Ten years ago this week I published my first blog post on The Red Rocket. I started this blog because I wanted to learn about blogging, web hosting and this up and coming platform called WordPress.
In that time I’ve started (and canned) two other personal blogs, had three more jobs and moved from tech PR to full time digital comms. I also left Derbyshire to move to London, moved house three times, got married, had a child and started wearing glasses. A lot happens in 10 years.
So, 412 posts later, what have I learned?
The more you blog, the more hits you get
There’s a reason why Seth Godin blogs every day. Not only does practice make perfect, your audience are more likely to come back if they know there’s something new to read.
While I’ve not always blogged as much as I’d like, the times when my blog has performed best in terms of readership has been when I’ve been blogging regularly.
Know your audience
Looking back at some of my old posts, I’m shocked how bad they are. A lot of this is because I didn’t really have an audience in mind. Without that you’ve got to question why you’re doing it in the first place.
Your audience informs your content and writing style. If you want readers to come back, they need to know what they’re coming back to.
The value of the long tail
Looking back over my analytics (I still love Google Analytics), my most popular posts get their hits over a long period, rather than a short burst. They’re generally advice-based pieces, like Top 10 tips for promoting an April Fool’s Day (which gets an annual day in the sun), the formula for a successful Facebook competition (now quite out of date) and “If I was down to my last dollar, I would spend it on PR” (and other non-quotes).
Having said that, the posts I’m most pleased with are rarely the biggest hitters in pure read numbers.
WordPress is king
Back in 2006 there were a crop of platforms vying for attention: Typepad, LiveJournal, Blogger and WordPress being the main names.
Today, WordPress rules the roost. In fact, it accounts for 26.6% of all websites, according to W3Techs. And it’s only going to get bigger.
I’ve experimented with other platforms, but WordPress wins because of its ubiquity, control and staying power. I ran a blog on Posterous for a while. Then it got bought by Twitter and was subsequently shut down. A message for those Medium users out there…?
Blogging (still) isn’t dead
Over the past ten years, blogging has consistently been on the edge of dying. At least that’s according to an army of experts (usually writing on a blog).
Blogging isn’t dying, but it is evolving. Back in 2006, a blog was the simplest and fastest medium for publishing thoughts. But that was before Twitter and Facebook had taken off. Today, we have the likes of Snapchat, Soundcloud and Instagram to add to the mix for self-expression.
The hosted options like Medium have got a lot better. And LinkedIn has become a blogging platform of sorts. There are more options than ever, but due to WordPress’s massive install base I can’t see it being knocked off its perch.
Today blogging (at least in the traditional definition) has become more about long-form communication, rather than quick reads. It remains the most effective and flexible communications medium.
Google loves blogs – the SEO argument
These days I’m hesitant to justify an activity just because it’s good for SEO (remember Google Plus anyone?). Yet I’ve seen time and time again how regular blogging can help with search. Using a plugin, such as Yoast, applying a few golden rules and blogging regularly is hugely beneficial for both onsite and offsite SEO.
Blogging is a great ice-breaker
A couple of years in to blogging I moved to London. I felt I was playing catchup in a few ways, so started attending lots of London blogger meetups. I met loads of cool people who have helped me in all sorts of ways, and it led to me doing public speaking and co-running the Blogcamp events for parenting bloggers.
I found that at any kind of networking event, saying that you’re a blogger is a much better ice-breaker than saying you work in PR…