I have been thinking about this a little recently. The reason being that once you start something, changing direction can be difficult. For example, I started my blog under the premise of starting a company. Then when I started the company I started a new blog directly for that. For some reason, probably because people were still reading it, I kept this blog moving. In other words, this is it. I will have this blog indefinitely. The graphics and layout will change and the content that I add will change. One day in the future I could quite possibly be talking about what to do about a daughter’s boyfriends. That however, is not in the foreseeable future.
There are a few concrete things I would do differently if I was to start over again.
- Set a mild to moderately focused theme. Talking about engineering, then running, then socializing, while very descriptive of my life, does not convey a clear sense of purpose. It would be better for the blog if the scope of topics was smaller and the depth great.
- A couple weeks of content ready to go. I would not publish it all at the same time. Simply one post the first day, another on the second and so on at a frequency that is what you plan to maintain or slightly higher than you plan to maintain for the life of the blog. For example, I typically post 4-5 times per week. The first two weeks I might do 5-6 articles to get people interested and have some content for the search engines to start combing through.
- Generate some buzz with the first few articles. Tell your Facebook friends, Twitter friends, and even people in person about this awesome thing you started. Nearly a dozen of my friends have started blogs, but so often after a couple weeks or months it fades away. Or there is only one new article a month, which is okay, but kind of depends on the scope of the blog as to it’s impact.
- Design it to look great and have all relevant information accessible. I really like the design of my blog now. However it went through a couple cumbersome renditions. Overall it is quite simple to navigate. I especially like the labels and blog archive features. They seem to link to relevant articles or different times in my life which give context to the other articles.
There are also a few suggestions I have for people setting out on the path to self publishing.
- Once you start, keep going! It is not always easy to write about your topic or topics, but for the sake of the whole truth please write during the hard times as well.
- Develop a style. The Internet is a strange place and really there are few rules. You could start a blog about your college experience, or quest to run the Boston Marathon, and when the goal was accomplished and you wrote a couple epilogue articles, end contributing to the blog. I suppose what I am suggesting is that the blog have a plot line that builds over time with some sort of climax. Although, Seth Godin, from what I can tell, has no long running theme aside from marketing/sales/business to his blog and it’s the most popular in the world. In other words you do not need to read any of his posts to understand any of his other posts. I prefer on the other hand stories that build and continue that take a long time to tell. I know that some of my posts if read alone would not make much sense, but as a whole, the message is more complete. In other words, decide on the way you will tell the story or types of stories that you would like to tell.
- Include pictures, graphics and videos when possible. I realize that I publish words in far more abundance than I do pictures, charts and videos. Yet visual images convey strong messages.
There you have it, four suggestions to do when you start a blog or website and three as you build and maintain it.