The First 300: How I Reached 300 Blog Followers in 3 Months

blogging

I don’t know what it is this week but I’ve been in a blog subject type of mood. Every article post idea has been about blogging. Could be the excitement still emanating from my radio show feature with Annette earlier this week –listen here- or it could be the excitement over reaching the 1,000 subscriber mark (and the crowd goes wild…. or not), but I thought I’d share my first experiences as a new blogger two years ago.

I started this blog in 2014 so to just be making it to the thousands may not be all that significant to some but this is huge for me. The conception of this post was thinking back to the early days where I praised reaching three hundred and four hundred followers. Why did I stop doing that? It was fun! I even monitored the international support I received and I was really excited about it. Yes, life gets busy but I’d hate to become proud as if I’ve made it somewhere when I’ve not. That is when I thought, “Well, share your experience with starting the PBS blog.”

I remember my excitement over my first one hundred! In fact, my first blogging experience on this blog got off to a pretty good start far as subscribers are concerned. I managed to reach 300 followers in my first three months. Here’s some of what I did. Will it work for you? Possibly. I caution however that blogging is a funny thing. Everyone has to find their own way. Here’s what I did:

1. Resurrect Old Writings

When I started this blog I was actually still blogging on WordPress under a different account. The name of that blog was A House of Poetry (you can find my silly post about cheating on that blog with The PBS Blog here) and it was a blog dedicated completely to poetry. Thing is, it didn’t really go anywhere and I wasn’t dedicated to it. When I started this blog I began by transferring a lot of my published poetry to this blog. I also tore into some old poetry books and rewrote some older poems and added them to this blog. My goal was to introduce myself to the blogosphere by showcasing something I knew was a strength: poetry. Every day I published a new poem and the faucet was on.

  1. Get Organized

I knew I couldn’t go on much longer with just poetry. I’ve already tried that and it didn’t work. So, I got organized and a tad bit crazy but I’ll speak on that in the next point. I decided to incorporate some features into this blog so I decided I’d publish three posts a day all covering three separate things: One poem, one article or creative writing piece, and one quote. Every day I published these to attract more than one kind of reader. Some people liked the poetry most, others the quotes and others the written piece. I was on the road to creating variety with my blog which is what I wanted. Since my poetry blog, focusing on a niche has never been my thing. Yes, I know, many people say to have a niche. Truth is, I don’t think you need one to be successful at blogging. What you need is quality content and interaction with others, but I digress.

  1. Consistency

Probably by far the most influential, I got a little crazy. I was publishing three posts every day, six days a week. I know, but that’s the kind of person I am. Dedicated. Loyal.  All or nothing. I knew I couldn’t keep up this momentum for long but I felt it was important to establishing a presence in the beginning. At the end of the day, what I was trying to achieve was consistency. Beginnings are difficult and challenging but when it comes to blogging, consistency is important. Even if you just post once a day (or even once a month) it can make a big difference. Again, I think it’s important to remember that my first experience with blogging was not this blog. I’ve had two blogs before this. I’ve tried preaching to the choir. I’ve tried the staunch “staying true to my art”. Been there and done that. With this blog, I’ve come to learn how to stay true to myself WHILE incorporate my passion into something  relatable to other people. Preach art all you want, but people need to be able to feel and relate to what you’re saying to truly understand it (people will never give ear to what they do not understand). Otherwise, your  blog is not going to attract new faces. Oh? You don’t care? So what are we here for? Personally, I am not here to smile and look “deep”. It’s time for new levels.  How powerful is my message if it never reaches anyone? Exactly.

  1. Persistence

Just because I was posting a lot does not mean that I was getting feedback. All of these beginner posts got anywhere between zero to five likes and no comments. I wasn’t sure how to engage or what it meant to produce quality content and all that. I just knew that I had something to say and that as a beginner I needed to get a good foundation under me. What it helped me to do was to be humble. I learned to always respond to comments and to rejoice at whatever little growth I got. Ten likes were golden and because of this experience, it still is. I still take the time to open every email notification of a new like or comment. It’s to the point now where I know which of you will like what based on your like habits! Yes, I’ve gotten to know you better too.

