Things I’ve Learned About Blogging

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So it turns out my blog is five years old this month.

I know!

Five years ago I was blogging about tiny Flea and how we muddled through every day, and I’m still here doing the same thing, except Flea keeps getting less and less tiny.

I’m not sure I’ll still be here in another five years, or another five months come to that, but hitting five years feels like a good opportunity to look back.

Over five years, I’ve written more than 700 posts and shared about 40,000 Tweets and during that time I’ve learned a few things about blogging. Some of these things I’m still working on, and they may not all apply to you. But one or two of them might be useful. Here goes:

  1. Understand why you blog and hang on to that for dear life. It’s so easy to get distracted by reviews and sponsored posts and giveaways and Linkys but when your blog is a few years old, what will give you a warm and fuzzy feeling is reading posts about the stupid conversations and games and special memories. Don’t get so busy making money you forget what makes your blog priceless.
  2. You can blog without giving a stuff about technology. If it’s your hobby, then by all means learn the ins and outs of hosting and CSS and templates. If not, hire a developer. My last blog redesign took me ten minutes. All I did was point at a picture and say, “I want that, but this bit bigger, that bit on the other side, and the whole thing in different colours.” And my developer made it happen. Thanks, Dave.
  3. Having said that, there are a few basic, core skills that you’ll never regret investing the time to learn. They are – editing and posting a basic video; resizing and cropping images; linking your blog and social media accounts; setting up an email subscription/newsletter for your blog.
  4. Don’t write to a schedule. Write when you have something to say. Schedules are for jobs and chores and many other things that are Not Fun. You might not blog for three weeks. Guess what? Nobody will really notice. And that’s a good thing. blog9
  5. Blogging is social. And while there’s no law that says you have to become part of any online community, my experience is that some bloggers will become real friends, in a world where they’re pretty hard to come by. That’s pretty special, so don’t miss out just because you’re shy.
  6. Pretty much everyone who ever wrote a blog post about how they’re giving up blogging was back within the month. By all means write your Goodbye Cruel World blog post – just don’t publish it until at least a month has gone by without blogging.
  7. Don’t always get fixated on, “Are you paying me for this?” If you’re flexible and open to new ideas then your blog can take you amazing places and reward you in ways you never imagined.
  8. Don’t get upset if another blogger steals your idea. Face it. We’re all part of the same zeitgeist and the likelihood is that someone just had a similar idea to yours, at a similar time. And even if they did copy you, so what? Did you just invent nuclear fission? A new cure for cancer? No. It’s a blog post. Write another one, and bask in the warm fuzzy feeling of knowing you did it first, better, and with more class.
  9. Use your own pictures on your blog – it’s critical to giving your blog a distinct personality. But for goodness sake make them big, bright and in focus.blog7
  10. That said, if you don’t resize images and expect readers to load 5MB images on their iPhones, then there’s a special circle in Hell reserved just for you.
  11. If you’re going to write opinionated, provocative blog posts (and I hope you will) then people will disagree with you. And the more passionately they disagree, the less articulate their blog comment is likely to be. Rather than being insulted that someone just called you an evil lesbian pig troll (true story), take it as a compliment that your words moved someone to feel something so powerful. That’s a gift.
  12. Don’t sit around waiting for the world to discover you. Wallflowers tend to die undiscovered. Tweet your posts to people you admire who you think might enjoy them. Link out to blogs and people who inspire you. Add your blog to your email signature. Half the fun of blogging is in the conversation your blog creates – go make it happen!
  13. If you like to read blogs for inspiration, look beyond blogs that are very similar to your own. Lots of UK parent blogs are (for entirely understandable reasons) very similar. So inspire yourself by reading some US or Australian blogs. Read craft blogs and food blogs and extreme sports blogs. Explore blog hops and linkys in other blog niches. Make notes as you go along of images, posts, ideas and themes that inspire you, and that you might be able to adapt for your own site and readers.blog5
  14. Being a parent blogger means a LOT of free stuff comes your way. Try and teach your child to be gracious and appreciative – saying thanks for free product, introducing yourself to the host at events, passing along freebies to friends and family, regular trips to the church and charity store with things we don’t need at home. Involve your child in creating reviews so they understand this is something that – in some way – you’re earning.
  15. Never tell anyone at the school gate that you write a blog. Trust me. It never ends well.
  16. Answer comments on your blog. Manners matter.
  17. Dr Seuss wrote: “Today you are you, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is youer than you!”  If you spend your time trying to be someone or something you’re not, then your blog is always going to feel like hard work. And chances are readers will recognise that you’re not being authentic. That’s my excuse for blogging with sarcasm and frequent mentions of trashy TV box sets, anyway.
  18. Lots of people will tell you to blog “honestly” but honestly? I’m not convinced. My blog is true, but it’s far from the full story. I pick and choose the parts of my life that I feel comfortable sharing and I blog honestly about those. I don’t feel any need whatsoever to share anything else. It’s none of your business.blog4
  19. That said, if you’re a single parent and you don’t blog about your relationships, some people will assume you’re a lesbian. This is always interesting because it’s good to know if someone considers the word “lesbian” to be an insult, so you can be sure to unfollow and unfriend them as quickly as possible.
  20. Saying “my blog, my space” sounds very empowering but your blog doesn’t exist in a vacuum, and other people’s feelings matter just as much as yours. If you’re blogging about someone else, and what you write might upset them either ask their permission first or make them unrecognisable. By the way, I think this should apply to your children just as much as anyone.
  21. Comparison is the thief of joy. There will always be someone with a bigger, better, more successful blog. By all means be inspired and pick up tips, but if your blog makes you happy, then it’s good enough. Besides, those uber-bloggers are always too busy blogging to know the joy of watching eight episodes of Bones back to back. Feel sorry for them, and their empty (albeit productive) lives.
  22. When you can’t think what to write, don’t write. Read something. Go somewhere. Call a friend. Don’t churn out content for the sake of it. You’ll look back later and wish you hadn’t sullied your blog with it.
  23. Most PR people that you engage with are 25, newly graduated and living in London for the first time. Cut them some slack when they mess up. It’s PR not ER.blog3
  24. Don’t get into arguments on the Internet unless you have zero emotional investment in the outcome. Basically if you’re not bickering about TV or biscuits, your stock response should be: “What an interesting point of view. Let’s agree to disagree on that.” Then WALK AWAY from your computer, and turn off your smartphone for 12 hours.
  25. If you’re stuck for something meaningful to write on a big blog occasion, don’t cheapen your blog by relying on the tired old list format. Oh, hang on… blog1

