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Gini Dietrich

Lessons (and Stats) from Six Years of Blogging

By: Gini Dietrich | August 30, 2012 | 
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A few weeks ago, you may have seen a very sly mention of the very first blog post written for Spin Sucks (which was published at 11:35 p.m. and we wonder why no one read it).

I almost hate to mention it again because it was so bad. But I do so because, as of September 11 (yes, the anniversary), we have been blogging for six years and I thought it’d be interesting to take a look back.

You see, as human beings (particularly in America where our society honors the great achievements), we tend to look at success and think people got there overnight. For some reason, we also think successful people must put their pants on differently or have clones or somehow have more hours in the day than the rest of us or don’t need to sleep or maybe even are cyborgs.

Americans also have this really weird idea that they’ll get rich quick or lose weight fast or truly become an overnight success.

When, in fact, none of that is true.

We’re all people. We all make mistakes. We all have failures. We all screw up. And we certainly don’t get rich or lose weight or become successful overnight.

Mistakes Made

To prove my point…Spin Sucks is not, by any stretch of the imagination, a Mashable or a Huffington Post or even a Dog Shaming (which I’m totally going to get Jack Bauer on one of these days). It’s not even my sister’s blog, Pintology, that has 20,000 monthly views in its second month of existence.

But, for a niche blog that speaks to PR and marketing pros (and some entrepreneurs and one insurance guy), it does fairly well.

But it didn’t start out that way. In fact, the first couple of years – like the very first blog post – were a disaster.

Case in point:

  • We published twice on September 11, 2006 – once at 11:35 p.m. and once at 11:38 p.m. I have no idea why we did that. I suppose we had a lot to say in three minutes, close to the middle of the night.
  • After that, we published only one more time in September, six times in October, six times in November, and twice in December. In fact, we didn’t get any real consistency until 2009 when we (cough, I, cough) figured out that was important and that we could schedule posts.
  • In 2007, we all took turns blogging. There were 23 of us at the time and everyone – interns on up – blogged. There wasn’t a consistent voice, there wasn’t an editorial calendar, and it was like pulling teeth to get people to contribute.
  • There were no comments, no SEO, no categories, no tagging, no images (really nothing except words on a screen) until summer of 2009. We blogged for nearly three years with nothing in return. And I mean nothing.
  • The comments began to roll in, but they were interspersed. Some blog posts did really, really well while others still had zero, until early 2010.
  • In 2010, a couple of things happened. That summer I hired our first community manager who really helped us expand the blog and we also had the site redesigned and began to brand it toward the vision of changing the perception of the PR industry.
  • It took three and a half years of blogging to figure it all out, begin to build a community, figure out SEO, create some consistency, and add guest bloggers. Three and a half years.

Spin Sucks Stats

I’m a numbers person who looks (and acts) like a communications pro. Some of you already know that about me so it won’t come as a surprise that we keep meticulous records on the stats.

That said, we (cough, I, cough) had no idea about Google analytics until July 2008. So we had nearly two years of blogging without knowing how we were doing. It’s probably not a big deal because the first two years were such a disaster.

But starting in July 2008, the stats are:

I’m glad I haven’t done this exercise before now. I probably would have been discouraged and walked away from blogging long before 2010, when we finally got our groove.

Lessons Learned

Some of the lessons won’t surprise you because I’ve blogged about it parts of it before.

But they include:

  • Be consistent. Our 2010 summer community manager insisted I publish by 8 a.m. every day. He really held my feet to the fire on it. I whined, just like I hear other business leaders do, about how I didn’t have time and blah, blah, blah. But I did it. And now it’s a habit.
  • Break up your copy. Just like I’ve done on this blog post with subheads and bullet points. As much as I’d like to think every one of you is reading every word of this, I’m not naive. Make it easy for your readers to scan.
  • Learn basic SEO. Learn how to tag, how to categorize, and how to create meta descriptions. Learn how to include backlinks (appropriately, not just to please the spiders) and learn how to write headlines that people will search.
  • Include images. But not just any images. Make sure they’re protected so you don’t get in trouble. Use Zemanta if you don’t know how to do it or are afraid of infringing on someone’s copyright.
  • Invite guest bloggers. But have guidelines for doing so. Your blog is your brand, your voice, your vision. Don’t just let anyone type something up and send it along. Make sure it fits with what you’re trying to accomplish.
  • Have a call-to-action. This is an important one. In 2010, when we began to get our groove, we didn’t realize we were giving away all this great content and getting nothing in return. Figure out what you want people to do – subscribe, share, buy – and ask them to do it. Over and over and over again.
  • Have fun. If you’re not having fun and you don’t enjoy blogging, you won’t do it. This isn’t a term paper and it’s certainly not some marketing babble piece of content you’re required to produce every day. It’s a blog. It’s conversational. It’s personal. It’s intimate. Have fun with it!
So there you have it. Six years of blogging lessons and stats. I wonder what the next six years will bring?
P.S. If you want to buy the shirt in the image above (I have one!), click on it! It’ll take you to the site.

