Monday, April 15, 2013

Blogging: The New Challenge Part 1

Blogging: The New Challenge Part 1

Is Blogging Still Relevant?

I started blogging in 2008, and I instantly loved it. Writing a blog provided me a different outlet for my writing--one that meant no plotting, no characterization, no worrying about pace--just short, informational, casual pieces.


Until a few generous souls went out of their way to help me, I struggled to find readers. Who knew a "Google Friend Connect" button would rock my blogging world? I thought it would only show readers how unpopular I was!

It didn't take long to see the Golden Rule worked beautifully with my blog. By reading other fabulous blogs and commenting, I found plenty of new readers. It was slow, time-consuming work, but it was worth it.

I tried other outlets too--I had my blog fed to Networked Blogs on my Facebook account. I signed up for my posts to automatically post to Twitter when they went live. I included my blog link on every social media site to up my odds of having new people stop by.

Through it all, my blog thrived with the support of fellow bloggers, Twitter users, Facebook friends, and the like. All the shares, retweets, and links helped boost my readership.

Over the last year, I've noticed a trend. Many of the blogs I followed no longer showed up in my Google Reader (Google Reader has since been eliminated). Some of their blogs still exist--the bloggers chose to stop posting new articles. I also noticed my blog comments went down, but I figured a large part of it was the fact I'd trimmed my blog reading time by about 75% in order to meet my writing goals. I'm realistic--when I don't take the time to comment on other blogs, I don't expect people to flock to mine.

But then little things jiggled in my conscience. More friends reduced their blog posting schedules. Google Reader disappeared. I used to see tons of blog posts on Facebook every day--I started seeing only a handful.

Was the blog dying? Was my blog dying?

For years I've tracked my social media stats. On the first of each month, I log the number of followers I have on various sites, how many page hits my website gets, and how many page views my blog gets.

The comments might be dwindling, but I still get thousands of hits every month on my blog. Maybe it's just a perception that blogging is dying.  Still, I asked myself, Would my time be better spent somewhere else?

(For a terrific article about this topic, head to Jody Hedlund's "The Changing Nature of Blogging for Fiction Writers."

If I only view my blog (or a Twitter account, Facebook Page, Pinterest Board, etc...) in terms of pageviews (or followers, likes, repins, etc...), it will only lead to disappointment. But more than that, it isn't the question I should be asking.

I went in to all of my social media accounts with one purpose: to increase my author name exposure.

That's it.

I want my author name everywhere. I want a web presence wherever a reader might be.

For me, blogging IS still relevant, because I'm still accomplishing my original goal. I'm sure I'll get flak for admitting my main goal with blogging isn't to get a million hits each month.

The reality is, every time I publish a post, search engines pick up my name and my topics. Regularly submitting posts keeps my author name out there.

This blog means a lot to me. It's where I show up every week whether I'm two millimeters away from quitting or flying high with great news.

This is where I share my life. Maybe one of you will be inspired to buy that used leather purse and attempt to restore it because I posted about it. Maybe you'll try a book by a new-to-you author because we had a party for the release here. Maybe you'll nod when you read that I struggle with disappointment, or you'll share my happiness in a plotting breakthrough.

I don't know, but I do know I appreciate you. I love that I have the opportunity to connect with you here!

What are your thoughts on blogging in 2013?

Join me on Wednesday when we'll tackle Blogging: The New Challenge Part 2--Finding Readers.

Have a wonderful day!

46 comments:

  1. I'm posting on this topic on Wednesday and I talked about it last week, too. People think blogging isn't important. It is. It's one of the most effective ways to boast your SEO ranking. Once I witnessed that for myself, I was sold.

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    1. I agree, Stina. The behind-the-scenes benefits of blogging far outweighs any decline in comments! I'm making a note to stop by on Wed--I'd love to read your thoughts!

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  2. I don't comment on every blog I read. But I can't read them all either, so you won't really know whether I did or not most of the time.

    I started blogging because you all told me I should, even before I had anything published. But I've actually enjoyed doing it! I am constantly thinking as I read, "Oh, this would be a good topic for a blog post!" And I like showcasing the talents of others as well. I'm sure I'll meet a lot of my guest authors at RT and RWA and it's just FUN!

