Top Ten Blogging Tips & Insights from a Novice Blogger

[ NOTE: There is a updated version of this post with 10 more tips, please click here]

sun flowers In response to some emails and comments on this blog this post attempts to share what I think it takes to create a moderately successful blog.

My learnings come from living the experience that Occam’s Razor has been for me even though I have not been a blogger long enough to share ground breaking tips. But in an attempt to continue the sharing process here is my list of tips and insights about how to be a successful blogger (and remember I am a novice at this).

Obviously these are my reflections on the type of blog I am trying to create.

Tips / Insights Summary

  1. Nobody cares about you, they care about what you can do for them
  2. Have a personality, reflect your core beliefs, be honest, have fun
  3. Blogging is a very serious time commitment
  4. Pick a subject matter you are passionate about and that you are good at
  5. Respect the intelligence of your audience
  6. Blogs need constant promotion, participation and evangelism
  7. Being “digg’ed” is great exposure but traffic builds gradually over time, one person at a time
  8. Have goals, whatever you want them to be
  9. Be nice, save your hidden agendas for other uses
  10. Nobody will read my blog

And here is more context and detail behind each tip / insight:

# 10 Nobody will read my blog (or do we really need another blog!): I have to admit this was exactly the reason I did not get into this until someone like Andy shared his wisdom and changed my mind.  The worry is there are too many blogs already and I don't have a chance of making it beyond these readers: Mom, Dad, Sister, Wife, Kids. :).

While it is true that there are way more blogs than you can imagine there is always space for one more. You are unique (repeat after me “I am special”! : ) and you have a special point of view that no one does and with roughly six plus billion people in the world, a billion of them on the web, there is a constituency waiting to hear you (and if you follow some of the tips below they’ll even find you).

# 9 Be nice, save your hidden agendas for other uses: A different post on a different topic put it like this: “Don’t be a jerk”. Same thing applies to your blogging life. If you are trying to create a long term relationship with your visitors then it is good to be nice.

be niceA theme in this post is that blogging is a social experience. You want to have relationships with your readers that are positive and mutually beneficial. Bad mouthing people / companies / things is not a great way to achieve that. Be respectful to your readers and to people in the ecosystem. It is possible to be “not nice” and get a temporary boost from being “controversial” but it is guaranteed not to last and you’ll be left with a reputation to manage (much longer than the traffic boost lasted).

This does not mean you don’t dissent or provide an alternative point of view. By all means please do that. But there is a right way of doing it (stay on the message, be objective, provide supporting points) and there is a wrong way of doing it.

Here is another important reason to “be nice”. Everything you say on the web is a part of the public record. Your life is just one quick google query away. Your words will be in easy reach of future friends, employers, girlfriends / boyfriends, grandchildren and so on.

# 8 Have goals, whatever you want them to be: For me personally goals are important because they are a motivating factor and give me something to shoot for. But having Goals is important more because in order to come up with a goal you have to know what you are solving for. Natural questions arise like” “what is the purpose”, “why am I doing this”, “who is my audience”, “why should that be a goal” etc.

The process of creating a goal will help distill important thoughts and create a focus. Then having a goal will ensure you stay on track and do the best you can to achieve your goal. This sounds complex but it is very important and something I recommend both for small things like blogs and big things like your professional life and businesses.

# 7 Being “digg’ed” is great exposure but traffic builds gradually over time, one person at a time. Plan for that: There is a misnomer out there that you get “digg’ed” and you are all set. And we do all we can to get “digg’ed”. In reality building an audience is very hard work and it really is adding one reader at a time and that is really what you should plan for and that is what you should execute against.

individual imageOne of my posts got to the home page of digg.com and it was amazing. 40+ comments, roughly 12k visitors to the site in eight hours. Then it slowly went down from there. Yet traffic and RSS subscriptions “post digg” ended up just a bit higher.

Building readership is tough and it really is the process of finding the right traffic and adding traffic to your site one correct person at a time. This means doing a lot of # 6, this also means there is no magic bullet.

# 6 Blogs need constant promotion, participation and evangelism: Sadly this is not a world where the axiom “build it and they will come” applies fully. If you want to have a popular blog you need to be a evangelist of the blog, you need to be something of a humble self promoter. Not everyone is comfortable with this, and that’s ok. Find your own niche. But if you want to build an audience then you’ll have to evangelize and find new ways of doing it. Everything from adding your blog to your email tag line to adding it to the various directories or having it in your presentations or cultivating links etc.

Guy 20KawasakiExcept perhaps for the top blogs the thing to realize is that this process is constant. There is no such thing as you have a blog, it got really popular in one month, you sit back, relax and enjoy the ride. You have to be out there and evangelize (and I am deliberately using the word evangelize).

It is also important to know that evangelism is built on a foundation of great content. Getting links will get you transient traffic but there is no substitute to great content. That is the first tough nut to crack, then comes evangelizing.

(A small additional tip here: A great way to evangelize is to participate in the ecosystem blogs. Read other blogs on related topics and contribute interesting and unique comments to those blogs. Not just comments like “this is a great post” but add something to the conversation. Great way to give something back and to have yourself out there.)