About 

Sally is a full-time blogger and founder of the HIBS100, Foodies100 and Tots100 - an online community of more than 15,000 UK bloggers. She is also a busy single Mum to Flea, the world's coolest eight year old.

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152 Comments

  1. says

    Love this! Some of these I am just starting to realise after two years, had a recent realisation that I don’t have to blog everyday and that my posts are far better when I wait until I have something I really want to say – seems so obvious now, but had got caught up in ‘got to blog’ and fell out of love with the whole thing, now I feel liberated and love it again!
    Sonya Cisco recently posted..An aghast Cathedral and other adventures.My Profile

    • says

      Thanks Sonya. I’m a big believer that if you feel you “have” to blog, you’re maybe losing sight of what it’s all about, which is about enjoying the creative process (for me, at least)

  2. says

    I agree with all of the above – you are a wise blogger indeed. Except the list format thingy – I think the list format may be my forte. And I’d like to apply for the first online course in ‘walking away from an online argument’ please.
    Midlife Singlemum recently posted..Rocket Attacks: The MusicalMy Profile

    • says

      Walking away from online arguments takes a LOT of practice. Which I’ve had. Whether that’s a good thing or not, I’m not sure! :)

      • says

        After five plus years I still find myself up against a wall with some of the comments. A few weeks ago someone basically said that all I did (on the BBC America web site) was bash Americans. S/he was really nasty, but I pointed out that I’m married to an American and have three Yankee-Brit kids, I like Americans and tend not to bash them. I then politely asked the commenter to have a look for posts of mine where I had insulted Americans. The commenter came back and apologized.
        Some times you need to reply just to clear your name or clear up a miscommunication, but yes, if it gets nasty, you have to take the high road.
        Expat Mum recently posted..Recycling your clothes – a.k.a. Wearing Them More than OnceMy Profile

  3. says

    Aww happy blog birthday, mine is 4 1/2 and it’s scary to think time has gone by so quickly. I love the pictures of Flea growing up, she’s so cute and gorgeous. Thanks for the insightful post and here’s to the future x
    susankmann recently posted..#SilentSunday – Week 28My Profile

    • says

      It goes by in a flash, doesn’t it? Scary, but I do love how much of those early years are captured here for me to look back on *sniff*

