12 Things I Learned My First Year Blogging

Steve-olson.com is one-year-old today. My first year blogging has been one the top 20 experiences of my life, it ranks somewhere just below losing my virginity and slightly above passing a kidney stone and having my gall bladder removed.

12 Things I Learned My First Year Blogging.

1. Look for content everywhere, but you’ll find your best original content away from your TV and computer. On Saturday – instead of watching college football, I took my family to the University of Minnesota Arboretum and discovered two fantastic ideas for blog posts. Get out of the house, away from the internet, and find your content in everyday experiences.

2. Carry a digital camera at all times. Hang it around your neck if you have to. I’ve missed some golden opportunities because I didn’t get a picture. In one missed opportunity, the cops were harassing a guy with little kids and it would have gone viral if I had the picture. This year the camera is going everywhere.

3. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Have fun. Don’t worry about making everyone happy. Some people are too freaking sensitive. In the next year I am going to have a little more fun like I did with 10 Reasons Target is Better than Wal-Mart. I took a lot of shit for making fun of fashion challenged NASCAR fans at Wal-Mart (BTW I love NASCAR, and so do my sons), but people are the funniest creatures on Earth, and we gotta have the courage to laugh at ourselves. Remember, this is coming from someone who once looked like this:

This is not Jaromir Jagr. This is Jaromir Jagr.

And partied with these guys:

I used to be a South Park Republican and I’m going to let it shine in the coming year. Sometimes, pointing out absurdity… well… it ain’t so touchy feely.

4. Don’t get addicted to checking traffic, subscribers, and linkbacks. Get addicted to writing great content, and the traffic, subscribers, and linkbacks will take care of themselves.

5. Blogging isn’t easy money. With a full-time job, helping with Christine’s book business, and raising my boys, I haven’t taken the time to monetize the site. Text Link Ads and Google Adsense generate $200-300 dollars a month, which is better than being stuck in a bathroom stall next to an Idaho Senator, but it ain’t that great either. You’ll see more monetization in the coming year.

6. The WordPress platform was the right choice because most bloggers use WordPress so pings and trackbacks happen automatically, there are more plug-ins available for WordPress than any other blogging platform, and if you want to hire a professional blog designer many of them only service WordPress .

7. List posts are the best link bait, but I hate writing them so you haven’t seen many of them here. Since readers love them, I’ll try to be less of a snob in the coming year and write more list posts. Some of the list posts on this site, like 10 Things I Learned from My 4-year-old and 10 Things I Wish I Never Believed have generated over 200,000 page views. Whoever said ‘The List Post is Dead’ is dead wrong.

8. Write from your heart. It produces results because readers will connect with your passion. The most popular post on this blog is – How the Public School System Crushes Souls. It has generated over 300,000 page views and produced nearly 20,000 back links. There is nothing I feel more passionate about than creating a new education paradigm that does not resemble a mid 20th century factory, one completely free from centralized control, the government, and unions. One that promotes our individual uniqueness, interconnectedness, and freedom much like the internet does. Imagine a long tail in the education market!

9. Blogging will build your network. It is a great way to connect with people from every corner of the globe. In the last year, I have connected with people from all over the States, Canada, Australia, Sweden, Bulgaria, India, Romania, and England. I plan to travel one day and meet many of you in person. I want to visit Rick’s theatre in Pennsylvania, drink beer with AD in Sweden, and go biking with Craig in Oz. I’m also looking for a contact in South Africa. I plan to visit SA one day. I’m huge Boer War buff and I’d love to visit a Boer farmstead.

10. The pressure to post can take the fun out of writing. I love to write, but I don’t publish most of what I write because I don’t think you’ll find it interesting, it’s too controversial, or it sucks. Sometimes I spend two days writing and I trash the piece. I only get about 30-60 minutes every other day to write so when nothing decent comes, it’s frustrating. If I waited until I had something good, blogging would be more fun so I’m going to take a ‘wait until I have something good” approach in the coming year because I know you want to read something decent and I need to respect your time no matter how guilty I feel about failing to post.

11. Don’t let successes inflate your head. Have reasonable expectations. I experienced ups and down in my first year. This blog started out like a rocket drawing over 100,000 readers and over 200,000 pageviews in the first month. I know that doesn’t sound like a problem, but it was, because it was my best month blogging all year. I couldn’t keep it going part-time, I used up my best material in the first month, and then felt like I was falling behind when in reality I wasn’t. The base readership of this blog has shown continuous growth in each of the last twelve months as evidenced from this screenshot of subscribers.

12. Don’t get distracted with meme’s and other promotional gimmicks. I made this mistake at about the six month mark and I wish I hadn’t. When I focused on creating content, I drew the most visitors and linkbacks. There is no gimmick about it.

16 thoughts on “12 Things I Learned My First Year Blogging”

  1. We would be happy to see you, Steve. Give us a few weeks notice and what movies you would like to see,and we’ll try to book it for when you’re here.

    How’s that for service? 🙂

  2. Happy anniversary, Steve! I still remember the day I discovered your blog. I liked the avatar you had at that time on SU: it was a photo of you and your son, and you looked so good together, that I was curious to read your blog. It barely had five posts, but I knew it is going to become a reference. And I wasn’t wrong.

  3. Congrats! I’ve been a loyal reader and guess what, the first post I read was that how high school crushes souls post. It was an interesting read especially since I went to one year of high school in Taiwan and then three years of high school in the United States.

  4. Some good points. I realize that maybe I come accross as taking myself a bit too seriously at times, so I’ll bear that in mind in future and thanks for helping me notice that.

    My blog will be one year old in November.

    Good One Steve…

  5. Hi Steve, great job on your anniversary. The first year lessons are tough. I still have the pressure to post bit. On the one hand, it takes me 10 days to clear well enough to have 5 good posts, but at the time I can only write 2. In the end, publishing quality content is much better for me and my readers. I actually feel like I’m making an impact now.

    Happy anniversary 🙂

    In Spirit,

  6. Just found your blog, and while I don’t currently do my own, I did think that your 12 points (minus the blog writing and responsibility) make good sense for anyone, anytime. I especially appreciated the remark about carrying a camera… too many missed ops! I’ll have to change my ways 🙂

  7. From this post I learned about two mistakes that I had been making and which need to be rectified
    1) Don’t let successes inflate your head
    2) Don’t get addicted to checking traffic, subscribers, and linkbacks.

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  9. Steve,

    If ever you have a Facebook account, I would be glad to become one of your friends. If you have a Twitter account, you would have millions of followers (I am sure of that). I love the practicality of all of your posts. I have never loved a blog like this to a point of visiting it various times everyday in various places. In short, I think about your tips everyday. I could never believe how a fantastic blog like this could exist. Again, I am so happy to have stumbled upon this blog.

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