Today is the five-year blogiversary of The Twisted Yarn. I can hardly believe it! If this were a child, they’d be out of nappies and into school. (Heaven help this blog once it’s legally old enough to drink.)
As always on 23rd October, I’m wheeling out a picture of the cake with which the Stoic Spouse surprised me on my first blogiversary because, well because it was just perfect and wonderful and delicious and, other than the cake via which he proposed marriage way back in 2007, this was possibly the best surprise ever. My husband is a man who communicates through the medium of cake. Are you seeing a problem here? Because I’m definitely not seeing a problem here.
Five years and 395 blog posts. How on earth did that happen? It’s fair to say that blogging has changed my life. And that’s thanks to you, and your loyal readership and your generous comments and your kind decisions to knit or crochet my patterns. Thank you. Seriously.
Half a decade ago when I sat down with a fat-but-empty notebook to start this thing (there’s something about a screen that kills my creativity, so I need pen and paper), times were a bit tricky. I hadn’t consented to turning 40 but it seemed to have happened anyway, work wasn’t great, and most importantly we were mere months on from one of the twinnage enduring life-saving surgery after a major head injury. Knitting helped tether me to sanity over those months of worry about my son’s recovery, and since I’ve always needed to write, it felt natural to write about knitting – and later about crochet and running, too.
Right from the start, I loved this blog, and I was ambitious on its behalf. But I had no idea, at the start, that it would lead to new real-life friends, to a magazine column and other journalism, to the Stylecraft Blogstars program, and to TV and video filming. Please may I say right now from the bottom of my cold and crusty heart, thank you for showing an interest in this site.
To mark the occasion, I thought I’d cobble together some thoughts/advice on blogging, just in case you’re sitting there just like I did five years ago, wondering whether to take the plunge into the blogosphere. There is nothing technical in this post, because there’s a ton of advice elsewhere about that stuff, but I’ll try and cover subjects that get less attention elsewhere. And I’ll pepper the text with photos from past blog posts, most of which will link to blog posts if you click on them.
But first, a couple of caveats:-
(i) I am definitely not claiming any grand authority on the subject. Do feel free to laugh at my puny blog and its failings.
(ii) The following is a bunch of thoughts/reflections, and I’m sure there are plenty of wildly successful exceptions to my rules. Please don’t be offended if your perfectly lovely blog does all the things listed below…
So let’s begin.
Naming your blog
This is harder than it sounds, but:-
- Don’t rush into choosing a name. I’ve met a fair few folk who’ve ended up renaming their site, or who sort-of-apologise for the name that they chose, in a hurry, years ago when they were just starting out.
- Think about what sort of names are ‘trendy’ now… and avoid anything resembling those names, because by definition, trends have shelf-lives. Also, things that are trendy tend to be very similar to other things that are trendy. It’s hard to give examples here, because I don’t want to offend anyone.
- Future-proof your name. This may sound obvious, but it happens a lot: folk call their blog something like What-I-Crocheted-In-2019.com… and then suddenly it’s not 2019 any more. Or they set up Mummy-Of-One.com, which works just fine until the triplets are born. See what I mean?
Don’t write yourself off before readers have even got as far as your ‘About’ page
Nose around online, and you’ll soon come across sites where the blog name or its tagline are apologetically self-deprecating. I’m paraphrasing, but we’re talking taglines such as Just-another-random-knitter-blog. Sure, modesty is a virtue, but if you’re going to write yourself off at this stage, you may as well call your blog I’m-Sure-The-Next-Blog-Along-Is-A-Far-Better-Read-Than-Mine-So-Don’t-Bother.com. C’mon, you’re more than that! You’re unique! You are, potentially, the only person in the entire world who knits whilst doing their day job as a fighter pilot, and you’re uniquely placed to blog about the fact. Actually, you should possibly stop the knitting-whilst-flying thing, because we both know you nearly flew into a cliff whilst grappling with intarsia…
Those words that are so hard to resist writing
But please try very hard to fight the urge. I’m talking about:-
- I’m sorry I haven’t blogged in a while, but I’ve been so busy.
