Privilege Blog

Privilege Reports To The Board, (i.e., You) On 13 Longish, Slowish Steps To Blog Readership, Or, Saturday Morning at 10:34am


Exactly 5 years ago today I published the first post on Privilege. It was about High WASP Valentines. And yes, it was a day late. I’ve tried to be punctual ever since, as Five Minutes Early Is On Time.

A week or so ago I received, and then misplaced, an email from a reader. She is starting a blog herself, and wondered how to gain readership. Since I can’t reply in email, I thought I’d merge my answer to her with a Privilege Report To The Board.

Let’s start with where we are today.

Privilege Right Now (February 15, 2009 – February 15, 2014)

The Longish, Pretty Slow Way To Get Here

If I consider the past 5 years, here’s what mattered.

  1. Figure out why you are blogging. You can prioritize only one thing at a time, so know what that is.  For me it’s always been the writing, with the readers a close and intertwined second. Every time I had to trade off between, for example, monetization, rapidly expanding readership, or writing how and what I want to write, I had to put the writing first. Sometimes, of course, one can manage all 3 together. Hat trick! You can choose a different priority, but you have to be honest with yourself about what it is.
  2. Get your blog set up with a basic, clean design. I was on Blogger, with an incredibly simple design, for almost 2 years. It was a start that allowed me to focus mostly on finding my subjects, rhythm, and voice. Also I managed to figure out Photoshop Elements, which is both fun and a great way to develop your Scold-A-Computer skills.
    1. By the way, I advise that you keep your header narrow enough that at least some of your home page post is visible without scrolling.
    2. People do want an About page, and they hope to see a photograph of your face.
    3. You can start anonymous, but if you want wider readership, eventually someone will insist on knowing your name. You don’t have to comply, but that’s likely to limit your access to public media.
  3. Become part of 15-25 other bloggers’ communities. Engage. This group may change, over time, but that’s OK. I started out in the preppy blogging world, discovered smart young women getting married, and then moved into the over-40 style crew. A more natural fit, but I’ve kept in touch with the friends I made elsewhere.
    1. Start commenting regularly, in an authentic way, on other people’s blogs. They will come visit you, they may become your regulars, they may not. Persist.
  4. Choose a niche, i.e. a primary topic. You might have done this before you started writing, but it’s OK to find your way iteratively, with guidance from your community. My topics expanded, from High WASP culture and the raptures of living, to style for the 0ver-50. Hey, made sense at the time. It really is easiest to write about what you know. And I don’t just pretend to like style – I’ve been hooked ever since Mom took us to Saks to shop with Miss Bailey.
  5. Find your way into some kind of a posting structure. People like a little predictability. Think about sonnets. Sure, the form is constraining, but it also fosters creativity. I came round to two posts a week on style, one post each Saturday on Whatever-I-Can-Write-In-The-Hours-Between-Sunrise-And-Noon, as a way to mix some lighthearted entertainment into the poetic deconstruction.
  6. Do your best work. There are so many ways to interpret those words and all of them are true.
  7. Plaster billboards on the information highway. No one’s going to read you if they can’t find you. Do we still call it a highway? I digress.
    1. Look for suitable blogs that might accept guest posting. Pitch this carefully, as they will be doing you a favor. Make sure you are working with their topics and audience. You can also try group blog postings, like Visible Monday, or By Invitation Only, but I have found those are better suited to making relationships with other participating bloggers than increasing readership. See that list of media I included in the Right Now section? You might start there.
    2. Alternatively, if you want to invest financially, I highly recommend a service like Outbrain. You pay them on a per click basis to syndicate your posts – you choose which ones, and how much you are willing to pay. Those new readers stick around.
  8. Let your other networks know that you are blogging. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr, Flickr, Reddit, the school message board. Don’t forget your aunts. Think carefully, however, about self-promotion. Make sure you reflect the tone of your blog.
  9. Answer your email as best you can. Realize that you can’t answer every comment.
  10. Be prepared for mean. There’s no one way to respond to hatred and cruelty. Some bloggers moderate the heck out of comments, Penelope Trunk told me to ignore them, I choose instead to be as polite as humanly possible. I fail, although not so often that I want to quit trying.
  11. Be unprepared for nice. That way you will be surprised by every supportive comment, and the good bits of blogging will feel new each time.
  12. Let your best work get better. A side benefit will be how much you learn about yourself. Take some chances.
  13. Don’t give up. One of the primary reasons you’re reading is that I’m still here. Sturdy Gals know that just showing up is half the battle. Better writers, more informed experts, and better artists may disappear over time. On the flip side, bloggers you don’t really like may get more, faster, higher, shinier everything and it’s hard to resist comparing. But since you were really clear, in the beginning, about your priorities, it turns out you will want to keep going anyway.

