Debunking 8 Rules of Blogging

medium_315490873Did you know there are Rules of Blogging? 

With the best of intentions, experts, social media consultants, and successful bloggers make them up, publish, and promote them on their blogs and in eBooks. As fact.

But the experts don’t agree. What one says is the exact opposite of what another says. The Rules may not be right for you and your blog. Why, I doubt some of them are Rules at all. They’re personal preferences. They’re what worked for this expert or that blogger. And I bet you’ve encountered a few of these Rules on your blogging journey.

Blogging Rule #1: You must publish five days a week. 
An entire panel of bloggers at a major blogging conference I attended unanimously promoted this Rule. So what did I do for the next month? I posted five days a week. And nearly drove myself and all those around me bonkers. My stats rose a little, but at what cost? The commitment in time was intensive. I worried the quality of my writing was plummeting.

A friend of mine, whom I’ll call My Blogging Conscience (MBC for short), had a different take. MBC once scaled the heights of the blogosphere before deliberately opting out to live IRL. Her name is published in how-to-blog manuals. She’s been there. Done that. MBC said: Publish when you have something to say, which may or may not be five days a week.

She’s a smart cookie, that girl.

Blogging Rule #2: If you’re not promoting your posts at least X number of times a day on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc., you should be.
Pick the magic number here. One expert blogger said she posts Facebook updates at least every two hours. Every two hours? More power to you if you have enough content to keep up that pace. My Facebook friends would tar and feather me if I did that. Or worse, they’d block my posts. Then where would we be?

I’ve reluctantly learned self-promotion is necessary. I doubt, though, there’s a one-size-fits-all formula. Know yourself. Know your audience. Choose your mix wisely.

Blogging Rule #3: DO NOT respond to any comments. You’ve already said your piece in your post. Let your readers talk amongst themselves.
The expert blogger who advised Rule #2 is responsible for this Rule, too. Why would she say this? Where does it happen that readers really converse between each other in the comments?

Mostly I’ve seen it happen on CNN. Or HuffPo. Or (insert ginormous blog or aggregate site here). Exactly how it happens in the comments on these sites is another thing all together. Have you read them? It’s bloody warfare.

Other bloggers will tell you to respond to every comment you receive. It’s an honor if a human being takes the time to read your story and write something in response. You invited dialogue, so stand and deliver.

Or, perhaps you’re one of these bloggers who gets 954 comments per post… Why are you here? Just kidding. The point is, there’s no one-size-fits-all.

Blogging Rule #4: DO NOT link to your own post in a comment on another person’s story.
NEVER, NEVER, NEVER, NOT EVER. Not even if your post directly relates to the post you’re commenting on? NO. NEVER.

Some people take this Rule very seriously. For example, I recently read this comment on a women’s blogging site: “Your story spoke to me. I experienced the same thing and wrote about it on my blog. Out of respect for your post, I choose not to link to my story here.” 

Um. This is a comment on a blog, not a memorial service. And what a way to leave us hanging, girlfriend. Without a link, we’ll never know the rest of your story.

My feathers were ruffled a bit the first time another blogger included a link in a comment on one of my posts. Then came the humbling perspective: So what? I’m no big deal. I’d be wise to click the link and read her story. Might learn something. Might relate. Make a friend. Form an alliance. We don’t call it social media for nothing.

Blogging Rule #5: Self-host.

Experts swear self-hosting is the cat’s meow. They love it and advise that you too must do it in order to be a real blogger. I bought this Rule hook, line, and sinker with mixed results.

I love my plugins. I love the feeling of ownership. However, I miss a few major perks from my days blogging on, Blogger, and the like update things for you. They give you access to free themes that actually work. They do a great job of building community among their users. Turn-key. Worry-free. Cost-free. All that went away when I took the plunge to self-host.

Now when I need to update my blog’s look, I have to learn the technology to do it myself or hire someone to do it for me. And I have to pay to have my blog up and running forever and ever, amen. Not saying don’t self-host. Just saying know what you’re getting into and decide what’s right for you.

Blogging Rule #6: Join an advertising network, review products, be an affiliate, get sponsors, etc., and make a lot of money blogging.
I was over the moon when I was first invited to join an advertising program. At the end of 40 days of dancing, flashing ads taking up prime real estate on my blog, I’d made a grand total of $5.85. And I wouldn’t see a dime until I reached $100. That was the end of that.