- I’ve been such a bad blogger, but I’ve been sooo busy.
- Wow, it’s been ages, but I’ve been soooooooooooooooooooooo busy.
Why? Because (i) you don’t need to apologise for your absence, unless someone is paying you a fat salary to produce this blog daily, in which case yeah, you are a bit cheeky and you should probably have a think about your life choices. But for the rest of us, it’s OK; life happens and gets in the way of blogging. The Internet understands, and it’s not cross with you. Also, (ii) I swear that those words are the kiss of bloggy death. They’re jinxed. There are so many blogs out there where the last post started with some variant of those words followed by a pledge to blog more frequently from now on… and that post was nine years ago.
But I warn you, there will come a day, if there hasn’t already, when the temptation to write those words will be strong. That’s OK. Write them if you absolutely must, but then have a stiff drink, delete them, and replace them with ‘Let me tell you about the Nobel Prize For Physics that I’ve been busy earning’.
I’m being controversial, here. This is just my nobody opinion, OK? BUT, please be aware when drafting your ‘About’ page that the phrase ‘My little corner of the Internet’ (or variants thereof) has definitely been thought of before. Sorry. I’m not sure who was first to come up with that phrase, but it wasn’t me and it’s not you. If it had been me, rest assured that I’d have long ago copyrighted it, and I’d now be drafting this post from my private island in the Caribbean.
Finding your voice
Most of all, be you. Sure, be inspired by the blogs you love, but avoid the temptation to model yourself on them, because you’ll never be as good a Fred’s-Knitting-Blog as Fred is. But that’s OK, because Fred – wildly successful though he is, the jammy sod – will never convincingly replicate your unique style, either.
Should I even bother? Isn’t blogging dead, anyway?
People have been predicting the imminent death of blogging since… well pretty much since the birth of blogging, so I wouldn’t worry too much. My advice would be to get out there and be the reason that blogging is still very much alive. That said, if directly monetising via your site is your thing, then it’s a changing world, and what worked in 2010 won’t work so well now.
Focus on what you do best, and work on the rest
To be the perfect blogger, you’d need to be fabulous at writing and photography and social media and the techie side of things and the subject you’re blogging about. If you’re that person, you can skip this whole post, but for the rest of us mere mortals…
In my own case, I’d like to think that I can knit, crochet, and write stuff that occasionally makes people laugh, but I’m a technological dunce, and my photography has been a long-term work in progress. But what about you? Notice the feedback that you get. If people keep admiring a particular thing you do (and by ‘people’, I mean not-your-mum, because it’s her job to find you fabulous), then take note. You know what, maybe you’re really good at that thing. Maybe you should do more of it.
There’s plenty of chatter out there about increasing traffic to your blog. Fair enough. We all want traffic. I am genuinely confused by the fact that there are actual people alive today who do not read my blog. I know! They’re clearly deranged. They probably think that not having the slightest interest in knitting is some kind of excuse. Look online, and you’ll find lots of ideas for increasing your readership (giveaways, awards, SEO, guest posts, networking)…
…BUT. Those things are great, and they most certainly have their place. Organise a decent giveaway and you’ll likely see a spike in your traffic. However this may not always translate into long-term gains. The best blog growth is of the organic, steady, kind. You can’t rush that, but those loyal readers who come back day after week after month after year are the very, very, best kind of reader. There are names I recognise of people who’ve been visiting and commenting on my posts for years, and I’m very touched that these people have come back for more, time and time again. If you’re in this for the long game, focus on quality of content as your first, second, and third priorities, because whilst there are quicker ways of getting people to visit your site, you really want those people to stay.
I’ve had every other word so I may as well have the last word, too
All of this is, of course, just my arrogant opinion. You could doubtless show me ten different blogs that break all of these ‘rules’ and yet are loved and successful. That’s great. I’m not claiming any higher authority on blogging; I just want to give you some things to think about. Most of all, be you, be creative, and have fun. Oh, and feel free to post a link to your blog in the comments below.
Happy yarnery, people!