  4. says

    This is gorgeous and lovely and helpful. On my ‘must do this summer’ list was a ton of stuff around making my blog slicker, more visible and starting on a journey that would maybe one day help me make money from my blog. But all that has fallen by the way side. And you know what? I’m not sorry. Perhaps one day, but at the moment. I merrily enjoy writing as and when I do. I genuinely love sharing the posts I write and have a day job that admittedly isn’t anywhere near as enjoyable but pays the bills and allows me to think about what I might like to share on my blog. Even as a non-parent I can’t believe how many awesome parenting bloggers I’ve met and even shared good times with in person. Most are wonderful – there are some that wrap me in Sellotape and line me up to unwittingly insult Mormons / Amish in the process but, y’know I guess it can’t all be a bed of blogging roses…
    Ruth Walters recently posted..Training to be a nutritional therapist: Year 1My Profile

  5. Katie Colledge says

    Another great thing is that your past blog posts are just as useful to people as your new ones are. My eldest is now the same age as Flea was when you started the blog, and I find myself often rereading some of your early posts for reassurance/amusement/help/sanity as we are going through many of the same things as you did. So I thank you for that, as well as enjoying the new stuff. Just makes me excited about what’s to come with my 2 girls

    • says

      Ah, I do sometimes miss those days – three and four were fabulous fun, I hope you’re enjoying it as much as I did :)

  6. says

    Thanks so much for this, all so true!

    I (like many others who started around the same time as me) have been having a bit of a blog crisis recently. I have been a little worried that so many now seem to stick to a schedule, or blog every day or whatever. I don’t. I don’t want to write about everything; whilst everything I write is a reflection of my life, I don’t want to share everything. When I do write, I put everything I can into it and that is no reflection on those that write daily or to a schedule, what works for some doesn’t work for everyone.

    Happy blog anniversary!
    Mummy Glitzer recently posted..Silent SundayMy Profile

    • says

      It feels like longer. No, to be fair, I had another blog for five years, before I moved on to this one. Maybe that’s my signal to start another new blog?

  7. says

    Happy BirthdayAnniversary/5thdom Sally.
    Wise words so many of which apply to life itself never mind the slightly less important sport of blogging. Learn loads from you – always do.
    Kate on Thin Ice recently posted..Dear youMy Profile

  8. says

    Happy blog birthday. Thanks for your breath of fresh air post – I agree with all your points, especially about having your photos in focus. Blurry ones drive me nuts.

    You make me feel ancient in blog years, Mine’s seven and a half and I’d say that I had no idea what a valued possession my blog would become to me (I’m quite clear no one else gives a stuff), but it’s diary/aide memoire and photo album all in one.
    Ellen Arnison recently posted..Things I’ve learned about the first day at schoolMy Profile

    • says

      Oh, absolutely. Although I’m a blog OAP too – my other blog started in 2005, and I moved to this one in 2009 so I’m actually approaching a decade in blogging. Although that’s still a young ‘un compared to Merry, I know :)

  9. says

    Great post, and happy blog anniversary! My blog is three years old today and that also feels like quite a milestone. I’m so grateful to have my blog to look back on, there are so many happy (and perhaps also more challenging) times to look back on.
    Jennifer recently posted..Three years of bloggingMy Profile

  10. says

    Excellent blog post! But yet another reminder that I have a list of comments that I need to reply to, I know it, it’s just finding time to getting round to doing it, and I do feel bad about it…..I will get round to it, I promise.
    Franglaise Mummy recently posted..My Writing Process Blog TourMy Profile

  11. says

    I haven’t had the pleasure of knowing you or chatting to you, Sally! But thank you for this… It made so much sense and I found myself nodding to a lot of what you’d put down. Hope our paths cross sometime soon…xx
    Kanchan Char recently posted..Unfinished Business!My Profile

  12. Munchies and Munchkins says

    Thanks for sharing this, it’s really helpful and so much of it rings true. I used to blog to a schedule but now I post when I have something to say which means some days I write 3 posts and other days I write none. I’m happier this way and I feel my blog is better. My favourite posts are the ones I write after a long happy or hard day with the kids and the words just fall out of my head. Happy 5 years of blogging and how ridiculously cute is Flea? X

    • says

      Ridiculously cute, I know. But yes, blog for you, when it feels right. I am not a schedule or quota person AT ALL.

    • says

      It’s so easy to forget and tempting, too – but the stuff I look back at isn’t reviews or comps, it’s cute posts about Flea, and I love, love, love that I have those.

  13. says

    Enjoyed reading it. Wish I had read it a couple of years back, would have saved me wasting my time and energy with some people.

    • says

      It was a hard learned lesson for me too – I really have to remind myself that I don’t need to invent battles, that there’s no way to “win” an online row, and it really doesn’t matter what people who don’t know you think about you.

