It’s really easy to start your own blog. I should know. I have started at least 8 of them. But it’s really hard to keep them going. I should know. Because 7 of mine moved like glaciers, until global warming put them out of their misery.
I enjoyed writing the blogs. But I never created a habit that kept them going. It takes time to find your groove, your voice and your writing schedule. Even more challenging, it takes a lot to attract an audience that wants to read what you are writing.
Writing No Matter Whataburger
When I started this blog I made a commitment to myself to just keep at it, no matter what. I was committed to sharing my experience as I launched my own advertising agency from dust. I thought it would help others start their own businesses. Just as I had read other blogs that inspired my entrepreneurial adventure. If the business failed and no one read the blog, at least when it ended I would have the experience and learnings well documented for myself. Which is like seeing the light at the end of my carpal tunnel.
In many ways The Perfect Agency Project blog and The Weaponry, my advertising and idea agency, are like twins. They were born at the same time. They have grown together. And they are inseparable. Like conjoined twins. Or regular twins who got into the Gorilla Glue.
The growth of The Weaponry has been a shared experience, as we have added team members and clients. But the growth of The Perfect Agency Project blog has been private and quiet.
Writing this blog is a solitary endeavor. It’s just me and my computer. I write down my thoughts, lessons, experiences, observations and insights that stem from working in and on my business. Then I hope that someone, somewhere will read the posts and find some value in them.
Sometimes the posts are well read. And sometimes they are not. It is hard to tell why some posts fly and some flop. Especially when what I consider to be the best, most important ideas gain very little traction.
But whether a post was extremely popular or went mostly unnoticed, I write again the next day. I have been consistent and persistent. I just kept writing. And just kept posting.
Seeing Obvious Progress
I am proud to say that on September 17th, 2019, the total number of views and visitors to my blog for 2019 surpassed the total number of views and visitors the blog received in all of 2018. Which means that it had the same number of visitors in 8.5 months in 2019 as it did in the 12 months of 2018. #FirstGradeMathYall
Insistence on Persistence
The persistence is leading to progress. I still have 3.5 months of readership growth ahead this year. At the pace of 3 posts per week, that is 42 blog posts left to share in 2019. As a result, I expect a 50% growth in views and visitors for the year. Which for a blog I have been writing for 4 years feels pretty good.
Fun Fact: The Perfect Agency Project blog has been read in 113 countries around the world in 2019.
I attribute the growth to just keeping at it. Slow and steady. Each post, whether it is read by tens or thousands, contributes to that total. And that’s progress. Truly, every little bit helps.
Success doesn’t come overnight. It comes in small steps that seem insignificant on their own. But over time the cumulative effect of all those small steps is significant progress. So keep going. Commit to creating a habit of action, day after day. Then give yourself time. Time for the results to pile up and make a difference. If I can do it you can do it. Do a little every day. And just don’t stop.
*If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please share it with them.
I first heard about web logs in the early 2000s. I fell in love with the idea right away. Suddenly, everyone could write and share their own ideas with the world, for free! I immediately wanted to write my own. Over the next decade I dabbled with at least 8 different blogs. But like cheap tape, nothing stuck
The Perfect Agency Project
I started this blog in the fall of 2015 as I began planning to launch my own advertising agency, The Weaponry. I wanted to write about the startup process, the entrepreneurial experience, and all that I knew and learned about advertising and marketing. I hoped that people would read this and think that if this clown can start his own business, I certainly can too. (Which is true.)
The Surprise Education
I expected to share what I learned about business. But along the way I also learned a lot about blogging. When I hit 200 published posts last year I wrote a piece entitled, What I have learned about blogging after 200 posts. I shared all my best tips and tricks about blogging. Today, when people ask me for advice on blogging I simply point them to that post, like Babe Ruth calling his shot. Except there is no baseball, no bat, no outfield wall, and no candy bar at the bottom of the country club pool.
