Michael Martine has started an open discussion on his blog: what do you wish you’d known earlier? Since it’s always good to see where you are and what you’ve learned, I thought I’d respond here.
One of the first things I wish I’d known was the value of self-hosting your blog. I think free blogs are a great way to find out if you like blogging, but then you should host your own blog as soon as you can. That’s because you have slightly more control over what happens to your blog, both in terms of design and actual presence (well, most of the time, anyway). One of the first sites where I blogged had tremendous problems and eventually disappeared, leaving me to locate posts any way I could so I could rebuild. Which brings me to my second lesson …
You can’t have too many backups. Having had to rebuild my blog on more than one occasion (once because of a hosting snafu), I learned to backup in a number of ways. I backup online, to a portable hard drive, by email and also subscribe to my own feed by email. And to make sure I never lose anything, I also retain a text copy of all the posts I write. Redundant? Maybe, but I won’t ever have to tear my hair out if my blog suddenly goes belly-up.
When I first started blogging, I couldn’t see the point of analytics – after all, I wasn’t getting enough traffic to be worth analyzing. However, that was short-sighted, as analytics helps you to know who’s visiting what on your blog and what they do next. This is valuable – or invaluable – information. These days I use analytics to help me create blog posts that readers will be interested in so it’s extremely valuable indeed. Checking the stats has also helped me with …
… which always seems like the holy grail for the new blogger. In my experience, sites that bring you traffic that doesn’t stay are often a waste of time. In my early days of blogging, I experimented with traffic exchange and traffic boosting sites, but they didn’t do much for me (at the time blogging and tech were the ‘hot’ niches, as well as assorted medical complaints) and just wasted my time. I learned that you have to build traffic by creating good content and promoting it in the places where your audience is.
What I really wish I’d thought about earlier – and it’s still something I tend to procrastinate on – is how to create information products from blog content. I’ve written thousands of posts but have lagged on repackaging them, with only a couple of ebooks to show for years of blogging. That’s not really good enough, as there are all kinds of tools you can use. I admire the people who create a series of posts which they turn into an ebook and workbook or a series of videos – that’s something I plan to do more of.
Now, it’s over to you. Answer here, or head over to Michael’s discussion thread – what do you wish you’d known earlier?