pollen Let's take a break from Web Analytics for a week and talk about something I love. Blogging!

In Oct 2006, after six months of blogging, I felt confident enough to publish Ten Blogging Tips From A Novice Blogger.

But my last post (Blog Analytics: Measuring Blog Success) brought so many emails about what works and what does not, when it comes to blogs and blogging, that I thought now might be a good time to publish a second edition of Blogging Tips.

The purpose of this post is simple: Share my lessons from approximately a year and half of blogging.

What, in my humble experience, works, what does not, and what is completely wrong!

And remember that I am still a novice at this.


If are trying to create a blog that will create your unique brand, build an audience over time and create a voice for yourself then here are my recommendations:

# 10: Names, URL's, Looks, Your Pictures Don't Matter

# 9: Join BAGoT: Bloggers Against Globs of Text

# 8: Go for 6th grade level

# 7: Length and Frequency: Yours to define and control

# 6: StumbleUpon, Twitter, Google (SEO) matter, Digg matters less

# 5: Read spectacular blogs, find inspiration

# 4: Become very good (top 25% in the world) at two things

# 3: Don't be a jerk / jerkess

# 2: Cultivate your audience: Create a dialog, respect their intelligence

# 1: Be remarkable

Want more? Let's get into the nitty gritty…..

# 10: Names, URL's, looks, your pictures don't matter

I have to admit I obsessed about the right theme (look and feel) to pick, agonized about whether to have a picture or not and what the URL should be etc.

In hindsight nothing mattered.

The URL of this blog is the hardest thing to remember, that does not seem to matter.

It is not the prettiest blog in the world, that does not seem to matter.

I am a introvert, I don't like my pictures any where (sadly I can't control this!). But everyone says pictures are a must on blog. This blog does not have one, and won't. That does not seem to have mattered.

Have a clean blog with least distractions and focus on providing value. You'll be huge.

# 9: Join BAGoT : Bloggers Against Globs of Text

Readability matters.


From day one I have tried not to write long globs of text because I never read them. I just assumed you would not either.

I write short paragraphs (and if you notice over time the paragraphs are getting shorter!).

I use pictures, lots, to make points, or to represent key thoughts / ideas. It takes and additional two to three times the effort to find the perfect picture than to actually write the post itself.

It seems to work.

Break the monotony of your posts, give a burst of color, pictures, tables, graphs, powerpoint, slides, whatever else you can think of. Use bullets, blockquotes, font styles, indentations and whatever else it takes.

It takes effort to do all that, but trust me if you do then it shows that you care, that you'll go the extra mile for your readers.

Remember: If they read then they will understand, if they understand it then they will talk about it, if they talk about it then others will find it.

# 8: Go for 6th grade level

I write about a complex topic. Most people would rather get a painful tattoo than read about metrics or statistical significance or multivariate anything or correlations or advanced segmentation or…. you catch my drift.

Yet over time this blog's audience keeps increasing, and only approximately 30% of it is "analysts" (I am including anyone who touches numbers as a part of their day).

My secret?

I try hard to write about very complex topics in and extremely easy to understand language, and target the broadest possible audience.

I target sixth grade level. A very famous author gave me that advice, and I have stuck to it.

readability level

My hope is that anyone can come to the blog with even the most basic education (higher than sixth grade of course!) and get large chunks of what I am trying to say. Hopefully they learn something.

I think it is working.

Recently I started letting Website Grader have a go at the site, it scan's your website and tells you what grade level you write at. It will give your a decent read of what level you write at, if you don't trust it, use your mom. :)

The picture above is my report today (Nov 24th).

This tip is not for everyone, you can write at any grade level about Paris Hilton and people will understand it. For all other topics go for sixth grade level.

Remember: I am not suggesting you talk down to your readers or at them. Just that you present your wonderful thoughts in a way the broadest possible audience can understand.

# 7: Length and Frequency: Yours to define and control

There is a myth that you have to write every day. And you must write short posts else your fickle busy-with-better-things-to-do audience will abandon you by the side of the road.

Both not true.

I have always written long posts. Unfortunately they have tended to get longer over time. (I blame short paragraphs and the pictures!!!). Yet wonderful souls who read and subscribe to this blog continue to amuse me by reading it and they keep coming back. Yes, yes I track all that! :)

I also don't write every day. Over time the posts per month have actually gone down. It used to be 8 to 9 a month and now it is 5-6 a month.

frequency and length

So ignore the "best practice" of frequent short posts. Create your own rhythm.