Today I am publishing my 300th post. Over the past 100 posts I have learned even more about blogging. So I am adding 12 more tips to my blogging body of knowledge. Here they are in a particular order.
12 More Tips On Blogging Learned From Writing 300 Posts.
1. Just keep writing.
The most important factor in writing 300 posts is to simply keep writing. It is easy to write one post. And it’s really easy to quit after writing that one post. To get to 300 hundred, 3000 or 30,000 posts you have to just keep writing. It’s like Dory’s swimming philosophy. There is no magic to it. Just stick-to-it-ness.
Get your blog posts up and running and fix them along the way.
2. There is always something to fix.
When I look back at my published posts I feel like Michael Jackson looking at his face. Because there is always something I want to change. Always. I would add another example, smooth a transition, insert another joke. But the blog posts must get published. Published is better than perfect. It’s a blog. Not a book. You get a round of writing. A round of improving. And then you have to push that post out of the nest to fly or flop.
3. Errors are part of the game.
In the process of pushing posts live on a regular basis you are going to make mistakes. A typo may sneak through. You may miss a word, or double double a word, or misuse or misspell a word. You have to work to minimize errors. But accept that they will happen. My readers help me find the errors. Kind of like friends who tell you when you have something stuck in your teeth, or toilet paper stuck to your shoe, or a bat in the cave (a booger in your nose). These are good friends and good readers. Because they want to help you succeed.
4. There is no telling what will be popular.
I am often surprised at what posts become really popular. It’s hard to predict what gets passed along. It’s difficult to know what will generate a lot of comments. I haven’t found a lot of consistency in my most popular posts. It’s kind of like dance crazes. So just keep dancing and enjoying it.
Missing, one great blog post. Last seen by nobody.
5. Sometimes a great post goes completely unnoticed.
This is a the hardest fact about blogging. Sometimes you write a post that is really great, that you know is important, and smart and real and maybe even funny. And then it goes virtually unnoticed. This will happen a lot when you first start, because you don’t have much of an audience. And you wonder why you are bothering to write at all. But do bother. Because you learn from writing.
Blogging has a cumulative effect. The more you write, the more your work is discovered, read and shared. You can always repost or update a great post that phantomed through the opera. Know that what you are writing is good and that others are missing out on some great ideas.
6. The off-channel feedback is the best.
In social media and blogging everyone talks about engagement. Which is the aggregate of your likes and comments on your posts. But what I have found most meaningful is the feedback I get away from the blogging and social media platforms.
I regularly get emails, texts and in-person comments about how much people appreciate a post, or my blog in general. These are genuine, thoughtful, appreciative comments that are not intended to show engagement, increase influence scores or sweet talk an algorithm.
When I get these messages they typically come in the following format:
‘All joking aside, I really appreciate that you are writing this blog (or this specific post). I am really getting something out of this. I wanted you to know. Please keep them coming.’ – Feedback Franny or Freddy
This type of feedback is really what motivates me to keep writing. Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to share such notes.
7. Don’t trust the data.
WordPress offers analytics on my blog about:
But the data doesn’t always jive with reality. I am not sure how the data on page views accommodates for people who subscribe and read the blog via email. Or how pass along of the email is captured. I often see a strong uptick in likes or comments on other platforms where I share a post, like LinkedIn and Facebook. But there is no movement in the data on WordPress. So don’t be a slave to the numbers, or take the WordPress data as gospel. Just keep writing good posts.
8. 3 times per week is my sweet spot.
Over the course of the past year I went from publishing 2 posts per week to 3. As a general rule I publish on Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday. Occasionally I may slide those a day earlier or a day later based on my travel, work or world events. But I fully expect this to be my final answer on blogging frequency. It offers me 2 days to write each post. It offers 2 days for each post to be read before a new one takes its place at the top of the pile. The algorithms seem to want you to post about every other day so that you don’t flood the feeds.
