When I started blogging in October 2017, I had no idea what I was doing. Yes, I’d written about my illness before, but I’d never blogged, either on the writing or reading side of things. These last 6 months have been quite a learning experience. My relationship with my blog and with the blogging community has evolved over that time and I’m sure will continue to evolve. Here are some of the things I’ve observed and learned through my blogging life.
Followers and following
After the first few posts, followers gradually started trickling in, and I remember how excited I was when I hit 30 followers. After a little while I clued in that a good way to get followers was to follow lots of other blogs, so I’d do searches in the WordPress reader to try to find blogs. Then I discovered that blog awards posts were an even easier way to find blogs to follow, so that became my strategy of choice.
My number of followers increased more quickly once I started posting every day. Once I hit around 400 my numbers started growing even more steadiy. Now I get several new followers every day, although I’m not actually sure how they found me.
The number of blogs I followed was always higher than the number of people following me until I hit around 500-something. When I get new followers I try to check out each of their blogs, but I generally only follow back if there’s some sort of mental health connection. There’s a part of me that feels bad about that, because I’m missing out on some really good blogs, but I get overwhelmed pretty easily, so I need to keep my WordPress reader feed as focused as I can. I generally spend several hours every day reading blogs.
When I first started blogging, I posted twice a week. I was a bit worried about running out of ideas, and I wanted to get a better feel for what blogging was all about before I started doing a lot of writing. As I got settled in and more comfortable with the blogging format and my blogging voice, I started posting a little more often, and for the last couple months I’ve been blogging pretty much every day. The majority of my posts are scheduled about a week ahead of time. There are some days I’m not writing at all, while others day I may write several posts. I’m comfortable with the post a day pace for now, but I haven’t set any firm expectations of myself. Sometimes I’ll post more than once a day, but usually only if I’m participating in a tag or another blogger’s challenge.
I think I’ve mentioned before that I have a blogging spreadsheet, and to be honest I have no idea how I’d keep track of anything without it. Whenever I have an idea for a post it goes in my spreadsheet’s idea bank. There are definitely times when the spontaneous well of ideas temporarily runs dry, but I can always draw from my idea bank.
I wasn’t on social media at all pre-blog. I had used Facebook in the past, but then deleted my account because it just made me feel shitty about myself. When I started blogging, I created accounts on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and Pinterest, and published my blog posts on all of them. Initially I thought I should try to be somewhat active on social media, but I just wasn’t feeling it. I do actually like Twitter because there’s some great content, but I find it pretty overwhelming, so I don’t spend a lot of time on it. I occasionally use Pinterest, but I never did spend much time on Facebook and Google+. I get a trickle of blog traffic from Pinterest and Facebook, but I’ve only ever gotten 2 blog views from Google+. Given the recent privacy issues with Facebook and the fact that I’m really not using Facebook or Google+, I recently decided to delete those two accounts.
I use the free version of WordPress. At this point I don’t have a pressing need to go to a paid WordPress.com plan or self-hosted via WordPress.org, so I’m going to stick with free for now.
WordPress has its quirks. Things will sometimes randomly stop working, there will be brief bursts of spam, and legit comments occasionally find their way into comment spam. I find WordPress Reader gets bogged down periodically and I’ll need to clear my web cache to get things working smoothly again. Sometimes the little orange dot will show up on my notifications icon right away when someone has liked/commented/etc, but other times it takes its sweet time. And even though I’ve spent a lot of time on WordPress, there are still things that puzzle me.
I decided from the beginning that I wasn’t going to get into a habit of checking my stats, because I was concerned that could lead to a lot of self-doubt. I’m glad I established that pattern early on, as I’ve been able to maintain it. I see the stats that show up in my notifications, but I rarely look at my stats page.
When I started blogging, I had no idea what the comment vibe was going to be like; I was just hoping not to deal with trolls. I certainly wasn’t expecting such an amazing sense of community. I had cut my friends out of my life and had minimal contact with my family, so I was very socially isolated and felt far removed from the “normal” world. As I began to engage more with the WordPress community and “meet” more bloggers, I found a social support network that I just didn’t have in my “real” life. A support network that was truly supportive. I was never an emoji person and I doubt I’d ever used a single heart emoji before I started blogging, but on WordPress there are heart emojis flying around all over the place. I would never have guessed that blogging would give me access to something like this.
Assorted other stuff
I started off my blogging life fumbling around trying to figure out the best place to find images. I’ve settled on Unsplash as my first choice for photos and Pixabay as my first choice for other assorted graphics. My free WordPress plan doesn’t let me post video files, but after a little bit of flailing I figured out how to embed Youtube videos. I’m reasonably computer competent, but this website stuff has been brand new to me.
There was more fumbling early on in terms of looking up what you “should” do to put your blog out there to the world. This ended up in many ways being a big time-waster because it really didn’t fit with how I was wanting to approach my blog. What was useful was identifying a number of different places that publish mental-health related guest posts (you can find my post about that here).
Creating that internal link in the last sentence reminded me of something that puzzles me on Google Search Console. I got set up on that in the early days of my blog, but some of the things it tells me just aren’t accurate, and I’m not sure why. The biggest thing is that tells me that only one of my posts has internal links pointing to it; it doesn’t seem to recognize any of my other internal links. I don’t actually care that much, but it seems odd.
So there you have it, my blogging evolution over the last 6 months. Have you found that your blogging experience has evolved over time? What are some tricks you’ve learned along the way?
You can also check out a follow-up to this post: How to build a mental health blog.