About Gini Dietrich


Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro.

96 comments
JimmyLalani
JimmyLalani

Great thread, geting replies at blogs is really tough these days, many problems , such as you might get blocked if the admin thinks Ur a spammer or something of that nature, all in all this was a great read.

bhas
bhas

There you go, making me look bad to myself.

 

One of my biggest weakness that I still haven't done #1 -being consistent. I have tried multiple tracks, and have had successes, only to be followed by relapses. it's a constant fight these days in my head, with the red guy in horns often beating the one in wings and halo.

 

Regarding images, I use Creative Commons licensed photos on Flickr that are free for personal and commercial use. Another resource for images that I have found to be helpful is MorgueFile. Lots of gorgeous hi-res photos out there free for any kind of use.

JenniferRaymondColgan
JenniferRaymondColgan

This is such great advice, and so neat to see how far you've come in the 6+ years. Everyone starts from the bottom; it's how you learn from the mistakes to make things better that sets you apart from the rest.

TonyBennett
TonyBennett

Great job so far, I'm expecting even bigger things to come. And what does a communications pro look like? Wait, Nevermind, you're just going to answer "like me"... So predictable

bdorman264
bdorman264

Shut the front door; you are just making all this stuff up.....

 

You don't speak to insurance guys? You mean I have been hanging around here for nothing? No wonder I couldn't understand what anybody was saying. I thought that was what Google Translator was for. 

 

And quit giving lessons because it just makes me look like a dunderhead when I don't follow instructions. What? I don't need any help with that...............mercy............

 

The one thing I can do with my blog is have fun; everything else I will eventually figure out or it just won't be important enough to worry about. 

 

All kidding aside; it's obvious you have put a tremendous amount of time and effort into a pretty damn fine product you should be very proud of. You still rock..........

jessica ann
jessica ann

Such an inspiring read! Thank you for bringing wit, wisdom, and relevance into my inbox everyday. Congrats on your success and hope there are many more years of blogging from you to come! 

AnneReuss
AnneReuss

Bravo! You are a great role model :) 

annelizhannan
annelizhannan

You lead by inspiring and instigating, connect by conversing, and teach with humor and humility. Your success is real, your follower army loyal and I so enjoy the gift of the ride, even when it is on the back of your bike. Congrats to you and your team.

Lisa Gerber
Lisa Gerber

I'm getting both my dogs on dog shaming too! I haven't been home since you shared that with me but my brain is concocting.....

Soulati | Hybrid PR
Soulati | Hybrid PR

Many congrats, dear friend. What a lovely accomplishment and how like you to share more of the trials than the wins for we all learn more that way, don't we? Kudos to you and your team, and ahem, us for enlivening comments with a good blog jack or two! 

Latest blog post: Behind Every Blog Is A Person

Steve Birkett
Steve Birkett

The voice of experience :-) It's always heartening to hear the history of successful blogs and hopefully the lessons here can help fast track some of our efforts for the rest of us. There are always unique mistakes to be made, I think, but it's helpful to minimize the more common ones!  

barrettrossie
barrettrossie

 @ginidietrich , you're a role model! But I'll never post EVERY DAY before 8. I will try to have fun, however. 

 

On a practical note: "Headlines that people will search" -- do you think there's a balance between search-friendly headlines and a little bit of cleverness? 

Julie Barrett
Julie Barrett

I'm continually amazed by how many people put their heart and soul into their blog for say, a year, and then just drop it.  I guess it's true that you have to love it, and one way to love it is to get results.  Congrats on your success and how much you've learned (and shared) over the years.

wabbitoid
wabbitoid

Congrats!  You've been at it one year longer than I have.  I'm more of a deliberate rule-breaker than you are, but my blog has always been more of an experiment.  I've tested out theories about what the latest google updates favor and don't favor (that can be a ton of fun) and deliberately run against the grain of what people think a blog is supposed to be.  It still works because of consistency in posting - every MWF - but certainly not consistency in topic! 

Gini, I have a conference coming up where I'm going to get into a discussion (note: not "give a talk") about developing a community on a blog.  This is the best example I can think of.  There is really no more consistent community of people who are, by and large, engaged in the topic and not wandering too far off into inanity as many blogs do.  People are also respectful here and can get into difficult subjects without heating up the "ex machina" problem that fills many sites with flame wars.  That's your leadership, and it's important to let people know how it works!

Hajra
Hajra

One thing I struggle with is consistency. I just am too lazy to be regular. It hurts my blog and I am trying to change that! 

 

Here's to truck loads of success... always! 