Adding the Sunday post means that I no longer go Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday without publishing. As a result I have seen my overall monthly readership increase by 50%. If you can trust the data.
9. The real impact is not measured in views, follows, likes or comments.
Let me address measurement one more time. I am certain after 300 posts that you can not measure the impact of a blog in views, follows, likes or comments. The true impact of a blog is in how it impacts a life. It is in how the insights, education, information, motivation or inspiration you share improves the lives of your readers.
Blog posts are meant to help in some way. That help is not measured in likes and comments. It is measured in confidence, and in successful actions taken and in opportunities seized. Never lose sight of this. The real impact of your blog may not be recognized for years, or even decades. Be patient. And just keep writing.
10. The Blogger learns as much through writing as the reader does through reading.
When I first began writing my blog I expected to teach others a bit about the things I write about. Including advertising, marketing, creativity, entrepreneurship, business, and networking. But I am learning more than anyone else.
Regular writing forces a lot of self reflection, and analysis. You start viewing everything in life as lessons and insights worth sharing. The writing and editing process teaches you to clarify and refine your thinking. You draw scores of new connections and aha’s along the way. #takeonme So regardless of whether or not anyone ever reads your writings, you will profit from the writing itself.
11. Sneak in anything you want.
It’s your blog and you can write whatever the ef you want to. Sure, it’s best to have a general theme, direction, perspective or angle in your blog. People want to know generally what they can expect from reading it. But take advantage of the fact that it is your platform to share your stories and your perspective.
Blogging pays off. But it pays off slowly. You have to be patient. And persistent. But the cumulative effect of writing and sharing good content regularly increases your value to others. Which in turn becomes valuable to you in ways that are both monetary and life-i-tary.
Blogging keeps your voice and your viewpoint top of mind for others. Which means that you are both recently and relevantly recalled when opportunities surface. It works for me. It can work for you too. And despite all the tips it really comes down to this:
Think, Write, Review, Publish, Repeat.
If you know someone who writes a blog, or would like to, please consider sharing this post with them.
You have dreams. I know you do. You have visions of a future that is better than today. In your dream state you have a better job, a more exciting career or your own thriving business. You have lost weight, gained fame, made a fortune and crossed off everything on your bucket list. You, my friend, are Forrest Gumping.
Want To Do’s vs Have To Do’s
The hard part about making your dreams come true is that dreams are electives. They are not required. Which means that unlike taxes, you can put dreams off forever without getting into any trouble. The downside is that when you die your dreams die too. And as you are carried off to your final resting place your unrealized dreams will be left behind, still in their wrappers. Like sad little veal dreams.
Making Your Dreams Come True
The key to bringing your dreams to life is simple. You have to create fake deadlines. How do you do this? You just make them up. It’s the same way we created Leprechauns, Unicorns and the Backstreet Boys. You simply create your own fake timeline to make your dreams a reality. Then deadline your way forward.
My Entrepreneurship Deadline
On the eve of my 40th birthday I set a series of goals and fake deadlines for myself. One of my goals was to start my own advertising agency. Less than 3 years later I formed The Weaponry. A fake deadline gave my entrepreneurial dream urgency. Which made it a priority. Which gave it attention. Which created the action it required to meet the fake deadline. #3Whiches
Today The Weaponry sets quarterly rocks, or goals, that we must accomplish within 90 days. The 90-day deadline is completely made up. But it creates urgency and forces us into action. It gamifies our efforts and keeps us moving forward and improving as an organization.
My Blogging Deadlines
I publish 3 new posts to The Perfect Agency Project blog every week. I do this to share my experiences, insights and wisdom gained from building my own advertising agency. No one is making me write. No one else is telling me that a new post needs to go live every Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday. But that’s what my fake deadlines demand. So I deliver. As a result my readership steadily increases by 50% each year.
