Blogging: If I’d Only Known Then What I Know Now

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Thinking about starting a blog in 2009?

Before the holidays, I asked some nonprofits to share with me their blogging lessons learned. Here are some of the comments I heard through  NTEN’s Nonprofit Blogging Affinity Group List. (NTEN groups are a great resource, by the way, and this same list just had a great discussion about some of the best nonprofit blogs online. You’ll have to join NTEN and the Blogging group to learn more).

From Mike Sweitzer-Beckman: “I run a blog in my spare time for progressive young adult Catholics. I wish I had known ahead of time that we would need not just writer’s guidelines, but commenting guidelines. We post them on our site now at www.youngadultcatholics-blog.com. The other thing I wish I had known was how to implement advertising. We just haven’t thought it through. There are more and more people that are requesting that we put their website information up, but we’re hesitant to do it without some guidelines and parameters, not to mention rates.”

From Beth Kanter of Beth’s Blog: “I wish I had know about Feedburner so I could have tracked my subscriber metrics from the beginning and consolidated by RSS feeds. I also wish I had a benchmarking process so I could measure and track and improve what I was doing.”

From Barbara Christensen of Conservation Northwest: “If only I’d known how hard it would have been to convince the rest of the staff a blog was worth the effort, I would have compiled more research on industry standards, conversion rates, etc, as well as some anecdotal stories of blogs working for other environmental advocacy NGOs (I see tons of info
on web 2.0 successes for non-profit service oriented groups, but so little for folks like us who don’t offer so concrete a product as people served or acres purchased).”

For me personally, I wish I had given more thought to the difference between post categories and tags. I’ll blame part of my confusion on the earlier versions of WordPress, where they were one and the same. Now that WordPress supports both, I have a list of categories a mile long that could really be knocked down to a dozen categories, with the rest as tags. Fixing that is on my blogging to-do list.

I also wish I had taken an hour or two to learn how CSS really works so I could have tweaked my blog templates more easily. I ended up learning as I went along, but I think I could have saved myself lots of hours in the end had I just sat down and worked through some tutorials. (I like to play around too much to pay someone to make all those little changes for me.)

How about you? What blogging lessons have you learned the hard way? Leave a comment to add your voice to the conversation.

P.S. I’m teaching an intro to nonprofit blogging on February 12 — Get the details on Blogging for Nonprofits: Tips, Traps, and Tales.

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  • I had the same problem with categories myself, but I wonder if semantic tagging schemes might be the answer in the future once they’re ready for prime time? Makes is clear that if you’re in blogging for the long haul, that regularly scheduled maintenance – like weeding your garden – should be incorporated into your blogging schedule so categories and tags don’t get out of hand!

    What is the process you will you use to weed down your categories and tags?

    I know a lot of people tend to use the search button on my blog to find content. Also speaks to have a really good search engine as well.

  • Thanks for the tips, Kivi! We at CNM in Nashville are definitely into helping nonprofits jump on the blog bandwagon– and do it right. Keep the good advice coming!

  • Thanks for the helpful post! I keep meaning to set up with FeedBurner, and today I’m finally doing it.

    Also, something to add to the list: I’ve always known that I “should” comment, but I didn’t really get that it’s beneficial for other bloggers to hear from me (even if only for the comment stats) or that it would help people know who I was. For example, I was just recently VERY impressed by a comment by Peter Campbell of http://techcafeteria.com/blog, so he’s now on my RSS. Simple. – @emilyjw

  • Kivi,

    I’ve been very busy doing social media consulting for small non-profits. A lot of my work has to do with WordPress blogs. The biggest lesson I’ve learned (and I try to pass on) is that smaller is better: Posts serve SEO and reader interests if they are very focused on a sub-topic within your domain. Think “10 best foreign language education games for your child” instead of “Educational toys for kids”.

    John

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