What I Learned About Blogging During NaBloPoMo

NaBloPoMo_teaser

So, this thing happened. It was called NaBloPoMo, and it was a national blog posting month, where some bloggers committed to trying to post in their respective spaces every single day for the entire month. You know, I’m not sure why we pick November for this when it is already No-Shave November and National Novel Writing Month and contains Veterans’ Day and Thanksgiving, but I’m pretty okay with it nonetheless. Here are a few thoughts I have about the experience and some ideas I’ve gathered for making my blog better in the coming year.

Lesson one: substance matters as much as more than frequency.

Sure, more-frequent blogging keeps my page views up, but page views aren’t everything when the quality of your work starts to suffer. Lame, awkward, cliché posts are only going to keep even the most dedicated readers [Hi, Mom and Dad!] coming back for so long. After a few lame posts I started to feel embarrassed of my content and decided that I’d have to really write something or not post at all. This decision was made the day after a photo-only post that I thought would hold down the fort on the day I was too tired to write. A dear friend told me the next day, “So that fake blog you wrote? I clicked over and was disappointed.” And honestly, that’s how I felt too! So, here are my goals for the blog in the coming year:

  1. A Content Calendar. So many blogger advice posts out there say that this is the way to go, and I think it is time for me to try it out too. Now, having a content calendar may reduce the spontaneity of my blogs, but I think it will help keep things consistent and help me to meet my readers’ expectations. So, I’ve made plans for the rest of the month and will be trying out a few new things to see how it goes. I’m not committed to a full calendar — it may be better for my style to pre-select topics for one or two posts each week and let the remaining posts come as the inspiration does, but we’re going to try it out before making that decision. 
  2. Target content. The most successful blogs have a subject matter or two that attract a certain type of reader — a niche, in other words. To build up a readership that will actually leave comments and engage in dialogue about issues I care about, I’ll have to actually write about those issues and maintain relationships with the kind of readers who will leave those kinds of comments. Thus far, my content is a little all-over-the-place, and I kind of like that. So, I won’t be picking one topic, but I will be keeping this in mind and will try to tie each blog post back to the things that this blog is really about: maintaining a positive work-life balance, physically, emotionally, spiritually, and adventure-ly. I’ll still write about what I am passionate about: cooking, religion, politics, social justice, travel and history, but I will try to keep in mind the reason I’m writing at all — to remember that no matter how busy and crazy life gets, who I am inside really matters, and what I care about deserves to have a place in my schedule. 
  3. A network of bloggers. This year, I have fallen in love with some new bloggers. As I study and attempt to emulate their successful blogging patterns, it is clear that these bloggers are real-life friends with many other bloggers, and that they all work together to cross-promote, collaborate, encourage and support each other. When one blogger writes a book or joins an exciting initiative, their network supports the action, sends over blog traffic, and provides public and enthusiastic encouragement. It’s kind of beautiful. I’m not entirely sure how to find my own network, but I know that really connecting with my subject matter and readers is the first step. So, I’m going to work harder at “Like”-ing and Commenting on other posts, at using my twitter accounts to encourage dialogue and at supporting my special friends who are also blogging about their life-encounters. Lately, my blog reading has been done by Google Reader, so my favorites may not even know how dedicated I am to reading their content. That is about to change.

Lesson two: words aren’t enough.

When I decided to start this whole thing, one of my first tasks was to download a photo widget from BlogHer to add to my sidebar. I discovered (1) that my sidebar had disappeared sometime since I last revised my blog theme, (2) that a full sidebar with a single photo widget is quite awkward-looking, and (3) that lazy plans for filling up a sidebar can only get you so far.

Basically, my blog needs a makeover, in the beauty department. Nothing screams AMATEUR like poorly photo-shopped headers, random formatting glitches, and blurry snapshots. Here are my plans for the new year:

  1. Professional photography. And no, not by me, obviously. I’m thinking it would be cool to have some new photos related to the blog–I’m going to pick out a cool new briefcase and try to get really creative and fun. And honestly, it’s time for this. I need a professional headshot for my linked in account and with this I can kill two birds with one stone. 
  2. To learn all about widgets, sidebars, and other blogging gadgets and gizmos. I honestly have no idea what a lot of these things are about. What in the world is HTML? And how do I change fonts, font sizes, etc.? I have no idea, but I want to find out.

Lesson three: Blog challenges are fun!

