Blogging has a rhythm or flow, I think that's what tao means, and the hardest bit is getting started. I'm finding it as hard to start this article as I did to begin my first blog. Let me tell that story first and see if it helps.
I started my travel blog in 2006 because I wanted to do more writing, be braver and show people my writing. For years most of the writing I'd been doing was web copy writing for my own business and other people's'. My writing was there on the Internet for the world to see but only me and the company who'd hired me knew I'd written it. So I could stay safely hidden away on the lovely little Waiheke Island in New Zealand where we lived, without worrying that anyone would judge me because of a badly turned sentence or clichéd phrase.
As a child growing up in the UK I always wrote. I have diaries from childhood covering most years right up until today. This blog is in many ways a journal too including snippets of my personal and emotional life, my family, my journey as a writer and blogger and a record of what interests me today: people, success, life, and life on the Internet.
In 2006, my writing for pleasure had ground to a halt and I missed it. I had three young kids and a business to run so I didn't have much time for myself and I took a creative writing class to force myself to write more. I wanted to write travel stories about my adventures and that's what I did. Each week when I read the stories to the class of eight people I noticed two things. First how shit scared I was about sharing them and second how well received they were. When the classes finished I knew I needed to carry on writing and daring to share it with other people so that I could see what worked, what didn't and improve my writing. Most of all I wanted to get over that fear or at least get used to it and carry on writing and showing my writing to other people anyway.
That initial foray into blogging didn't last. I wrote just one blog post in 2006. It wasn't until three years later that I started blogging again and committed to it.
I've had a journey over the last 14 months of blogging and I want to chronicle it here for transparency and so you can see the kind of journey you'll also be going on as a blogger. It's a bumpy one, full of surprises and like all the best journeys you never quite know where it will lead you. Check out this inspiration for bloggers if you're not convinced of the possibilities blogging can bring you.
My Rocky Blogging Journey
2006- 08 – 1 post – Don't worry if you have a false start with your blog, you can always come back to it when you're ready or when you need it most.
Jan 2009 – 2 posts – I set up Get In the Hot Spot on Blogspot. I wanted to help people live their dream life and the topic was about how to travel more or move overseas.
Feb 2009 – 6 posts
March 2009 – 6 posts
April 2009 – 6 posts – At some point I moved the blog to WordPress.com but didn't have my own domain name. I was depressed with the slow progress and made a page called raving readers with all the lovely comments and emails people had sent me about the blog to cheer me up and motivate me when I thought I wasn't getting anywhere.
After 4 months of blogging
At this stage it's not much of an exaggeration to say no one ever visited my blog. I did get a comment on just about every post from my friends Teresa and Anne-Marie – thank you, thank you, thank you! Just knowing that they read my blog and cared motivated me to carry on writing even though it seemed pointless. I tried my best to make every post as interesting and useful for them as I could. At the end of April '09 I got my first comment from someone I didn't know, Kathi from Austria who said:
“Thanks for giving me a glimpse of what life would/could be for us.”
A great landmark and motivator for any blogger. Kathi found my blog because I'd joined some forums for people who want to emigrate to Australia and had been actively joining in discussions and helping people when I could.
May 2009 – 10 posts – I decided my blog was failing to attract enough visitors because I wasn't posting enough so I increased my updates to twice and then three times a week.
June 2009 – 13 posts
After 6 months of blogging
With 43 posts under my belt I still had less than 100 subscribers to my RSS feed. My blogging topic had naturally evolved to how to you live your dream and how to get the life you want which is my passion and what drives me to keep writing. But back them my enthusiasm for blogging was flagging so I set myself a goal of getting 1000 subscribers to keep me going. I knew that in the short-term blogging was pointless so I needed a concrete goal to motivate me to carry on for another 6 months. Just after setting the goal one of my articles, Live Your Dream in a Material World caught Leo Babauta‘s eye and he tweeted it. I got about 600 visitors that day. More people than had visited my blog in the previous month. That was probably the moment I got hooked on blogging.
July 2009 – 11 posts – Disillusioned with blogging and overwhelmed by all the blogging guidelines I'd been reading I decided to test if numbered lists really were that popular and wrote 101 Ways to Feel Happy. Ironically it's easily the quickest post I've ever written and 9 months later is still one of the most popular articles on my blog.