Here Is Not Enormous, But It’s Pretty Nifty

As you know, the route to becoming a huge blog isn’t something I can advise on. Other bloggers take other routes to broader sustained readership, and they are the right source for that kind of guidance. Do drop into the usual suspects, i.e. Problogger (.net, not .com), Copyblogger, etc.

However, I can tell you, this kind of blogging is a great path to gratitude. You will find yourself wanting to thank your readers all the time.

So, in closing, let’s revisit another of our favorite bumper stickers. A Simple Thank You Should Suffice.

Have a wonderful weekend.


83 Responses

  1. Excellent advice. I very much enjoy your blog, and I have shared your link in one or two of my posts. My blog started as a weight loss blog, but I have moved on with a variety of topics. My last one was quite personal regarding my own medical issue. I wrote about it, because it may be of relevance to someone out there with a similar problem. I guess that’s what we do on these blogs–share ideas and try to help one another. Thanks for everything.

  2. This is very interesting! I’m a longtime reader, but not a frequent commenter (and twitter pal). This was excellently written, per usual. Thank you.

  3. I have always enjoyed your posts and the writing does stand out. I am very impressed by your numbers and followers. You must derive some satisfaction at having a loyal fan base. I was hooked right from the get go and loved peering inside the High Wasp World.
    My blog numbers are quite low and I often wonder what it is that I am missing…my modest lifestyle is not the most amusing entertainment out there. When I read the affluent bloggers posts on their exotic travels and designer dresses, cars, homes and acquisitions I feel a lack…not feeling that is healthy yet I keep going back like a moth to a flame! Blogging is a very curious hobby.
    Enjoy your weekend Lisa.

    1. @hostessofthehumblebungalow, I love having readers. I can’t bring myself to think of them as a fan base, because I worry whether even telling people I have readership is boasting;). And I have some ideas for your wonderful blog and readership, but since I don’t know if you want any advice, I will send it in an email where it never has to see the light of day.

  4. I also enjoy your blog very much and congratulations on your fifth anniversary and your impressive stats. I look forward to what the coming years will bring and appreciate the excellent advice you’ve shared.

  5. I started out by thinking indignantly ‘hey, I link to Priviledge!’ then I checked and realised that you got lost in the switch from WordPress to Blogger (and in fact my blogroll isn’t visible on the main page of my blog – damn!). But I do love your blog – mainly for the quality of the writing (and the thinking behind it).

    Also, thanks heaps for the blogging tips! I’m trying to up my game a bit with my blog and ‘do your best work’ is an excellent motto.

    1. @Eleanorjane, I appreciate your links very much. The list here is from what I call “media,” i.e. the publisher makes a living at what they do. I think you and I are what I call “community bloggers,” right?

  6. What a great resource this would be for someone starting out — and there’s much to inspire for someone who’s been blogging as long as I have (with numbers exponentially more modest than yours!). . . Happy Saturday!

  7. Thanks so much for this post. I am also a high-WASP Californian (who has lived in Montana for the past 28 years), so I love and relate to your blog. I am starting my own blog and I need as much help as I can get! Great job.

  8. Thanks so much for this post. Your comments are really timely for me. I have only been blogging for a month now, after having thought about what I wanted to do and how to do it for several months. Then I finally took the plunge and I am having such fun with it!
    After reading your post about being a featured blog with Independent Fashion Bloggers (congrats on that btw), I checked out their site and joined. (Even though I am only writing about fashion in about half of my posts.) Within a day I received a virtual (no pun intended) deluge of “friend requests.” Some were from 16 year old bloggers who I am sure will have no interest in reading what I am writing! I finally turned off the notification e-mails.
    Did this happen to you…and how did you handle it?
    Any advice on this would be helpful.