# 5 Respect the intelligence of your audience: One of the most popular myths out there is that if you blog then your articles have to be short and pithy and simple because people don’t have time to read deep stuff and you want a diverse audience. This could not be more wrong. If you need proof look at the length of this blog post : ), or any others that I have done.

I am deeply impressed with the intelligence of my audience (you all great people out there). I can do long posts, often on what I think are complicated concepts, and you not only get it but through your comments and feedback you are teaching me and you are pushing me to push the envelope (I lay awake at night thinking what is the next great thing I can share so you have also given me insomnia!).

If you blog respect the intelligence of your audience, try to communicate at their level (which is most certainly higher than yours) and keep a open mind as a blogger and soak up the learning experience.

(A very small additional tip here: Comments rock. I know there is a debate about this out there but I love comments, I love reading what you have to say, you help stretch my thinking, it is the only way I know I am adding value to the blogosphere. Embrace comments of all types – and please keep them coming.)

Passionate 20Tulip# 4 Pick a subject matter you are passionate about and that you are good at: According to Technorati there are currently 70 plus million blogs out there (and hundreds of thousands added each day). There is a blog on every topic on the face of this earth. So for you to stand out, or more importantly stick with it for any amount of time, it is a lot of work.

A key criteria for success is to blog about what you are passionate about. This would mean you’ll probably add content to this great blogosphere that is unique, it would mean that you’ll find a niche that you’ll flourish within, it would mean that you’ll stick with it, it would mean that you’ll be able to do #3. : )

# 3 Blogging is a very serious time commitment: I have to admit I was blindsided because I did not realize this. If you want to build a good blog, want lots of content consumption and add value to the conversation then it is a lot of work.

I only do two posts a week (late Sunday night and Wednesday night). Yet according to my wife (who keeps track of my life better than I can) I am putting atleast 15 – 20 hours a week into this. The breakdown is six or eight hours in writing and refining the posts themselves and around the same time in replying emails from readers or replying to comments on the blog or doing web analysis of my blog data or reading and participating in the ecosystem.

So if you want to be a semi-serious just-a-little-bit-popular blogger do quick check on 1) time availability in your life 2) your willingness to give up on a small number of things you love (like watching Jon Stewart or Iron Chef).

(A small additional tip here: If you want a regular audience try to post regularly and if you can stick to a schedule. You can post every ten minutes or every ten days. Having a schedule is a great way to “train” your audience of when to expect new content and for them to plan on when to come visit your blog for fresh content. It is all about the customer. :)

# 2 Have a personality, reflect your core beliefs, be honest, have fun: The ultimate comment I have received for this blog is from a friend who read the early posts and remarked “the blog is you, it has your personality”. Blogging is one medium where it is hard to “fake it”, you can but it is hard and why do it in the first place.

Blogging is very much a social medium and people want to connect with you the person. So be yourself, give the blog your own brand identity, be open and honest and bring your whole self to the table and have the blog reflect you. Without it you can’t have fun, and if you are not actually having fun this is a very hard gig to pull off.

Care# 1 Nobody cares about you, they care about what you can do for them: In a medium that is all about you, personal expression and free thoughts and online diary and what not, this is an important lesson I have learned. Perhaps it only applies to “professional” blogs or those that are trying to build an audience (vs. those that are more for personal purposes).

People read blogs for entertainment, for learning, to satiate their guilty pleasures : ), to kill time, to break stories, to stock up on the hottest trends, and on and on. The common thread in all these is they want something out of it for themselves. If you blog, and would like to build readership, see if your blog meets this rule. Before you hit the Publish button for a new post do a quick check if the post is just all for you or there is something in there that someone else will care about.

We all have less time than we need, there is a stunning amount of content out there, building readership is hard. Do you have something of value to offer? (Oh and it does not have to be something serious, you could have a enormously popular blog because people can’t have enough of Paris Hilton.)

Agree with the tips? Is there anything obvious that is missing? Would you like to share insights / tips / “tricks” that have worked for you? Please share via comments.

[Like this post? For more posts like this please click here.]

Comments

  1. 1
    Chris Byrne says:

    "though I have not been a blogger long enough to share ground breaking tips"

    Avinash

    Perhaps you mean "early lessons from a novice blogger?"

    Chris ;)

  2. 2

    I read though Avinash Kaushik's Top Ten Blogging Tips & Insights from a Novice Blogger; can relate to several of the 10 points. Blogging is time consuming because you need to create a lot of content – hopefully all of it gets crawled. Also, need to write about things you know and feel strongly about……

    http://www.webmetricsguru.com/2006/10/aviinashs_top_ten_blogging_tip.html

  3. 3

    Avinash, great thoughts. My response is up. Good to meet you and best wishes on meeting your blogging goals!

  4. 4
    Daniel Waisberg says:

    The question is not how long you do something, but how well you do it. And your tips are certainly very precious.

    There is an old story in Capoeira (the Brazilian fight/dance/art) that the best of all masters was beaten in his face just once in his life: by a beginner.

