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Happy 3rd Blog Birthday

It's the time of year when I normally take time to reflect on the year that has passed, and then plan for the next year ahead. This is mostly due to it being around my birthday, but over the past few years this has also conicided with the anniversary of my blog first being published.

Back in 19 Nov 2014 @ 14:21 I published my first blog post to the world. An event I blogged about a year later, Happy 1st Burthday.

I admit I didn't really put a lot of reflection into my first anniversary post, because I still really had no idea what blogging was about and still quite uncomfortable about sharing myself on-line, it is still something I am very much getting used to, hovwever I have made great strides over the past few years.

Reflecting on my blogs progress I managed to create a brief synopsis of the journey so far, which in some way may be an extension to Why I blog and why you should too, documenting my past 3 years journey, hopefully providing some useful insight to help other aspiring technical bloggers.

The blogging journey

As a father of 3, I feel I am sufficiently qualified to equate managing a blog to parenting, the process is almost identical from my experience. It may be useful to provide context for the narrative and an illustration.

Gary Woodfine - Monthly Blog Traffic

Birth and the first year

There is a certain amount of thrill, excitement, anticicpation and nervousness associated with initially publishing your blog. In my case I really had no idea what I was in for. The same was true with birth of our first child.

I still remember the day my wife and I drove back from the hospital with our newborn child. We were just two bags of nerves, slipping our baby into the baby seat, we quote literally had no idea what we were doing. All the preparation and even the classes we attended previously didn't help. We were fumbling, panicking and worried if we were doing things right.

I remember the drive home, I don't think I have ever driven that slow in my life. We turned onto a Motorway with all these fast-moving cars and we were just creeping along in the slow lane! I had never previously been afraid to drive on a motorway, but on that day for some reason, it became the scariest place in the world to be!

We had this newborn child in the car, and all we wanted to do was protect and nurture this defenceless child but it appeared that the rest of world really didn't care and it was going to carry on regardless! It was totally overwhelming!

This is also the ideal metaphor for when I published my first several blog posts. Although I had taken the time to learn the basics of blogging and I have spent years developing web-based software applications I was still quite unprepared for the completely different world of blogging. There are obviously millions of blogs out there, some are really professional with a number even having started way back in 1996!

Here I am publishing mine in 2014, and I still had alot to learn! As a software developer, I am obviously quite excited about the idea of constantly learning new things and make it my daily goal to try learn something new every day. This is vitally important when it comes to blogging, I was quite literally unprepared for the amount of learning I had to do.

I pointed out in my first-anniversary post all the new concepts I had to start researching, learning and incorporating into daily habits. I had some grounding in a few of the subjects, but honestly, there is a world of difference between being technically aware or knowledgeable and actually implementing it.

The new skills I had to include in my arsenal were:

  • Content Writing
  • Content Design Strategy
  • Marketing
  • Digital Marketing
  • Search Engine Optimization
  • UI/UX design
  • Graphic Design
  • Web Design
  • WordPress

I am still no master at any of those, but I do now have at least more than a passing awareness of them and have actually implemented and continue to learn more about these skills. I have spent hours reading books, other blog posts and experimenting. Ironically one of the best books I read on SEO is without doubt SEO For Dummies, the steps, strategies and process contained in the book are still very relevant today. This being despite the fact, that most SEO's proclaim that the world of SEO is constantly changing.

The truth is, the basics don't change only the tactics of manipulation and trickery change. I have just focused on learning and incorporating the basics.

It's often an overused cliché, but it is so true when it comes to blogging. Focusing on the basics delivers big results.

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My first 50 or so blog posts, were absolutely terrible. I had to learn about writing for the internet. This coupled with the fact that I really didn't have a subject I wanted to blog about, I had no defined niche, no discernible style or even a target market. I just started posting about whatever I felt like, regardless of whether I had any real expertise in the subject or not.

I was just writing blog posts, just to write blog posts. Looking back at those posts now, I realise what I was actually trying to do was find my purpose and searching for a way to serve. I was much like a kid in a candy store, I had all these choices and power but had no idea what to do with it!

Terrible Two's

Any parent will tell you, that just after you finally get used to having a baby in the house and you survive those first few months of uncertainty and you finally work out how to fit the child into your life. It's not long before the child realizes it has a mind of it's own and start pushing the boundaries and wants to start imposing itself on your life!