Focus on telling a tight story, don't ramble (I have not totally come to grips with this one), focus on providing value. Don't worry about length waaay too much. Certainly avoid a PhD thesis. :)

I do want to pass on one tip: Pattern your audience.

If possible write at regular intervals. Almost always I'll post on Sunday night (Monday AM in Europe), and if I write two then Wednesday night (Thursday in EU).

If you pattern your Visitors then they'll know when to check in for new posts (if they are not Feed Subscribers). It is disappointing for them to come & see nothing new.

I am not sure who gave me this tip but I am thankful to them and I am positive it works.

# 6: StumbleUpon, Twitter, Google (SEO) matter, Digg matters less

Everyone is obsessed with getting on the home page of Digg or Techmeme. It can be a good thing. But in my humble experience the rewards are not worth the obsession. [Both Digg and Techmeme are great websites and my comment here is specific their application in terms of building audience.]

You can get ten thousand people visit your website in 24 hours (especially with Digg, less with Techmeme). But it is unlikely that you'll miraculously have ten thousand more visitors going forward.

Growing your visitor base is hard, short cuts will get you visitors but they are unlikely to stick around. You'll have to build your base one visitor at a time.

While those two are at best a nice to have, my lesson has been that these three are quite golden: StumbleUpon, Google and Twitter .

digg techmeme google twitter stumbleupon

I still have no idea how to get StumbleUpon'ed, but it has been in the top three referrers for this blog for some time. The nice thing about StumbleUpon is that you can count on it to provide a gradual lift in your traffic over a few days, and if you write good stuff then you get StumbleUpon'ed often which means there is a nice lift in your overall numbers over time.

[Let me take this chance to thank everyone who submits my posts to StumbleUpon! I am deeply appreciative.]

Google SEO accounts for the highest amount of traffic I get. Approximately 34% of the site traffic. These are people looking for something specific and then finding you. If you are ranked well for the keywords in your area of expertise then you can't ask for anything else.

I don't do hard core crazy SEO (to my detriment sometimes).

But I find it a tad bit irritating when every third word on many blogs is Bolded or H1 or links (even where links are not necessary) or the same keywords are repeated over and over again. You'll lose me, and I am sure others can see through all that.

Do standard SEO for your blog: write nice content, have a blog that is indexable and you'll be fine. I sound like Matt Cutts!

I have recently discovered Twitter is a great referrer. People who read this blog "tweet" about my posts and I find that brings relevant visitors that subscribe to the feeds. Nice.

Take away: Find sources of relevant traffic, not just traffic.

It bears repeating : There are not short cuts to building an audience. It is hard work. Work hard.

# 5: Read spectacular blogs, find inspiration

I am sure like me that you have all 79 blogs in your space in your feed reader. Devouring the latest from all of them is a daily, if not hourly, ritual.

I find that one can get carried away with this and you start to live in a world surrounded by mirrors. It can become myopic and sometimes, well often, you might lose perspective.

I know that sounds silly, but I have seen it happen so often.

My solution is to read other blogs, lots of 'em. Blogs that are not in my area of expertise. I find that it both breaks some of the loss of perspective and, for me, provides inspiration.

I read Seth Godin for that reason. I am constantly humbled by his brilliant posts, and inspired to constantly do better. It is a bonus that I feel I can stay informed biscuitsnoisette www.chocolateandzucchini.comabout the cutting edge thinking on what Marketing is / should be.

I read Clotilde Dusoulier's blog, Chocolate & Zucchini, for that same reason. I am smitten by her pretty creations and her personality that comes through clearly on her blog.

Now here is the surprising thing, I can't cook to save my life and I am a Vegetarian which means I can't eat or imagine the taste of most of the stuff she writes about. Nonetheless… I feel inspired.

Do that. Find inspiration. Outside your own little or big ecosystem. It will be a blessing.

# 4: Become very good (top 25% in the world) at two things

This one comes courtesy of the eclectic Mr. Scott Adams (from the Dilbert Blog). This excellent post: Career Advice. Here's the relevant excerpt…

If you want an average successful life, it doesn't take much planning. Just stay out of trouble, go to school, and apply for jobs you might like. But if you want something extraordinary, you have two paths:

1. Become the best at one specific thing.
2. Become very good (top 25%) at two or more things.

The first strategy is difficult to the point of near impossibility. Few people will ever play in the NBA or make a platinum album. I don’t recommend anyone even try.