There are a handful of bloggers who make a lot of money blogging. I don’t know any of them personally, but they must exist. And then there are a lot of bloggers who make some money experimenting with different strategies and revenue streams. Do what works for you and your readers. Are you detecting a theme yet?

Blogging Rule #7: The best way to build your audience is to comment on other blogs.
What blogger hasn’t heard this Rule? Reading and commenting intelligently on other blogs is enjoyable. But it takes time.

Of course you could dive bomb and make the rounds commenting senselessly on popular blogger’s posts you don’t really care about in hopes of being noticed. Do you want others bloggers to do that to you? I don’t either, so I try not to do that to them.

This is social media. There’s enrichment in finding your tribe and dialoguing about stories that resonate with you. No apologizes necessary though if you can’t read and comment on everyone’s latest post because you have to write your own. The best way to build your audience may very well be to produce crème de la crème content, and that takes time, too.

Blogging Rule #8: It’s all about the numbers.
Grammar and spelling don’t matter. Editing doesn’t matter. Integrity doesn’t matter. What matters in the blogosphere is how many page views, click-throughs, sponsorships, followers, and fans you have.

MBC had something to say about this, too. She told me not to worry about the numbers. All that has a way of working itself out, she said. And I believe her. It’s my blog. Whether 100 people or 1 million people read it, I made it. It’s a reflection of what matters to me.

As the Bard would say, “To thine own self be true.” Now go forth and blog.

Have you heard any of these Rules or others? What’s worked or not worked for you? 

Recommended reading: Melissa Ford shares a great perspective about this topic in her post Break the Blogging Rules.

photo credit: Gord McKenna via photopin cc


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41 thoughts on “Debunking 8 Rules of Blogging

  1. *LOVE* this! When we try to make blogging a one-size-fits-all endeavor, we lose the opportunity to do what we enjoy (writing) because we enjoy it!

  2. Pingback: I've Joined Project Underblog | everyday epistle by Aimee Whetstine

  3. Funny and helpful Aimee! I talked to a health food blogger recently about a partnership. She was ready to roll, then backed out when she found out my google rank was lower than hers. (I don’t check mine-fail).

  4. Thank you for sharing this… I do a 100 Day Challenge to the end of the year, and posting once a week during that time keeps me on my toes. Cannot imagine five days a week except perhaps the first week to engage the reader. Suzy Graven

    • Suzy, I know. Who has the time for that? Perhaps I will one day, but today would not be that day.

      I’m not familiar with the 100 Day Challenge. If you get a chance, will you come back and fill me in? I’ll try to click over and see if I can find it on your blog.

  5. This is fantastic! I spent quite a bit of my time (and sometimes still do) struggling to find a place to fit in. In the beginning, I’d go to those big name blogs, comment, and hope to be noticed. It felt like junior high, and I was shamelessly trying to pass notes to the kids at the popular lunch table. Completely unfulfilling and somewhat demoralizing! I’m glad I have learned, slowly, to build my tribe by being authentically me and commenting when it moves me and I can. Thanks for this great post!

    • Oh, Heidi, you nailed the description. Finding a place in the blogosphere can feel exactly like trying to fit in at junior high. It occurred to me, while reading your comment, that the way you described the development of your tribe happening “slowly” is just like most friendships happen in real life. To me, those authentic ties paired with the writing are the best things about blogging.

      • Yes! I know that I’m months behind the discussion on this, but I’m catching up and loving what I’m reading here. I, too, used to go to the big name blogs and, teeth clenched in envy, add some crawly comment in the hope that someone might click back to me…. nope.
        These days I’ve found a couple of Facebook pages where there are real people who chat, who seem to see life a bit like I do, and we encourage and share triumph and disaster. These people sometimes share what I write, and I do the same when something moves me, and from that honest, it-is-real-life-really start, I have a few friends, even if I’ve never met them, and they read what I write.
        I reckon that’s what it’s all about.
        Of course, if the big numbers and page rankings follow, one day, then I shall rise to the occasion… :-)
        Thank you for this.

