Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Growing your blog: what to do, what NEVER to do; plus some history, for free

Howdy hi, friends and neighbors.

I may well revisit this and expand it greatly one day. But I've had some thoughts rattling around my brainium, particularly as I again and again see the need for someone to say this and be linkable.

This blog started almost seven full years ago — which, whoa! — with this post. I had a readership of, what, twelve? Seriously, I don't remember. It was little. And it should have been. I had no platform, I was a fulltime IT support guy who'd been a pastor but wasn't, and that was about it.

I think I got started because Hugh Hewitt (was flogging a book and thus) kept going on and on about blogging. I think a friend kept sending me to posts at this place called Pyromaniac, too. More on that later.

So I started writing about what interested me. That's what blogging is, it's a weblog. I named the site after my web page, so that part was easy. And I've always loved to write, and have thoughts about a lot of things; so that part was easy, too.

And really all of that leads to all of this:

What to do

  1. Have something worth saying out loud in public. If your honest response is, "But I don't," then we're done here. Really. You don't need to blog. You do something important that others don't. Glorify God with that, and it's really, truly all-good. But if you do...
  2. Write regularly. If you want a faithful readership, you've got to post. Daily would be great. Every few months won't do it. Now, if you don't care to have many readers and are just doing it for a few friends and family, and you just don't like to write, please, seriously, do what you're good at. Fix cars, cook dinner, whatever. Those are terrific things. Not everyone likes to write, and those don't, needn't.
  3. Write briefly. This is a frequent failing, in my opinion. Someone has to have "standing," frankly, before I'll read a long post. If it's a few paragraphs on an interesting topic, I'm there. If I don't know the bro/sis, and I look over at the scroll button on the right, and it's a little-bitty square... forget it. So you have a kazillion things to say about marriage, the Gospel, election, the election, whatever? Terrif. Sounds like you've got fodder for a few weeks of daily posts. Do that. Not one big long overwhelming opus. If your first name isn't "Ligon" or your last name isn't "Piper" or something, you probably haven't earned the right to that extended attention.
  4. Write memorably. That is, write as well as you can, learn to write better, learn from the best. The first clause is obvious; the second would be aided if you were to read good writers. Phil Johnson and Frank Turk are both great writers, and very individual. So are Denny Burk, Kevin DeYoung, and Jim Hamilton. Doug Wilson is a wonderful writer, even when you don't agree with him. Don't try to imitate their style, but do learn what makes them good, qualities such as vividness, punchy prose, varied sentence-length, and the like. All good writers read good writers.
  5. Write really great comments on really great blogs. Let me stress this. When I started, I was nobody. What am I now? On my very best day, still nobody, but blessed to know some somebodies and sit on their shoulders. How did that happen? Comments on Phil's really terrific posts. That was the start. Years earlier, I'd emailed Phil trying to get him to look at my web site and put it on his bookmark page. Yeah, didn't happen. Don't blame him at all. But bite-sized feeds were the start, via comments.

What NEVER to do

  1. "Great blog; come see mine." You might as well say, "I'm kind of a jerk, but I'm lonesome and desperate." (Sorry, just being bluntly honest here with ya, pal.) Nobody is going to be attracted by that. It's like going to someone else's store and pasting a poster for your store on his display window. That's just rude. Really? What (s)he wrote just totally isn't even worth a comment, but you will use the fact that Comments are enabled to advertise your blog? Tell you what: do what Costco does. Give out samples. If people like, they'll buy the package. How do you "give samples," in this context? Interact genuinely, relevantly, contentfully, memorably, and well, with the posts on that blog. Make sure your profile points to your blog, and don't do that in the comment. If you're interesting, folks will click on your profile, and then click through to your blog.
  2. Only sparingly and after doing #1, link to related posts you've written. Do not say, "I wrote about that here." Say, "Great point. Here are another fifty related, contentful words. I develop that a bit more here."

28 comments:

Sir Aaron said...

Personally, I wont go to a person's blog if they reference it at all in a comment.

One of the things you failed to mention was that you need to have a profile that clearly shows you have a blog.

Solameanie said...

