The Six Secrets to Successful Blogging

This is my nine-hundredth article for SitePoint. I never expected to reach that milestone and I’ve learned a great deal during the past five years. I hope I’ve posted something of interest to you at some point.

If you’re considering starting a blog or writing as a profession, here are my tips…

1. Write for yourself

I write about topics which interest me; the web development business and technologies. Unless you understand and enjoy your topic of choice, you won’t be able to discuss it.

This will horrify SEO “experts” but don’t write to gain web traffic. Writing may increase your traffic. You may also earn money, attract clients and receive respect from your peers. Perhaps you’ll be sent a crate of Guinness, an XBox One or a Lotus Evora (those are big hints by the way). But that should be a bonus — not your main reason for writing.

2. Write about your experiences

Writing for writing’s sake is incredibly difficult. It’s far easier to discuss a subject or experience you’ve encountered while doing your day-to-day job. The majority of my posts have been inspired by code I’ve developed or freelance business situations. The topics may be positive or negative but it makes the story more personable and easier to write.

From a selfish perspective, you’re also documenting what you’ve done. I regularly look back at old tutorials to discover how I solved a similar problem or remind myself of an obscure HTML5 API.

3. Consume more than you produce

If you’re interested in the topic, you should be reading related articles, listening to podcasts and using the techniques. That’s easy in the tech world; it’s fast-moving and ever-changing — you can find inspiration everywhere.

I’m yet to run out of topics and have rejected more articles than I’ve written. If you’re struggling to find ideas, perhaps your chosen subject is too limiting?

4. Perfection is futile

Original engaging content is great. But don’t be afraid to make mistakes, cover “easy” subjects or regurgitate often-discussed debates. Some of my more successful tutorials have explained basic subjects such as a little-used CSS property. I may have questioned my own knowledge at the time, but someone somewhere will find the topic useful.

That said, always be honest with your audience. There’s no harm in referencing another article or stating that technique may be in common usage despite being new to you. Every industry has it’s share of pedants, but developers can sniff out BS wafting over from the other side of the web.

5. Set deadlines

Even if you’re not writing professionally, always set a realistic deadline such as one article per week. The majority of blogs fail because they start with enthusiasm and end with apathy. You can probably think of several corporate sites which published a flurry of news in 2010 followed by years of silence.

Never underestimate the effort involved or presume writing will become someone else’s responsibility. Everyone thinks it’s easy until they try it.

6. Be prepared for surprises

I’ve agonized over articles only to find three people read it. Similarly, I’ve written throw-away posts which receive many thousands of views month after month.

You can influence popularity to some extent — “lists” and “secrets” are popular so I have high-hopes for this article! However, forget what the web marketers tell you: there is no magic formula. Most of it boils down to dumb luck. Sometimes, you write something which strikes a chord and becomes a viral sensation — but you won’t know it beforehand and it’s difficult to repeat that success.

Finally, remember web posts never die. You may receive comments many years after publication so make time to interact with your audience. You will undoubtedly receive negative feedback but you’ll soon develop a thick skin. Many will say you shouldn’t feed the trolls but I like to throw them a moldy bun…

Anyway, what are you waiting for? Get writing!

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  • Anonymous

    Congratulations on your 900th SitePoint article, Craig!

  • Anonymous

    Wow, that is an astounding effort, Craig, particularly considering the quality of your writing. #respect

  • Anonymous

    It’s all true, and certainly much appreciated by everyone here at SitePoint! Looking forward to another 900.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks guys! It’s a pleasure.

  • Graham Armfield

    Congrats on reaching 900 articles Craig. And good advice for all those starting out.

  • srits

    nice one!

  • Johndixon

    Congratulations Craig – 900 hundred posts certainly is impressive, well done !

  • Stephanie Boucher

    Much appreciated here as well. People don’t realise how much commitment it takes to write a regular blog, I have a hard time explaining this to my clients, for whom I’ve ended up doing the writing at times! as alexwalker wrote, #respect

  • Anonymous

    Way to Go!!! Keep the great content coming :D

  • davidhall

    I’ve been thinking about writing blogs for years, but then not doing it. Would be more of a record of how I figured out how to do something, that may be useful to others. I think your point #4 about perfection is about right – that’s probably me, if I can’t write a perfect article then it’s not worth doing. I should learn from my 17 year old son, who for the past couple years has recorded and published on both blogspot and youtube things he’s figured out about using creative suite.

    • Anonymous

      Go for it, David. You’ll learn more from writing about the topic and it’s a useful memory aid. If you didn’t know about a particular technique, you can guarantee many thousands of others don’t either.

  • ralphm

    Congratulations, Craig! You’re a star. I always enjoy your posts, and you are a real asset to SitePoint. As said above, I hope it’s only your first of many 900s!

  • Anonymous

    Congratulations Craig! I’ve aways been a big fan of your posts … Here’s to the next 900!

  • Cherisa

    Hope you get you hints.

    • Anonymous

      So do I, but I’m not holding my breath!…

      • Craig Buckler

        Actually, the lovely team at SitePoint just granted my first wish! Cheers!

        • http://www.sitepoint.com/ Dave Slutzkin

          Don’t drink it all at once! The car might have to wait until nine thousand posts…

          • Craig Buckler

            Wohoo! Er, except that I’ll be 98 by the time that happens?!!

  • mojo

    Well done Craig and thank you. I must admit some of the stuff you cover is way over my head but you’ve got a really lucid writing style which is a big help for technical subjects. I always read your posts and enjoy them a lot.

  • Lori Palmquist

    Congratulations Craig. I always enjoy your articles and posts. Keep up the good work!
    Lori

  • http://www.ricardojorge.net/ Ricardo Jorge

    That was great. Specially tip 4. Also, I believe that if I waited until a post was perfect (by constant editing), I would never post anything.
    Good luck with this article ;D

  • David Rousset

    So, so true! :)

  • Matthew Magain

    Big congratulations Craig! An impressive milestone indeed.

    From the guy who hired him all those years ago. ;-)

    • Craig Buckler

      Cheers Matt! Yes, you’re the one to blame!…

  • Rotimi Ade

    Hi Craig,

    I really enjoy reading your articles. This link http://www.sitepoint.com/author/craig-buckler/ only provides articles as far back as April 2013. Can you tell me where I can find you older articles (i.e. pre April 2013) ?

    Thanks

    • Craig Buckler

      Thanks Rotimi.

      It seems the author pages only go back around 10 pages now (any SP devs know why?) You can always search for my name or use Google, e.g.
      site:sitepoint.com “Craig Buckler”

      Note that some articles may be out of date or largely irrelevant now. My “10 fixes for IE6 problems” rarely gets viewed these days!