What I Learned from the 30-Day Blogging Challenge
A month before The Forgetting Flower came out, I took on a 30-Day blogging challenge: publish posts on my blog for 30 days straight. It was a difficult exercise. I had to come up with decent content every day and even though I planned out my topics ahead of time, I had to squeeze in a post at the last minute several times. But overall, it was a fruitful experience. I learned a lot! Here’s what I can share about it.
Blogging Daily Attracts New Readers
As I blogged regularly every day, I noticed the number of return visitors increased. This means readers were excited to see what I wrote from day to day. What was up in my life, what my thoughts were. What I could share with them. Like a newspaper, I had timely content, even if it was about my own life and interests, and people who landed on my site to read about one topic ended up reading multiple posts and either became regular readers or subscribers to my newsletter.
Blogging on a Limited Amount of Topics Makes for Longer Visits
Because I decided to write again and again about five or six topics (books, my garden, my pets, writing and The Forgetting Flower, plants, and inspiration), my site became more of its own internal web of links. This encouraged visitors to stay on the site a bit longer. Hence, my bounce rate went way down and length of visits went up.
General Traffic Increased Substantially
I was shocked to see that with each passing week, the traffic to the website increased. If I remember right, the first week was 15%, then 23%, then 31%, then 52%. It was amazing. People were discovering my content and sticking around to read not only it but also about me. My About page traffic shot up as well.
The Most Popular Articles Were About The Forgetting Flower, Books, Writing, and France
This one was key for me. I’ve read that website visitors are curious about an author’s life (so write about it!) and I’ve read that no one cares about an author’s life (so don’t bother writing about it!). I was torn, had no idea which way to go. I didn’t want to bore people with stories about my creative process if they didn’t want to read about it and yet I wanted to please my readers. So I took a chance and wrote about the mix of topics I mentioned above.
Wow! I learned people are interested in how The Forgetting Flower came to be. They are interested in my creative process and where I get my ideas. They are even interested in writing advice I have in general. The posts related to The Forgetting Flower and my writing life were the most popular.
These were followed by my reviews of books I love, author interviews, and Europe (most often, France) posts. What wasn’t popular were the articles about my garden, plants, or my pets. There were a few rare posts that had some traffic but mostly people were interested in books, writing, and my thoughts and experiences with France.
Blogging Daily Helps You Get to Know What Your Readers Want
Now I know to focus on these topics. And I feel better about shelving the gardening blog I used to write but haven’t in about a year. An author coach once told me that the folks who visited my gardening website were probably not my readers. I think she was right. They are a wonderful lot but perhaps not as book focused as I once thought. And that’s okay too. I know they’re behind my work as an author inspired by plants and that’s good enough. It’s a tribe I’ll still participate in. But in the future, I’ll be focusing on my creative process, books, other authors, and my favorite city in the world, Paris.
Blogging Daily Sucks the Life out of You
Lastly, I learned that writing decent, usable content every day drains you. I could have written a kind of daily journal with random musings but I wanted to make my content lasting and something readers could get something out of. That part worked. But figuring out what that content would be was difficult. I not only had to write at least 500 words every day but I had to find a decent photo to accompany it, then process the photo with its own edits, SEO, quality control, etc. And, my posts all needed their own SEO processing. It took at least a couple hours every day.
My fastest post came on Father’s Day. I had of course focused on spending time with my husband and family all day and found myself at ten o’clock at night without a post. So I dug out a quote about being resilient, which dialed into the angst I’d been feeling, and quickly posted it. I did all of what I mentioned above in about a half-hour.
So do I recommend blogging every day? If blogging for a limited time, I do. I know Austin Kleon blogged every day for a year and I still bow down to him for this. It’s amazing. And it may explain why he now has 60,000 subscribers to his newsletter, which he also does often (on a weekly basis). But I also think he has all of those subscribers because people want and need what he has, which is advice and inspiration. I don’t think people want that same advice or style from a fiction author. But that’s okay, because now I’ve learned more about what my readers want. And in the future, I can tailor my website so it is completely and regularly for them.
Photo by Paul Hanaoka