So, I’m not sure I’m going to post a blog every single day forever — but it was a pretty fun challenge! I did pretty well at it for about 60% of the month, and was almost perfect during pre-Thanksgiving November. There are blog challenges going on all the time, and trying something different with your writing shifts your perspective and deepens your sensitivity as a writer. It’s a good idea.

  1. First up: WordPress‘s weekly writing challenge. I may not do it every week, but I’m going to throw in the ones I find interesting from time-to-time and encourage you to do it with me. It could be really fun! 
  2. Community challenges. Once I find a blogging community or two that fits into my writing genre(s), I’d like to participate in link-ups as well. This connects back to the first and second lessons too, but I would really like to learn how people network together, how bloggers choose partners and get guest bloggers, and how to build a conversation in this space. All in due time, of course.

So, that’s a wrap. NaBloPoMo, or post-almost-every-day-in-November-until-Thanksgiving-distracts-you-from-everything was a success. I’m so glad I did it and hope to carry these lessons into my blogging for the next year.

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105 Comments

  1. Maybe you hit the nail on the head without realizing it. While NaBloPoMo is concentrated on the “writing” I consider that it’s also designed to give us ideas, motivate us and even challenge us to become better bloggers. What that “better” is I suppose is unique to each blogger. However, if you learned something, and I think you did as you stated above, then I’d say NaBloPoMo, at least for you, was a success!

    Reply
    • I totally agree. It has been easy for the blog up slip to a low priority among all the other things I do each day, and thinking about it every day (even though I didn’t post each day) made a huge impact. I’m excited to see where it can grow, now that I’m taking it a bit more seriously.

      Reply
      • First step! Take it more seriously lol! Its kind of the same for me. I think about the blog every day but I don’t post everyday. Sometimes I honestly can’t be bothered, or other days I can’t get that first sentence down. That’s where the Daily Prompts help. I tend to multi-task while blogging. Eat breakfast and write, or think about what to write. Or watch a movie that I wanted to see while blogging. That can result in one heck of a crappy post though if I’m not paying attention to typos, grammer, run on sentences those sort of typical problems. I know others carry a little notebook around with them; if an idea for a blog pops in their head they can note it down for future reference. The key I guess is to find what works for YOU and run with that.

        Reply
  2. I need to work on Lesson Two too! Maybe you can share what you learn ; )

    Reply
  3. i truly need to work on lesson one.. :)
    enjoyed and learned a lot in this post..

    Reply
    • Thanks for reading! For me, creating good content can be very easy on some days but much more difficult on others. It’s a lot of trial and error to find what really works. Best of luck!

      Reply
  4. THANKS SO MUCH FOR THE INFO

    Reply
  5. I didn’t even know about NaBloPoMo! So sad. But I’m completely with you on lesson one option three…thus my urge to comment on this one. :)
    Nice post, it was a very pleasant read

    Reply
    • You can do it during any month, I recommend giving it a try because it’s quite a challenge and a great learning experience. And also good for networking. ;)

      Reply
      • Oh yeah? Well, thank you for the post that brought me to awareness, then! It does sound like quite a rough challenge. I completed NaNoWriMo, I don’t see why I shouldn’t be able to do this too… =)

        Reply
  6. That was good :) I liked it

    Reply
  7. I am so glad you pointed out (and featured as #1) that first lesson — I’m always concerned that challenges like this could have the opposite effect, giving bloggers a false “high” from increased traffic due to frequent posting. But it’s evident you saw through the hype and got to the spirit of NaBloPoMo — congrats!

    Now, since I was on blogging hiatus throughout the month, I suppose I should take on that challenge on a personal level as well. :)

    Reply
  8. Thanks for sharing your lessons learned! I am going to try some of your points. Is there one I should start with?

    Reply
    • I’m certainly not an expert yet, but I think that most of the suggestions require you determining — at least roughly — what your targeted content is, and then thinking of a few ideas for future posts. For me, once I start thinking about what I want to post in the future instead of just feeling the pressure to post something so I can meet some personal quota, the quality of my content goes way up.

      Reply
  9. chrisknox155

     /  December 7, 2012

    Reblogged this on Great blogs.

    Reply
  10. A lot of what you listed here are things I need to earn and do. I just started a blog of my own and find there is much more to it than I first thought. Thanks for writing this post, I am going to follow some of your suggestions.

    Reply
  11. Thanks – I’ve picked up some useful things here and will try to apply them!

    Reply
  12. The challenge of blogging every day is that, to really attract and grow your readership, it demands intelligent thinking, cogent analysis, fresh insights — which very few people can produce, including people like me (journo) who have been writing for decades, often on very tight deadlines. For some reason, people assume it’s dead easy or should be.

