What I Learned in the First Year of Blogging

If you have to choose between reading this and Jamey Stegmaier’s guide to brilliant blogging, read Jamey’s.

Don’t Repeat My Mistakes

It’s really hard to maintain a good blog.

That’s the most important thing I learned  in my first year of writing Sheldon’s Software (formerly known as “Startup Helium”). Some days are wonderful, some days are rough, but the underlying theme is the effort.

In any case, I’ve realized other tidbits, too:

  • It’s not a popularity contest.
  • It’s not about the money.
  • Making (bad) content is easy, making good content is tough.
  • Getting visitors is more about marketing than content.

It’s not a popularity contest

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Blogging isn’t about winning awards.

Blogging is about the impact you have on your readers, not whether you have one or a million.

The most realistic scenario is that very few people will read your blog. You’re competing against millions of other blogs for your reader’s attention, as well as every other form of media: radio, TV, professional news sites, Facebook, Twitter, heck, even Snapchat.

The most realistic scenario also involves your blog not getting many comments. When was the last time you commented on a blog? Don’t take silence as disapproval.

Instead of trying to reach as many people as possible, I try to focus on answering a specific question for a specific persona. I ask, “What insight can I provide that no one else can?” Though I’m interested in startups, I’m not an expert entrepreneur, so I stepped away from writing too heavily about them. However, I’ve been through three software internships, so I started a series on how to get a CS internship.

It’s not about the money

Another point: why do you want visitors, anyway? If it’s for money, you’re not going to get rich quick. I have never earned a single penny from this website–I don’t even receive the ad revenue. In fact, I lose money by paying for the domain every year.

Of course, I was never aiming to make money from Sheldon’s Software. And money shouldn’t be the driving force behind your blog, either. However, I hoped that my blog would attract an audience that could help launch some venture in the future. I’ve since realized that I need a venture first!

Making (bad) content is easy, making good content is tough

Writing excellent entries takes time. I could post something every day, but it probably wouldn’t be very useful.

Some of my first posts were poorly written. There was a period when I tried to publish twice a week, and that turned out terribly.

I learned from my earlier entries, and now I feel better releasing blog posts less often. I have to remind myself to obey The Boring Rule: If the writer is bored, the reader will be bored. It’s helped me keep my posts more concise.

Getting visitors is more about marketing than content

This section is heavily my opinion. You may disagree.

I feel that blogging is more about marketing than content. (Look at Buzzfeed.) There are those who say, “If you have good content, people will find it.” Like seasoned entrepreneurs have told me, you can’t rely on the product alone. You need marketing.

I can’t suggest how to drive more traffic to your blog. What I do is to try to make my posts worthwhile for that post’s specific audience, even if that audience is just a couple dozen computer science majors looking for an internship (a.k.a. a tiny group with specific questions).

Don’t Repeat My Mistakes (Again)

I’ll repeat myself: It’s really hard to maintain a good blog.

Running a blog is fun at times. Some days see wild success. Other times make you feel like you’re scaling a mountain with no peak.

If blogging’s on your mind, ask yourself, “Why do I write?” (or “Why do I want to write?”) It takes effort.

Make your effort worth it.

What have you learned from writing a blog?

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