My only minor quibble would be with point three. The term "standing" has always grated on me since that's the term courts use to get out of hearing cases that ought to be heard and settled because the issues are important. "Case dismissed because of lack of standing." The merits of the case don't matter. But that's a holdover from my radio news director/editorial writing days, and I'm trying not to be irritated by that kind of thing any more. Stress "trying." ;)

Second, I know brevity is popular these days, and it's nice to tip the hat to those who are deservedly well-known in ministry circles and beyond. But just because someone isn't as well known as Lig Duncan or an Al Mohler doesn't mean what they have to say is less worthy. You probably didn't mean it like that, but that's sort of the way it reads. There are many laboring in the ministry weeds - people whose names you or I will never know. But they are capable of writing words of gold from their knowledge of God's Word and/or life experience. They don't need to be famous. Some have the gift of bullet-point brevity, but others seem to have to write War and Peace-length things to express themselves. I am fine with either if they have something worthwhile to say.

I just notice that it gets harder for me to read long items the older I get. I miss the days when I could curl up in my chair with a cup of tea and a good, long book. I'm too easily distracted now and fall asleep after the first couple of pages. ;)

Solameanie said...

Except TWTG, of course. I stayed awake for that. ;)

DJP said...

Oh no, of course you're right, Joel. I'm not talking about who does and who doesn't have something worth saying. I'm just talking about the reality that if your name is Joe Schmoe or Dan Phillips, and I see a long long post by you, I'm likely just to skip it -- and this is, after all, about building a readership.

And I do mean Dan Phillips. You might note that, as a rule, my posts tend not to be epic sagas. This is a bit of preaching that I do try to practice, though of course with exceptions. (But I assume that I'll lose readers for those exceptions, among those who'll glance at the length and say "Yeah, I just don't need that much Dan Phillips today.")

JackW said...

Was this any good after point one?

Solameanie said...

I pretty much always find you worth reading, no matter how long the post. Seriously.

Of course, given that my favorite music genre is prog rock with its rebellion against the 3:30 length hit single, that shouldn't be surprising. In fact, it's probably the thing about me my closest friends find the most tiresome, excepting my sense of humor, which runs to the moribund side. Most of them want "Love Me Tender." I prefer "Supper's Ready" at 22 minutes long.

Kim said...

Well, for women who want good reading, they need only look at the sidebar of my blog, but I don't want to promote my own blog, because that isn't cool.

For good reading for the gentler sex, I would comment Rebecca Writes, Lisa Writes, Writing and Living, Daily on My Way to Heaven and Tried by Fire. I hate to pick out just a few because all of the ladies whose blogs I read I feel are my friends, and I only want to encourage, but those women write more regularly, and they are solid in the doctrine, encouraging, and sensitive.

One thing I would recommend that no one ever do is to use a member of his/her family as a negative example. I have seen a myriad of young female bloggers tell tales about their husbands - "Oh, he was so dumb, blah, blah, but God taught us a lesson." I think privacy about our marriages is important.

Kerry James Allen said...

And I thought In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida was long at 17 minutes! Write on, brethren. "Luther once said, 'The devil hates goose quills,' and doubtless he has good reason, for ready writers, by the Holy Spirit's blessing, have done his kingdom much damage." CHS

DJP said...

Obviously there are exceptions to the length thing. What's important is the Romans 12:3 rule. I knew a brother of limited abilities who believed God talked to him directly. He had very, VERY long Bible studies. He pointed out that Paul preached past midnight.

"Then you'd better be able to raise the dead like Paul did, too," I replied.

Pam said...

"Then you'd better be able to raise the dead like Paul did, too," I replied.

One of the reasons I like to read this blog- It is fun to laugh. and I NEVER read a blog if self-referenced in a comment.

Solameanie said...

I've always wanted to have a chat with Eutychus and discuss his little acrobatic maneuver out the window. Thankfully, there aren't any windows in the Sunday school classroom where I teach, but I try to keep my boring drone to 45 minutes or less. ;)

Scooter said...

Another important tip: have witty mouse-overs for your pictures. The white van still makes me laugh.

