I had a previous blog, now defunct, that I toyed with periodically for over seven years. It wasn’t a success, but then again it was never really meant to be. It was an experiment. An experiment that taught me a lot about what not to do, mostly. There are many lessons to learn in failure if one is willing to put ego aside and consider past missteps objectively. I’ve never really been shy about evaluating my own failings so after much consideration here are the three main areas in which I think I went wrong during my first blogging adventure:
Why was I blogging? Was the blog meant to be a promotional tool for my work in progress? A confessional about how hard it is to write and publish a book? An online diary of my daily struggles? A commentary on current affairs? In retrospect, my first blog was a mash up of all the above. I guess if I had to define my strategy I had initially thought that a blog would be a great way to attract readers, an author platform if you will. I’m sure you can probably already see the glaring flaw in my logic. If I had no strategy, how was I to be sure I was attracting the right readers? Specifically, the type of readers that would be willing to read my book once completed.
As it happened I did attract some readers. Who there were or why there landed on my site I’ll never know because I never took the time to figure it out. More on that point later.
I blogged when I felt like it, ignored it when I didn’t (or got too busy in the “real world”). In addition to a lack of overall strategy there was no regularity upon which a reader could expect a new post. I could go months without posting when suddenly six posts would appear in a three-week period. Not great for my readers and not conducive to developing a consistent writing practice and content generation scheme.
The fact that I separated my blog from “the real world” is also evidence of my lack of commitment. The blog was a hobby, and a sporadic, part-time hobby at best. It’s not really a mystery why it never gained sustainable traction.
No Metrics for Success
Despite my stumbling around in the virtual dark I did manage to attract some readers. Quite a few of them in fact but statistics can be deceiving, especially when you don’t understand what the data may be saying. For example, I would occasionally get huge spikes in hits on my blog on a given day without any new content. I never understood what drove this behavior. I had visitors, even quite a few repeat visitors, that appeared to read much of my content. Yet, over a seven-year period not one person ever liked a post, commented, or signed up to receive e-mail updates. Finally, and perhaps most perplexing, one post got approximately 74,000 +1’s from Google Plus. Was that post really that good or was that result simply a quirk in the dataset? I’ll never know because I never took the time to really understand the analytics of the blog.
I’m not foolish to think I’ve uncovered the secret to blogging success, or that I won’t repeat my past mistakes. However, I am interested to see how improvements in these three key areas may impact my blogging effectiveness. If nothing else, I’m sure more lessons await.