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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?

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