Carmelo
Carmelo

Gini, this is just between you and me, since I know no one else is reading this. ;-) I started my blog at the beginning of the year and quickly realized (although I already knew) no one was coming to it. So, I went searching for inspiration and guidance. 

 

Not sure how I came across your site two weeks ago but your character, enthusiasm and eager interaction captured my attention and has provided me with the belief and commitment to build something amazing. I have no doubt that you're inspiring many people you'll never even know you helped. Think of the extended reach ... you're building your community, they're building theirs, and so on. 

 

I'm stoked and feel blessed to have found you! I know others are too. What if you HAD quit? 

 

Anyway, great work and here's to the next 6 years! and the next, and the ...

lauraclick
lauraclick

I was actually just looking back on a post I wrote a year ago about "the secret to success". It was almost this time last year that my husband went out on his own after his boss died. It was this time two years ago when I started blogging for my business. 

 

In the article, I talk about the secret to success is that there isn't one. We're all looking for the silver bullet, when in fact, the answer is just really hard work and persistance (or sticktoitiveness as my mom would say). That's what you've done with your blog and business. You stuck with it, continued to work hard and learned from your mistakes. I think it's important to show where you've come from. After all, success definitely doen't come overnight.

 

Kudos on six years of blogging and congratulations on all of your well-earned success!

Joshua Wilner/A Writer Writes
Joshua Wilner/A Writer Writes

Congratulations on six years, most blogs fail in 90 days or less. That is because people don't fight through the hard times or give themselves license to try different things. It takes time to find your voice and to develop a rhythm.

 

But in some ways your last point is the most important, have fun. If you don't have fun you won't last. It is too much work, especially in the beginning.

 

Can't wait to see what else you come up with. Looking forward to the next 12 years.

Ginny Soskey
Ginny Soskey

Gini--congratulations to you and your team! This is such an amazing accomplishment. I love reading your blog every day in my RSS feed and I look forward to reading it for years to come. :) Thanks for having awesome content! 

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

 @bhas I was really bad at the consistency thing, too. I promised our community manager I would be consistent for three weeks in a row. And guess what happened? It became habit. You could try the same.

Latest blog post: #FollowFriday: Allen Mireles

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

 @barrettrossie I never post every day before 8 a.m. either! I do, however, schedule posts so it looks like I do!

 

And yes...I do think there's a balance. It certainly depends on your goals. When we looked at stats in 2010, we discovered Twitter was our number one driver of traffic. I'm still convinced it's going to die any day so we wanted to make sure search was number one. So we made sure the stuff we were writing were things people search. I do a bit less of that now...write mostly what I feel like without an editorial calendar.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

 @wabbitoid Ah...that's nice of you to say, Erik. I really hope I encourage debate, though it doesn't happen as often as I like. The only time I lost control of the community was when I was in Toronto and I blogged about Chick-fil-A. I'm pretty sure there were people here who've never been before and I wasn't around to make sure they were following the guidelines. Another great lesson learned!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

 @Hajra  I really struggled with that, too. At first I did three days a week by 8 a.m. central time. Then I added a fourth day. Then I added a fifth day. Then we added Gin and Topics and suddenly I'm writing six posts every week. But I wouldn't change it for anything. I love it. I really would recommend you try writing at the same time every day for one month. Write even when you have nothing to say. See what happens.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

 @Carmelo This is so nice of you to say! Thank you! I've really enjoyed having you around the past few weeks and getting to know a little bit about you and your work. Be patient. It won't happen overnight, but it will happen.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

 @lauraclick Man...it's already been a year?!? That's crazy. I feel like we were having that conversation earlier this year. Wow. And thank you...I was a little sad writing this this morning. There was a lot of time wasted.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

 @thejoshuawilner The next 12 years? I might be dead by then! OK...not really. But 18 years of blogging seems like an eternity.

bhas
bhas

 @ginidietrich I know the theory, but turns out I am like a Disney child star who keeps on stealing jewelry and getting sent to morgues as part of community service, only to start stealing again and again, except it's with blog schedule. FML

Hajra
Hajra

 @ginidietrich Posting daily (or at least five times a week) is my goal... and yes, you are the inspiration...

 

See, I said a nice thing about you... ;)

lauraclick
lauraclick

 @ginidietrich I know! Crazy how time flies. 

 

And, don't be sad about the time it took to get where you are...it wasn't wasted. If you didn't go through that, you wouldn't appreciate where you are now as much. I know I've kicked myself a number of times for not taking the leap sooner. But, I think the difficult journey makes us more appreciative when we finally make it to the top of the mountain. ;)

lauraclick
lauraclick

 @ginidietrich And P.S. - I'm so impressed you stuck with the blog after three years without much traction. Most would have given up just a few months in! Your story is proof that it works, but that it also takes time!

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