Top Five: Lessons Learned in First Year of Blogging

I never dreamed I’d learn so much from blogging in one year, and the investment is well worth it. (More stunning to me than anyone is that my blog received more than 4,000 non-spam views over the course of a year, which is approximately 3,999 more than I expected.) Here is a top five countdown of lessons learned in my “freshman year” in a new terrain:

Insight #5: Search Is a Key Referral

My most organically-searched post consisted of less than one hundred words. The driver was search, in which users were looking for a data type that is no longer easily accessible in Facebook. Keeping text succinct and creating a how-to post allowed for the post to show above other more highly trafficked websites, like eHow, and was only outranked by pages from Facebook itself.

The post itself received more than 2,000 impressions in search. Using straight forward wording is critical in driving referrals. After all, the homepage only drew 30% of traffic (reiterating the need for good keywords for search within individual blog posts).

Insight #4: Content First

Recently, I’ve loved seeing how brands take excellent blog content and juxtapose it onto other platforms (such as Modcloth’s Pinterest page). But the fundamentals are that they started with good content on a blog.

Insight #3: Unexpected Successes

People love Top 10 Lists. And Geeks. A Top 10 List of Geeky Wedding Cakes post (of 40) drove more than 25% of the blog’s total traffic and had twice as many views as any other post. Really, geeks? Here’s one of the places we geeked out recently.

Insight #2: Content Development Is a Continual Process 

Blogging a ready-to-publish post in one sitting is not what created my best posts. While writing a good post may only take an hour, I found I was most creative and able to best execute good ideas when I broke the content development process into small steps. I have a “blog drafts” google document that I manage even more often than my “Drafts” folder in my WordPress Dashboard. Here, I brainstorm ideas to see if they will turn into something worth writing about. Or, I might jot down a quick one-line idea if something comes to mind but I am busy with another task. I also use the Google Doc as a repository to copy and paste email strings about innovative ideas, which often turn into great blog post ideas. (Four Examples of Innovation in Loyalty ProgramsApplications in Timeline: Critical Opportunity for Brands on FacebookPsychographic Insights from Fans via Open Graph, and Google+: Innovation, Not Repetition each (to name a few) originated in email strings with colleagues at Engauge.)

In any one spurt, I might work on two or three posts at a time. But working in short bursts (usually only about fifteen to thirty minutes at a time) helps me to deliver significantly higher quality work. And, it helps to look at the same topic a few times with fresh eyes before publishing it.  The trick is to block off time to complete a blog. I know that my weakness while working on multiple posts at the same time would be to not finish them as timely as I should (the last 10% is the hardest), so I have to be very disciplined about balancing creating good content and getting that post complete (blocking off time on my calendar knowing I have to submit by the end of that time is my success tool).

Insight #1: Learning from Others Is Critical

I didn’t learn this specific to blogging, but overall, learning from knowledge-sharing colleagues (such as Kaitlyn Dennihy, Jeff Hilimire, Julia Cantor, Drew Hawkins, and Katie Melick) who “blog” (in one form or another – it may be anything from WordPress to Tumblr) is the most valuable investment throughout this year. Thanks guys!

I’m looking forward to see what’s in store for 2012!

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