  6. Jen T.

    Thank you for writing this! There are so many “rules” and other things that go along with blogging that sometimes the most important part — the writing — gets lost in the shuffle. I’ve tried the blogging five times a week, and all it does is burn you out. I don’t want to say something just for the sake of saying something. I want to blog when I have something really important to say.

    • Thanks, Jen. I hear you and I agree. Some weeks I have a lot to say and a lot more time to say it. Other weeks, not so much. If I burn out, there will be no words; that’s more of a risk to me than failing to meet an arbitrary posting schedule.

  7. roy

    The first rule of roy – the thing I am doing gets it’s importance from the fact that I am doing it. – not the other way around. Run that past MBC and see what comes out….

  8. Aimee,

    You always make me smile and help to put things into perspective. I really love this post–it has got me thinking and reevaluating my own goals.

    Thank you so much,

    • Anne, you are such a gem. I’d say of the many people I’ve met on the blogosphere, you have one of the most healthy perspectives about what really matters. You are constantly examining and correcting your course to stay true to your values. In short, I want to be you when I grow up :) Seriously, your kind and tenacious spirit is inspiring.

  9. Aimee, I love this. Of course, I’m sure you knew I would. I’ve been working to find balance with my blogging since going back to work full time. I don’t have time to blog five (or even 3) times a week, but I’ve found that my loyal readers are still there, contributing, sharing, and learning. I’ve broken most of those blogging rules (except the self hosting, I’ll never regret self hosting. . .though I too would like more free templates that work!). I had an interesting situation this week. I was being interviewed as a follow-up to an earlier blogging partnership. She said “When we last saw you in December of 2011 you had X pageviews a month. I’m sure it is a lot more now, right?” I had to admit, that while it may be more on some months, some months it is less. And that is OK. I’m not in this for the pageviews. Would I love it if someone influential read my work, thought it was great and offered a book deal? Sure. But truly, my goal is the same as always, encourage mothers, where they are at, right now, today.

    • Pam, thank you so much for reading this and commenting! You’re another amazing example of a blogger who has remained true to her goal. And I love that you’ve found your readers stay the course with you. They still care what you have to say and they care about the relationship, no matter how often or not you post. That’s not just OK. That’s ideal. There’s something to be said for quality over quantity in material and readership.

      PS: I’ll be contacting you for a consult about the magic of self-hosting :)

  10. Aimee,

    I remember when I began blogging I was told to post 5 times a week so your traffic is great and constant. Hogwash!!! I can barely make once a week. And when I do post I think it is great writing, as oppose to the crap I was putting out trying to keep up at barely 3 times a week. We are told that Google prefers more updates. Google likes me just fine. But to me, more important is the fact that my readers find my stuff helpful

    Now I do need to disagree with ya. I think if one is serious about blogging, even if she is not trying to make money or use it for business, I would say have a self hosted blog. I have a blogger blog. Ok, I rarely use it but I have one. And I LOVE the simplicity of it. The idea that I never need to worry that it will be down. I can pick amazing themes and widgets. But in the back of my mind Google owns my content. What is Google decided to discontinue Blogger? Eeek!! All that content that was written- gone. I’m sure there is a way to get it but I want complete and all control over what I write, this includes backups to my computer. If something goes wrong I can always access my back files.

    Thanks for putting out there the fact that bloggers do not need to follow ANY rules. It is your online journey, do it however you feel comfortable.


    • Allie, that self-ownership thing was my tipping point into self-hosting. If I write it, I want to own it. All of it. Sometimes I put myself out there and discuss touchy topics like religion and politics. It’s important to me that I feel safe to share my point of view and my readers feel safe to comment. I want it to be okay to agree to disagree and have a respectful conversation about it. I didn’t want a third party to ever be able to censor that conversation. Self-hosting was the solution to safeguard free speech on my blog.

      Best line of your comment: “Google likes me just fine.” I may have to quote that. Excellent.