The second strategy is fairly easy. Everyone has at least a few areas in which they could be in the top 25% with some effort.

Mr. Adams advices two or more things, my humble opinion is try for a couple things and get very good at them. That's my plan.

dilbert scott adamsStay focused on your blog.

There are now in excess of 100 million blogs in the world. It is harder with each day to stand out being a generalist or being widely dispersed all day.

You are probably fantastic at a couple of things, blog about those. Stay focused in that ecosystem.

You will stand out because you are writing about what makes you unique. Secondly when people want someone who is a unique voice in one of those two things they'll know where to find you.

# 3: Don't be a jerk / jerkess

This is the only one that makes a repeat appearance from my original ten blogging tips. I feel it is that important.

I very strongly believe that one should not be a jerk. Overtly or covertly. Leave your personal attacks and vendettas for other places.

One: It is not nice. Two: It is really not nice. Three: Almost always you look like a jerk, and most people don't like jerks.

And don't think that you can hide it – if you are a blogger you will write a lot and that makes you very transparent, no matter how hard your spin it all.

respectI was reminded of this by a surprising source: Mark Cuban. Surprisingly only because Mark is not known for mincing his words, his actions are widely covered. But in his closing keynote at BlogWorld Mark's advice was: Don't be a jerk (I am paraphrasing here).

His reasons were that over time you come to regret it, and everything is a permanent record on the internet. You can delete a post but it is still in the feeds. If that is somehow solved it is still in the Internet Archives.

My children will have access to everything I ever write. They might even read it. I don't ever want them to think their dad was a jerk. Besides it can be bad for business. Your future bosses will read your blog. Your business partners and clients will read it too.

An example: A Web Analytics consulting company lost a $45,000 contract because their leader wrote a vindictive post. I know this because he/she wrote about me and the CEO of the client company wrote to me to tell me that. The disagreement was secondarily about the content, it was primarily "I don't want to work with people like him/her".

Remember: Disagree. Put forth your opinion. Take a radical point of view. Travel the road less walked on. But do so with dignity and respect.

# 2: Cultivate your audience: Create a dialog, respect their intelligence

You want an audience? You'll have to create a dialog.

When people ask questions in your posts, do your best to answer them in a timely fashion. [Though replying to every comment with "thanks for the comment and agreeing with me" can be counter productive.] Trust your blog readers to have the intelligence to know which commentators are agreeing with you.

If people blog about your posts then comment, if you can add to the conversation (even if the Author disagrees with you). It shows your ability to listen, and remember others are reading that as well.

I also email every single person who writes a comment on my blog. I try not to just say thanks for your comment. Rather I try to read about the person's point and respond back with my thought on it. It shows you care about the them.

For every comment on the post I get three comments via email. So if I get 30 comments then I'll get an additional 90 emails (!). I reply to all of them, no matter how open ended they are ("Avinash could you please tell me how to do offline tracking" !:).

I try to create a dialog so blog readers know that they can talk on the blog or off the blog. They then take my posts more seriously. Because I talk, then they talk and I'll listen.


Finally no one became bankrupt by respecting the intelligence of their audience. In all dimensions. In what you say. In how you say it. In what you write and how you listen.

Remember: Intelligence attracts intelligence.

# 1: Be remarkable

With all the noises out there yours needs to stand out. Is it remarkable?

Remarkable as in unique, valuable, insightful, different, wonderful, passionate, and as in "eat like a bird, poop like a elephant".

But also Remarkable as Seth Godin had recently defined it (this post: How to be remarkable).

Remarkable as in being noticed, being worth of a remark, as in "let's give 'em something to talk about", being the first, the best, the really trying hard and then waking up in the morning and trying some more.

Being remarkable will make you a X…..

the best rise to the top

and the rest of us will be Y's.

100 million plus blogs. Be you. Be remarkable. x is will be the outcome.

Good luck, may the force be with you!

Ok now it's your turn.

What have your learned from your days / weeks / months / years of blogging? What am I missing? Did anything above connect with you? Did anything upset you? Was any of this helpful?

Please share your perspectives, critique, additions, subtractions, bouquets and brickbats via comments. Thank you.

[Like this post? For more posts like this please click here, if it might be of interest please check out my book: Web Analytics: An Hour A Day.]

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