Welcome to the first post of this series about my first year of blogging as a business. Today will talk about writing, which is the cornerstone of your blogging. You couldn’t really have a blog without constantly creating quality content. This is why writing is one of the most time consuming blogging activities. But is also one of the most rewarding, if you do it right.
The most important question, and also one of the most subtle factors in shaping your audience is: how often should I post? This is what I call posting speed.
When I started to blog in October last year, I set up a 15 posts / month posting speed. Seemed reasonable enough for my niche, which is personal development, and also comfortable for myself in terms of assigned time. That comes down to one post every other day. During the first few months, I was almost constantly over this speed, with around 18-20 posts per month.
But after the first 6 months something changed. I was comfortable with writing 15 posts per month so I thought it would be time to expand a little. To go for more. The increase my posting speed. And that took me by surprise. I decided to go for an experiment called massive guest posting. I will go into details about it a little later, but for now suffice to say it was implying writing an extra 7 posts in May. I was able to write those 7 posts, but I wasn’t able to keep up the speed in my own blog. So I ended May with only 8 posts in my blog and 7 guest posts at other blogs. Surprisingly enough, traffic wasn’t affected.
After May, I decided it’s time to slow down on my guest posts and get back to my regular routine. And so I did, until July, when I decided to write 2 more guest posts. This time everything went well, so I waited another month and in September I did another 2 guest posts. Those guest posts were smoothly inserted in my posting speed.
If I draw a line, my posting speed was constant during the first year. I wrote at least 15 posts each month. That makes more than 180 posts in a year, almost all of them over 1200 words each. Which is a lot. This adds up and creates a solid foundation. Something you can build upon.
If you’re going to have more visitors, at some point they’ll want to read more of you. And you don’t want to have just a dozen of beautiful posts and then nothing. Or at least I don’t want that. I do have something to say and I also created the discipline to say it.
First lesson: start slow when trying to increase posting speed. Don’t try to grow faster than you can. Expanding too much without careful planning will most likely break your current posting speed.
First benefit: keeping a stable posting speed is crucial. Although your traffic won’t be hurt if you screw it one month, it’s compulsory to get back on track as fast as you can. Posting speed is not about the traffic you get, but more about your commitment to your blog (or business). Outside symptoms won’t alert you immediately and it may take several weeks until your traffic will really go down, but you got to have internal mechanisms which will put you back on your best speed ASAP, before this will actually happen.
Now, about the real guest posting. This first year I had 4 guest posts, as I already told you, grouped in July and September, respectively. Writing guest posts was fun but I have to admit it took longer than my usual posts. Here are some reasons:
- I tried to fit into the host policy. Some hosts are suggesting that you write a maximum number of words and others are being strict on their topics. Sticking with this guidelines is sometimes cumbersome.
- I was a little bit nervous, somehow like visiting somebody I didn’t know for the first time. I was very careful with my words, trying to make a good impression. Guest posts went out a little bit too serious because of that.
- I was a little bit too much of a censor, meaning once I finished a blog post I waited a few days and then read it again. If it sounded ugly, I started to refactor.
Other than that writing guest posts was fun and inspiring and I will certainly do more of that in the next year.
Lesson: guest posts need a different approach then usual posts and requires more energy, focus and time than your own blog posts.
Benefits: I got a few new readers every time I landed my guest posts on a new blog. Met some interesting people and engaged in nice conversations. I also got quality links from quality blogs and that certainly helped my rankings.
Massive Guest Posting
During May I did an experiment. It was called Massive Guest Posting and as far as I know it was an Internet first. Basically, all I did was to publish a post about The 7 Ages Of A Business. But then I thought it would be nice to write a follow-up in which I will write in more details about each age. And then I thought it would be even nicer to have those follow-up posts as guest posts on other blogs. And then, of course, I thought it would be really awesome to have the follow-up posts published at the same time on all 7 hosts.
Easier said than done, of course, but a great idea. I had an immense fun doing it and I have to confess the whole thing was a huge success. You can see how this turned out once you click the link above. Several things emerged out of this:
- Massive Guest Posting is a fantastic tool for networking. I connected to a lot of quality bloggers and created long lasting relationships.
- On top of what I wrote about guest posts above, when you create a Massive Guest Post project you have to keep in mind a coherence between all the guest posts. Which can be pretty challenging, knowing that each blog has its own personality, preferred topics and established readers.
- After a Massive Guest Post you’ll end up with the same benefits as for guest posting, only multiplied by 7 (or the number of blogs you will pitch).
