02 — Content is King
When I started my blog back in 2017, I knew very little about managing it or how to reach potential audiences; I didn't even have that much inspiration on topics to write about. But one thing was very clear to me from day one: I'd always keep content at the center of what I'm doing. In doing so, I set out a few rules for myself, and I've noticed they have been invaluable to me over the years. I'd even say that my blog's popularity is thanks to these rules.
So let's clarify what "content is king" is all about.
# Don't write for the sake of writing
I only write when I'm inspired and want to. Many blogging forums and gurus advice to write 40 to 80 posts before even considering promoting your blog. The only thing that advice will give you is a burn out after 20 posts or so.
Personally I've gone with a month or more of not writing at all. Finally, when inspiration hit me, I could write two or three posts in a single week. You'll probably get away with a consistent writing schedule for a while, but in the end you'll feel burned out and your content won't be any good.
What you can do (and should do) is to be on the lookout for new topics to write about. You can keep a backlog of ideas. You can refer to it once that wave of writing energy hits you and it gives a feeling of insurance that you won't forget about any future topics.
By only writing when you want to, you'll write about things you're actually passionate about. It's also the best way to learn whether blogging is your thing or not. If you're only inspired to write once every two years, there are probably better things for you to do.
# Don't bother with a fancy design
People come to your blog to read, so that should be your primary motive when designing it. Don't bother with fancy bells and whistles, a white sheet of paper with black text is all that really matter. Choose a font that's readable on all devices and don't go too fancy with it.
You can still add a personal touch by playing around with a highlight color or maybe a more fancy title font; but keep it as simple as possible. Optimise for your audience's reading experience, they'll thank you for that.
In fact, I'd advice you to subscribe to this free typography course. You'll receive a daily email for one week and it has some great eye-opening insights on the importance and power of text: https://betterwebtype.com/.
If there's one thing I would urge you to remember, it's this: don't — I repeat — don't have ads or other kinds of call to actions obtrude your content. Never bother with popups or modals, keep ads at a minimum and make sure they fit in with your design. Sure it might take longer to make a few bucks at the start, but you'll build a reputation of writing qualitative content. That's way more important in the long run.
# Optimise performance
No one likes to wait. Make sure to keep your blog's performance a number one priority. Ideally you want all your readers to be able to start reading in less than a second. The best approach is to use a static site generator or rely on proper caching. If you decide to include images in your posts, make sure they are optimised. Prevent scripts from blocking the main render thread, and use tools like Lighthouse to analyse what can be improved.
Once again it's all about the reading experience. Everything else is second priority. I don't want you to think you're not allowed the build a beautiful blog, just make sure you never pay with performance.
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# Write plain English
I'm no native English speaker and I know that my writing isn't of the highest quality. Not being the most eloquent person on Earth shouldn't prevent you from building a great blog though. I'd advice to stick to the Plain English guidelines. They teach you how to write in a simple, yet understandable way.
If you want to improve your writing skills, there's only one thing you can do: practice. And what better way to practice than starting a blog? Ask English speaking people to review your content, be open for their feedback.
# Connect the dots
I try to think of my blog as more than a collection of individual posts. When I write I usually refer to at least a couple of other posts as I'm always thinking about connections between them. I want most of my posts to have a subtle storyline that runs throughout my blog. To me this comes natural because I only write about things I'm passionate about, which are usually connected anyway.
I often even revisit my older posts. I'll update them when I gained new insights on their specific topic, I list references to new posts, or to external resources. I try to keep my posts alive and connected. Sure, I don't do this for all of them, but I have a pretty good feeling about which ones are worth polishing, and which are not; but that's a topic for an upcoming chapter.
For more than three years, I've kept to this one simple rule: content above all else. It's not only my guiding rule when writing, but it'll also be the primary thought throughout this series. Of course you'll need ways to promote and monetise your blog. And that's entirely possible all while keeping your content king.
- Good content is priority number 1.
- Don't write when you're not inspired, you'll burn out in the long run.
- Keep a backlog of ideas.
- Have a design that puts focus on your content and make your blog performant to ensure a pleasant reading experience.
- You don't need to be a master writer. Simple and plain English is fine.
- Connect the dots when possible: each post is part of a larger whole.
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