Your child start learning to talk and starts to understand a little more about the world around them. Yet, they still have so much more to learn and danger seems to be everywhere!

The exactly the same is true for a blog. I have to admit the second year was extremely difficult. My blog not only started attracting traffic but it also started attracting the attention of spammers, scammers and hackers. I had to start learning about the Dark Side of blogging.

I also found it increasingly difficult to find time to dedicate to my blog. In fact, there was an entire period of 3 months when I never wrote a blog post.

I have to admit, I did lose a little interest in my blog. My traffic had started to stagnate and I never really had a purpose. I also contemplated totally giving up as I considered my blog to be nothing more than a distraction. I wasn't really experiencing any direct benefits. It was also starting to cost a lot more money than I had previously anticipated.

I now had to start buying and paying for more security based products. I also started to discover some legal implications of running a blog. In one instance I had used a photograph I found on the web, which I thought illustrated the point of my article really well. I thought because I found the picture on a website and it had no attribution on that website that I could use it in my article.

A few months later I got an email from the organisation demanding £300 royalties, for the use of the photograph. Initially, I thought it was some form a scam, as I had previously experienced a number of such scam emails throughout the year, so I chose to ignore it.

A few weeks later, an offcial letter arrived in the mail and the costs had increased to £500. I contacted my lawyer and asked them if this was indeed a reality and they confirmed that it was. Apparently, this organisation is well known for pursuing it's digital rights. I also carried out some research of my own and found a number of bloggers, some of whom were incredibly well-known that had also experienced the full wrath of this agency.

I had no other option but to pay the £500 and notch the whole episode to a bad experience. I felt completely despondent in that my blog was already costing me money by paying for Hosting fees, security fees, time and other expenses and now it had no incurred an additional expense. All this and I hadn't derived any direct income from my blog as of yet.

Concrete operational stage

It's really funny, when your child turns three. there is a monumental change. Suddenly you start having real conversations with them and you actually start understanding them as a person. Your child really starts to flourish and they start developing their own social skills. There is a lot of laughter and on the whole, they become a lot more independent. They're able to eat by themselves and are capable of entertaining themselves.

They still need looking after, but for the most part, you become a lot more relaxed. So much so as a couple you start thinking of having another child feeling you've kind of mastered this child-rearing thing.

The same goes for blogging. After learning the difficulties of running one blog you start thinking of starting another one! This year I started another blog for my company website

During the latter part of my second year, I re-discovered my passion for blogging. I started exploring writing tutorials blog post, documenting things I learned during the course of my working day. Most importantly I found that these types of posts attracted traffic. The more of these types of posts I wrote the more my traffic to my blog started to grow.

During 2017, I focused almost entirely on writing tutorial based blog posts. I also started experimenting with the format of these posts. Exploring areas to improve and find out what it was my audience wants.

I also started to explore how to make money from my blog. I'm not expecting to make millions from my blog, but if I manage to make enough money to cover expenses and to earn a little extra income then I consider this to a success,

This year I implemented Google Adsense which has at least to generate some money. Over the last few months, I have been able to at least generate on average £3 a day. If nothing else it pays enough money for me to enjoy a cup of coffee a day.

I do know other bloggers that also use it to generate some additional income, The Polyglot Developer. Nick isn't making millions, but also he has no intention of doing so, but it is rewarding to get some income from your efforts.

All the tutorials I do on my site, are free to use. They don't cost anybody anything but my time to create and share. I do get some reward from the occasional comment from somebody who may find it useful, but to be honest those are seldom.

You'll notice my the chart above that I managed to triple the volume of traffic to my blog this year! I find this fact totally astounding, especially if you consider my particular niche!

Daily blog statistics

The future

Over the past few months, I have put in a lot of effort into learning more about blogging and how to generate some sort of income from my efforts. In the next few months, I will be implementing what I have learned and experiment with different ideas.

I also want to branch out of only creating tutorial type blog posts, although they are a cool idea and have helped me not only learn and improve skills, they are a little boring to write at times. I also think this market is becoming a little saturated, which requires me to deviate slightly in order to differentiate my blog from the gazillion other developer blogs out there.

What this magic new formula is, I have no idea at the moment, but 2018 will be dedicated to finding it. I will no doubt continue to write some tutorial content and may indeed update existing ones but they will not be my core focus.

Heres looking forward to the next year of my blog's development, hopefully, you will join me on the mission and provide feedback to help with progress.

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