For those of you who've been following along, for the past seven days I've been immersed in Problogger Darren Rowse's 31 Days to Building a Better Blog.
The goal of the project is to help bloggers build traffic for and community at their blogs. Each day, Darren provides a homework assignment which I've then completed and written about here on Bamboo. In many cases I've also instituted some changes as a result of the homework.
After a week of activities, it seems like I should do a bit of a learning round-up, so here goes:
- This is hard work. I now understand why there are a lot of bad blogs out there. Trying to improve a blog is practically a full-time job.
- Just because it makes sense to me doesn't mean it makes sense to my visitors--I try REALLY hard to be as explicit as possible in my blog. But after my watching my husband go through the site as a first-time user, I realized that I can assume nothing about my visitors. Things that seem pretty obvious to me aren't so obvious to those who don't regularly read blogs. I need to be always evaluating the clarity of what I write and share. I also need to be giving new visitors the tools and resources they need to navigate through my blog.
- More visuals, more visuals, more visuals--Although this is practically a commandment for good blogging, it's a rule I've been routinely violating. I vow to try to follow it more frequently from now on.
- The best way to move forward is to include some peeks in the rearview mirror--I've tended to belong to the "stream of consciousness school of blogging where I create as I go along and don't necessarily look backward too often. But that means I'm missing out on opportunities to provide people who look at old posts with the benefit of new information and learning. It also means that once I've finished with a feature (like an About Page) I haven't periodically looked back to see if it's time for an overhaul. It's great to have a lot of forward motion, but I can't forget that people will also come in from behind.
- The personal touch means a lot--I've always tried to respond to commenters and those who email me individually, but this week's exercises to email both a new reader and a long-time reader really brought home to me how much people value the personal. Yes, we're connecting in a digital world that can seem anonymous and cold. But it doesn't have to be that way. And people always respond when you're willing to be personal. I think I've felt better this week about my blogging experience than I ever have.
- It's about community, stupid--Although I'm getting a ton out of Darren's exercises, I also have to say that starting the 31 Day challenge has been the best part of this experience so far. I've connected to some great people and blogs I'd never seen before and I'm feeling a sense of community as we all try to go through these exercises together. I blog, in part, as a way to connect to other people. By that measure, this week has been incredibly successful.
That's some of what I've learned in the past seven days. What have the rest of you discovered?