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Guest Post By Chuck Ray, Go Wood Blog and Pennsylvania State University

Blogging is not a profession I ever imagined undertaking. I initiated Go Wood in 2010 as a method of sharing “a lighter look at the world of wood, forestry, and renewable energy” with the world as a professor of Forest Policy and an Extension Forester for Pennsylvania State University. Now, 335 posts and 514,359 page views later, I’m starting to get the hang of it.

Here are 14 things I’ve learned about keeping a blog going and the readers coming:

  1. Stay current. Blogging is like exercise…regular application leads to great results, but lags lead to decreased motivation.
  2. Don’t wait for “the perfect blog post” to come to mind. Just start working on whatever’s on your mind, and go with it. Some of my most popular posts were spur-of-the minute jobs.
  3. Blogging is personal, but don’t take it personally. People have different interests. What one reader finds stimulating will turn others off. Don’t let page view statistics (or comments) hurt your feelings. What I consider my best posts consistently have the fewest page views.
  4. Modern readers don’t read. They scan. Therefore, you can write the most eloquent piece of prose, or the most brilliant analysis, but if the topic isn’t directly of interest to the reader, they won’t read it…or they’ll misread it. But for those who do have an interest, they’ll read with a passion and either love or hate. Whichever it happens to be, you’ve fed their emotional and/or intellectual hunger.
  5. Pictures work, and they make any post better. The more pictures (or the better the video), the more page views the post will receive.
  6. Your personal pictures are the best. You have attachment to them, you know their story, and so your post about them will be better than blogging about pictures taken from the internet. Also, you have ownership. Using web pictures does have some risk associated. Understand the risks, especially if your blog has commercial ties.
  7. Add captions to the pictures. What are they saying to you? In ten or fewer words (the fewer the better) share your thoughts on the picture. The best way to communicate humor and pathos is through picture captions.
  8. Know your blog objective. Is your site to be the world’s most detailed source of a very narrow topic? Then stick to that topic, and the more detail the better. But if you want to have a more philosophical blog in a more general sphere, then variety is essential, and detail should be limited.
  9. Limit your personal, public responses to comments. Your post is well considered, and readers take it more seriously than comments. Poorly considered public responses will force your readers to see you as just another face in the crowd, instead of the “author” they have in their imagination. However, personal email replies to individuals are a great way to foster faithful followers.
  10. Make liberal use of hyperlinks to reference your comments and thoughts. Hyperlinks are a great way to increase your scores for the search engines…especially, if you get others linking back to your blog. And, they show that your thoughts are well considered.
  11. Stick to what you know. Even if you grew up in the most boring, suburban neighborhood (like me), your life is filled with stories that others can relate to. Write those stories. Readers recognize and love authenticity, even if the topic is boring. Include your own unusual life experiences.
  12. Blogging is an educational opportunity for the blogger, not just the reader. In researching your topics, you’ll be amazed at what can be learned. So, you don’t have to be an expert on a topic to blog about it…you just need to be a good student of the topic. Get it right, and the readers will appreciate it.
  13. Opinion is sweetest in small and subtle doses. Mary Poppins had it right when she sang, “Just a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down…” People really want to learn facts, and form their own opinions. They won’t mind hearing yours, if it doesn’t spoil the point for them.
  14. Did I mention to stick to it? Practice makes perfect, haste makes waste, and procrastination makes…well, nothing.

A word about search engine results

Search Engine Optimization is not my forte, but I was curious about how so many people find my blog.

When I Google “wood”, I get 48 pages of results and not even one of the results is a Go Wood web page or blog post. I get many various wood companies, and several pages on how did Natalie Wood really die, and about half of the results are pages on which someone significant is named Wood. But a website that has 335 different wood-related articles… Google couldn’t find it.

If I paid them, that would be a different story. Go Wood would probably appear at the top of the first page of results, and the page view numbers would soar. Fame does have a price, after all.

The way Google appears to direct folks to Go Wood is through more specific key search terms. So, for instance, readers have found us 109 times by typing “firewood” into their browser. And, amazingly, 86 folks have searched for “pallet art”…and wound up in the Go Wood community. But those search results don’t really explain how people wind up on this site…the post entitled “Real Firewood Stacking” is the most popular post on Go Wood, and has been viewed over 18,000 times. And the post entitled “Sign of the Times – Pallet Art” has been viewed over 1,500 times.

My conclusion is that many, many folks are reading Go Wood posts because we’ve generated a loyal following of Go Wood readers and they share favorite posts with friends. That’s what blogging and social media is all about in my mind.