The following is an answer from Duncan Riley responding to my one question interview question of what he’d do differently if he had to start his blog over again.
‘What would you do differently if you had to start your blog again?’
Naturally this is a difficult question because when I first started blogging the blogosphere was a different place, there was little to no advertising, search engine optimisation wasn’t common knowledge (amongst bloggers), and the design skills/ tools necessary to build great pages was a lot harder to come by. There are a couple of things I would have done differently if I would have started my blog today (using today’s knowledge and tools).
1. I’d use WordPress
Sorry to all the MovableType (MT) fans, because I had many years of great use from MT, but using MT was a chore. It was a chore to learn the scripting layout behind it, it was a chore to have to rebuild the blog every time you made a post, it was a chore in having to deal with the server issues MT use to cause, and ever worse still, it was a gigantic chore moving MT from one server to another. For a DIY blogging package WordPress leads the way in terms of ease of use, particularly for the beginner. However, if I didn’t want to go down the DIY path I’d sign up to TypePad without a doubt, it’s a great service if you don’t want to worry about hosting and need quick support…but then again I’ve always been a DIY/ control freek.
2. I’d learn more about search engine optimisation
Although I’ve been on the web writing pages since 1995, my knowledge of search engine optimisation went as far as knowing that incoming links help SERPs. I didn’t realise things like keywords, SEF URL’s, and even the way you lay out your code influenced the traffic you can get from search engines. I remember when I went from MT to WordPress and having to set up a modrewrite in the .htaccess file as the URL’s on the pages changed….because my MT pages use to have numbers in them for the pages, not the page title. You can never have enough SEO knowledge, I’m by no means today an expert, but it’s important for someone starting out to get a broad understanding of some of the concepts of SEO to give themselves a great chance.
3. I’d pay for a professional design
Of course, I didn’t have the funds back then to afford a professional design, and as much as my design skills have improved over the years, I’d probably, if starting again today (with a major blog) pay for a decent design. Although content is obviously the key in any blog, design helps make your blog memorable.
4. More original content
Back then I use to post a lot of links out to other stories elsewhere because I was a little shy in expressing myself in terms of opinions (don’t laugh people, it was quite true). One valuable lesson I’ve learnt, despite making some mistakes along the way, is that’s it’s not only important to be yourself, but to express yourself as well, and this means original content.
5. Networking/ relationships
I did get the networking thing when I started blogging, but I didn’t realise probably enough the importance of turning your contacts and readers into relationships. I’ve got to know many people in passing over the years, but if I had my time again I would have spent more time building those relationships into something more solid.
There is one key thing I wouldn’t change, and that’s research. If you are really looking at setting up a really successful blog, do your research first, look at what else is available in the blogosphere in your particular content/ interest area. Note what you like and dislike about the competition, think about what isn’t currently being provided in terms of content and delivery, and use all of this research to carve out your blogging niche….because hard work, dedication and patience can and still does deliver results in the blogosphere.