This blog turned seven years old on Thursday.
It began on April 18, 2006 with a poorly-optimized and completely forgettable blog post that I titled not after a U2 song, but after a Rolling Stones song: Start Me Up.
That same day, I posted a second article — about the blogroll I used to maintain. Another lame blog post. In fact, if you want to see the lamest blog launch in publishing history, just look at the eight articles I posted in April 2006. You’ll see a guy who knew he was talking to a brick wall.
I’d like to think that things have gotten a little better since then and, even though I’ve never done a birthday blog post before, I felt compelled this year. This was supposed to post on the 18th — Thursday — but the events in Boston kept me glued to the television and I didn’t finish it. So, seven years and two days later, here are seven things I’ve learned from seven years of blogging.*
What 7 Years of Blogging Has Taught Me
1.) Blogging is hard.
My friend Ed Reese has made this line one of his mottos, and he’s right. It’s tough. It’s tough getting started (what do I write about?) … it’s tough to attract comments and conversation (you won’t get any for 6-12 months) … it’s tough to keep a blog going for years (what else is there to write about?) … it’s just tough.
(By the way, I was raised on this motto: Nothing worthwhile in life ever comes easy. Blogging can be very worthwhile.)
When I speak to small business owners about the benefits of blogging, I make sure to emphasize that blogging is a serious commitment — and that it’s okay to say “we’re not quite ready right now.”
2.) There’s no substitute for passion.
I’ve been writing about small business marketing now for seven years. I can’t imagine keeping a blog alive that long if I didn’t love the topic.
I had a blog about pro and college sports teams in the Pacific Northwest. I love pro and college sports, but didn’t have the passion to keep that blogging going for seven years.
I had a blog about hyperlocal blogging that stayed alive for about two years before the passion ran out.
I’ve shut down many blogs over the years; the ones that are still alive are the ones where my passion is.
3.) Inspiration comes in cycles.
You will have weeks and months where you have more ideas to write about than time in the day, and other weeks and months when you have no idea what to write about whatsoever.
You must … must … find a way to collect and save all of your ideas, even if it’s just a great headline that comes to mind, a sentence, an analogy, whatever. You’ll need these ideas eventually. (A lot of folks use editorial calendars for storing ideas and scheduling posts. I also just store a lot of ideas as drafts in WordPress.)
4.) Nobody’s gonna read your blog for a couple months.
Remember those lame posts I did early on? No big deal. No one knew about my blog. No one was reading. Unless you’re planning some huge press junket to announce that you’ve launched a blog for your small business, no one’s gonna read your blog at first, either. You’ll be talking to an empty classroom.
So just write and publish and develop a habit that will last. That’s what counts the most in the beginning. Don’t add pressure on yourself by thinking anyone will read what you post on day one. There’s no pressure there. But there is pressure in the next lesson…
5.) Trying to make money adds pressure.
I think the first time I put ads on this blog, it was affiliate ads for a site that offered free business magazines. Then I think I put Google ads on the site. Neither amounted to more than lunch money, but earning a buck was never the point.
Then when more people discovered this blog, companies started wanting to advertise. I decided to accept ads probably 3-4 years ago and it’s been extremely educational to play the role of a publisher with advertisers.
One of the main lessons I’ve learned is that you can’t stop blogging because you’re tired or out of ideas — not when you have advertiser(s) that are paying for visibility and expecting your blog to send them traffic.
Since I find myself with less time for blogging, I won’t be accepting paid ads on this blog when the current advertiser — Local Market Launch — contract ends in a couple months. I’ll switch to Google ads, in all likelihood. Because I can’t promise future advertisers that my blogging will be consistent enough to make ads worth their while.
6.) Always remember who you’re writing for.
This is really important to me. I sometimes write articles that my SEO/marketing peers criticize as too basic, too simple or too repetitive. They’ve been reading SEO blogs for years and they bitch on Twitter or somewhere else about seeing basic or regurgitated content on so many blogs, and there’s nothing new out there, and life sucks, and stop blogging if you don’t have anything new to say, yadda-yadda-yadda … and I just want to tell them:
In seven years, I haven’t written a single word for you.
This blog is for small business owners. Nobody else. If that’s you, you’re my audience. Thank you.
I’m surrounded by small business owners: my wife, sister, and most of my friends have their own businesses. I speak with small business owners when I go do Local U workshops. I speak with them when I attend local events a few times every year, and when I go to real estate gatherings with my wife.
I write what I think small business owners should read, not what the SEO industry is looking for. And sometimes it may seem basic or repetitive to someone who’s been doing SEO for a couple years, but it’s not repetitive or boring to the people I’m writing for.
When you know your audience, you’ll find it easier to come up with things to write about. So before you start, decide who you’re writing for. And never forget.
7.) Blogging is great.
The process of taking something from idea to article, creating something that helps others (while it also helps you build trust and authority) is an absolute joy once you get the hang of it. And if you don’t quit too soon, you will get the hang of it. In less than seven years.
And you’ll love it. Trust me. I speak from experience.
* I’ve actually been blogging for more than seven years. My first blog — the one about sports — was launched in 2004.
(Stock images via Shutterstock.com. Used under license.)