7 Blogging Rules I Religiously Break
When starting, new bloggers are bombarded with advice to what they should and shouldn’t do to be “successful” fast.
Resuming my own blogging journey, I’ve come to make some stark changes to my process this time, which include discarding some of the seemingly most sacred of blogging rules.
With the belief (and mischievous hope) to cause slight provocation, I will thus share the blogging rules I religiously break when blogging.
1. Nonexistent email lists
Let rip the first and perhaps most painful band-aid off: I don’t have an email list.
As of now.
Along with SEO, email lists are perhaps the most pressed upon point the blogging community advises newcomers to get started on. And I get why.
Email lists are an easy and direct way for you to your audience and a stream you can manipulate in a way you can’t other platforms. It offers a form of intimacy that is hard to come by through other mediums.
It’s also a royal pain in the ass to manage.
Maybe I’ve had bad experiences, but the labor contra reward email lists entail is not worth the time or effort. At least currently. Additionally, I don’t like to subscribe to email lists myself. I abhor a cluttered email inbox and I don’t want, need, or read any email that’s essentially an extra blog post or advertisement.
As a new* blogger I don’t see the point in putting effort into luring people to my email list when I haven’t gotten them to my website in the first place. In the beginning, I think it’s perhaps not the most efficient place to direct one’s energy.
Don’t misunderstand me though; I’m not opposed to an email list, I’m not blind to it’s potential. Neither do I judge people who do put a tremendous amount on time and effort into theirs. Blogging isn’t uniform and is what every individual chooses it to be.
I will consider it for myself in the future when I can form an idea of whether it would be worth it. I will not abstain from it if I know my audience demands it. But by then I can design the service after those demands and thus offer the email service actually wanted, rather than trying to force something upon people who never asked for it.
In other words: I aim to offer what’s wanted, not force something that no one requested.
This, of course, tends to be a bit contradictory to the whole blogging experience since blogs are rarely started due to demand. Unless an already established audience requests to see more content, you essentially put something out there no one asked for with the hopes they’ll like it enough to eventually ask for it.
I’m no different, but, and my reasoning is, I think it better to start with luring people into first reading my content than also tricking them to sign up for an email subscription.
Blasphemous as it may be, this is one blogging rule I’m not in the least ashamed to break throughout my entire blogging career, should no one ever want one.
*Started once, took a break, and started again.
2. SEO blasphemy
To really be provocative: I don’t bother with SEO. I don’t research keywords, I don’t work on backlinks, and I couldn’t be damned about my ranking on Google.
You might think I’m shooting myself in both feet and arms, and question why I even bother with blogging anyway, since I’m apparently not interested in people seeing my work.
I assure you; I’m very committed to people seeing my work. But, to get people to see one’s work, one has to have work to show in the first place.
Due to me being… me, I struggle with producing content as it is, and SEO being one of those things I need to fully comprehend to be able to work with, not much content is being made if I work from an SEO point of view. On the mountain of hurdles, I have to pass to produce and post any content, SEO is but one small addition. And, quite frankly, an insignificant one.
The post doesn’t need to be search engine optimized to be published, read, and understood. It does need content, structure, and perhaps an overview of any excessive faults and mistakes. It doesn’t need the perfect keyword sprinkled throughout the text at certain intervals, in the main title and URL.
To ease any potential unsettled nerves, I can always go back and optimize the posts in the future. But to do that I need that content to get out in the first place. I aim to only create so-called evergreen content as it is, so it shouldn’t matter if the SEO is included in the beginning or added six months later.
Lastly, if you are reading this post I have succeeded to get it read without any SEO. So, if you excuse me, I shall continue posting unoptimized posts until SEO becomes the biggest hurdle on my mountain.
3. Avoidance of Links
The primary aim of my writing is for it to be read. I write because I want to, but in the end, the point of writing is, well, for someone else to read it.
Links throughout the text disturbs this, and risk potential readers to abandon the post before the end.
