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10 Things I Wish I Had Known About Blogging

Self-Portrait, Ottawa, April 2012

Last Fri­day, I pub­lished my 900th arti­cle. I only real­ized it after­wards: I don’t pay atten­tion to num­bers and I was really annoyed with our famous Cana­dian weather that day!

When I typed my first post on Blog­ger in Novem­ber 2006, I had now idea I would still be writ­ing today. It was a spur-of-the-moment deci­sion, mostly moti­vated by bore­dom and cul­ture shock. And six years later, I’m still there, still enjoy­ing blog­ging. Funny, isn’t it?

So in hon­our of this 900th arti­cle, here are 10 things I wish I had known about blogging.

Blog­ging is time-consuming I’m lucky to rarely expe­ri­ence writer’s block. Yet, blog­ging takes much more time than I would have thought at first. Find­ing ideas for arti­cles, tak­ing pic­tures, doing some research , edit­ing and proof­read­ing arti­cles, upload­ing pic­tures, reply­ing to com­ments etc. is a lot of work. Most writ­ers develop some kind of rou­tine (such as sched­ul­ing arti­cles) but while it helps, blog­ging remains a time-consuming activ­ity if you want to be seri­ous and consistent.

Blog­gers will develop good mar­ket­ing skills Most peo­ple don’t blog for themselves—they want to be read. And con­sid­er­ing the num­ber of blogs around, find­ing an audi­ence and build­ing a com­mu­nity is almost a full-time job. There are dif­fer­ent ways to drive traf­fic to your blog but all include some kind of mar­ket­ing skills. You could pro­mote your blog on social media, par­tic­i­pate in blog car­ni­vals or sim­ply leave mean­ing­ful com­ments on other blogs you enjoy read­ing but what­ever you do, you have to be your own advertiser!

… and good tech­ni­cal skills Those who are on Blog­ger or WordPress.com don’t have to worry much about the tech­ni­cal side of their blogs. But those who, like me, have a self-hosted Word­Press blog fear each major ver­sion update. Updat­ing the core of your blog can be tricky, and that you could be stuck try­ing to deci­pher cryp­tic error mes­sages to put your blog back online. Besides, these days, a lot of blog­gers want to stick out and express their cre­ativ­ity. Even if you use a theme or a tem­plate, there are parts of your blog you may want to tweak. And for that, you will have to edit the CSS or know some basic HTML!

Blog­ging isn’t always free In 2007, I chose to leave Blog­ger, a free ser­vice, to use Word­Press, a self-hosted blog­ging tool. It was a per­sonal choice I don’t regret, as Word­Press offers a lot of flex­i­bil­ity. But this choice had a price: I had to buy a domain name and pay for web host­ing. The total cost is rea­son­able (about $100 per year) but it was still an invest­ment at the time.

… but these blogging-related fees can be paid eas­ily For­tu­nately, I quickly real­ized these blog­ging fees could be paid fairly eas­ily if I was will­ing to com­pro­mise on my “no adver­tis­ing” pol­icy. When I started blog­ging, I didn’t want to dis­play any kind of ads. I changed my mind when blog­ging became time-consuming, when I started answer­ing a lot of ques­tions about Canada and when I had to pay for my host­ing fees. Today, I make a lit­tle bit of money every month with Google Adsense, Text Link Ads and the pic­tures I sell in the Shop.

Com­mu­ni­ca­tion is the key I’m a firm believer that blog­ging is all about com­mu­ni­cat­ing, and that blog­gers should have some con­tact info avail­able and/or a com­ment sec­tion. I per­son­ally stay away from blogs that make com­ment­ing dif­fi­cult (i.e. ask­ing peo­ple to reg­is­ter to com­ment). Not all com­ments are deep and mean­ing­ful (includ­ing mine!) but keep­ing the com­mu­ni­ca­tion open does won­ders for the com­mu­nity, and you can learn a lot from those who take the time to leave a comment.

