A blogging friend recently decided to call it quits with blogging, and it got me thinking about how important it is to keep the should monster at bay so that we can keep blogging sustainably.
Shoulds re. what to write about
You may come across articles that tell you what you should write about in order to bring in traffic, make money, etc. If sticking to those topics works for you, great. But the beauty of a blog is that it’s your space to write about whatever the heck you want. Not every post you write has to appeal to all, or even most, of your readers. You should never feel like you have to self-censor on your blog. The more you that you’re able to be in writing, the easier it’s going to be to stick with it.
Shoulds re. how to maintain your blog
Post on your own schedule, not other people’s. Sure, you can analyze stats and try to figure out days and times that will; bring in the most traffic. If that’s something that makes blogging more interesting for you, do it. If it’s the most important element of your blog, that’s probably not going to be all that sustainable.
Having flexibility around posting frequency is likely going to be far more sustainable than having rigid expectations of yourself that are barely within reach even at the best of times. It’s not uncommon for bloggers to express guilt about not keeping up with their posting schedule, but I promise you, you don’t have to apologize or feel bad for posting less often or not posting at all for a while. No one is going to judge you or criticize you for that, and it doesn’t make you a bad blogger.
More technical aspects of blogging like search engine optimization (SEO), are completely optional. I don’t mind doing basic on-page SEO because it doesn’t end up taking that much time, but I refuse to change my writing for the sake of SEO. My SEO plugin typically tells me that my readability is crap, and I’m fine with that. After all, it’s not who’s actually reading my posts.
Shoulds re. promotion & social media
There are assorted shoulds floating around when it comes to promoting your blog on social media. You should have [x] number of pins per post, which you should pin on [y] number of your Pinterest boards, plus tweet each new post every [z] number of hours, drop your latest post link in [zz] number of comment threads… It’s enough to drive anyone bonkers, in my opinion. My own personal rule is that if it feels like a lot of work, a pain in the butt, or just plain icky, I don’t do it.
There are also plenty of people in the blogosphere that don’t use social media at all, or at least not for blog-related things. So if you don’t want to dive into the social media deep end, feel free not to.
A healthy relationship with stats
Stats can give you insights, but they can also make you crazy. Blog traffic can fluctuate for many reasons, some of which are totally out of your control. Follower numbers don’t reflect the quality of your blog, although it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that they do. They are some not very good blogs that have high follower numbers, and there are excellent blogs with low follower numbers.
The more that you’re able to detach emotionally from your stats, the easier it’s going to be to continue your blogging journey.
Ignore advice that doesn’t work for you
Plenty of annoying people will come along, like I do every Sunday, and talk to you about different blogging-related things you can try. Take what works for you, and ignore the rest. You don’t need to feel like you’re a bad blogger for ignoring other people’s suggestions. Just because they’re writing about it doesn’t mean that everyone needs to do it.
One of the things that I’ve chosen to ignore is the “rule” that anyone who’s trying to make money blogging needs to put together an email list. I don’t sign up for other people’s email lists, and I don’t want one of my own, so I’m not doing it. It doesn’t matter if all the gurus are saying it’s a must-do; it doesn’t work for me, so I’m having none of it.
You do you
I really do think sustainability is important to think about, and it’s important to start thinking about early on in the blogging journey. Trying to write for your audience is all well and good, but if it’s not sustainable then it doesn’t do you or your readers any good. So my biggest piece of advice for blogging sustainably would be for you to do you. Embrace the things that make blogging fun and exciting for you, and hopefully you’ll be around in the blogosphere for many years to come.
I’ve put together a COVID-19 coping toolkit to give you some ideas on how to manage during this difficult time.