  1. Networking

Probably the most effective was networking or as I like to call it, the bonding process. The posting was not and is not enough. My first time seeing real feedback was when I started to follow other blogs, comment on other blogs, share content from other blogs and interact in challenges. This is when I really started to see blog growth. In fact, I noticed one hundred followers in one month, then another hundred, and then another. I noticed that I was getting one hundred followers a month and by the end of my first three months, I had a nice three hundred under me.

  1. Building

I’m not sure if there’s a standard with blogging, but three hundred followers was mine. For a long time, I considered ending this blog. Over time, however, I decided that it may be worth it to keep it. As I made this decision I also had to consider building. This meant paying attention to a lot of the technical things I hadn’t paid attention to before, tags, content, images, social media sharing, networking. No longer was it sufficient to just post anything, now I had to take into consideration a lot of background work that may help contribute to building a greater blog. In the beginning, it was posting, the equivalent to getting myself out there but now, if I was to continue to grow then I had to continue to do more than just post. I had to consider how important blogging was to me, and how much time I was willing to dedicate to it (not trying to spend a lifetime here or anything but by time I just mean at least a post a day). Now it was about more than just posting, it was about doing the work.

bitmoji638116932

Here’s to another one thousand. Maybe someday all of this work will pay off and I’ll be writing AND blogging full time. Here’s to endless possibilities. Cheers.

Advertisements

4 Simple Ways Not to Headline Your Blog Post

Blog Posts

I’m writing you on my phone as I am in the midst of travel. This is my second city this weekend, transitioning from The Windy City to Memphis TN before back home again. So you’ll have to excuse any grammatical errors in this post. I’ll edit this later (don’t judge me).

Last year, I wrote an article on 5 Creative Ways to Headline Your Blog Post.

Today, I feel compelled to follow up. No, I’m not a blog expert. I am however tired of seeing poor blog headlines. A blog is not your personal diary. A blog is public. Yes, this means hundreds and thousands of people are potentially reading it. Yes, this means you may want to rethink your presentation. No, having thousands of followers doesn’t mean you’re doing it right either.

I know people blog for fun, that’s cool. I also know people blog privately. I don’t understand that. Blog and private just aren’t compatible. Nothing online is private, not even what you think you deleted. Think of a newspaper headline. Your blog is today’s newspaper. Its also your first impression.

#1. Capitalize

At minimum, be sure to capitalize the first letter in your first word and the first letter in your last word.

Ex. I love Cookies

I tend to capitalize the first letter in all of my words (with the exception of a “to” here or a “the” there). It looks neat and professional this way.

Ex. I Love Cookies

#2. Spelling

If you proofread nothing else, proofread your headlines. If words in your headline aren’t spelled correctly its a bad first impression to the rest of the article. Blog Headlines are the first thing that draw readers in. In every post I open daily, it begins with my interest in the title. What makes me click onto the blog site? The title alone begs me to ask one question: “Why should I read this NOW?”

#3. Ditch The Hashtags

I know I’m gonna get a lot of flak for this but it is what it is and like I say, there are no rules for blogging. At least not that I know of. However, too many Hashtags in a headline are annoying.

Hashtags are great when it comes to sharing on social media, yes, but when you read news articles online, rarely do they include hashtags. It just looks extremely unprofessional in my humble opinion. Hashtags don’t belong in blog titles, they belong in the tag section of the post. Will they drive more attention? For social sites like Twitter, sure. Like I said, I’m no expert so I’m not saying it doesn’t work. Yes, your post title will come up if someone searches that hashtag. Possibly. And yes, word on the street is that hashtags help with auto tweets. The question is, however, if it works, just how effective is it?