    My numbers are going up slowly. Do I know that this will help sell my books? No, but besides the fun part, it is getting my name out there, and will probably have some effect. As far as instant success, I don't think so. And that's okay too.

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    1. It IS fun, isn't it? I'm so glad you're enjoying your blog and all your wonderful writing success this year, Susana!

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  3. I find it interesting that some of the "experts" are advising new writers to forget about platform, while I've recently heard a number of agents and editors insist that platform is a crucial (but not sufficient) part of getting that first book deal--that when they're considering taking on a new writer, they check out the prospect's social media presence and look for a decent website and blog.

    So I don't know what the right answer is. Personally, I'm not blogging to build a platform. I blog because I enjoy it, even though my day job sucks up most of my waking hours and makes it a challenge to be as regular about it as I would like. I shoot for twice a week, but sometimes can't manage it. I also read a LOT of other blogs, and comment when I have something relevant to add. But although I enjoy it, I'll confess that sometimes the lack of response makes me feel like perhaps I'm wasting my time, just talking into the wind.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this, Jill. I do enjoy your blog.

    Laura

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    1. Laura, agents and editors DO consider platform crucial. The publishing climate is more competitive than ever, and publishing houses want to see writers who are willing to promote. Keep going! And thanks for stopping by!

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  4. I like all of your reasons for continuing to blog and it's true that even with comments down, people are still reading. I'm still getting the same amount of hits. I hope they actually stay on the page long enough to read it! lol

    Can't wait for part 2!

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    1. Ha, ha! I hope so too, Jessica! :) Thanks!!

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  5. I think blogging gives people a chance to show they are more than their work or cause. What movies they like, how they work, pet peeves...all help to create a multidimensional picture.

    I don't have a large following on my blog and that's ok. (I prefer to think of my blog followers as discerning readers (-;). My blog is like an electronic journal. I don't have to drag out supplies or decide what media to work in.

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    1. I love, love, love your blog, CJ! It's my dose of art--an I'm thankful for it!

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  6. I've noticed a dip in my blog traffic, but I don't spend as much time commenting as I used to. I also have gone down to only posting on Mondays. For now I won't give up blogging because of some of the reasons you mentioned and because I enjoy it.

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    1. I think it's smart for writers to rethink their posting schedule from time to time. My 3 day a week schedule still really works for me, but I think going down to 1 day a week would be fine too!

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  7. I think blogging is still relevant and can be a big boost to our reader reach. But we have to do it correctly. By that I mean find a focus, honor our followers with a regular schedule (we'd like them to visit us regularly, after all), and most of generate good content.

    I think the current dip in the trend indicates the general blog audience is become more savvy and more discriminating. This is good though, it means those that do follow our blogs have a real commitment.

    Finally, the tracking things you listed, networked blogs, Google friend follower, were all easy ways for people to commit to your blog without really committing. Anytime a reader can just click a button instead of making a deeper commitment you run the high risk of never seeing them again. The important numbers for any blog are subscribers. These folks have committed to seeing your updates cluttering up your inbox or showing up on an RSS feed. Now that's commitment! I love your blog and think it's a great place to hang out - I'm not going anywhere.

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    1. Edie, I know you're kind of an authority on these social media issues, so I'm guessing you've done a fair amount of "studying" on questions like this. I wonder . . . how much of the dip in the trend do you think comes from what amounts to a glut of blogs on the market, so to speak?

      And second, what are your thoughts on the practice of writers trading "follows" with other writers? I mean, I love getting to know other writers online, but really, does it really create a meaningful platform if most of our subscribers and followers and "friends" online are other writers?

      I'd love to hear your thoughts (and Jill's and those of the others who've commented here) on those two questions.

      :-)

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    2. Edie, I agree and thank you for your thoughtful answer. Many see "blogs are going away," while I see "wow, the market just got a lot less crowded--what an opportunity!"

      Laura, easy followers look good on paper, but they don't translate to readers. I support other writers by following their blog, and if they follow mine back, terrific, but I don't expect it. I track my numbers, but I don't get invested in them. They are simply a way to remind myself perception isn't reality.