Have something worth saying out loud in public.
This is hard for me to hear, but you're exactly right. Hunker down, gain some knowledge, ponder it and then start writing. You and your audience will be better for it.

DJP said...

Thanks for the memory, Scoot. Just for you, I added a caption to another one of those pix.

Adam Rodriguez said...

Thanks for this, DJP. I've personally been, at least, working on writing and posting more often, but sometimes it's hard to figure out something to write every day.

Sahib said...

Excellent post! I wrote about the same topic on my blog. You can read it here... :)

Seriously, nice article. We started about six months ago and wish we had read this information then.

Come to learn most of it by trial and error. Still need to do a better job of commenting on other blogs.

Thanks again for the helpful info!

~Sahib

JG said...

Great advice, all. I do try and make an effort to comment on blogs as I read them. Often times, though, I can't think of more to say than, "Interesting." or "Good luck." Depending on the situation, of course. My biggest problem are the epic-length posts.

Please check out my blog.

DJP said...

Well, JG, you actually have more followers than I do at this blog; you do do epic book-reviews; unlike me, you've been published at Big Hollywood, and you are a lively, prodigious Tweeter. So, y'ain't doing all that bad.

JG said...

That's nice of you to say. I guess I try to think there's always room for improvement :)

Merrilee Stevenson said...

These are great points. I almost wondered if you wrote it for my sake, just like when you wrote this. When I was blogging more frequently about life and family, I was more verbose, and also was a much worse manager of my household, unfortunately. So my blogging dropped off as I changed some of my habits into better ones for my family. But I really do want to blog again...only better than before; mainly for the reasons you have encouraged it. I'm still looking for other habits I can kill and replace with blogging, so it might happen one day. But in the meantime, I really enjoy reading your blog & team Pyro, and am content to be a commenter who hopefully doesn't stick her foot in her mouth or cause too many people to roll their eyes and shake their head.

Halcyon said...

Quick, I just commented. Will you come visit my blog? Please? PLEEZE!

...
...
...

Don't make me link to it. 8^)

Solameanie said...

For the record, no one visit my blog, please. I don't want to have to apologize to anyone for my tone or word choices, and be targeted for destruction by George Soros and Media Matters. I'm also really bad at inviting people for coffee to chat things over.

Worse yet, obsessive, banned stalker troll OSO might come and look me up. I haven't used my ban power in so long I've forgotten how to do it.

Lynda O said...

Good tips to remember and bring up from time to time. I've enjoyed blogging over the last two years, from when I started just blogging about what I was learning from my own studies in the Bible. Along the way it has attracted a few readers interested in the particular topics, and writing the blog has helped to sharpen my own thinking.

Denny Burk said...

Thanks for the shout-out, Dan! You are too kind, brother!

DJP said...

Nice of you to slum over here, DB.

(c:

Chuck said...

For a great example of not posting regularly:

http://www.ceb1984.wordpress.com

Wendy said...

Setting the bar kinda huh, DJP? :)

One of the things you failed to mention was that you need to have a profile that clearly shows you have a blog.

Took me 15 minutes to figure out how to do this.

Dave Sherrill said...

Dan, thank you for a good post with life-gained wisdom. There's part of the blogger thing that I can't quite seem to get a handle on. I know you're busy with outside work, family, church, etc. I'm busy with a lot of things, many of them very good things. I do like to write, but am painfully, molasses-in-Minnesota-winter slow at it. I can only assume that you do not struggle with speed of writing.

What choices have you made, apart from speedy writing, to make writing a priority? For example, have you decided to not serve on a church board, not teach Sunday School, not work overtime unless absolutely necessary, not.... you get the idea. It's not a matter of 'love to write, hate everything else'. How do you go about prioritizing the things you love, so that the people you love face-to-face (and I'm sure there are many of them) do not get short shrift as you pour yourself into writing?

Thanks again for your repeated encouragements and wise advice on your blog. You are, in all honesty, the one blog I regularly read and benefit from consistently. As a blog-to-face recipient of your counsel, I am thankful for it and for your commitment to doing us good.

Best Regards,
Dave

Robert said...

Dan,

Thanks for the advice and encouragement. I certainly hope to at least grow as a writer from reading the blogs I follow.