2011 was a great year for the Performance Idea blog. I personally really enjoyed developing this site. Writing a blog definitely requires a lot of effort, patience and sometimes sacrifice. I usually ended up writing most of the articles at night or on airplanes. In early August, I realized that the wordpress.com platform was getting a bit too restrictive and I ended up migrating to a self-hosted format. That was a good move but it took a few weekends.
Some people have recently asked me whether it’s been worth the effort. The answer is: YES. The positive feedback I have received from you has been tremendous and I really appreciate that! But let’s look back. Here is some noteworthy content.
Wow. I cannot believe it. The Performance Ideas blog is one year old. It had developed as an idea but it seemed like a scary thing. I had heard too many critical voices: there are too many blogs, you won’t have time, you won’t get followers, etc.. All true concerns but at the end of the day, I wanted to have a blog to capture ideas from the various trips and customer meetings that I get to attend. There are so many interesting stories and lessons learned. Encouraged by my wife, family and friends, I finally started the blog on October 9th of 2010. And it’s been fun! Many thanks to all of you for following along, for providing feedback and for adding content. Today I want to share a few lessons about starting a blog.
Starting a blog is a lot of fun and there is a lot to learn. To be honest, I sometimes feel like I have only scratched the surface. And sure, there is a ton of material about blogging out there on the internet. But let me add some more ideas to that content:
Pick a platform: There are many blogging platforms out there. Pick one that you are comfortable with and stick with it. I tried out a few different ones in the weeks before the official launch. In the end, I chose wordpress.com for three reasons: the interface is really nice, there are plenty of customization options and it is relatively easy to move to a self hosted environment later on (which I ended up doing!).
Write, write, write: Getting started with something is easy. But after a few weeks the excitement often fizzles away. But blogs are like pets: you need to take care of them – daily. Creating content is difficult sometimes. And it takes time. After a few months, I realized that I was falling behind. So, I took a few days over the holidays to write 2-3 weeks ahead. It was a big effort. But it has paid off. Running the blog is less stressful now. So – get started and create content!
Engage in social media: Blogging without social media engagement is like writing about cars without having a drivers license. Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook are fantastic tools to share your content but to also spark discussions. The coolest thing about running this blog has been the opportunity to meet new professionals in the area of business analytics. People RT your content, you reply, you probe etc.. It’s fun and very rewarding.
Ask for help: Why re-invent the wheel? There is a lot to learn about blogging. Reach out for help and ask people who have done it before. I was lucky to find a few friends who provided me with extremely valuable input along the way.
Guests are welcome: Reach out to colleagues, friends and other bloggers who have something to say. I have found that engaging with guest bloggers or conducting interviews is extremely rewarding. Not only do readers like this, but it also helps me expand my horizon. It’s fun to learn from others. And it is a nice way to increase site traffic. Many thanks to all the contributors for this blog!
Learn about SEO: It’s nice to invest time in content. But there is hardly any point in doing that if nobody can find it. After a few months, I realized that my entries were not being picked up by Google or Bing. Learning a few SEO basics helped. Before posting any article, I would spend 2-3 minutes researching relevant keywords. Also, I started getting pickier about headlines, permalinks etc.. Those tweaks made a huge difference and I saw a big jump in search related traffic.
Read, read, read: Read other blogs. In the past, I hardly ever read blogs. I didn’t like the interface of Google Reader and never got into the habit. But once I got started with blogging I ended up looking for other blogs as well. I bought an awesome blog reader for my iPad and now follow around 50 different blogs. The amount of information I have been able to get is enormous. Also, I have learned a ton from just observing other blogs and this frequently provides me with ideas.
Self-hosted: As much as I like wordpress.com, I felt that it was too limited after a while. The issue is that you have very little freedom in regards to which features and templates you can enable for your site. Just an example: most blogs have a Facebook Like button. wordpress.com only started offering this a few months ago. A self hosted wordpress.org environment provides a lot of flexibility. But it also requires a lot more work. You have to research, enable and install everything yourself. I have probably spent a solid 20-40 hrs on the configuration of the new environment. But it’s been worth the effort. Actually, it’s been fun.
Starting a blog has been extremely rewarding. But not everything is all that peachy: There were some frustrating times for sure. And I do wish I had more time to develop content. But my time is limited to just 1-3 hrs per week. That’s the way it is.
Most importantly: Thanks for reading!
P.S.: If you are thinking about starting a blog, please feel free to reach out to me if you have questions.