Blog­gers do receive weird requests The down­side of invit­ing peo­ple to con­tact you or to leave a com­ment is that you will get strange requests. Just today, I had three of those by email. The first per­son wanted me to help him pro­mote his vol­ley­ball tour­na­ment (why me? Why? I never ever men­tioned vol­ley­ball on that blog!). The sec­ond one asked me to pro­mote a new web­site about Greece (lovely coun­try, noth­ing to do with Canada though!). The third request was three lines in Span­ish from a reader in Colom­bia who wanted me to spon­sor her entire fam­ily (no “hello”, no “please” and no “thank you”). I put up a FAQ page with some guide­lines regard­ing ques­tions but it doesn’t seem to deter weird peo­ple. Oh well.

Fight­ing spam­mers and scam­mers is annoy­ing Another blog­ging annoy­ance is those bloody spam­mers. You don’t real­ize how much of a pain they are until you reach 139,345 spam com­ments for 14,583 real com­ments (the lat­est stats avail­able on this blog). For­tu­nately, Akismet blocks most if not all of them. As for scam­mers, you will get peo­ple steal­ing your pic­tures, your blog arti­cles, your entire blog… just be pre­pare to deal with that.

There is such a thing as blog­ging eti­quette The first steps of a new blog­ger online can be daunt­ing but most peo­ple are more than will­ing to help if you are will­ing to respect the eti­quette!

Don’t blog because “you have to” — Blog­ging is some­thing you should do because you enjoy it. If you don’t any­more, then there is no point in forc­ing your­self. Read­ers will feel your lack of inter­est. Some­times, it’s bet­ter to take a break or post less often than to fill the gaps with poorly-written articles.

Any tip you’d like to add?

20 comments

  1. Yes, blog­ging can be time con­sum­ing – that’s why I had to cut back on the num­ber of posts per week. When sit­ting at the com­puter to write (i.e. work) it was so tempt­ing to just “take a few min­utes” and check out other blogs, leave com­ments, etc. And then I was a goner… You must be dis­ci­plined with your time if you blog.
    But blog­ging can be so worth­while. I’ve met so won­der­ful peo­ple this way – includ­ing you!

    • Thank you! Yes, I find blog­ging to be a worth­while invest­ment of both time and money. And I’m glad I found your blog!

  2. Blog­ging can be addic­tive. Be warned!

  3. I agree! Blog­ging is way more time con­sum­ing than I thought at the begin­ning… but when you’re into it, time flies really quickly. I think spe­cially for us the non native speak­ers blog­ging is a real chal­lenge. There will always be some days were I just can’t find the words to express myself — those days I usu­ally just put the com­puter aside and do some­thing else. After all, blog­ging is a hobby — not an obligation!

    Oh and con­grats to your 901 post! :)

    • I com­pletely know what you mean, although I write faster in Eng­lish than I do in French now. But still, I have to proof myself more care­fully in Eng­lish than in French!

  4. Your arti­cle made me check my posts num­ber: I’ve only writ­ten 178 arti­cles since late 2006, I’m obvi­ously not as pro­lific as you are!
    Here’s one con­clu­sion : I need to travel more and I need to pho­to­graph my city to be able to have some­thing to talk about. Now, I’ve got to find more time obviously…

    • The num­ber of arti­cles doesn’t mean that much to be hon­est. I’d rather read longer arti­cles that are well writ­ten than short posts that are basi­cally repost or adver­tis­ing. I like your blog though, and I’d love if you could write more!

  5. Hi Zhu Zhu,

    Happy 900th post!

    6 years blog­ging? Spec­tac­u­lar. I started blog­ging 5 years ago and I never thought I’d still be here today as well…time flies by, right? I am glad though that our paths crossed :D.

    (…) and you can learn a lot from those who take the time to leave a comment.”

    True. And I per­son­ally can say that that is my favourite part of blogging.

    I must tweet this post: awesome!

    Chee­rio

    • Five years ago eh… I think I caught you when you started then, because I think I’ve been fol­low­ing you for about five years!

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