    Experience brings standards and sometimes decreases creativity levels. Anyway, your post was very helpful to a non-blogger ;-)

    Daniel Waisberg

  5. 5

    5 Lessons Gleaned from Blogging Tips by Avinash Kaushik…

    Avinash Kaushik at Occam's Razor shares 10 blogging tips from the self-styled perspective of a "novice" blogger – but I am inclined to replace "novice" with "expert" after reading Avinash's advice about blogging.  (…

  6. 6
    Elliott says:

    Avinash,
    Great tips…I have probably re-read this post at least 3x already! I was particularly liberated by your point that blog posts can be as long as they need to be…to give readers what they want and need.(you know how long-winded I can be in email ;)

    I met Robert Scoble at Supernova 2006 and he gave some similar tips. He boiled it down to 2 factors: (1) write about your passion (since it is going to take a lot of work), and (2) figure out how people are going to find you. His tips on #2 were akin to doing keyword research or SEO, though he didn't really say it in that way. But its similar. What language (terms, keywords, etc) do your users use? How will they find you? Where do they hang out? I assume this thinking will pay off on Technorati as much as Google. Next time we talk I'll ask you some more pointed questions about ecosystem blogs…how do you find them? what's the best way to engage? does posting comments with your link give you link love?

    Thanks again for this insightful post!

    Elliott @ http://netglobalvalue.blogspot.com/index.html

  7. 7
    Jason says:

    Hi Avinash,

    I just started my own blog and am glad to read posts like this one (and so many of your other posts). I have been putting off blogging for a long time for reasons just like you mention but decided to jump in. Now, I just have to practice (and promote!).

    Thanks Again,

    Jason

  8. 8
    Rony says:

    Thanks for the info

  9. 9
    Laurie says:

    Some very interesting insights I'll be sure to use, especially about length. I do worry about the length, but I have to say I really enjoyed this post and hung in there for the whole thing, so perhaps shorter is not necessarily better.

    Also,your comments about commenting…nothing annoys me more than bloggers who don't comment to the people leaving comments. Granted, if you have 15 comments you can't reply to each and every one, but at least bloggers should acknowledge they've read the comments and are engaged with what their readers have to say.

  10. 10

    Laurie: Great comment, I am replying to your content so that you don't get annoyed that I did not reply to your comment!!! :) Just kidding.

    Thanks so much.

    -Avinash.

  11. 11
    Rigel says:

    "I am special!!!"

    Thanks for the tips!!

  12. 12

    […] Top Ten Blogging Tips & Insights From A Novice Blogger – Avinash Kaushik of Occam’s Razor offers a list of 10 tips that, in his opinion, are necessary for blogging success. This post is actually over a year old, yet it is still a timely article. These insights are geared towards blogging but most, if not all, of these tips have an application to general business, and everyday interaction. If you are doubting yourself or having second thoughts about blogging, read tip number 10 before you decide to call it quits. […]

  13. 13
    Brian says:

    I think what you are saying about the time commitment is true, I don't know about you, however at this point I am a slower typer :) so, yes it is a huge time comitt. Thus blogging does come at a serious price, so one must really be committed to it . One further tip for evangelizing: make relationships with other steady bloggers; I recently blogged on the weburbanist (a fantastic blog btw) as a guest blogger, and that process created a great relationship, traffic back to my site. This giving something to another blogger, can pay off in many many ways.

  14. 14

    Thanks for these top 10 blogging tips. I enjoy it.

  15. 15
    Susanne says:

    I'm just beginning blogging so thanks for your insight! One question – how do you handle the copyrights for the pictures you are using? And how you you find out about copyright on music to add to your blogs? I'm really, really into Steward Dudley's music and would like to add the music to my site … but how do I go about it? Thanks Susanne

  16. 16

    Susanne: For my blog pretty much all the pictures I end up using are either my own or from http://www.photos.com, which is a wonderful service though it is a paid subscription based service.

    Of course I make my own screenshots of reports, dashboards, analysis that you see in the posts.

    Prior to using photos.com I used:

    stock.xchng. Not as diverse as you might want but they have tons of free images you can use.

    Flickr of course. Takes a while to find what you want but lots of needles if you spend some time in the haystack. Goes without saying you'll do a Advanced Search and look for images under Creative Common license.

    You can often get lucky at these sites:

    Studio 25
    ImageBase
    Stockvault

    For public domain pictures and music here is a page full of links: Springfield Township High School Virtual Library.

    Hope this helps.

    -Avinash.

  17. 17
    Dan Waggoner says:

    Hi,

    Your blog popped up under the keyword term "top successful blogging advice".

    I must tell you that I agree with Google's decision to put you here on the first page. This is some very sound and real advice you have given. Thanks for writing it and I'll be sure to come back and read more.

  18. 18
    Kathrin Romanski says:

    My friend just emailed me a link to this article and I have to say that it's been a while since I read anything through from start to finish. I am a writer myself and there is a lot of crappy writing online.

    Thanks. It was a brilliant way to begin my day.

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