I never expected this blog to last four years.
I was always That Person—the one who was forever chasing the latest shiny new idea.
And then I created The Writer’s Cookbook.
Posting was pretty intermittent at first. I posted as and when I was in the mood to. I tried to stick to a structure but often got bored…
…but when I decided to commit to it fully, the stats went CRAZY.
It shows the difference a little perseverance can make, eh?
I still can’t believe I’ve been blogging for four years. I mean, four years ago I’d only just started my first day job. I was still writing my dissertation. I’d never seen Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries 😱
I don’t claim to be an expert in writing. When you start calling yourself an expert, you get cocky. You stop learning. And then…you stop being an expert.
But I do know a fair bit about writing after all these years of studying and several million (yes, really) words written.
So, to celebrate The Writer’s Cookbook’s fourth birthday, here are four lessons in blogging.
SEO takes time to build
Sure, sometimes you’ll get a fluke post that ranks well in Google almost instantly. My list of 9 character types to include in your story was on the first page of Google within a couple of days. Now it’s one of the most popular pages on the site.
But not every post ranked so well straight away.
Meanwhile, posts that were hugely popular a couple of years ago—such as Silvia’s post on fantasy subgenres—is considerably less popular (that doesn’t mean it’s not still a great post, though).
When it comes to blogging, you never know which posts will take off. You can take an educated guess, but until you put your content our there and start getting reactions from people, you won’t know for certain.
Social is good for immediate traffic, but you need to put the work in
Social media used to be the biggest driver of traffic to The Writer’s Cookbook.
These days, it brings in about 10% on a good month. Most of this traffic comes from Pinterest, which I barely even use!
I’d never even considered Pinterest as a source of traffic. My main focuses were always Facebook and Twitter, with occasional interest in Google+ (which, when I really tried, drove more traffic than the other two combined).
I find social is good for driving attention to new posts—which sometimes then ranks it faster on Google—but long-term, if you keep posting the same stuff over and over, people will get bored.
You need to actively engage with people and spend more time on their profiles than yours.
I put my hand up to being terrible at this, but it’s something that I’m working on. I’ve only recently started to change my tactics on social media and it is paying off, but wow it can be hard work sometimes.
Don’t write lazy guest post pitches
Seriously people. Don’t start your pitches with ‘Dear editor’.
And don’t pitch pieces that don’t fit a blog’s audience. The amount of posts people pitch to me that have NOTHING to do with writing—and no benefits to you, as a writer—is mind-boggling.
Also, don’t send a pitch that’s clearly generic. Put the work in and you’ll get more from it.
And, while we’re on the topic, don’t underestimate the power of guest posts, either. I doubled preorders of Productivity for Writers from one guest post. Getting your content in front of the right people can be incredibly powerful.
But, as the subtitle suggests, DON’T BE LAZY.
Target the write people. Write a great pitch. Write an even better post. That’s how you form relationships with people who will keep promoting your content well into the future, and how you get your content in front of a new audience.
Start with a story, end with a lesson
This is my favourite lesson, and the most important one.
Starting your blog post with a story creates a connection with your reader. Then, when it comes to your key takeaways, they’ll trust your judgement more because a) you’ve been there and b) you’ve created a connection.
To stand out in today’s world, it really isn’t about what you say. It’s about how you say it.
Don’t be afraid to let who you are come through in your writing. When you let yourself come through, it creates a deeper connection.
I don’t like talking about my struggles with depression and anxiety, but I do it because I know that it helps people. It’s important to create discussions around taboo subjects because it normalises them. It makes them easier for people to accept, and therefore easier for people in need of help to ask for it. If we didn’t have that dialogue, many of us with mental health conditions would still be suffering silently.
Over to You
What lessons have you learnt in writing and blogging? What content would you like to see coming up on The Writer’s Cookbook in the future?