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  8. I'm devoting more time to writing these days and less to blogging. I don't visit as many blogs as I used to, and I don't comment as often as I once did. I only post once a week on my blog. I spend most of my social media time on Facebook. I get far more interaction on my posts there than I ever have on my blog.

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    1. That's great you've found your 'niche' place for interacting. FB is a great site to connect!!

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  9. I've noticed these trends to and am curious to hear more of your thoughts on it! I have kept my blogging schedule but haven't had as much time to comment on others' blogs, though I do still read them all. I think there are going to be periods of that in each of our lives, though.

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    1. Well, I've been watching the trends for a while, and right now I'm staying with it. I think there are great opportunities to build name recognition when you have a blog--part of name recognition is having search engines find you! In my opinion, blogging is so much more than just pageviews and comments.:)

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  10. I am actually excited about the direction of blogging since I'm focusing on YA now. There are so many readers with blogs and lots of younger readers like to visit blogs and author websites. That just means I'm going to have to eventually get my blog/website and all that together so it looks polished and fun :)

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    1. Your blog is always polished and fun, Cindy! And, you're right--there's an audience out there!!

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  11. I've loved seeing various blogs on blogging lately. Like others have said, I still think it's relevant. I have pretty specific reason for thinking it's relevant, too. My editor found me through my blog. She came across my blog, followed it for awhile, decided she liked my voice and invited me to send her a proposal.

    I realize this is very unusual and I wouldn't tell other people to blog solely out of hope of attracting an editor. BUT I KNOW blogging massively helped me find my voice. It helped me find a community of writers who I now consider some of my very favorite people. I think it's relevant for those reasons, if nothing else. And like you said, it's getting your name out there. And that's important.

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    1. Yes, yes, yes! All of the above! If anyone likes blogging and has a following, they are smart to continue blogging. If a writer doesn't like it or their blog never took off, that's another thing. :)

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  12. I think we need some sort of online presence...in whatever platform we enjoy most. For many of us, it's blogging--mainly as a way to connect with others, I think. :)

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    1. I agree with you. I'll go a step further--I think every writer who wants to be published or already is published needs a hub--whether it be a blog or website--where they can direct readers to a. their books, b. their other social media sites, c. a way to contact them, and d. a bit about them. Thanks for chiming in!

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  13. I posted about this last week, too, and while I love blogging, I found I needed the additional writing time. Doesn't mean I won't readjust my two-day-a-week schedule again, but for now, this is the best fit.

    I think writers need some sort of social media presence--be it a blog, FB, Twitter, etc. There's nothing more discouraging than trying to connect with someone you've found interesting only to find erratic blog posts or barely-there social media interaction.
    (And I found you through your blog!) :)

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    1. I agree, Cynthia. I've been intrigued by several writers (from comments on other blogs) and when I tried to find out more about them--there was nothing. No website, blog, not even a blogger profile. They are missing an opportunity if you ask me.

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  14. You started blogging a year before I did. The things you say in this post are very interesting to me. I'm planning to make some changes, but will will wait a few weeks to reveal them. You have done your blogging research with the same fine tuning of details you use for everything in your life (including food.) Yet you are so funny and the word "control" doesn't even seem to surface. Good job on all your planning. It has paid off.

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    1. Oh, thanks Nancy! I really appreciate your encouragement. I've been blessed to have you along for this ride. Yes, fine-tuning accurately describes me! All the time!! Can't wait to hear what you have planned. :)

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  15. I started blogging before I started getting really serious about the writing. For me it was a step God called me out on (why it's called Steps;) ) and then He called me back to writing. So I guess I look at my blog completely backwards from an author point of view.

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    1. Everything is for a reason, Susan. I wrote three terrible books before I started reading blogs online--and I found Camy Tang's Story Sensei and realized I should have been studying before I started writing! But I needed that raw, fun, writing time. It made me fall in love with the process. We all have different needs to get us where we're going!

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  16. I started blogging to let people know that I am a writer and serious about it. I have more followers than I did sixteen months ago. But I still have less than 100. I see where some of the blogs I follow have fewer followers but their content is good. I enjoy connecting with the bloggers I follow and with those that follow me.