  14. says

    Happy Blog Birthday to you!
    Gorgeous photos.

    Oh dear I need to get blogging about my relationships or lack of them do I? :)

    Anyway, good to be reminded of the simple things behind why we blog.

    X

    • says

      No. I think our children can be spared that particular horror, don’t you? (not that your relationships are horror. You know what I mean!)

  15. says

    Great tips. I especially agree with not blogging to a schedule. Unless I have a lot of reviews / paid posts to catch up with which means planning posts to go in-between I just blog as and when I feel like it otherwise it would feel like a chore which would spoil it. And I am really trying to teach Cherry about being grateful for all the things she is lucky enough to get through my blog, I am always explaining to her about how I work really hard at my job to earn these things, not sure she understands though, she seems to think the postman is entirely responsible and always asks if he can bring her things! x
    Jess @ Along Came Cherry recently posted..A Day At The BeachMy Profile

    • says

      I was mortified walking through an airport with Flea when she loudly said, “Mummy, where’s our escort? Isn’t the PR here?”

  16. says

    What a brilliant post and I love the photos (well edited of course) of your daughter over the years. Some good points there and I was nodding as I read through. I have only been blogging for three years but I have learnt so much and I definitely have a nice relationship with my blog now and we muddle along nicely together. Here’s to the next five years …
    Nikki Thomas recently posted..I don’t want to go to schoolMy Profile

  17. says

    What a lovely post Sally, and a very happy blog birthday to you. As others have already said, I too can’t believe you’ve only been blogging here for 5 years – my blog will be 4 next month and I always look at you as one of those bloggers who was very established when I started.

    Thanks for being a lovely bloggy friend to me :)
    Ruth (geekmummy) recently posted..A Photo A Day – Week 28 RoundupMy Profile

  18. says

    Happy blog birthday! This is such a great post, and comes at a time when I feel like I have lost sight of my blog motivations a tad – so I am taking notes, remembering what inspires me and turning off the PC tonight to read a book and watch trashy box sets :)
    Kate @ Family Fever recently posted..Tried & Tested TuesdayMy Profile

  19. Emma - Me, The Man & The Baby says

    Oh where to begin on ‘blogging friendships’ maybe that ties in with the learning to agree to disagree.

    Happy 5th Blogging Birthday. Though I swear you’ve been doing it much longer.

  20. says

    Aww! Baby Flea. Sooo cute!
    Some amazing tips in here! I’ve been blogging 3 years now, and still have so many lessons to learn. Thanks for fast tracking a few of them for me today haha. PS Happy Bloggiversary! (Totally a thing)!

    • says

      I’m sure I’ve still a lot to learn, especially when it comes to photos, videos, design, technology, promotion… the list goes on and on!

    • says

      It really is, and I think it’s not wrong, but it’s a shame because I value the other stuff, with hindsight, so, so much more.

  21. says

    Great post Sally :) I struggle to juggle writing for my blog and being there for my kids. I think getting caught up in what other people are doing on their blogs (particularly if they started at the same time as you) is dangerous. I don’t blog lots on my 2nd blog at the moment but when I do I try to make sure it’s because I want to not because I feel i have to. 5 years is an awesome achievement Sally ! And seeing Flea grow in that time must mean many precious memories made xx

  22. says

    Happy birthday to your blog – mine is coming up for 2 years old and there are a lot of tips from you which I will take to heart. Thanks for sharing. Lovely pictures too!

  23. says

    First of all..Happy 5th birthday! So happy to know you and you’re blog! Such an inspiration for us all! And it is so true what you say…I always stay away from the blog when I am stuck and never get into online arguments…I am like that…sometimes I worry people might worry I am not brave enough or have no personality but this is how I am happy to be.
    Thank you for putting in words the above!
    Otilia recently posted..Homemade Chocolate for little handsMy Profile

  24. says

    Happy, happy 5th birthday! Great tips and taking them all in! Somehow I imagined you had blogged forever! I could actually hear your voice in my head as I read this, which is another great reasons to meet other bloggers too :-)

    P.S. I hope you had cake!
    Ali recently posted..Making cooling Summer memoriesMy Profile

    • says

      I’ve blogged a while – I blogged for five years on a blog called Getting Ink, and then five years here. One of the nicest things someone ever said to me was that after they met me, they could imagine me saying the things I wrote, which means I must blog in the same way I talk – that’s good enough for me!

