Simply said…How To Blog
So I get an email from a DLM reader asking this:
“I would love to learn how you combine a very active blog with a full-time job–which is my situation. Would you be willing to make that a subject of one of your posts?”
In answering her question, I quite possibly went on a little tangent explaining how you shoulda/coulda/oughta start a blog. Perhaps this was a story I subconsciously wanted to tell..
So, first it’s Celeste..
Well Celeste, I get this question a lot and my typical answer is to burn the midnight oil. However, I have given this some deep thought and I came up with a handful of points that you should consider. In fact, I went a little overboard.
Here we go:
- Your name: You have to understand that once your real name is published, it’s on the internet for good. If your blog is lackluster, will future employers judge you by that? If your blog is a huge success, will your current employer assume your blogging when you should be working? It’s almost a no-win situation. If you are just starting a blog, my advice would be to ask you boss if they care and get their response in writing. As long as they are informed and you are not complaining about your company, you should be OK. A good read is, “Blog under your real name, and ignore the harassment” by Penelope Trunk. For me, my name is common enough not to worry. I mean there are hundreds of Jay Whites out there. If you’re Ira Kapinsky, you may want to think about it.
- Time:Your blog is YOURS. There are no bosses to push you around and the autonomy becomes pretty addicting. If you get into it, there is a chance that you will make it a top priority. This means that you, like me, will take days off of work in order to write. You don’t want to put your primary income in jeopardy so you have to set a blogging schedule that doesn’t interfere with your normal job. Without it, you may end up like this guy:
- Be Dynamic: On Dumb Little Man, our ads, “popular posts”, “recent money posts”, etc. generally rotate in a completely random pattern. Therefore, if I didn’t post anything for an entire week, the look of the site would vary a little for the average reader.
- My Schedule: My schedule is mine and it may not work for anyone but me. Nevertheless, here goes. First I get up damn early – we’re talking 4AM!
- From 4:00-6:00: I write for Dumb Little Man, audit the articles submitted by readers, or audit the freelance work people want me to post.
- 6:00-6:15: I shower.
- 6:15-7:00: I read and respond to Dumb Little Man emails.
- 7:00-11:30: I work my normal job (from the house)
- 11:30-Noon: If time allows, I think of and research topics for tomorrow’s Dumb Little Man posts
- Noon-5:00: Normal job
- 5:00-8:30: Family time
- 8:30-Midnight: Check stats on Dumb Little Man, post more, read more emails, etc.
- Midnight: go to bed
- Honesty – I have told DLM readers from Day 1 that I have a normal job that takes most of my time. There is no reason to lie. I mean sites like Lifehacker have a crew of full time bloggers and although we are in the same niche, this is not a competition. It is up to you to understand your restraints and be forthcoming with your readers.
- Topics:I get tons of blog post ideas from work. I mean, everything from getting a promotion to dealing with complainers came from episodes at my real job. Use life to give you ideas. Things that bother you most likely both others people. A great example is a blog I recently linked to where an Administrative Assistant solves the problems she faces. As long as your blog is solving problems instead of complaining about them, you’ll do okay.
- Sharing data: I don’t care what your boss says, if you share proprietary company data or vent about the CEO, you will eventually get fired. If you want to do that, start an anonymous blogger blog. Even then you aren’t safe.
Ok, so now I am really into this post. Here are some other considerations that you need to consider – working or not:
- Are you even into it?: Do you know how many times I started a diet and eventually caved in? No, you don’t but it’s a lot. My point here is to start a blog and work at it for a while before you get into the site’s design and cosmetics. Get some good posts up on your site and let yourself go. I redesigned Dumb Little Man 12 times before my first post and another 13 times after. I was lucky that I really got into blogging. If not, that first set of 12 reconstructions would have been nothing but a waste of time.
- Do it right: Choose a topic that you are seriously in love with. I love saving time and money and obviously that is what Dumb Little Man is all about. When I write, the ideas flow without much thought. If you goal is to make money, you should still choose something you love and not what pays the most in advertising. If you choose something based on money, your writing will suffer and you will subsequently get no visitors. Guess what…no visitors = no advertisers = no money.
- When beginning, read Problogger religiously and be sure to check his archives. I had absolutely no idea what a blog even was. I grabbed dumblittleman.com with no idea what I’d even write. I owe a lot to Darren.
- Widgets and other garbage:A blog is about your readers, it’s not about you. Everything you add to your site should be added only if the readers benefit. To this day I cringe when I see blogs with 19 badges indicating what groups they are part of, or where they are ranked on irrelevant rating sites. Who cares? How does that benefit the people visiting your site? In fact, take a look at this list of popular blogs and tell me if you see any goofy badges. Sorry, this one annoys me.
- Marketing:When I first started Dumb Little Man, I tried everything out there. I submitted my site to everyone that would take it. I even used Blog Explosion that offers you one visitor for every blog you visit. Guess what, it’s all a 100% waste of time. Submit your blog to Google, Yahoo, and MSN. That’s it. It’s not going to hurt you to crazily submit your URL to everyone else, but I just haven’t seen the benefit. All of the smaller search engines feed off those main 3 so spending time and money on some master plan is kind of worthless. Good content and good keywords, as we’ll discuss, will do all you need.
