It was my good buddy Tim Challies’ 10th Blogging Anniversary yesterday. Mega congratulations, Tim, on this happy anniversary and may you have many, many more of them. Like multitudes of others I owe you a huge debt for all the hours and effort you put in to keep us informed, edified, and challenged on a daily basis. You have a significant spiritual role in many of our lives. Thanks for being such a rare model of courage, clarity, humility, transparency, and love, for the rest of us baby bloggers out here. May God keep you faithful and fervent all your days.
Though barely out of my blogging diapers – I’m just coming up for my third birthday next month – I was recently asked for tips on how to start a blog that people will read. Although it feels a bit like asking a T-ball player how to hit a home run at Yankee stadium, I thought I’d make a quick list of blogging tips I’ve learned from the daddy of all bloggers with a few of my own mini-tips thrown in as well:
- Read lots of blogs in lots of different subject areas, Christian and non-Christian. It stimulates your mind, exposes you to different writing styles, and gives you material to comment on and link to.
- Observe the master bloggers and try to identify what makes them successful. Don’t copy them but adapt and translate what they do to your own talents and interests.
- Balance teaching with personal information. The world probably doesn’t need more sermons, but neither does it need to know the intimate details of your marriage every day. Tim is a master at getting this balance right, keeping his focus on God’s revelation while also revealing enough of his own life and character to keep it personal and human.
- Don’t make every post a hit-job on someone or something but keep it positive and edifying. Some people have built readerships on a diet of controversy. But do you really want these kinds of readers?
- Vary between short posts and longer posts. Unless you are someone like Tim Challies who has earned the right (and has the ability) to write 1000 words a day, you are best to keep it to 500 words or less, with some rare exceptions.
- Be consistent and regular in your blogging. Don’t post five one week and then nothing for five weeks. Set yourself a target of 2-3 posts a week and post them on the same days each week.
- Exercise patience – like everything else overnight success is very rare. If you’re just starting, you’re very late to the party. Most people already read too many blogs, and you may have to wait for dead men’s shoes to make a breakthrough.
- Comment on other people’s blogs and interact with comments on your own blogs. Blogging is social media, so be sociable.
- Promote other beginner bloggers. The big boys have lots of links already. Encourage fellow-strugglers.
- Don’t check your stats every day. Maybe once a month or once a week will suffice. If you make it all about stats, you will either get proud or devastated.
- Be content with the readership God gives you. Even if it’s only 20 people a day, consider that you are witnessing to and influencing 20 people a day. That’s probably far more than you would impact without a blog.
- Do it for your own spiritual benefit. Writing an edifying blog is a spiritual discipline that can develop you intellectually and grow you spiritually. Even if you never become the daddy (or the mommy) of all bloggers, it can help you toddle a few steps further along the road of your spiritual walk.
- Limit your time. As reading and writing blogs can easily devour time, set yourself some time limits and force yourself to stay within them.
- Try to specialize in a certain subject. Look for a niche that isn’t being serviced and try to fill it. I initially focused on pastoral leadership. When non-pastors began to read my blog, I decided to widen my scope and write for young leaders in business and education as well. Then I was increasingly asked about family leadership issues, until eventually my blog morphed into a covering more or less the whole Christian life. But I’d still advise a narrow focus initially and build out from there.
- Pray for God’s blessing. Not a day goes by without me praying for God to use my few loaves and fishes to bless His people. And He often surprises me with how much He can do with so little.