. There’s room for everyone in this blogging world.
In the end, my advice has always been and will always be: Blog from your heart. If you do that, your blog will be compelling and honest and true.