Eating our own dogfood – our first months of blogging

After six months of blogging as a team, we thought we’d share some of the highs and lows with our readers.

For over a year now we’ve been preaching to budding bloggers about strategy, writing skills and good practice. Half way through, we thought we’d better try our own medicine and test our advice in practice. This is what we’ve learned so far…

Well planned is half done

Lack of time is one of the biggest barriers we come across when trying to get the rest of our team to write posts.

There’s lots of enthusiasm and everyone has lots of ideas but converting that into posts has been a real challenge.

What we’ve realised ourselves is that writing doesn’t actually take that long when you’ve figure out what you want to say.

Halfway through our first six months of blogging we started regular editorial meetings. Twice a month we get together to discuss ideas, plan posts, draft structures and help each other out.

This works really well for us. The easiest posts to write are the ones we’ve talked about together, honed the angle to fit the purpose, chosen the right category and jotted down some bullet points for an initial structure.

It’s a blog, not a briefing paper

If we find a single post is taking us days to write, we know something has gone wrong.

For us, this is a blog about our opinions and experiences, so presenting those shouldn’t require a huge amount of research time.

It’s also good to leave some things out. Not covering all the possible options and angles means you’re leaving room for your readers to comment.

That is, unless your specific blogging strategy is to use the blog as an academic paper repository.

Plan your categories well

Good categories can really help you to strike the right tone, find the right angle and go to the right depth in your writing.

For us, it turned out that steering clear of individual topics was the right way forward. Our four categories – advice, exciting future stuff, learning things ourselves and a behind the scenes look – give us both enough flexibility and focus.

However, these weren’t clear for us in the very beginning. We ended up drafting about 10 posts before we sat down and drew the categories out of them.

Don’t worry too much about the statistics, especially early on

For an average blogger, they won’t be amazing. What you need to do is look beyond the visitor numbers to see if what you’re doing is actually starting to work.

For example, our general visitor numbers aren’t very impressive but our bounce rate is very low (which means people who arrive on the blog, tend to stay for a while) and our average reading time is also encouragingly high.

The same applies to comments. Many bloggers get disheartened by the lack of responses. It’s worth remembering that growing an online community is difficult and takes time.

Instead of worrying about the lack of comments, focus on building the number of posts to give your blog more credibility, depth and context.

Set soft targets

Ours is three posts a month between the core team of three bloggers. Sometimes we have five, sometimes only one but we don’t beat ourselves up about it. The important thing is that we keep liking what we do. Forcing it would just take the fun away.

Image: iStockphoto