    Bloggers need to really get clear about why they are doing it and that readers — your audience — need, want and deserve quality material. If you’re busy, distracted and tired, why bother trying to meet some arbitrary goal or word count?

    I was discussing my blog this week with someone who is very skilled at it. Her question was simple and direct: “What’s your goal?”

    I think for many bloggers it’s attention. You can get it, but keeping it long-term, over months or years, is much harder than it may appear.

    Reply
    • This is an interesting perspective. Honestly, I’ve never really thought that my kind of blogging — which is pretty personal, not always focused on a subject matter but really just engaging with life — is solely about the reader getting good content. I do think about my readers, but with a focus on connections and shared experiences instead of a reader-as-consumer mentality. Perhaps there is more than one way to approach this question? I don’t think I blog for attention’s sake — before today my attention meter was shockingly low! — but I do enjoy having hits and likes, so perhaps there is an element of that as well. I’ll be thinking further about this. Thanks for stopping by and throwing your two cents into the mix!

      Reply
  13. Thanks for sharing this. I need to work on joining a network of bloggers.

    Reply
  14. wow I just saw this and it was exactly what I was looking for a post on advice on blogging so I would like to add to all the other Thank you’s and to also congratulate you on getting presses :D

    Reply
  15. Great blog! and particularly pertinent as today is the day i have marked to properly learn about WP Daily Prompts, Writing Challenges (perhaps this is the same thing?) sidebars …. glad to know there’s others out there still fumbling around! Good luck ..

    Reply
  16. I’m taking a class at my college next semester that will teach me HTML. I think it will be great to design my page myself. I really like the goals you’ve set. As a newbie, it allows me to have useful insights from someone who has some experience. Thank you for sharing!

    Reply
  17. Excellent advice.. And now I finally understand what NaBloPoMo is!
    I see these blog-cronyms, and all I can think of is the adults talking in the Charlie Brown movies. My blog is all over the place, too, but I do it for the same reason: to try to make sense of my life, and get things out of my head.
    I’ve gone as far as to make a list of blog post topics, but not a calendar. I tend to like the IDEA of making lists and schedules but tend not to follow them… Anyway, I’m glad you got Freshly Pressed, because I’m searching for good bloggers to follow and get to know, and now I hope we can be part of each other blogging network.

    Reply
    • Haha I totally understand — I haven’t actually followed my content calendar yet, but have pulled from it to blog the last few days. I really need that flexibility, too!

      Reply
  18. Reblogged this on An Artist at Heart.

    Reply
  19. Before, I used to think I kinda know what to here. Now, I just learned that there’s more to it. That is, most of the lessons you learned are something really new to me. Thank you for enlightening me and congratulations!

    Reply
    • You’re welcome, and thanks! It is harder than it looks sometimes, isn’t it? But I think it’s all about finding what works for you and your community, which takes time and some trial and error.

      Reply
  20. Hi there. What’s your favourite blog of the year? You can still nominate it for the 2012 transatlantic diablog award. Maybe one of your readers nominates you, too? All that is possible. Here’s all you need to know: http://wp.me/pXfOG-1fY See you all…

    Reply
  21. Maybe I’m crazy but I’m doing it for December too LOL though it’s not half as much fun as doing it November… content does matter much more. It’s only day 8 and I feel like the quality of my posts are going downhill.

    Reply
  22. Thanks for some great lessons! Some of these apply to me which I’m going to try and practice. And yeah, congrats on being freshly pressed!

    Reply
  23. Great advice- as a new blogger you have given me quite a bit to think about

    Reply
  24. You’ll love CodeAcademy if you want to begin to learn CSS, HTML and stuff like that. It’s free and easy. http://www.codecademy.com/#!/exercises/0

    Reply
  25. All great points! Thanks for sharing :)

    Reply
  26. When I started blogging in the summer I tried to have a post everyday and it went really well for a while but around October it slowed down considerably and I ran out of things to write – either that or my brain decided to go on holiday :D Anyway, I think keeping it regular whilst not loosing any quality is the best option.
    I also quite enjoy some of the blogging challenges, I enjoy how they make you think. Great tips :)

    Reply
  27. I feel like I need to memorize this! Thank you!

    Reply
  28. Thank you for the great tips. I am going to check out a content calendar and work on a network too. I just started last month and this post came at the right time!!! Cheers!

