Close
Close

What would I do different if I had to start my blog over? – Merlin Mann

200606222142The following is an answer from Merlin Mann from 43 Folders responding to my one question interview question of what he’d do differently if he had to start his blog over again.



I would have bought a reliable crystal ball — which would have presaged that, in the not-too-distant future, 43 Folders would not be “just a blog.”

If I’d thought ahead a little, I would have realized that stuff like a wiki, forum, job board, etc., would all be a good fit, and that I’d better build out around the idea that the highest value for readers would be in having those pieces work well together — seamlessly, in context, and very much not like a blog plus a few strap-on subdomains.

Maybe most importantly for the primary “blog” portion of the site, I wish I’d realized that the date and time of a “post” were usually its least important attributes. Unlike a news site or typical “funny thing my kittycat did” blog, the content is evergreen — it’s not wedded to “now” or “then” for its context and relevance — so I wish I’d better planned how to make it easy for people to navigate around their interests, rather than having to undertake a backwards death march through time. It’s like having arranged your library of books by cover color.

Other than that? I dunno. These things are always a crap shoot, and it’s very hard to know how “successful” any unfunded, unadvertised, and unmarketed website will ever be; with money and marketing, of course, you can make *anything* popular these days. But we knew that.

So, for the one-person operation (with an exiting site), I think it really pays to watch stats and search traffic, listen to comments, and then try to evolve around the way fans _and_ strangers are trying to use your site. Visitors are unconsciously teaching you lessons every day, and it’s wise to make sure you glean those fields as often as possible, and then turn it into smart site changes.

Finally, be picky about the shortcuts and cheese that you choose to quickly get “popular.” Link begging, black hat SEO, and other games tend not to help much in the long run if you truly want to grow a site that’s about content and voice. Resist the urge to chase the ghostly shadows cast by statistical popularity. It’s a cargo cult, and when you overdo it with the money- and Google-worship, your IRL readers will know it. And tell you. And often just leave.

Read the responses of other bloggers to this 1 Question Interview on what they’d do differently in their blogging

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

Problogger.net runs on the Genesis Framework

Genesis Framework

The Genesis Framework empowers you to quickly and easily build incredible websites with WordPress. Genesis provides the secure and search-engine-optimized foundation that takes WordPress to places you never thought it could go.

Check out the incredible features and the selection of designs. It's that simple - start using Genesis now!

Comments

  1. I am speaking from the standpoint of a new blogger, but the advice offered here sounds good. The point I took the most to heart was about watching what your readers are telling you by their clicks.

    What are your most popular blog entries?
    What Google searches are sending visitors to your site?
    What links are they clicking on your site?

    I hope that I am using the information that I gather wisely. I guess time will tell….

  2. David Bain says:

    Really great post. Will a ‘blog’ be such an important term in five years time? Or will it simply be an interactive part of a more interactive website? It’s so important to think of your visitors, and offer as many services as your technological skills can muster. Keep them coming back for more.

  3. Clark says:

    Maybe most importantly for the primary “blog” portion of the site, I wish I’d realized that the date and time of a “post” were usually its least important attributes. Unlike a news site or typical “funny thing my kittycat did” blog, the content is evergreen — it’s not wedded to “now” or “then” for its context and relevance — so I wish I’d better planned how to make it easy for people to navigate around their interests, rather than having to undertake a backwards death march through time. It’s like having arranged your library of books by cover color.

    This is so relevant and something that so many now overlook as they focus all their attention on designing for Google (seo, ads) and forget about their readers.

  4. Jim says:

    Our company is considering starting a “blog” as part of a way of creating and increasing communication among employees and from management to the employees (multi-state operations). We’re considering a blog as part of that, but want to minimize the need for a moderator but still make sure content is worthwhile (whether positive or negative toward business) and attractive. Any ideas?

  5. David Bain says:

    Hi Jim

    Make sure that you have a strong set of relevant categories that people can pick from to insert their comment / article in. This way ‘off topic’ conversation will be discouraged without moderation. My site’s a general businss advice website in a blog format that lets other people post articles. You might get some ideas from that. Click on my name above to visit it if you want.

  6. cheryl says:

    Thanks for the reframing – I got a lot out this and Chris’ post. I’ve spent time going back through my content and repositioning what would be evergreen. It just makes good sense.

    What was the result of this?

    Average time of visits on the site shot up dramatically. Doing this make my site ‘stickier.”

    Again, many thanks!
    cj

  7. Chakrapanye says:

    It sounds like you’re creating problems yourself by trying to solve this issue instead of looking at why their is a problem in the first place.

Trackbacks

  1. Pearsonified says:

    Why Everything You Think You Know About Blog Architecture is Wrong…

    When designing or re-designing a Web site, I can’t help but examine the Information Architecture (IA) of the site that’s on the chopping block. Typically, I make a few fundamental changes to the way information is displayed, and one thing I’ve notic…

  2. [...] Merlin Mann answers the question “What would I do different if I had to start my blog over?” [...]

  3. [...] برای دستیابی به دیدگاه تازه‌ی دیگری درباره‌ی این موضوع به سراغ وبلاگ پروبلاگر بروید تا ببینید مرلین مان از وبلاگ ۴۳ فولدرز در این زمینه چطور فکر می‌کند. [...]

  4. [...] For another fresh perspective on this topic, head on over to problogger to see what Merlin Mann of 43 folders thinks. [...]

  5. [...] ProBlogger’s “What Would I Do Different If I had To Start My Blog Over by Merlin Mann” is a splendid response to the question, as answered by Merlin Mann and published on ProBlogger. Maybe most importantly for the primary “blog” portion of the site, I wish I’d realized that the date and time of a “post” were usually its least important attributes. Unlike a news site or typical “funny thing my kittycat did” blog, the content is evergreen — it’s not wedded to “now” or “then” for its context and relevance — so I wish I’d better planned how to make it easy for people to navigate around their interests, rather than having to undertake a backwards death march through time. It’s like having arranged your library of books by cover color. [...]

  6. [...] What would I do different if I had to start my blog over? – Merlin Mann [...]