200 Blogs and 3 Things I've Learned
For many of us, 2020 hasn't been a great year, but I do have something to celebrate today - this is my 200th blog! I may even raise a cold IPA to celebrate this afternoon.
I wrote my first blog in May 2016. I remember writing it on a rainy spring morning in a McDonalds on the southside of Edmonton as I waited for my wife, who was at an appointment. Most have been written in my home office since then, but many have been written in on planes and buses and in hotels, restaurants and coffee shops.
I've learned a lot about blog writing and here are my three biggest takeaways from 200 blogs.
#1. It Ain't Easy
After writing 200 of them I’ve learned it really doesn’t get any easier. Yes, there are some corners that can get cut, but writing a blog is hard work. It’s not hard like digging ditches, but you know what I mean.
First you need an idea about what you’ll write about. I do a weekly blog, so I need one every week and sometimes it’s just not there. Even if you do decide “Hey this would be a great blog topic for me”, there’s normally some research that needs to be done. It can’t all be opinion. It needs to be based on something, so stats and details become important.
Then there’s obviously the writing. For me that’s the easy part because I’ve written in different formats for around 45 years. I know I’m different than many others because I’ve been told how difficult it is for many people to write. If you’re not a good writer, then don’t try writing a blog. Spend your time doing something else.
Next up for me is doing more or less a copy and paste onto a blog template on my website. I have been fortunate to work with Mediashaker in Edmonton for around 20 years, and the people there created both a blog template for me to use and a page on my website where all the blogs can be stored and sorted by topic. Every blog I’ve written is there, 24 to a page.
Doing a copy and paste makes what happens sound way too easy. Sometimes getting it to look right on the page, along with an image, SEO tags, and links to various pages and videos takes longer than writing the piece.
It doesn’t end there. I need to work on a teaser of the blog to send to my mailing list. You can sign up to get the blog emailed to you every week. The teaser email is sent at 9:00am on the day the blog is released and then I work on my first social media posts around an hour later.
I gain readership for the blog through my social media accounts, which not only means creating social media posts, but also creating thumbnail images to attract attention to the posts.
#2. Use Technology
I’m likely far more hands on than I should be in doing my blog, but I think it makes a difference. Some people use companies to post their blog on their social media accounts, but I’m too cheap for that.
I have found using a few online tools really helps. I mentioned sending the blog to my mailing list and I use the free version of Mail Chimp.
I use Adobe Spark for creating graphics. I pay a monthly fee to use it, but I also use it for other purposes such as external clients, my website and other social media needs, so it’s well used.
I also use Buffer for creating and scheduling social media posts when I’m not able to. When I’m working in my home office I like to create the posts “live”, but that’s not always possible, especially when I am busy training or speaking (or golfing).
Finally, I use Google Analytics to track the number of reads the blog is getting, where readers are coming from, along with a number of other factors. It’s important to track numbers to find out what’s working and what isn’t.
#3. Develop Thick Skin
I’d love to tell you that every blog is a hit and gets huge readership, comments, and social media shares, but that would be a lie.
There have been some good ones that have gone viral and attracted thousands of readers, but there have been more that just basically sat there and did nothing. Writing about something in the news that’s controversial certainly helps, but I’m not writing the blog just to get read. I’m trying to write about topics I know and can add something to the discussion.
Self-help blogs on how to prepare for a media interview, as an example, may interest some people, but aren’t going to get huge numbers, or be shared that much. That’s just the nature of the beast.
It’s great to get feedback from people and quite frankly I haven’t had to put up with many nasty comments. People have been far more positive than negative, which I really appreciate.
Some blogs and have great and I’ve been very proud of them. Others not so much.
As the Tragically Hip sang “It can’t be Nashville every night.”
Check All 200 Blogs Out
Ok, reading 200 blogs may be a bit much, but if you want to read any of my blogs, they're all on the Blog page of my website and you can sort them by topic to quickly find the ones you're looking for.
#4 be consistent.
Congratulations Grant! 200!! I write a monthly column and I find that hard to come up with an idea each time and to say something relevant. I may not always comment, but I truly appreciate your weekly advice.
Thank you. In some ways, writing once a month can be more difficult because you're not in a routine of writing. I have found there are positives and negatives to all timeframes.
Well done Grant!...and Congrats on 200!! Keep up the great work!