- Keywords: When you give your posts a title, use really broad words. For example, when I wrote a post on making money blogging, I didn’t title the post “How to make money with your blog”. I used, “Ways to Make Money on the Internet“. Part two was also “Ways to Make Money on the Internet“. You see, each of those posts contained the word “blog” or “blogging” in the body so by broadening the title to “online” or “on the internet” I grabbed more visitors. To this day – some 6 months later – I still get tons of visitors from search engines based on this post. What you have to do is think of phrases that people would enter into search engines, not what you think sounds pretty.
- Commenting:You know, I have probably made 20 comments on blogs in my life and DLM still did pretty well. While this may be important for real deep niches, I personally never saw a lot of value here. In fact, I found it wasted time since you’re inclined to go back to the original blog and see who responded, engage in conversation, etc. Forget it. Use that time for content creation.
- Domains: I mentioned earlier that I started DLM at dumblittleman.com. We did well but at some point, I just didn’t like it. I moved the site to dumblittleman.com and we lost about 800 inbound links. Due to my setup, most redirected but the thorn in my side, even to this day, is that instead of the meaningless site named Technorati ranking us at 100, we’re at 900. In the big scheme of things this means nothing, but I am a stat junkie. Do yourself a favor and get a real domain as soon as possible.
- Ads:Keeping with the spirit of, “Your blog is about your readers”, there is nothing I hate more than blogs that use pop-up ads or have ads contained in the content. If you are already doing this, realize there are people like me that will never link to you or subscribe to your feed. I want to read your content and I shouldn’t have to run through an obstacle course to get there. If a sidebar ad appeals to me, I’ll click, but don’t dilute your content by adding advertisements in the middle of your post or making me scroll down to get past all the ads.
- I have no readers and I’ll prove it. Just read this post. In short, don’t show that you have 2 subscribers.
- Making Money:If your goal is to increase your cash flow, be prepared to be patient. In the first month DLM made $0.87. The next month it was $12, the next month it was $46. Today, it’s significantly higher. The key is to understand that nothing happens overnight and that it it may take at least 6 months of quality writing before you see any meaningful increase. Stay the course no matter what. If you are blogging about you cat, skip this because the monetary future looks bleak.
- Your archives: On all of your blog pages you have to give readers a simple way to access your archives. If you are not pushing people to your past content, you are losing the inherent value that it holds. Regardless of the platform you are using, do something to get old content on your site in a compelling way.
- Linking: I don’t care where you come from, what sports you played, or how good you think you are. If some element of your site is not linking to other blogs within your niche, you are being foolish. Blogging is all about sharing information and starting a larger conversation. The second you take a competitive stance, you are cooked. When you link to other like-minded blogs you are essentially telling them that you exist and that you are part of the conversation. Lifehack.org and Lifehacker could be considered DLM competitors but in the blog world, we all share information and constantly link to one another.
- Credits:On a daily basis I am irritated by the number of starter blogs that seem to think it’s OK to copy entire posts from DLM and paste them to their blog. If you have any inkling of being successful, you will not do this. First, it’s a proven fact that duplicated content hurts the copier in search ratings. Second, there is no way I will ever consider anything you say as legitimate; you are a fraud. Do not copy posts from other blogs!
- Protection from Copiers: If you have time, Copyscape will help you search the internet for anything that contains the same words that you have in your post; I use them all the time. Second, make sure your posts contain some link back to your site. Many times these content thieves don’t change links so you will see their post in Technorati.
- Stats: Checking stats on Sitemeter is certainly not a good use of time. But you know what, it motivates me and to be honest I still check stats 10 times each day. No, it’s not going to change anything or make DLM more popular, but I get some personal satisfaction out of seeing where readers come from and what they are interested in. If it motivates you, do it (although other experts will tell you not to).
- The Business:Regardless of what you may think, if you are not blogging about your kids or your cats, your blog will become your little business. Read this post that I wrote a while back to learn about what you can expect from your venture. It took a large check one month to finally convince my wife that this site was real!
- Grammar:It’s something we love to hate. My grammar is terrible and I admit it. I try to abide by the grammar police but it’s pretty tough. Although you don’t have to be perfect, you really need to know the basics.
- Images:If you grab a picture from Flickr, make sure you give credit to the photographer. If you look at DLM, our images always link to the Flickr page and provide a caption indicating who took the photo. It’s simply good business.
- Don’t post after dinner:Back to money for a second. If you use any form of pay-per-click ads on your site (AdSense, Yahoo, etc), I have found that posting after dinner time (6PM PST) results in poor paying ads. This is because advertisers reset their clocks at midnight and thus, the daily ad budgets reset. Therefore, posting at night allows your visitors to read your new content while low paying PPC ads are displayed after big spenders’ ad budgets have been depleted. By posting in the morning, you get ads generated by advertisers with full daily budgets. Trust me, I have thoroughly tracked this and posts published in the morning are much more profitable.
If you have some other tips that have worked for you, let us all know in the comments. This is one big learning experience.