8 things I learned from my year-long daily blogging experiment

Edit: 14 June 2018: Link to blog post referred to in item 8 and its description removed due to subject of blog post being oversensitive and threatening to lawyer up.

It’s been a month since my last post and I’m only feeling slightly guilty about it. Having done a full year of daily posts, I feel like I earned a break even though in a way it might have been easier to continue; however, while the experiment got easier with time – predictably, I suppose – writing daily didn’t become a habit that I had to feed. Yes, there was a residual guilty feeling that I should have been blogging – comparable to the feeling I got after finishing my finals at university after a months of revision – but that wasn’t enough to make me carry on. I think, in part, because of my extreme stubbornness: in my mind, because I had set the parameters for the challenge and met my obligations, it would have been an insult to the idea that we have free will if I had carried on. I’m a giant idiot, I know.

Anyway, what did I learn from my stupid resolution/experiment?

  1. While I hate arbitrary targets, forcing myself to write every day gave a certain structure to the day and made me more mindful of what I’d read about or had done. Mindfulness is very trendy at the moment, isn’t it?
  2. Writing every day didn’t increase the quality of my writing, at least not in my view. I know there’s this idea that  writing’s like a muscle that needs to be exercised but sometimes the obligation to write something, anything, meant that any old crap would go up with little quality control.
  3. It’s good to let go of the quality control when you’re a perfectionist. Case in point: despite having had the latest concept for my food blog in my mind for two years now, I still haven’t put anything up because I want the first post to be perfect.
  4. Blogging every day made me tweet less. I’m pretty sure my tweet rate has shot up in the past month. I’m not entirely sure why that should be. I certainly kept reading Twitter because it was a source of ideas for what to blog about but I suppose in an odd way, I was saving up my words and energy for this blog rather than Twitter.
  5. Using song lyrics as blog post titles isn’t a good for SEO. Well, unless you think SEO is about generating as much traffic as possible without any regard to the quality of that traffic. (Ooh, that was a slightly passive-aggressive sentence directed at SEO ‘experts’. Ooh, and now I’ve compounded the passive-aggression by putting quote marks around ‘experts’.)
  6. I deliberately didn’t blog with any regard to SEO – I wasn’t doing this to generate more traffic for the blog – but the fact is my visitor count rose as time went on, so there is some sort of correlation between the amount of content on a site and the number of visits but in my specific case I believe the increased traffic was more along the lines of ‘throw enough crap at the wall and something will stick’ rather than through any considered effort. Obviously in my professional life I care more about quality than quantity but having both is ideal.
  7. If I were to re-do this as an experiment in SEO/content marketing, I’d write about or link to other blogs’ interesting but obscure stuff, hitting a sweet spot between something that’s interesting enough for a relatively sizeable audience that isn’t catered for on many other sites. Until a couple of months ago, the number one post here was George Orwell’s 11 golden rules for making the perfect cup of tea, which was a link post to another site. (In other words, the type of post that is the essence of the original spirit of blogging.)
  8. If I really wanted to chase hits, I would write about something that’s vexing a lot of people but, and here’s the crucial bit, I’d offer some practical advice. By far and away the most popular post on this blog is [redacted due to legal department of subject of the blog post threatening legal action – even though I don’t think they have a case, rather than get into a fight I don’t care about winning, I’ve just taken the post down – because that’s how the law works in reality]. That post is massively out of character for this blog but since it gives a solution to a problem faced by fellow bloggers, not only is it being seen by people doing searches about the problem company – yes, this time I deliberately wrote the title to be SEO-friendly because I wanted to be helpful and really did want people to find the post – it’s been linked to by lots of people, either on their own blogs or in tweets. The other day, Hacker News linked to it and from getting hundreds of views each day, suddenly several thousand visits got logged. I don’t know all that much about Hacker News but I’m guessing it’s a big deal in certain circles!

By the way, the title of this post is a deliberate parody of listicles’ titles. I’m not about to sell my soul for hits – not on this personal blog anyway.

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