by Michael Cristiano
Happy one year anniversary to me! As of yesterday, I have been blogging for a year. A lot has happened in that year: I launched all of my social media/blogging efforts for my writing career, I saw the release of my first novel “The Black Oracle“, and I shaped pieces for future releases.
But during that year, it’s safe to say I learned a lot. Some of my most popular posts had to do with query writing (Why Your Query Letter is Making Agents and Editors Cringe and How to Write a Query Letter that Makes Agents and Editors Swoon), and these posts garnered the most views on this blog as well as nods from agents and editors themselves (pretty awesome, right?). Even ones that had nothing to do with writing got some attention: who knew that 20 Goals for a 23 Year Old was so damn interesting?
But despite the success, there were times when blogging felt like a failure: some posts garnered very little interest at all, and some posts ended up having spelling/grammar errors much to my horror when I re-read posts months later. In retrospect though, these things weren’t failures; they were steps to growth. In fact, there were quite a few things I learned about blogging and about writing during the inaugural year of my blog. Check them out.
Keywords Do Matter
I know it’s almost spammy to say (and to acknowledge), but I’ve discovered that content is hard to make known without using effective keywords. I am in no way advocating for click bait, but in order for my posts to be seen, I had to make sure it was turning up in the right places. Let me explain:
When I first started blogging, I created titles out of the blue and came up with a bunch of random (albeit funny) keywords. In those days, I thought adding the tag “chimp” or “burrito” to a blog post was clever, but I soon found out that these same tags were excluding my posts from typical and topical search engine queries. I also found that when I tagged my posts appropriately with keywords such as “how to write a query letter” or “20-something goals”, my content became relevant to search engines, and more people read my work.
So maybe keywords aren’t the evil, CLICK HERE media scams that they’re made out to be. They can be really helpful too.
It’s Impossible to Predict Which Posts Make an Impact
Perhaps the hardest blogging pill for me to swallow was the fact that I didn’t know what impact (if any) a particular post would have. For example, a post I worked hard on and thought was sure to be a hit might only get a dozen views and a few likes. Another post that I’d thrown together in merely an hour on the thrill of inspiration, for example, might end up my most viewed post ever, and may get more likes on my website and on social media than I ever expected.
What does that mean? Well, it means that expectations are futile. It also means that instead of *trying* to write posts on things I think people will want to read, I had to just write posts on things I wanted to read. And sometimes, it worked. Sometimes I got more visitors than I knew what to do with. But even when it seemed no one was reading, it was okay because I made sure I delivered quality content and not simply click bait.
Blogging is a Medium of its Own
When I started blogging a year ago, I thought it would be easy. I was a writer, right? I had written three manuscripts between 50,000 words and 85,000 words. How hard could a few blog posts a week be?
Anyone who blogs already knows the answer to that one.
Whether it’s trying to think of ideas for new content or trying to secure a couple hours to produce a post, blogging isn’t always fun and games—it’s hard. And the hardest part for me was finding a tone that was effective. When I first started, I tried to have a literary atmosphere about my blog posts. Funny enough, that seemed contrived (and I’m not surprised). Why? Because writing a blog isn’t like writing a novel. There should be very little distance between the writer and the reader. There needs to be a personable quality to it, something that I had to learn over time.
Blogging is About Community
I don’t always excel in this part of blogging, but it’s all about progress, right? Over this past year, I’ve found out a successful blog isn’t only about delivering good content or getting a billion likes, it’s about building a community. It’s about replying to comments on your own blog and commenting on other people’s. It’s about *reading* other blogs and writing guest posts if possible. If blogging was only about writing, we’d be doing it alone on Microsoft Word documents for no one but our cats to see.
So while I’m here talking about how much I’ve learned from blogging, I still have a long way to go, darn it! But I’m happy I’ve stuck with it for a year. I never thought I’d make it this long.
Guest post contributed by Michael Cristiano. He works in editing and acquisitions for Curiosity Quills Press, and his freelance work has appeared on websites such as Nexopia, FluentU, and BlushPost. Check out his blog for more of his work.