Fake deadlines make things happen. They are the true keys to progress. To accomplish something that is important to you start by setting a fake deadline to get started. Then set a fake deadline for completion. And set lots of fake deadlines to meet important and aggressive milestones along the way. Without fake deadlines dreams die. That’s just reality. But don’t let it happen to you. Instead, set your fake deadline today, by 10pm local time. Tick Tock. Tick Tock. Tick Tock.
If you know someone who could benefit from this post, please share it with them.
I always wanted to write a blog. Ok, that’s a total lie. The term weblog wasn’t even born until after I was out of college. But ever since I first heard about blogs I knew I wanted to write one. But like a lame shopping mall, I didn’t have a hot topic to write about.
That all changed when I started planning the launch of my advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry. I knew my entrepreneurial journey would make for an interesting story to write about. I just didn’t know if it would be more comedy, tragedy or a bit of both.
I launched the blog The Perfect Agency Project to share my entrepreneurial experience, and to serve as a personal journal of the adventure. Since the fall of 2015 I have written regularly. I have also written posts when I was irregular*. (*Not true, but I don’t have an editor to stop me from writing such nonsense. Which is one of my favorite things about blogging.)
It’s A Hard Blog Life
But writing a blog is hard. It is an elective that can take up as much time as your required coursework. Maintaining a blog requires a dedication to writing and editing. It requires a commitment to learning, observing and listening to the feedback you receive.
This, my readers, is my 200th post. I am extremely thankful for all of you who have taken the time to read any of my writings. This feels like a good time to reflect on the experience so far, and share what I have learned from my first 200 posts.
17 lessons I have learned from writing my first 200 posts.
#1 Starting is the most important step. I talk to people all the time who tell me they want to start a blog. And my response is always, ‘You should.’ And ‘The best way to start a blog is to go to wordpress.com and start writing a blog.’ It is really that easy to get started. Remember in A Social Network with Fake Mark Zuckerberg said, “If you guys were the inventors of Facebook, you would have invented facebook.’? The same holds true here. If you want to write a blog, start a blog. (And how cute is that little Chariots of Fire Duckling pic above?)
#2 Write and publish 5 posts before you share any with others. This 5-post commitment ensures you are serious about blogging. It also offers your first visitors an established base of content to peruse on their first visit. This helps entice them to come back for more. The 5-post commitment also works for building fences.
#3 Posts Don’t Have To Be Long. Seth Godin’s blog posts are often very short. Often a paragraph or so. These are easy to read and easy to write. In our attention-deficit world people like a quick blog hit. If writing shorter keeps you writing, write short. And remember, if you dare wear short shorts, Nair for short shorts.
#4 Make people laugh. One of the most important reasons people look forward to my writings is that I try to sneak funnies, or ridiculouses into my posts. I think humor is key to keeping people coming back, like the Costanza hat. But if you don’t do funny well, try profound, or smart. They offer value too.
#5 500-word rule of thumb. I like a 500-word average for my posts. That seems to be a good length that lets me share a full thought, but not so long that it starts to drag. For perspective, we just hit 500 words in this paragraph. And maybe I should stop here. But not today! Today, we’re going Ludacrous Length.
#6 Use the Headline Analyzer. I often type my headline into the headline analyzer at coschedule.com. It helps me tweak the headline for maximum interest. It will show you what is likely to help your headlines draw more eyes and clicks. It gives each headline a score between 1 and 100. The headline on this post only scored a 69. But I snickered and thought that was good enough. Aim higher than I do.
#7 You never know what topics are going to resonate with readers. Everyone comes to my blog from a different mindset. So different topics, perspectives, and quotes are more relevant to some readers than others. I am often surprised when readers tell me that a recent post was their favorite thing I’ve written so far. So keep writing. You never know who will benefit from it. There are a handful of random blog posts that have had a major impact on my thinking. Your wisdom could have that kind of impact too. Which is better than an impacted wisdom tooth.
