we’d love your input to help us make this blog the best it can be. today we’re sharing what we’ve learned about blogging, but we’d love your perspective on how we can keep growing as writers. please leave your thoughts in the comments!
since this little blog of ours is getting some recognition right now, it feels like a good time to share how we approach blogging, and what we’ve found that’s (apparently) working. we are always striving to grow and improve, so this is a point-in-time list reflecting what we currently try to live and write by:
tell the truth, and don’t curate. this is directive number one for us. as we shared in our recent “about series” post, we started this blog fundamentally for us, and we want it to be a truthful chronicle of our journey to early retirement, and beyond. we want to be able to read it decades from now, and remember what this time was like, and there’d be no point in distorting the facts if the goal is to hang onto the memories. it’s why we’ve shared stories on our bad money decisions, and talk about how we’re prepaying the mortgage even though, on paper, it’s better to invest that money. (those make the best stories, anyway!) but the harder thing not to do is the modern phenomenon known as curation. just as it’s tempting to post only the beautiful moments, with the perfect filters, on instagram, it’s tempting to show only the best parts of ourselves on the blog, or do what we can to look cool on here. we try hard to just be us, and to show it all — the successes, the struggles, the questions. our most honest post ever, why the urgency, got such a positive response that it gave us the courage to keep sharing our true selves, even if we can’t, you know, share our actual names or faces. (but that will come in time! and, we admit it, we’re completely guilty of curation on instagram.) ;-)
don’t pretend to be experts. this is also a big one for us. a lot of bloggers in the space have read up on personal finance, and are quite educated on the subject. but we still feel uncomfortable when people write “do this” or “don’t do this,” especially if they aren’t specifically certified or trained in finance, sometimes even then. what we try to do instead, is just talk about what’s working for us or what we’ve learned. but we’d never tell you to do the same thing, because we could actually be doing something really stupid that’s just seeming to work because of dumb luck. the closest we’ve ever come to giving advice was in our paying ourselves first post.
pay attention to the craft of writing. we try hard to write well, and spend real time writing and editing (most of) our posts. we strive to get better, and will often re-read old posts to think about how we could have made them clearer, more interesting or more lively. and some posts stay in the hopper for weeks or months, until we can get our thoughts clear enough to publish. writing, like any skill, is something you get better at with practice. practice has taught us that we feel best about our writing when we treat each post like a story we’re telling a good friend, not someone we’re trying to impress.
always respond to comments. though we started this blog for ourselves, it’s not an exaggeration to say that we now blog for you guys. your comments make our day, and we especially love when the comments morph into real discussion. you take the time to write something, and it’s truly the least we can do to respond. plus, comments help us get to know each other, and over time we’ve gotten to feel like we’ve gotten to know many of you, which is the very best part of blogging.
aim for engagement, not traffic. while it’s lovely to see spikes in traffic, like when we’ve been featured on rockstar finance, that’s not what we’re after, because traffic is a one-way transaction. we want our readers to feel engaged with us, so that the interaction goes both ways. we pose questions for y’all to answer, because we really want to know what you think, and we respond to keep that conversation going. right now we’re seeing comments from about one in nine visitors, some days as many as one in five, which just floors us. when others bloggers have linked to us, the number of visitors we’ve gotten from them has shown us that they’re in a totally different league in terms of traffic. but often we’ll see that those same folks who get lots of eyeballs don’t get many comments. we’d rather have the smaller traffic numbers but feel like we’re having a real conversation with you and getting to know you. (and consider this a nudge — if you haven’t commented, please join in the fun! we’d like to know you too!) ;-)
support other bloggers, especially the new ones. one of our favorite things about the pf space is that there’s far less of a competitive vibe than there is among other blog topics. there seems to be a natural inclination among this crowd to support new folks, but it’s worth saying anyway. we do our best to read and comment on new blogs, old blogs and everything in between, to share great posts on our twitter feed, and to link to other bloggers’ posts that spurred our thinking on something. we’ve gotten major boosts from big deal bloggers like blonde on a budget (who, for some unknown reason, included us on her blogroll when we were still in our blog infancy), frugalwoods and rockstar finance, and it’s the least we can do to pay it forward for other bloggers. we haven’t been great about follow friday mentions on twitter, but we’re going to strive to be better, to give shoutouts to new blogs we’ve discovered.
promote, but don’t overdo it. we want to keep this great conversation going, and that can only happen if you know to come check out our posts. so we share each post on twitter a few times in hopes that it will lure you over. but we leave it at that. nothing makes us crazier on twitter than bloggers who fill up a hootsuite or buffer queue with an endless stream of recycled old posts, but then never actually interact in the space. it makes us wonder: are you a person, or a robot? because we have no interest in interacting with robots. we do three or four tweets on each post, and then the rest of the time we use twitter as a conversation vehicle. it’s probably the best vehicle there is for getting to connect with you guys for real. if you’re a blogger and you’re not using twitter, we recommend you get on there! (click here to follow us on twitter.) follow lots of people and respond to lots of posts to engage with people and get the hang of it.
use descriptive titles. we started out this blog using pithy little titles that had some mystery to them. and we quickly learned that, when people shared those posts on social media, the meaning was lost, and others had no reason to want to click on them. so we started giving our posts longer, more descriptive titles that gave a reader a better sense of why they want to click on that post. we also started using capital letters (gasp!) in the titles, again for the sake of looking right on twitter.
listen to blogging advice, and ignore blogging advice. for sure, if you blog, you’ve read lots of posts espousing advice (“post every day!” “post only when you have a great post in you!” “use lots of photos!” “let your writing be the star!”). we’ve found that we feel best about what we’re doing when we follow some of that advice but ignore the bulk of it. we try to keep a regular schedule of always posting on mondays and wednesdays, with the occasional friday thrown in, which is a definite blogging “do.” another blogging “do” is to use lots of pictures in all posts — clearly we don’t do that. we think that will change once we are no longer anonymous, but for now, we know we are limiting our audience to people willing to read, especially since virtually all of our posts contain more than 1000 words. we’re at peace with that, because we know there’s no pleasing everyone. those who want to skim a few quick bullets will find other great blogs to fill that need for them.
what rules do you blog by? any lessons we should add to our list? anything you think we should be doing that we’re not currently doing? or anything we should do less of? we’d love the feedback! have a great weekend, you guys!