A Year In Blogging – 10 Lessons Learned

DSC00106.jpgBlog years and dog years have a lot in common. They go fast, take constant care and feeding, and bring companionship and warmth into your life. Dogs force you to get up and move your body, blogs force you to get out and work your mind.

Social media are reshaping the business landscape and I’ve never found a better way of learning something than just wading in and messing with it. Under the tutelage of my blogfather Richard Carey and the folks at Justia I launched this site last May.

So what have I learned?

1. It works. 11,528 people interacting with my ideas has helped my business immensely (see stats below). As Jim Bower over at Numdeon is fond of saying – “it isn’t about eyeballs, it is about eyeballs connected to brains.” Half of my clients come from web referrals and the trend-line is up. It is far better than advertising and its “free.” At April’s rate there will be 24,000+ visits in the coming year.

2. Writing for a public sharpens your thinking in all contexts. Personally this has been the most rewarding part of blogging. It has forced me to organize and articulate my thoughts on key issues that affect our industry. It is far different than internal corporate writing, blog articles stand or fall on their own merits.

3. Focus = Traction. To succeed a blog has to have a clearly defined audience. I always try to bring my posts back to what the topic means for the companies that serve the education market. If you search on “education business consultant” or “K12 education marketing consultant” this blog is #1 or #2 in Google. That happens because Google rewards sustained focus and original content.

4. Networking is part of the job. Blogging is all about a conversation – know who your peers are and engage with them. Read about related industries and bring the insight back to ours. I use my blog roundups to share things other bloggers are saying that I think are relevant. Some of the most popular posts on the site also came from guest bloggers (thanks Randy, NT, and Paul).

5. Mix up depth and breadth to keep it interesting. People like the depth a 4-5 part series can bring to a topic, but for everyday browsing they also like short pieces that engage their interest.

6. Make it personal. This medium is all about being genuine. Speak your mind, share your story, and be real. Every few months I post what I’m listening to on my iPod – and I get a lot of positive feedback about it even though it isn’t on topic. I also enjoy putting in human interest pieces and humor – but that is also part of my personality.

7. Key words matter – a lot. Learning to write blog posts is an art – and doing it well without it looking artificially structured to parse in a search engine isn’t always easy. Knowing what words to use and where to use them in your articles is a skill you need to master.

458100666_62cee54e9f_o8. Links and visual cues bring a post alive. Having quality links to support your arguments (or provide alternative viewpoints) adds credibility. Picking a graphic that amplifies the message also helps a lot. There are tons of free or near free images out there today so you have no excuse.

9. Good tools make it easier. I use Ecto to draft posts – it allows me to work off-line and is seamlessly integrated with iPhoto and Amazon. Movable Type isn’t as user friendly as I’d like it to be – Ecto makes up for that and then some.

10. Patience. Gaining traction takes time – there is no short cut around this. It takes about 20 posts before the search engines take you seriously – with the 10’s of thousands of new blogs started every day this is just common sense. But even after you have build a corpus of posts it takes time for people to discover you and become regulars. Don’t be discouraged early on.

My thanks go out to those who helped me get started on this path and to the many readers who have provided feedback and encouragement as this adventure has unfolded.

The most popular posts from the last year:
1. Education Publishing – A Wave of Change Sweeps Over the Industry (multi part series)

2. Information Overload (how to build materials for the 21st century – multi-part series)

3. Teachers and the Internet – Five Things You Should Know

4. Lifelong Learning – Retired Construction Worker Deciphers Stonehenge Construction

5. Where is the Wii for Education?

6. Textbooks vs. Education Technology – Clash of Paradigms

7. Target Market Selection

8. The Future of Education Publishing – Panel Report from the Education Industry Investment Forum

9. Ethics Video Game – Using Frankenstein to Teach Ethics?

10. Are We Producing New Education Entrepreneurs

Some stats from the last year.

11,528 visits – This does not include RSS. Not having Feedburner set up from the get go was a mistake. We are putting it in place now.

19,740 page views. This might seem low, but since the landing page is the blog this makes sense. Most people go there, read the latest posts, and move on. Again – without Feedburner this the low end.

1:38 minutes is the average time on the site. This means 314 hours of people interacting with my ideas (or 40 eight hour days). This is a highly leveraged use of my time. Consider these alternatives

  • At 7 minutes prep and talk time per call (assuming you got through on the first call) this would take 168 eight hour days.
  • To get this kind of engagement via direct mail with a 1.5% response rate it would take 768,000 mail pieces.
  • To reach this number of people by speaking at conferences with an average room count of 100 it would take 115 presentations.
  • You get the idea.
  • Actual time on task – 2-3 hours a week (or 16 eight hour days a year).

122 countries. 71% are from the US. Others in the top 10 are Canada, UK, India, Australia, Singapore, Philippines, Malaysia, Germany, and China. I love going into the mapview in Google Analytics to see where people have come from. It took me forever to hit all 50 states – Montana and Delaware were the hold outs! Globally Tibet, Cambodia, the Stans, Syria, Central Africa, Greenland, Guyana, and Uruguay are still terra incognita for this blog.

95% of readers were on a high speed connection. I no longer worry about putting video and other high bandwidth links in my posts. I’m toying with doing some v-casts as well.

79% of users were on Windows, 20% on Macs 1 % on Linux. 7 People came in on a phone and 1 came from a Playstation (WTF?). Why the oversampling of Macs? It probably has something to do with Education being the target market.

5% of users were on 800×600 screens. It looks like we could have comfortably designed for a minimum of 1024×768 and hit 95% of the users.