I have not, to date, discovered data that indicates usage of hashtags in the blog title increases the visibility of the post beyond the tags we already have. Understand what I am saying here. I am not saying they don’t increase visibility. I am saying that thought Hashtags makes it useful for social sharing, there is no data that I’ve seen that indicates this these Hashtags (those in the headline) produces a better result  than tagging your blog post the traditional way. That is, attaching them to the tag portion of the post in the WP dashboard. The problem is not one or maybe even two hashtags. The thing that makes them so unattractive is the four, five, and six hashtags as the headline to a post.

Four, five, and ten hashtags in a blog post is a turn off. One hashtag is OK if you must include tags.

I know we use them to draw more attention to our blogs, but coming up with attractive blog headlines is part of the experience and using hashtags just seems like a cop out, especially for writers. Writing is what you do. Come up with an attractive blog headline for your post instead of a bunch of sloppy looking and unexciting tags.

#4. Too Lengthy

Entire quotes, complete sentences, and whole paragraphs don’t belong in blog post headlines. Its extremely unattractive to readers and makes us exhausted before getting to the article. The purpose is to create blog headlines that make us click on to your blog site. If you’ve given us the entire post in a title, what’s the point? Keep in mind also that even if we like the quote, we can do this through the reader. This means though liking the post, we have not visited the blog which defeats the purpose or at least to me.

I don’t just want you to preview me, I want to gain views by producing quality content that compels readers to click on to my blog site. If readers enjoy their visit with me, I hope to gain subscribers. I am not here to play games. I am here to win. Are you?

What’s So Special About You?

1-1254760156mOJO

Lately, I’ve been asking myself, “What is the benefit of subscribing to your blog/email list?” The answer to this question loomed over me and really got me thinking. “Is there a benefit?” What is it that I’m offering that makes subscribing to my email list or blog such a big deal? What is it about it that will make readers feel, well, special?

I was happy to discover this article: 7 Emails You Should Send Your Subscribers (But Probably Don’t). While advice is always “take it or leave it”, Will makes some great points. For instance, in this post he explains the kind of content you should include in your email newsletter. One set of questions I zoomed in on that really convicted me and got me to thinking was this one:

What sets apart all those bloggers who can rapidly build an insanely engaged audience from those who have to beg and plead just to get a handful of shares?”

This question convicted me because I’ve been thinking a lot about the content of this blog. I noticed that often bloggers receive the same support over and over again. The same five or ten people who like and comment on every post. While this is most excellent, I became concerned about the direction of this blog and whether or not I was reaching you. While I don’t intend on reaching everyone, it became a deep concern that the people who were once interested in my blog no longer were. So I thought, could it be content? But my content has not changed. Will went further with his questioning:

What sets apart all those bloggers who can rapidly build an insanely engaged audience from those who have to beg and plead just to get a handful of shares? Is the answer really just “great content?” Content is important, but plenty of bloggers put just as much time, energy and care into their content as those in the top tier, only to experience 10% of the results.

Exactly! Someone finally said it. For the record, I’m not in the business of begging, but Will’s questions did trigger something and I’m excited it did. I have long wondered if content alone was the key to a successful blog (I use successful loosely sense it is so dependent on your own definition of success).  Now, as a blogger content is something we hear a lot. But, is blogging just about content? Or is there something else that is needed to keep an audience? Well, I kept reading:

So what do the big guys have that the little ones don’t? They have a relationship with their audience.

Ahhh. There it is. The relationship. Blogging is not just about content, it is also about the relationship! This is why I have also created an email Newsletter because its more personal. Like Will, even though I know the author is speaking to a large group, getting a personal email still makes me feel special as a subscriber. Even though my blog posts are sent directly to the emails of those who follow me (via email) an email list is still more personal and, contrary to popular belief, not old fashioned. A study by McKinsey revealed that, “E-mail remains a significantly more effective way to acquire customers than social media — nearly 40 times that of Facebook and Twitter combined.” But now I had more questions. This time about Newsletters:“Is there a huge benefit to subscribing to my email newsletter?” One thing that got my confidence up is a point Will made in this article. He said to be more personal in your email list. Instead of sending links of your recently blogged post, talk to us as if we are sitting at the computer/tablet/phone reading you. This got my confidence up because it is something I’ve always done. I never just list my accomplishments and upcoming events in my email newsletter. This can be boring. Readers can follow my updates just by being on my Social Media so again,“What makes subscribing to my newsletter so special?” If someone follows my blog and social networks, why should they also follow my email list? Some people include links to their recent blog posts in their email newsletters. I do not. It doesn’t make much sense to me. I don’t really get how that can be productive when I already have followers of my blog who get the latest post in their email. You mean I should also send them additional emails with links to my recent blog posts? Is that an email newsletter or just another blog? I didn’t know, but I kept reading because I’m not blog perfect and there is still so much I need to learn. As I read on, I discovered that Will makes another great point. An alternative to providing the link in your newsletter to your recent blog post:

…. too few bloggers consider the pros and cons of each approach before making a decision. They just send a link to their posts because that’s what everyone else seems to do.

This stood out to me. It stood out to me because according to my own personal experience as well as research on clicks in a post, people do not use them much. They may click on a link once but that’s pretty much it with only a few (and I do mean a few, like probably just three of your best friends) exceptions. This means that the chances of someone clicking on multiple  links in your newsletter or blog post to go to additional sites are slim. This is one of the reasons I don’t like posting links in my blog post of other sites without some explanation of what the link is about. I don’t want you to miss out on the info just because you didn’t feel like clicking the link. Like now, at least you have some insight into Will’s article even if you didn’t click on it! (It is however, important to know that while people may not be interested in clicking links, that doesn’t have anything to do with the success or failure of the post. That’s right, we don’t care. What readers care most about is ease of navigation. Though we may not want to click on, it won’t affect us coming around unless your blog is extremely difficult to navigate. In fact, readers are probably not even thinking about clicks until you said something. The 3-Click rule is outdated. Kind of. Yes people don’t want to click on lots of links, but the number doesn’t have anything to do with it. Today its about ease of convenience. You can have one or five links and most people won’t bother to click them period, which I discovered by measuring how many opens my emails get verses clicks on any links in the actual email. There are always more opens of the email than clicks on links in the email. Common sense thus told me its better to say everything in the body of the email instead of having people follow a link). Another point to remember about just including project updates and advertisements / announcements in your email newsletter is this:

Just think about how rare and uncommon it is to receive an email that asks nothing of you. Its sole purpose is to educate, inspire, and help you.

Isn’t that the type of mailing list you’ll tell others about? Isn’t it the kind of list that survives the occasional inbox purging when you get tired of all the emails you’re receiving? Isn’t it the kind of list whose owner you’ll tend to trust?

This is why I try to keep my advertisement to a minimum. As I’ve stated before, I do think too much promotion is something that exist because it lacks the balance of the other components that can make it work. I thought also about the email lists of others I am subscribed to and how much I really enjoy the ones that offer me guidance, such as author tips and article links, without always asking me to purchase or donate something. These are the kinds of email list and blogs I want to follow, the ones that inspire and inform in addition to whatever else is being offered. But still, there is so much Will spoke about that I would like to improve on in relation to my blog and email list and it all begins with the question: “What’s so special about you?”

5 Creative Ways to Headline Your Blog Post

breaking-news

They tell you the first sentence draws you in. After that the first paragraph, and then the first page. I believe however that the real first is the title of the blog post itself. While it may not be ultra extremely important, blog titles do carry weight. This is, after all, still the headline of your post when you decide to publish the article, video, quote, or whatever you are publishing today. It is the teaser that will either pull others in or scare them away. Titles are so important that some people will decide not to tune into a blog post at all because they do not agree with whats in the title (which is too bad for them. Didn’t your mothers ever teach you not to judge a book by its cover?)

Any who, the more I blog the more I learn. As I watch those with years of experience, I have learned a little about what makes for an acceptable blog post headline. Not only have a learned from watching others, but I’ve learned from paying attention to my own reading habits. Below is a list of the blog post titles that usually catch my attention.