I’m well aware that links are important for SEO. But like the rest of SEO, it comes second (or rather third to fourth) to the actual content. I’m not out to create content millions might see but are in its entirety pure trash.
(And let’s be real, my style of writing isn’t for the vast majority in the first place, so I’m quite unnerved by the lack of million-audience trash content.)
I’m not opposed to links entirely though. I’m a firm believer in (= bound by law) citing any sources and giving credit where credit is due. I see no point in treating others’ content as mine. That said, I don’t go out of my way to find content and sites to link back to. If I need it, I will, but if I don’t, I’m happy to exclude it.
But, in the spirit of SEO and getting that Yoast meter to go up, I’m happy to include any links beneficial to the post, but I do so with care. The earlier the links, the less chance that people read till the end. Therefore, I opt for “bottom-heavier” posts: i.e. the links are more concentrated towards the end.
“But don’t you want to further direct people to your other content?” Wouldn’t I be a poor writer if I thought of other work in the midst of creating another?
I see it as such: there are the whole blog and brand, constructed of many small parts put together in an intricate structure that has to be maintained with care; then we have each post.
Most people encounter blogs through the posts and are there for the information in said post. Hence, they aren’t thinking of the rest of the system (only you do).
My reason then becomes to prioritize the quality of each post on its own, since that’s what people come for in the first place, and not the collective connection amongst every post.
Of course, I want people to read on when finished with the said initial post, but I rather it be because they found the first one interesting enough that they might give the rest a chance, rather than they being distracted midway through to another piece they aren’t the least interested in. The latter risks alienating the reader all together since they found the content uninteresting because they didn’t choose it after their own needs and interests.
This way of thinking creates a much steeper path than the tried and true methods generally advised; I know. I suppose I’m too cautious with my integrity. As a rule, I don’t publish posts I can’t stand behind (note that I didn’t say ‘proud’), and since I prioritize a good text before an efficient one.
Besides, when I do “succeed” as a blogger, I can be assured it was done in a way that I’m comfortable with, and not built on compromise.
I do try to be consistent in my posting. I value the predictableness of when the next post, part, or episode is to be available (who else is gently annoyed when series take an unexpected break mid-season?).
But the consistency of my upload schedule is far from top priority to me – did you know this one was supposed to be published the previous Friday?
To summarize: I have depression, iron deficiency, and need about 11 hours of sleep a day. Meaning I’m often always tired and can at any moment lose the few shreds of general motivation I might have.
(Since many seem to be alarmed at this information; thank you, I’m fine and am thankfully getting the help and support I need.)
Thus, my well-being and momentary needs always come first, and should it impose on my blogging consistency, so be it. I’m not up for sacrificing my already quite fragile mentality and physical energy level to produce a poor post people won’t read or enjoy anyway. Knowing I’ve created something subpar and disappointing will probably not do me any favors health-wise either.
I’m aware of the importance of consistency for content creators, and I don’t mean to blow it off just because I woke up tired. I’m simply discarding the idea of sucking it up and push through. It’s what got me here in the first place and I’m fairly sure it won’t get me out.
Ultimately, it’s about considering the bigger picture and being rational. Blogging and writing are already one of the most suitable activities for my character. Should it take 6 months to 6 years to break through, it isn’t worth anything if I can’t enjoy it. I’m thus willing to take a less effective path to spare my health than risking one of the few mental outlets and compatible employments available to me.
It might be uncertain if I will succeed in making this a sustainable living, but it’s a damned surety I will be miserable with a “normal” job. I’m happy to break this blogging rule to avoid that.
5. Limited social media
I’m annoyingly bad at social media. I have to put in more work than most to keep it up. Additionally, I never liked it either. My old soul isn’t made for this new technology.
I recently learned as to why that might be too, and say what you will about personality tests, but the INFP personality description from 16 Personalities is quite spot-on; I’m a really introverted person with very limited energy for the world of social media.
