This is a very common question, and one worth thinking about for any author.
Let’s first look at a brief history of blogging.
The history of blogging
According to Wikipedia, LiveJournal.com and Blogger.com were launched in 1999. And the blogging software WordPress was first released in 2003.
Between 1999 and 2003, we saw the birth of blogging.
What made blogging so exciting and interesting is that for the first time, you didn’t have to be a software-coding ninja to launch your own website.
A couple clicks of the mouse, and voilà! You had your own customizable home on the internet that was easy to maintain and update.
It was a crazy time.
The early days
I built my first WordPress site right after the very first release of the software back in 2003.
I paid attention to the blogging world right from the start.
In those early days, here’s everything you had to do to build a blog that got a decent amount of traffic:
- Start a blog.
- Post regularly. (About anything.)
It was amazingly easy to build an audience, because there was no competition.
Now when you start a blog, you’re competing with everyone from the New York Times to Tim Ferriss to your neighbor’s fourteen-year-old.
Just having a blog isn’t enough to guarantee traffic.
There are literally millions of them now, many of them backed by huge, well-established brands, with a staff of writers who post multiple times a day.
Now, almost two decades after the advent of blogging, things have changed.
And the current reality will affect your decision about whether or not to start a blog, and how to use it if you do.
Strategy vs Tools
One of the fundamental problems with the question “Should I start a blog?” is that you’re starting in the wrong place.
Imagine me having this conversation with my wife:
Her: I need you to build something new for the house. I need—
Me: Should I use a hammer?
I’m sort of putting the cart before the horse there, right?
First, I need to know what she needs me to build. Then I need to find the right instructions on how to build it, and figure out what materials I’ll need.
THEN I can decide what tools are needed for the job.
Creating a blog is a similar situation. Blogging is a tool in your toolbox. The question is, is it the right tool for your platform?
And if so, are you willing to use it in the right way?
Because if you try to use a blog for something it’s not designed to do, you’re just going to get frustrated over the lack of results.
I could try to get a nail into a board by using a screwdriver. But it’s the wrong tool for that job.
I could maybe get it started, but I’m mainly going to be frustrated about how it just can’t get the job done.
The realization that “blogging is just a tool” is the missing ingredient in so many authors’ blogging efforts.
This is why you hear so many people say things like, “I tried blogging for six months, but nobody was reading it, so I quit. Blogging just doesn’t work for me.”
First, think about what you are trying to accomplish, and then pick the right tool for the job.
If used correctly, blogging can be a great help in building your author platform. But it must be used correctly.
What is blogging good (and bad) for?
Here are the things blogging is Good for:
- Quick-and-easy publication. Blogs make it simple to put new content up online.
- Shareability. People can easily share the link to a blog post via social media, or email it to a friend.
- Search engines. Blog posts are indexed by search engines such as Google and Bing, and that brings in new traffic over a long period of time.
Here are the things blogging is BAD for:
- Outreach. Having a blog will not automatically bring in new readers. This is not a “if you build it, they will come” situation. I can’t overemphasize that point enough. Simply starting a blog will not build your fan base.
- Getting existing fan’s attention. RSS is all but dead. (If you don’t know what RSS is, don’t worry. You’re not missing anything.) Posting a new blog post won’t even get the attention of your existing fans. They’re probably not checking your website every day to see if you’ve posted something new.
Blogging is part of a bigger game plan
As I outlined in my book Your First 1000 Copies, every author platform should consist of three things:
Blogging is really good for Content, but really bad for Permission and Outreach.
As an author, the path I want people to follow is:
- Hear about me for the first time. (Outreach)
- Engage with something I have created to see if I’m a good fit for them. (Content) (Hint: This is where blogging comes in.)
- Join my email list. (Permission)
Here’s how I use this blog:
- I post a new article (such as this one) on my blog.
- I send a message to everyone who has subscribed to my email list—a short intro followed by a link to my new blog post.
- When my subscribers come to that blog post, they’ll see links that help them share it on social media. And I often encourage my subscribers to share.
- Their connections and followers come in via their sharing. They read the article, and subscribe to my email list.
- I go back to step #1.
This blog is great for encouraging people to share content. And for storing content in an online location that can be found years from now, via search engines.
But I don’t rely on my blog to automatically bring in new people in big numbers.
My blog is just Content. Outreach brings people to my content, which leads to them giving me Permission to stay in touch.
Is a blog the right tool for your platform?
For most authors, the answer to that is “Yes.”
You need a home on the internet where people can find you easily, and engage with your writing in an ongoing way.
You need a place where it is easy to publish new Content—and your blog is the Content part of your author platform. It keeps people involved with your work in fresh, easily updated ways, and it leads them to your books.
However, it is only one piece of your entire author platform.
If you use your blog for what blogs are good for, you’ll get great results.
But if you rely on a blog to do something it’s not really made to do—to automatically bring people to you, just because it exists—you’ll only get frustrated at the lack of results.
So where do I start?
Ready to build a blog that works for you?
One that not only introduces people to your work, but consistently engages those who are already fans?
Here are some clear instructions:
Blogging is an incredible gift to modern-day authors.
Use blogging the right way, and it can become one of the most indispensable tools in your toolbox.
September 10, 2016