Lesson: there is always room for innovation. This experiment was a first on the Internet and it was a success.
Benefits: a lot of traffic coming from the host blogs, great relationships with the blog owners and many inbound links. Not to mention the ninja writing skills I ended up with after the whole thing was done.
This is a blogging tool, in the form of a wordpress plugin. I wrote it because I needed something to monitor my progress as a blogger. I still use it constantly and although it’s one of the simplest wordpress plugins out there it proves to be really helpful.
With blog audit you can set up blogging goals in the following areas: posting speed, comments density and pingback volume. Those are actually blog metrics, which will help you assess your current blogging performance. I set up my posting speed, for instance, in blog audit, and I was constantly monitoring it. If you’re meeting your goal, the numbers are colored in green, if you’re under your goal, the numbers are colored in red. I was so happy when my blog audit page started to be greener than a Greenpeace activist. Besides is statistic function, blog audit is also a little bit of a motivator. Don’t know if you’re going to find the “struggle for green” motivating, but for me it surely was. And still is.
Lesson: you need tools if you want performance. The same way you can’t really chop a tree with your bare hands, you can’t expect to become better and better without using tools.
Benefits: I started to have a much better understanding of what’s happening in my blog. I can see how comments density is changing or how the pingback volume is increasing or decreasing. I can adjust my strategy and move forward.
I decided to write a special paragraph about list posts here, because there is quite a polarized attitude towards them. On one road, people who are nuts about list posts, thinking they are a by-product of the information age, and on the opposite road people who are hating the guts out of list posts, thinking they are here to make us even dumber than we are.
I won’t chose my road yet. I will just give you the information. I wrote 4 list posts in the last few weeks and all I say is that the traffic was sky-rocketing. And I mean it. All the posts got featured on almost every social media website, from reddit to delicious or hackernews. I ended up with a lot of recurring visitors and subscribers.
If you’re curious about the lists posts, take a look at them here:
There was a tremendous learning going on, from the early moments of getting on the home page of a major social website, up to several weeks after publishing the blog post. All I can say is that the posts are still retweeted at this moment, although some of them are older than a month.
Lesson: adjust your message to your audience. Keep in mind you’re writing for your readers first and find a way to get into their cone of interest.
Benefits: by far the most sudden traffic surge I ever experienced. Huge number of visitors, increasing subscribers with 50% and a lot of new relationships opportunities (especially on Twitter, where I can actually start a conversation with people who are retweeting my content).
My E-Book: 30 Sentences For A Millionaire Mindset
Writing an ebook was a fantastic experience. It was so fun writing my first one, that sooner than I realized I wake up with more than 4 books already cooking so hopefully by the end of the year I’ll have at least another one out. Writing the book took several weeks and it was a rather difficult process. Writing blog posts is one thing but keeping your focus on something that is 90+ pages long is a totally different deal.
The book is about a millionaire mindset and it’s based on a series of posts I wrote one year ago. It was interesting to see that one year ago I was struggling to write a list post with 30 items (the sentences, that is), broken down into 3 separate blog posts, and now I can write a 100 list post in less than 2 days.
Another huge surprise was that the book really sells and the whole process is actually working. I’m still not shamelessly rich out if it, but I sold copies to people I never heard about. Which is something that amazes me, to be honest. If you want to know more about the book, click on the link above.
Lesson: you can monetize a blog in a much more direct and profitable way than by using contextual or display advertising. Now I have real proof that writing something valuable actually sells.
Benefits: I will not mention the experience I accumulated by writing an ebook, this is something obvious, I guess, but I will take into account the fact that I actually earn money out of this product. Not only I make money out of it, but I can also help others making money, through an affiliate program.
No, it’s not about writer’s block. I don’t have something like this and never had. You can put me in front of a computer, with nothing around me and I can keep writing for hours. It’s about something related to my market choice. I write in English for an English speaking market. For those of you who don’t know me, I’m Romanian and English is my second language. Or, to be honest, it’s my fourth language. I learned French in university and Russian in college. And I never had an English lesson in my life. That’s making English my fourth language.
One of my 2009 goals was to drastically improve my English skills. I’m making progress but not as fast as I want. One of the reasons I chose to have a constant posting speed, a part from keeping the blog afloat, was to practice my English skills more often. Other than writing constantly on my blog and reading other blogs I don’t do much to improve my English. Yet. There are a few months left from 2009, right?
Lesson: if you want to penetrate a new market, be sure to learn its language first.
That’s it for the writing part of my first year of blogging as a business. Would love to hear your thoughts about it in the comments.