#8 A photo is important. The featured image seems to have a significant impact on readership. WordPress has a library of free images to use. Use them. They help. Apparently humans are visually stimulated. Who knew? (#ThePornIndustryKnew)
#9 Tuesdays and Thursdays work. Every community has specific days and times that work best for post readership. Although I have published posts on all 31 days of the week, Tuesday and Thursdays get the most love. I don’t know why. Experiment to find days and times that get the best response for your blog.
#10 Read your blog out loud before publishing. All of my posts are read out loud (ROL) before I push them live. You should do this too. It helps you find errors and omissions that you may not have found otherwise. For instance, by ROL-ing I might have realized there are 7 days in a week, not 31.
#11 6 is the magical monthly number. I talked to a mathematician who did statistical analysis on blog posts and readership. He found that posting 6 posts per month or more had a much greater impact on engagement and memorability. I have found this to be true. As soon as I made a habit of hitting 6 posts or more per month my average monthly readership doubled. Which doubled the pleasure and doubled the fun.
#12 Create a writing habit. I start each weekday morning by writing for about an hour from 6am to 7am. This has become a regular routine. It’s a positive habit that allows me to publish 2 posts per week. Establishing the writing habit is the key to making the blog work. My friend Jeff Hilimire, who blogs regularly, said that he frequently uses a 20 minute rule. He writes for 20 minutes, and publishes what he has when the dinger dings. I actually don’t know if there is a dinger. But the point is to find your habit and grab it like a rabbit.
#13 Run Spellcheck. WordPress and other blogging platforms have a spell checking feature. Use them. They will catch things you don’t, like Odell Beckham Jr. You will have the occasional error sneak through. My readers will often shoot me a heads up when I pull a Billy Buckner. I appreciate this. It takes a village to raise a grammatically proper post.
#14 Start a draft whenever you get an idea. Inspiration for posts can come from anywhere. When inspiration strikes, write the basic idea into a quick draft on your phone or computer. I currently have 195 unpublished drafts. In fact, my blog is so drafty it needs weather-stripping. Your ideas are likely to disappear if you don’t write them down. Having several drafts started gives you plenty of options to work with on days when you are less inspired to write something new.
#15 Posts are a great way to recognize others. I have written many posts about the people who have inspired, impressed and supported me. The posts offer a great way to say thanks, or show your appreciation or respect for others. In fact, my most popular post to date is my tribute to my friend Steven Schreibman. I have written about friends, family, clients, coaches, rappers and a strange woman I encountered at the Piggly Wiggly. They have all been popular posts. Granted, some of them had nothing to do with advertising or entrepreneurship. But it’s my blog, I can write what I want to.
#16 Posting brings good things. Every time I publish a post something good happens. I get an opportunity or an introduction. I hear from a friend or family member. Or I get a kind, thankful or supportive comment from a reader. Or I get asked to emcee a charitable luncheon by my friend Stacy Sollenberger, where I meet a future employee who helps bring great new opportunities to The Weaponry. Or my friend Tim McKercher forwards a post to Vanilla Ice, who tweets the post out to the world.
#17Don’tgetcaughtup in readership numbers. I would prefer to have one person read a post and really take something away from it than have a million people read it and forget it.Writefortheonepersonwhoneedstohearyour message that day.Not for the massholes who don’t care.Write good posts that offer value. That is all you should ever care about.Well, that and human rights.
The Perfect Agency Project has been the perfect writing project for me. It allows me to write a bit everyday. It forces me to think more about my life, my career and my observations. Nothing I have ever written feels truer to my style of thinking, writing and self-expression.
You have something to share too. We all do. I hope you consider sharing your thoughts, feelings, observations and learnings in your own blog. You never know who you might help along the way. Or who may help you. Life is funny that way. I hope to keep writing about this funny life adventure we are on for another 2000 posts.
**If you read this far (you are 1612 words in) you probably would enjoy subscribing to this blog. Please consider signing up to get each post emailed to you.