Since October 2011, I’ve blogged at a rate of almost exactly one post a week. ((228 posts in 218 weeks)) The past few years, that’s meant a post every Tuesday.
Why do I do this? It takes gobs of time and I’d be hard-pressed to show you a single dollar I’ve directly earned from my blog. Yet here I am: another Tuesday, another blog post.
While there are plenty of ways people earn money directly from their blog, I’ve found the benefits of blogging have been many and diverse, justifying the time and effort
Clarify My Thinking
This blog is a place where I figure out how to talk about issues I wrestle with every day as part of my work. Even for the more rushed posts, writing out an idea is much more complex that just spewing a few hundred train-of-thought words. I always try to write for the web in short, clear, well-organized writing that conveys a specific idea. Multiply this by 200 and I’ve done a lot of great thinking, clarifying, and even changing of my mind.
It’s not all that uncommon for me to write something and realize I need to do more research to understand or confirm my claim. The value of that work is hard to quantify but undeniable.
One of the easiest ways to justify my blog’s existence is the fact that I reference and use it myself often.
I quickly realized when I started blogging that a post on my blog could be the canonical answer I provided to a client every time they ask about a certain topic. This saves a ton of time writing similar emails because instead I just send a link! Sometimes these posts are inspired by someone asking a question—like “Tips For Picking a Good WordPress Theme (Free or Paid)“—and other times I link to them frequently to explain a complex topic—like “SEO for Normal People.”
Just recently I presented about website accessibility for WordPress content editors at WordCamp Seattle 2015: Beginner Edition. While I still spent hours crafting my ideas and the information I wanted to present, I found that I had written blog posts about all four techniques I covered in the presentation:
- H1: Headings Are Important
- Think Before You Link
- It’s ALT Good: Alternative Text & Accessibility
- Why Contrast Matters
Better yet, I had written posts about how to talk about web accessibility that helped me with framing these issues to the audience:
- Making Accessibility Accessible
- Getting More People to Care More About Web Accessibility
- WebAIM’s Superb Hierarchy for Motivating Change
In some cases, I was able to use examples and images directly out of the posts, giving me time-tested approaches to explaining something. In many ways, that presentation felt like a culmination of all the writing on accessibility topics I’ve done in these last four years!
Keeping Social Media Active
I don’t regularly maintain my business’s Facebook or Google+ pages, but I want them to exist and not be abandoned. While I post custom tweets about each blog post to Twitter, I autopost from my blog to Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+ so that I at least have a marginally active presence on each site.
As a firm believer in the open source philosophy, when I solve a problem—particularly if I had to figure out the solution on my own—I want to share that with other people. For instance, one time I found a unique workflow for the TablePress plugin in WordPress. Since then, at least two people who commented have had that blog post be the last step before solving the same problem I ran into. That’s a great feeling!
In other instances, I’m the type of person that wants to share other really good articles and blog posts when I find them. My blog not only lets me share other articles but add my own two cents and draw connections between things that others might not see. Two of my favorite examples of link-driven posts (which generally write themselves) were on baseball and nonprofit passwords and CTRL + F (use it!)!
By writing about really specific topics, I’ve created posts that are extremely well optimized for certain keywords. I usually discover this after the fact when I look at my stats and discover a quick post I pounded out has become an opinion consulted by many people searching on a topic. Here are my top ranking posts this month, only one of which I wrote this year and none of which I expected would get much traffic:
- The Title Attribute and Why It’s Almost Useless
- The Email Address vs. Contact Form Debate
- No Justification: Don’t Use Right, Center, and Full Justification on the Web
- What are We To Do About Hover Drop Down Menus?
Over time, this has allowed Google to trust my site (many people stay and read the articles) and given other sites reason to link to mine. So now, I rank highly for the keywords I don’t care about and the keywords I do (think variations on “seattle nonprofit website design”).
How to Get Started Blogging
Two small promises to myself have made this all possible:
- I will blog every Tuesday unless there’s an emergency.
- A blog post is whatever I want it to be.
While this post is nearly 1000 words, others are just a few hundred. My posts can be videos, pictures, links, tweets, essays, slideshows, or whatever this was. That diversity keeps things interesting both for me and my audience and helps me get out posts when I don’t have a long thought to share.
I’m so glad I pushed myself to start blogging, and I don’t plan to stop any time soon.
If you blog, what “rules” help you keep blogging? If you don’t blog, what’s keeping you from starting?
2 thoughts on “The Benefits of Blogging & How to Start”
I just posted my first blog today. In transitioning time away from my rowing and education business interests, I like the opportunity to explore ideas and topics that still relate to rowing, but more from a physical therapy and rehabilitation perspective (my other business). Sure, there’s a little bit of professional branding I’m after, but it’s also – like you discussed – an opportunity to flesh out ideas. To make sure I get off to a good start with habitual blogging, I already have the next four topics lined up and primed for writing over the next four weeks.
Congrats on your entry into the world of blogging! It sounds like my post was perfectly timed :)
You’re really smart to have those posts ready to go early. One thing I didn’t mention was that I brainstormed 20+ topics before I committed myself to blogging and made myself write down three new potential topics every Friday for about a year. Now I just need to finish the 83 draft posts I have on my site!
There are so many different benefits to blogging, and being aware of them all helps me keep going. Writing this post was a helpful reminder to myself.