But blogging and social media are very much linked, and beginners get a whole list of platforms they should join and keep up in order to “succeed”. Pinterest being a prime example.
I won’t deny social media and its various affiliates the awesome advantage they all offer, but I won’t be surprised if, to me, they will forever be more trouble than they’re worth. At least the notion of having a cluster of them to keep up.
I know this because, like many, I did as I was told and got myself a Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook page, Twitter, LinkedIn, and whatever else there is out there. Many of which are still up and “running” (with new inhabitants of imaginary crickets). I hated every minute of it. Blogging became less fun.
Lesson learned, and what I advise anyone who asks me, is to choose just what you’re comfortable with and find some form of pleasure in using. For me, it’s mainly Instagram. I have Pinterest and LinkedIn too, but I won’t exhaust myself to keep anything up for the sake of I “should”. I “shouldn’t” anything unless I feel so.
I also choose to approach my presence a bit differently. As I would be seen dead before I messaged first, I’m not one for being especially active with other users either. I’m generous (while mindful) of my likes, but comments are scarce.
Thus, as with my blog, I’ve adopted a style that would suit someone like me. My social media is more used for me, rather than as a medium for others. If one should choose to interact, I’d be happy to oblige, but my conduct isn’t one aiming for that.
Again, one might wonder what the point is then. Well, my dear reader, if I shall endure all that comes with social media only to view beautiful sewing and adorable kitten, I might as well get some use out of it for my website, but only on my terms.
6. Posts without pictures
“Images in blog posts makes them easier to read.”
Unnecessary images in blog posts make them cluttered and distracting.
The amount and kind of images recommended to include differed from who I asked (and didn’t ask), but the consensus was to include images to break the text up and increase readability. They needn’t necessarily have any other purpose.
I don’t disagree with the notion that breaking up text will make it easier to take in, but I won’t stoop to inserting images for the sake of having a certain amount.
When I design my posts, I do it with a simple template: title, introduction, body, conclusion, and a thumbnail image. Any and everything else is additions added as needed. The only image I require is the thumbnail, and it’s for purely aesthetic reasons; I didn’t like how the post grid looked without the post images, and as I also post on Medium, it’s good to have one for that too.
If the content itself is solid text so be it. I’m well aware that my writing style isn’t the easiest to read as it is, so my target audience isn’t one to depend on nonsense pictures to be able to read my posts.
Also, you can listen to my posts.
Perhaps I’m in the minority for favoring literature slightly above my level that I have to re-read multiple times to fully comprehend. I’d like that to be the case for my writing as well.
All forms of graphics, to me, are to add to the post where words don’t suffice or to enhance the message of the text. Like links, images distract and if they aren’t helping the flow of the text, they interrupt it, and that is the last thing I want to do.
In my opinion, images are to be used with care, and if they aren’t necessary, don’t use them, even if it should mean a post made solely of text.
7. Unnecessary sentence length
Maybe it due to my love of older literature, mainly 1700-1800, but you will pry my unnecessary long and complicated sentences, sprinkled with semicolons and commas instead of perfectly fine periods, from my cold, dead hands.
You’re not supposed to write difficult as a blogger. Sentences are to be short, simple, and preferably paragraphed into chunks of only a few lines. While I abide, mostly, by the paragraph length, I will never abandon my four-line sentences.
Why? ‘Cuz that’s how I write.
I ponder a lot whether it’s mere stubbornness or courage to standing up for my style of writing. Again, my partiality of a certain kind of literature impacts the way I write, and, along with the dreaded ly-adverbs and a certain degree of passive voice, never-ending sentences are quite frequent in my chosen consumption. Though, I will admit to a bit of too great favor of passive voice, which I try my best to improve.
However, seeing as I struggle to write anything most of the time, I figured that nitpicking the writing I do manage to conduct isn’t the best way to resume the habit.