#1. Keep It Simple Short

The blog titles that often catch my attention are those that are short and to the point. It is not a good idea to make your blog post titles too long. If posting a quote, it is also not a good idea to post the entire quote as your title. People get bored easily and do not want to read a paragraph before getting to the actual article. Instead, look at your title as if it were a tweet that must be restricted to 140 characters. Ask yourself what the post is about and what key words are important to include. For instance, whenever I write a post about self-publishing I always include Self-Publishing before the title of the post so that those Indie Authors looking for insight can easily find it. I then follow it up behind what the post is about: Self-Publishing: The Workflow, Self-Publishing: ISBN Numbers for example. Short and sweet titles are also those that don’t take much brain power to decipher. “I Hate Coffee” or “This Dumb Computer” is just as likely to attract attention. Both of these titles leads me to my next bullet point.

#2. Something Catchy!

Blog titles that are creative also catches my attention. This reminds me of a cold open in a movie script. Cold Open is a term screen writers use to indicate that you are coming in on an action scene. It is when you come in smack down in the middle of all the drama. Right when the husband walks in and catches his wife pulling her jeans on next to an unidentified figure in the bed. Its the look on his face when she pauses and scans the room as if an excuse is going to pop up in the corner. It is the camera zooming in on a street fight right at the moment when fist meets chin. Ouch. That is what catchy titles can do for readers. It makes us wonder what the rest of the article is about. For example: “Doctors Are Gods”. From the onset, you have no idea what this blog post is about. You don’t know if I actually believe Doctors are Gods, if this is a poem, or if I’m setting out to criticize the profession. In either event I know that I would want to check this post out! Even if I don’t make it through the article, if your blog post said “Doctors Are Gods” it would be enough to peek my interest and I would click on your blog to see what you’re talking about (or if you actually know what you’re talking about).

#3. Shock and Awe

People, for some reason, love drama. If your blog post is controversial or has the potential to spark a heated debate, try a title that will shock your readers into curiosity. This will guarantee some attention and strangely, the weirder the better! If I saw a post that headlined: “Homosexuals Are Taking Over The World” I’d be headed right on over to see what juicy details the blogger has included and if there is any truth there. This is also an example of a title that some may utterly ignore because it offends them. I wouldn’t worry about that. Of course its offensive, your post is controversial! And yet, lots of people will tune in to see what you have to say. Why? Because people looovveee drama! (Speaking of which, exclamation marks in a blog post title is also a good way to get readers attention!)

#4. Current Events

If your blog post is about current events, news, sports, politics, or celebrity drama, include some of that in your blog post title. The only exception here is that it is more effective if your post on current events is well, current. If you want to spark conversation over the latest news be sure to do it right when the action happens. A blog post about Rachel Dolezal would spark some fire but not merely as much as when the story first broke. Kim Kardashians nudity may be today’s distraction, but next week is a different thing. Still, there is another way to play with this: You can make your post historical in nature. For instance, this year would be the 15th anniversary of 9/11. If your post said: “Remembering 9/11” or “Looking Back: When The Towers Fell” that may attract some attention. But, if you published this post on the anniversary it will attract even more attention. Why? Because its a reminder in people’s minds. They will hear about it all day on CNN and everywhere they go. In fact, 9/11 is such a historical, life changing event that you can just title your post: “9/11” and people will tune in. This is yet another way to play with titles. What’s important to world history? Use it.

#5. Questions

And finally, I have also noticed my curiosity peeked on blog post with titles that ask questions. What better way to get someones attention than to ask them a question? This doesn’t have to mean you are actually looking for answers in the article, but it is another way to spark interest. “Is Orange The New Black?” is a creative spin on a title that doesn’t actually have to have anything to do with the TV show. Maybe its a title about race and ethnicity. Maybe it is about the TV show and has nothing to do with race. Just be creative. (Oh and when writing a post that includes a list, like this one, include that number in your blog post! People love advice: “10 Simple Ways to Clean Your Computer” is likely to get some action. Notice that I went a step further and added “Simple” so that people know this article is not just for the technologically advanced).