  25. says

    Ha ha, love all of this, especially the bit about replying to all your comments :D
    You tell it like it is (I almost wanted to put ‘girlfriend’ in there, said in a drawl, but worried that might instigate the return of the lesbian comment….). Happy Blog Birthday! Can’t believe I’ve been going 4 and a half years myself. Now, I must dash, have got a list to think up ;)

  26. says

    Ha ha, love all of this, especially the bit about replying to all your comments :D
    You tell it like it is (I almost wanted to put ‘girlfriend’ in there, said in a drawl, but worried that might instigate the return of the lesbian comment….). Happy Blog Birthday! Can’t believe I’ve been going 4 and a half years myself. Now, I must dash, have got a list to think up ;)

  27. says

    Nice tips.
    Blogging is a continuous journey for me and the more I dig the more I find and I’m not sure I an ever let it go but I am looking forward to a break over the summer holidays
    Happy 5th birthday :)

  28. says

    Firstly happy 5th Birthday, what an achievement.
    Thank you for this post, it’s a lovely and informative look at blogging.
    I’m still a “new” blogger and feel like I have to prove myself. I know I don’t and even if I’m the only one that reads my posts who cares. I started my blog to document my life as a mum. The freebies are a bonus but my Main focus should be my family. :D
    ellie c recently posted..Slimming world sweetcorn soupMy Profile

  29. says

    Ahhhh…perfect. Just what I needed as I take stock and reevaluate. I started Thinly Spread just over 4 years ago and you have been a constant throughout that time with wise words, humour and questions which make me look more closely at what I’m up to. I’m happy to count you as a friend, one of those who’ve stepped out of the screen and proved to be a keeper. That’s all the soppy you’ll get from me. Now, get on with the next 5 years
    Chris @thinlyspread recently posted..Salt PaintingMy Profile

    • says

      Well, now I’m just disappointed. You know how big a fan I am of the schmooshy hug. Ah well. Seriously, thanks for being there with intimidating craft, cooking and photo skills, and being a bit of a moral touchstone. My blogging is more fun for knowing you. But let’s never hug. OK?

  30. says

    Happy Blog Birthday, raises a glass and passes cake.
    I love the photos of Flea growing up, wow she’s such a beauty. One day I’m going to ask you what her real name is, the only time I ever called one of mine flea was in vitro, back in the old days when you couldn’t really see anything on the scan and he honestly did look just like a flea (Then Friends came along and Rachel nicked my idea!) Sorry I’m rambling now, I just wanted to say I think your list is brilliant, just one thing I don’t do and that is answer all my comments. Sometimes I just don’t know what to reply and I can’t be sure they would come back to read my reply anyway, so I pop on over to their blog instead (assuming they are a blogger) and leave them a return comment. Could I be forgiven for that?
    Anne recently posted..Kids in the Kitchen – Cheese PiesMy Profile

  31. says

    This is a lovely post. Happy birthday to your blog – you have learned loads, clearly and I am glad to have read these. Sometimes I blog stuff just because it is in my head and you are right, some things are nobody’s business, and it is OK to just not write stuff. Equally sometimes a brain fart can be quite satisfying to get down – even if ‘Publish’ is not pressed. Lovely photos of Flea. x
    Kerrie McGiveron recently posted..Review: Dulux Bedrooom in a BoxMy Profile

  32. says

    I’m glad you linked to your post on Facebook; I would never have seen it otherwise. Now following on Bloglovin! This is a great list of what blogging is all about. I only started blogging six months ago or so and I am sort of learning as I go along and I was a complete social media virgin before I started (my first tweet was in March and I found it scary!). I have to say I do like a good old list. Great advice about reading blogs that are really different from our own and walking away from arguments.
    Mel recently posted..Garlic ButterMy Profile

  33. says

    Happy blog birthday Sally. I agree with a lot of these points and you had me nodding along for your whole post. Blogging has bought incredible opportunities into my life, including friendships, but it’s so so easy to get wrapped up in it. You speak a lot of sense and I know this will be really helpful to bloggers just starting out.
    You have got where you are with your own blog and with F Ent for being such a supportive blogger and helping others- I do genuinely believe that.
    PS I don’t think I have ever seen a photo of little Flea- how cute!
    Katie @mummydaddyme recently posted..Our Holiday to Rhodes- Part TwoMy Profile

  34. says

    Happy blog birthday! I love your first point and it is so true! I found myself getting caught up in the hype and saw my stats as a challenge . The result was I nearly quit blogging but instead I stopped linky’s and stopped searching for opportunities. My blog is mine again and I’m loving that :-)

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