I’m also not of the opinion that longer sentences are automatically harder to read, and for the sake of readability they should be kept at bay. I think none will argue that there is a need for variety in the length of sentences; otherwise, the reader will be bored into quitting, which quite kills the readability entirely.
The length and complexity of a sentence are, partly, decided by the level of difficulty of the text. Looking at children’s literature, the younger the intended audience, the shorter the sentences (proportionally with the size of the text).
Perusing my collection of young adult novels, the sentences aren’t too drawn out either, though vastly more so than a toddler’s book. Comparing with classics such as Dracula, Frankenstein, Pride and Prejudice, and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, though from a different period, doesn’t exactly belong in the kid’s and teen’s section.
I’m not saying my content is solely for 20-year-olds and older – I’m not exactly sure who it is for yet – but are rather made for a certain reading level.
I’m aware of the demands for comprehension and knowledge of the language my writing requires solely from the way I put words together. That together with my penchant for subtlety and symbolism I don’t see the need to shorten the sentences since my work isn’t made for novice readers.
An explanation for my rule-breaking
I will offer a collected explanation of why I’m making my blogging journey apparently so much harder than it perhaps has to be. I won’t deny that my way doesn’t help the least in driving traffic or building a steady readership base.
I shall offer three reasons, which may or may not have already become evident, but to spare you the time of picking the post apart in the search of clues, I’ll summarize them.
I have a self-centered perspective
Due to will and needs, everything I do regarding my content (and life in general) I now do with putting myself first. Sounds selfish? Perhaps, but why shouldn’t I?
I have plenty of experience with being expected to compromise myself for the need of others and when starting blogging (again) I figured there was no need to not design it after myself. After all, I’m the one constant that has to live and work with how I do things.
The reason I even chose to try blogging was to establish a career and life on my terms. If I’m then not running my business as such I might as well go into engineering and be relieved of that scorn at family reunions.
The choices I make, the blogging rules I choose to break is done out of what is the best for me, and what I might be able to sustain in the future.
I wasn’t asked to start blogging
When my dad asks me to bake something, I’m happy to oblige providing it’s something I can and am willing to do.
I was never asked to start my blog. I didn’t have a following of people requesting content about whatever it is my niche is. Thus, I don’t see a reason to conform to anyone’s opinions.
Most people do want to help, and the advice they offer isn’t meant as uncompromisable rules (it just made the title sound better), I’m aware and grateful for the care. But it is just that: advice and not the stone you need to die on.
I figured, if I am to start my blog solely because I want to, I should also build and run it as I want it. After all, no one has put any expectations on me.
I prioritize my content over money
Don’t think I don’t want to earn money from my work; I very much do and it’s the aim to sustain myself with it. That’s not why I chose to do this though.
I don’t agree exactly that you can’t be motivated by money to go into blogging. I just think it’s a poor choice. Making it as a blogger isn’t easy and to anyone wanting to become rich, I will highly suggest another field. Try dentistry, I hear they are making bank!
I’ve come to value my work much higher than money, and I’m not afraid should I never come to make a living off of it. Money is abundant, and should I need to there are plenty of other ways I might attain it, even though my options for what I might handle long-term might be slim.
I enjoy writing and creating so I chose to try this because I think it will be one of the better jobs at my disposal; I’m effectively chasing a dream and that includes going after it on my terms.
I think with blogging becoming more and more mainstream as a job we get too focused on the end goal rather than how we get there. We’re quick to attain (literal) checklists of what and how to do, regardless if it suits us.
I’m happy to redefine “blogging” for my own sake to establish a way of execution that I like. Otherwise, what’s the point of even doing it?
Though eventually, I will get to SEO and should the time come, and the pigs finally fly, I will, reluctantly, get that damned email list. Wouldn’t it be ironic if this were the post that got me to?
Anywho, please comfort each other in your mutual potential annoyance, and I shall be happy to offer any answers equally infuriating as the text who induced the questions.
(Btw, the link to the INFP personality by 16Personalities).