Always Be Jabbing. Always Be Shipping. Always Be Firing. It's the same advice, stated in different ways for different audiences.
My theory is that lead generation derives from Google rank and that the best way to increase Google rank is to be like a professional fighter: neither jabs nor haymakers are enough. You must be always jabbing and you must regularly throw haymakers. Blog continuously to keep your hit-rate and link-traffic high and write longer pieces, containing the high-value words associated with your niche, occasionally.
When people ask me for advice on blogging, I always respond with yet another form of the same advice: pick a schedule you can live with, and stick to it. Until you do that, none of the other advice I could give you will matter. I don't care if you suck at writing. I don't care if nobody reads your blog. I don't care if you have nothing interesting to say. If you can demonstrate a willingness to write, and a desire to keep continually improving your writing, you will eventually be successful.
But success takes time – a lot of time. I'd say a year at minimum. That's the element that weeds out so many impatient people. I wrote this blog for a year in utter obscurity, but I kept at it because I enjoyed it. I made a commitment to myself, under the banner of personal development, and I planned to meet that goal. My schedule was six posts per week, and I kept jabbing, kept shipping, kept firing. Not every post was that great, but I invested a reasonable effort in each one. Every time I wrote, I got a little better at writing. Every time I wrote, I learned a little more about the topic, how to research topics effectively, where the best sources of information were. Every time I wrote, I was slightly more plugged in to the rich software development community all around me. Every time I wrote, I'd get a morsel of feedback or comments that I kept rolling up into future posts. Every time I wrote, I tried to write something just the tiniest bit better than I did last time.
The changes, to me, were almost imperceptible. But from a very modest start – a 2004 new year's resolution for professional development – I'd say writing this blog is now, without a doubt, the most important thing I've ever done in my entire career.
I won't say I got my job here at Vertigo back in 2005 because of this blog, but it was definitely a factor. I was interviewed on .NET rocks, and I've been interviewed online not once but twice. I've been invited to speak at conferences. I am approached for book deals every few months. I exchange email regularly with Steve McConnell, one of my programming idols as a young adult, and he once asked me for advice on blogging. Joel Spolsky actually recognized me and invited conversation when I attended the Emeryville leg of his world tour. Charles Petzold sent me, completely unprompted, a signed copy of his latest book. People offer to send me incredibly cool free swag on a regular basis.
As near as I can tell, between RSS stats and log stats, around 100,000 people read this blog every day. Ad revenues that I've only reluctantly taken are significant enough now that I've actually entertained the idea, in my weaker moments, of becoming a full-time blogger. That is how crazy it's gotten. I would never have predicted this outcome in a million years, and writing it all down like this actually freaks me out a little bit.
I mention these things not because I'm a big fat showoff (or at least that's not the only reason), but because I achieved all this without being particularly talented. It was done one small post at a time, with no real planning or strategy whatsoever, beyond the simple incremental suck less every year kind. I am continually amazed and completely humbled by the success of this blog. All it took was a basic commitment to keep jabbing, keep shipping, keep firing.
If anything, what I've learned is this: if I can achieve this kind of success with my blog, so can you. So if you're wondering why the first thing I ask you when I meet you is "do you have a blog?" or "why don't you post to your blog more regularly?", or "could you turn that into a blog post?", now you know why. It's not just because I'm that annoying blog guy; it's because I'd like to wish the kind of amazing success I've had on everyone I meet.
I'm just trying to share my easy one step plan to achieve Ultimate Blog Success: find a posting schedule you can live with, and stick to it for a year. Probably several years. Okay, so maybe that one step is really not quite so easy as I made it out to be. But everyone has to start somewhere, and the sooner the better.
So when was the last time you wrote a blog post?