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 WordPress.com.
WordPress.com, 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.