    Reply
  29. Those are some very inspirational points. Thank you for posting this. Before the new year approaches I have managed to design and draft my own editorial calendar and divided sheets according to the niches that I’m interested in. I’m really determined to keep my commitment :) All the best to you, myself and all the enthusiastic bloggers out there!

    Reply
  30. Reblogged this on Oyia Brown.

    Reply
  31. Wonderful points! I just started my own blog and I’ll keep all of these in mind. I should also really participate in NaBloPoMo, it seems fun!

    Reply
  32. Wow, you sure learned a lot in a month. As a former daily blogger who is just getting back into it, I found myself reminiscing as well as plotting my next move. Thanks for the helpful tips.

    Reply
  33. Really enjoyed this post, good to know there are other people put there who feel like they haven’t got it cracked yet! You’ve got some really good ideas though – congrats on getting freshly pressed, I’m glad you did or I wouldn’t have found your blog :)

    Reply
  34. Great advice here! I’ve been doing this blogging thing for 2 years, but I feel like my first year was spent just figuring out how all of this works (the widgets, the community etc.). I’m feeling a little more comfortable in my blogging skin now, but there’s always more to learn, new things to try, and new people to meet. I love it!

    Reply
  35. Good thoughts. I did a platform challenge (Thanks to Robert Lee Brewer for that) where I built up stuff, only to realize what I needed to do for me was work on my fiction.

    But as to NaBloPoMo taking place during November, I think it was to give all the NaNoWriMo rebels a place to go if they didn’t want to work on fiction.

    Reply
  36. Hi! I am trying to work on making my blog more appealing at the moment and wanted to say thanks for the tips. I haven’t fully explored what is on offer and tend to just post up my latest poetry on my site. I want to use it more regularly and this has inspired me a lot. Thank you so much!

    Vicki

    Reply
  37. I think there’s some sound advice here. I will try to incorporate some of this into my blog.

    Tim

    Reply
  38. Good advice for a new blogger like me. Thanks for the tips.

    Reply
  39. Great thoughts. Thank you for sharing this. I struggle to stay consistent in posting and would love to join you in the once a week challenge. Let me know when you are starting please.

    Reply
  40. Great points! I know that, at least for me, it can be a constant struggle to blog well, pitting quantity against quality. And as for inspiration? Psshh. That can be a bit hit or miss. Oh, but when it comes…those are the times I live for as a blogger. :-D Thanks for the added inspiration!

    Reply
  41. J M Naszady

     /  December 9, 2012

    Thanks for the tips! These are importnt points to remember when putting yourself out into the blogosphere.

    Reply
  42. Hiya – first time reader, longtime negligent blogger, here. =D

    Can’t say I’ve ever heard of NaBloPoMo, but it sounds like a good name for an antacid. I have heard of NaNoWriMo, however, as I’m sure every failed novelst has, and more recently, “NaMoDrawMo”. To be honest, I don’t think I’ll ever do the daily thing, but something about devoting a whole month to self-indulgence is just inspiring enough. x)

    Ramble adide, though, great post. I’ll definitely include some this sage wisdom to my gameplan of blogage. ;)

    Reply
  43. Hi, what an informative, useful and entertaining blog post – no wonder you were freshly pressed. As someone who is new to blogging I was amazed to read your comments about a well organized community of bloggers supporting each other’s work.

    It would be wonderful to have that kind of backup when I post, but I am really not sure how to get to that stage. Your comment about the content of your blog and writing for a niche raises some interesting issues. I guess it might be easier to build an audience if were able to find a nice spot a settle down to a particular type of content, but I am afraid that if I set constraints on myself I might lose the enjoyment of blogging that comes (for me) with the freedom to be spontaneous.

    I don’t want my blog to feel like I am feeding some great beast that returns each day to devour more professional titbits, and I certainly don’t feel expert enough in any subject to use that as a cornerstone for my writing.

    What is relevant for you in this post is just as relevant for me, even if I am only a few faltering steps down the path behind you.

    Thank you, I learned something useful here and I will be back to learn some more.

    James

    Reply
  44. I love that you have responded to your comments.

    Reply
  45. I went through this epiphany not too long after I started my blog. Initially I put it together how I liked it and realized quickly it was not so visually appealing or user friendly as I thought (for readers). I also realized some things I write about are wholly unappealing to some and that I would alienate many because of it. I had to find a way where I could write on all the things I wanted to write about and people visiting my blog could actually have a great visual right on the home page without having to rely on tag or category clouds or a readers gumption to scroll down beyond my last post. My blog was launched in mid-April. I have over 6200 visits as of tonight. It is robust, easy to navigate, shows a variety of options for readers of all interests and it looks great. I have good traffic and am finally getting more interaction via commenting. I have had my pages shared more than 200 times so far as well.
    It’s been a lot of work and will continue to be a lot of work, but it’s work I love. I have been a writer for a long time, but I am also a marketing and promotions person so I went into this knowing a few tricks and I am constantly learning more.