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    1. Yeah, I wouldn't worry about the number of followers. The pageviews tell a bigger story. And, I'm adamant about this, many aspiring writers with blogs won't find a big audience. Sometimes it takes getting our books in stores before anyone wants to really connect, and many of them might prefer connecting through FB or another site. But I'm happy to be blogging!

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  17. Like many writers, I started blogging because Kristen Lamb told me to. What I found was something I loved.

    Kristen had no way to know that I was going to fall into a two year family crisis hole. I didn't have time or emotional energy for my WIP, but I churned out the blogs on a regular basis. The blog kept me writing.

    Now I'm back to the WIP and am almost there. My blog has not led to fame and fortune, but I keep plugging away, because I really love it. I've got less than 100 followers, but I get hundreds of hits every week and very little spam, so somebody's enjoying it.

    The blog is very different today than it was when I began. I was juggling three different subjects. What I found out was that I enjoyed blogging about travel best, so now that's where I put my time.

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    1. A success story! A successful blog, to me, is what you just described. It's something that adds to your writing, you enjoy, and other people read. I'm so glad you shared this! (And I hope the family crisis is better--hugs.)

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  18. Great discussion here today. So fascinating, this blogging thing. I find it interesting how many of us started blogging because someone significant "told us to". I used to blog so my grandparents and parents could keep up with what was going on in the lives of my children. Now I'm approaching it as an essential stepping stone in building my platform. Thanks for posting.

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    1. My blog has evolved many times since I started it, but the core remains--my voice and the fact I want it to be a place to hang out and chat. I'm glad you're "stepping" it into your platform!!

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  19. I am committed to blogging for one reason: I love what I'm blogging about. I have a specific topic in mind (quotes) and a limitless source of material. And I keep my posts short and always try to ask a question because my main goal is to encourage conversation -- not to talk at people through my blog.
    So, I'm having fun, people seem to be encouraged, and it's not wasting a lot of my time -- it's become a part of my schedule.
    Blogging works for me.

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    1. What a great attitude! I feel the same--I have limitless source of material, because I write about things that are current in my world. Having fun, being encouraged--we all need some of that!

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  20. Great conversation here today, Jill. I'm going to stick with it. It helps churn creativity and keeps my ideas fresh and relevant. It connects me with the kinds of women I love to write for.

    ~ Wendy

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    1. Yay! I love your posts, Wendy. They showcase your unique way of thinking!

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  21. Hi Jill!
    I did the old "Oh right, I have a blog" things a few weeks ago. I didn't tend it because I had gotten off base. I kept trying to do what everyone else was doing. Or what I perceived did well for others. I got a bit disgusted with myself and did what I do best, avoidance. If I don't see it every day, it's not there right? Um, yeah, blog slacker.

    I started blogging again and am doing what I originally planned. Blogging about writing. I don't know if it's age related or what, but I'm tired of worrying about what others think. I'm tired of thinking my words don't matter. I've been writing about writing. I don't know much, but I'm sharing whatever pops in my head and I'm aiming for at least twice a week. I'm giving up themed days, although I'll probably put in quotes that peak my fancy and gratefuls because I am grateful for small things.
    And, I'm back reading the blogs that have inspired me all those months ago. Blogs like yours.
    Love this post and so happy you touched this subject. We all need a platform and there are times a tweet fills the need for information and there are times the blogs provide the indepth info we seek.

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    1. Diane, I hear you! It's hard to sustain a blog for years unless we really trust what we're writing. And I think it's fun to explore different topics! Good for you--go, go, go!!

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  22. And there are times I need to corral my excitement and make sense. Sorry for the rambling comment. I just meant that I fell into blog-slacker mode. I've pulled out of it and I'm thrilled that my favorite bloggers are still going strong and providing relevant posts.

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    1. No need to apologize--I get it! Completely!!

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  23. Hi Jill .. I blog, but I'm not an author (though I'm thinking about moving into that direction) ... the blog offers a more permanent place than FB or TW ... as the blocks of writing remain in one place - your place.

    I enjoy the interconnection .. and FB I find too ephemeral, as Tw too .. and I can't be that opinionated?!

    I do enjoy a good blog post read .. and I get lots of useful information from other bloggers with their different experiences ..

    Cheers Hilary

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