August 2009 – 13 posts – Changed to WordPress.org, hosted the blog on our own domain name, www.successfulblogging.com and lost a few subscribers in the process. My husband says this marks the true beginning of Get In the Hot Spot.
Sept 2009 – 9 posts
Oct 2009 – 9 posts
Nov 2009 – 8 posts – Subscribers tripled this month to almost 500 after I had a guest posts on Zen Habits and Problogger.
Dec 2009 – 8 posts – Guest post on Life Hack
Jan 2010 – 6 posts – Stressed out and over-worked (I still run a web design and copy writing business and have three young kids remember!) I cut my posts down to one a week and aimed at getting one guest post each week too.
Feb 2010 – 5 posts – Guest post on Dumb Little Man. Changed my email subscribers from Feedburner to MailChimp so I could brand the emails and get statistics on how many people read them.
After a year of blogging
March 2010 – 6 posts – Guest posts on Zen Habits and Problogger. I reached my goal of 1000 subscribers – surprised to find that about 60% of them to choose the RSS feed and 40% preferred email updates.
April 2010 – 7 posts – Guest post on Problogger and Copyblogger
May 2010 – 8 posts – Finally invested in the blog and used my web design company Mucho to brand the blog and give the site a complete redesign. Subscriber numbers continue to grow and have reached 1,400 but ironically I decided to take the subscriber counter off my blog because Feedburner is so flaky and the number varies wildly from day-to-day.
What's the Tao of Blogging?
The best way to show the flow of anything is with a graph. Here's the chart of my site statistics from Google Analytics. Make sure you install Google Analytics on your blog so you can chart your progress.
The chart shows what kind of journey you'll have with blogging. In the beginning you'll feel as if you're not getting anywhere. You'll make progress and your blogging confidence will soar in direct proportion to the number of people who visit and leave comments. But peaks don't last, your blog traffic will drop off and your mood will plunge. You'll probably want to give up blogging more than once. But don't. Just when you're about to write your last post things will pick up, traffic will peak again and so the cycle will continue.
Sounds familiar? I think I'm getting used to the cyclical nature of blogging. Some days you love blogging, other times you despair and can't see the point of it. Some days it feels as if people can't get enough of your blog and other times it seems as if everyone wants a piece of the action.
It's like life ~ the constant ebb and flow is a natural rhythm. You can't fight it, you have to learn to go with the flow.
I think I'm getting used to the tao of blogging. I like to check the charts, and as long as the general trend is up I'm happy. As long as I have a goal I can keep writing. As long as you keep reading, commenting and telling people about the blog the rhythm will continue.
Concentrate on the general trend, not the daily ups and downs. Be a mountain, be a landmark for top content, be part of a vast mountain range and be like a river flowing, flooding, cascading or meandering. Just make sure your blogging doesn't dry up completely.
7 Ideas to Help Make Your Blogging Journey Less Rocky
1. Pick a domain name, blog platform and theme and stick to it.
2. Set a goal.
3. Make sure your blog is well designed and that important first impression will win readers over.
4. Find some supportive friends and cheer each other on.
5. Enjoy the landmarks, such as the first post, 10th post, first comment from someone you don't know and 100th subscriber.
6. Keep going.
7. Subscribe to Successful Blogging and check back here regularly for blogging tips, motivation and inspiration.
I Need You!
Finally a reminder that if you like my blog I need you to share the word with people. Please help me grow my blog. You can help me by sharing the blog or specific posts on Facebook, Tweeting them, emailing posts to friend, relatives and colleagues or just telling people about Successful Blogging.
Now my blog is set up properly I want to concentrate on writing the best content I can. I'm just one woman working on the blog, my business and looking after my family so I'd really appreciate it if you can help me with the sales and marketing side of things. There's no way I can't do it alone.
I know from experience that the best way to grow a business is word of mouth and mouse and I'd really appreciate it if you can tell someone or as many people as you can about it.
Thank you so much for helping with that. I can't wait to see you here again next week.
Subscribe to Successful Blogging now by email.
How's your blogging journey going? What can I write about to help you more?