    Reply
  46. Reblogged this on Billy Nothin and commented:
    Hi. Im New to the blog world and you have answerd a few questions I’ve had about how to get my blog out in the world. Thanks for the tips.

    Reply
  47. Reblogged this on lindahauck's Blog and commented:
    As someone new to blogging, the idea of blogging everyday is a great way to jump right in.

    Reply
  48. I joined signed up for WordPress lete in November and found aout about NaBloPoMo. I would have lovd to participate in that. I would give it a go next year and definitely keep your advice in my mind. Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed!

    Reply
  49. Thanks so much for this post. It’s giving me more of a direction. Being a newb is frustrating, but still fun. Thanks for the advise.

    Reply
  50. I have been toying around with using a content calender as well. Maybe you could blog about how using one goes for you? Give some of us out here an idea of what one looks like??

    Reply
  51. You’ve covered all my thoughts and worries about blogging in one post! Apart from the content calendar, I’ve not come across this before, will be interested to see how it goes for you.

    Reply
  52. Thanks for the share! I’m also working on expanding my blogging community. I write professionally as well, and my personal blog often gets the short end of the stick when it comes to time and networking.

    I do use content calendars with my clients, and I’m starting to work on cross-blogging with others in my industry (content marketing). Content calendars can be great, and I highly recommend an application like DivvyHQ (which is free for a single user and a single calendar), though WordPress has a good built-in calendar too (I think it comes with the Jetpack plug-in for self-hosted blogs).

    The biggest challenge with content calendars is that if you’re not already disciplined, they don’t really fix that particular problem, darn it! :D They can be a good reminder, however, when there are upcoming topics you want to tie in with–holidays, etc.–which can increase your readership, as people like to read about seasonal topics. It also helps for spreading content out–if, like me, you get into writing grooves where you throw out two or three posts in a matter of days, and then go months in between, using a calendar can help you to plan that content out and stretch it a bit more. Sometimes one post can become two or three and stretch it even further.

    Thanks for the link to the weekly challenge, too. I didn’t even know it existed–I think I’ll join in from time to time.

    Great post!

    Reply
  53. Kimchibytes received this post. If you are ever in Korea I can take care of your photo needs for free! Really great tips-thanks for sharing.

    Reply
  54. Gina F

     /  December 11, 2012

    Hi, I’m new here and reading this entry has given me a bit of an insight on a few things I don’t know much about and also that there are many new time bloggers and that most of us all have similar experiences at the start.

    Thanks for your thoughts!
    G~

    Reply
  55. I’ve just read your post (been away from the world of the internet since last Friday) and it’s a good timely one for me. I’ve been thinking and writing about working at home and the need/ways to create a network. I love reading other blogs and am happy to comment but I’m finding Twitter a bigger challenge – thought I’d try it out and persevere for a few months anyway. I kept reading in different places that it was good to link up your blog with Twitter – what do you reckon?

    Reply
  56. Yeah,I could not agree more. To blog everyday is one thing, but to blog good content another. Blogging is a challenging platform, but more and more essential. Well done.

    Reply
  57. A really good post. Exactly what I needed to read. I’ll try this out,definitely. And you made it so easy to read the tips/options in the post. Most I’ve read are really messy. :( So thank you for posting this! :)

    Reply
  58. Quality content is the life of a blog and I’m glad for u to have such creativity…
    The Things i learned this year The Things i learned this year

    Reply
  59. thanks for the tips…what you learned during NaBloPoMo i’m now know! thaaaank you :)

    Reply
  60. Great blog – many thanks for the concise advice!

    Reply
  61. Fun reading your thoughts. And… I have a suggestion for #2 – you want good photographs… check out my new blog (which I hope to grow and include many people from the community) – Its called Storied Impressions and combines photos with stories – in the coming months you’ll find loads of great photos and links to the folks that took them – feel free to connect! http://www.storiedimpressions.wordpress.com. And Join the fun, subscribe and/or write comments – the more interactive the merrier!

    Reply
  62. Great post. Congrats on getting “pressed.”

    Reply
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