  11. Great post about the “rules” of the game. I consider myself a quick study and have learned a lot. Until someone asks me about a Klout score, or bounce rates…
    I’m just here to write and share 😉
    Carrie @ Just Mildly Medicayed

  12. What a great post and great conversation you’ve started. I have to admit, this post is the reason I’ve decided not to go to blogging conferences this year. While I love them for the friends I get to see, I feel like I “learn” things that I don’t/can’t apply, or one person says I must do something just as someone else says I must not. I’m learning to trust my gut as a writer and that will determine the content of my blog. Not someone who’s telling me to do it her way because that’s how you get pageviews/make money/matter.

    • Lord, Amy! I’m glad to help you make the best decision for yourself, but don’t let the conference organizers catch wind of this. I’ll be black balled! Lol. Just kidding. The politics of the blogging conference deserves its own post… No worries if you don’t go. I’ll share my swag with you from the one I plan to attend.

      You have to do what works for you. When you say you’re learning to trust your gut, I get that. Writing and developing content is a very intuitive process for me. I’m happiest when I follow that lead. I’m most discouraged when I try to do what I know in my heart doesn’t work for me. There’s been a lot of experimenting, too. That’s another good thing about being small. You can take risks and make mistakes without it being the end of the world. This post from Jon Acuff has been an encouragement to me in that department:

  13. Hi, Amy.

    Thank you so much for this post! I tend to get embroiled in those rules, and end up forgetting the reason why I began blogging in the first place. My primary aim is to keep myself sane in the midst of a somewhat unorthodox grieving process, but if my blog can be of use to others who have lost online friends, then I have achieved something.

    Take care,


    • Casey, thank you for your comment. I was intrigued by your blog concept and went to check it out. I agree that the loss of online friends is a valid, painful loss to be grieved. I surprised myself a few months ago when I openly wept over tragic news from a woman I only know through blog posts. Your concept to provide people a place to process their grief and find support is excellent. It fills a void. You’re navigating unchartered waters of this new way we are experiencing loss and grief. Bravo, Casey.

  14. I have been blogging for a year and a half and don’t follow any of those rules and yet people read. Content is what matters. The words that people are reading or photos they see is what matters. If I was someone thinking about getting into blogging and heard all the experts tell me what I had to do to get people to read my blog I would walk away from the idea!

    • Carrie, you do have readers. Invested readers and a lot of them! And you don’t follow any of the rules… Okay, now I want to be you when I grow up. Just kidding. I’d do well to just be myself.

      Content is king. As my husband, who grew up on a dairy farm, tells me, the cream really does rise to the top. If it’s un-homogenized milk, that is.

  15. Ah, yes, tough rules to unlearn. I’ve been there. I blogged 5 days a week and found out I had a lot to say. Then I woke up one morning and realized how much of a task it had become and that I had fallen away from the real reason I started blogging. My next step was trying to back off completely as work life became too hectic. And I think you know how that went Aimee. I lasted a good month, maybe a month and a half. The quality of my content suffered when I tried to push quantity, but after taking a step back, I find it much easier to blog only when I have something decent to say, not because I feel like I have to. Thanks for these great thoughts Aimee!

    • Thank you for commenting, Ryan. We missed you when you were away, and it sounds like you missed the writing as well. Like Carrie (aka Dairy Carrie) you’ve built a community. They want to hear from you and you help to unify them. They’re not going anywhere just because you’re not posting five days a week.

      Recently someone told my husband they read my blog because I don’t waste their time. Hmm. That’s what I consider the highest praise.

  16. Oh Aimee! This is SO SO FANTASTIC!!! First of all- what an awesome concept to have acknowledgments in writers/bloggers who are “small but mighty”!!! Oh, how this speaks to me. I am feeling so discouraged about my blog stats and how hard I have been trying. I love this affirmation and I feel God led me to read this at this moment. Thank YOU! :)

    • Chris, thank you. I’m so glad you came by! You are such a sweet soul and you reach out to so many women with your blog. Those silly stats don’t reflect the flesh and blood people who are positively influenced by your content and community. Stay strong, sister, and keep on keeping on with your primary goal to encourage others.

  17. SO agree with you. I’ve been blogging for over 6 years and I’ve tried some of what you mentioned, including blogging daily (or nearly so – and yes, it was too much!) and advertising – both of which I’ve since dropped. It’s my blog, I’m not here to make money (or friends, really), I’m here to write. If you take something meaningful away from that, I couldn’t be happier. That’s all the revenue I need :)

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