  9. Thank you for sharing all of this wonderful advice. Point 13 is a particular gem. As they say in “Galaxy Quest,” “Never give up, never surrender!”
    So glad you still find the blog as rewarding as we, your reader crew, do.
    I linked back to your long-ago post on custom bumper stickers. I burst out laughing over “That behavior is not very attractive,” as I heard it…oh, now and again…growing up. Perhaps that should be your default response to any horrid trolls?
    Happy fifth anniversary.

    1. Galaxy Quest! Something to watch again. And my sister and I chortled like crazy as we made up those bumper sticker sayings:).

  10. See, the thing about you….you are SO generous! This post is equivalent to a Giveaway. It is. Look at all these hard won steps to success, given freely at no cost, all in a row, organized, intelligently compressed in your signature style. Thank you.

    You’re a marvelous CEO, you help us to aim high by your example. Happy Anniversary LPC!

  11. Here is your ‘simple thank you’: Thank you :)

    Any more bumper stickers? Ha Ha. Seriously. Loved the post and loved the response. Can we beg a reprise?

    Much Love

  12. What a very well written post, as usual. I’ve been a long time reader but rarely comment (I must change that!). You always have something interesting and worthy to write about. Keep up the good work and enjoy your 5th.

  13. It was interesting to hear that you always chose the writing over other considerations. It shows, your posts are so well written – informative, funny, and insightful. I very much enjoy reading them, no matter if the topic or ideas directly apply to my life or not, there is always something that encourages me to look at things from a fresh point of view. Thanks for all your care and hard work.

    1. Thank you! And to be clear, I choose the writing if there’s a tradeoff to be made. Most of the time, luckily, I find I can do the kind of writing I like – about style.

  14. I’m not a blogger, but I am an avid consumer of a wide variety of blogs. Yours is one of my favorites! I wanted to mention that I use Inoreader as my blog reader now that Google Reader is gone. You may want to check the stats on readers coming from that source.

    Thanks for your terrific and insightful writing.

    1. Thanks for the info. I had not heard of Inoreader. And thanks for reading and leaving this comment. Makes the occasional slog so much more rewarding.

  15. Yes, it’s about the writing, but once one gets to know Lisa, it’s about the woman behind the writing. I could not possibly convey so much personal information out of fear. Fear of some sort of disapproval. Silly, isn’t it? You shine! You are real! You are true to yourself & to us. That’s why we come back, that’s why we love you so much.

    1. @Marsha @ Splenderosa, So interesting how different we all are. I am more of afraid of somehow letting down the side, as the British say, by being devious or disingenuous. I feel that being as truthful as I can gives me authority to write.

  16. Congratulations on five fabulous years!
    Thank you for presenting such a wonderful resource for bloggers new and old. Your posts are often thought provoking, always informational, and draw me in as if we are all having lunch together. Writing is your gift and I’m thankful you share your thoughts and life with us. Cheers to 5 more wonderful years!

  17. First of all, congratulations on five years. Yours was one of the first blogs I started reading. Have no idea how i found you. But glad I did. Excellent blogging advice. You always add a soupçon of glamour to the day. Your numbers are fantastic. Bravo! Just keep on writing and I’ll keep on reading. Thanks for the memories.

  18. You’re always an inspiration, Lisa. I’ve been contemplating blogging for over a year now. The thing that keeps holding me back, and what sticks in my mind is… what could I write about that might interest anyone. I can’t hold a candle to most of the fine bloggers out in the blogosphere. I think you’re an amazing group of women.

    1. We have a great crew. And if there’s something that interests you, it’s bound to interest someone else. Probably several someones, right?

  19. Good concise advice; agree wht #1 is the primary point. And, would also add, don’t worry about visiting many other blogs; a person can’t be both a reader and a good writer unless she has nothing else to do.

    1. Good point. If you try to visit too many blogs, you wind up saying, “Great post,” when you’ve scanned in haste, and in fact the blogger has told you of something sad, 3/4 down her post. The thing to do is engage, as authentically as you can.

  20. Congratulations on your 5 years! what an achievement. I just go month to month and can’t believe I made it a year…
    But there is so much to digest and learn. I didn’t realize there was all this behind it. I just write and press publish. Gosh I have been so naive but I like your schedule of posts. But this must take organization and I have a feeling you have a natural disposition of being effective and organized. Thank you for sharing all this and wishing you continued success on your blog. I am glad to have recently discovered it properly and do enjoy your writing very much.

  21. Congratulations on your five years, I am only six months into blogging and you were one of the people I wrote to a couple of months ago for advice because I enjoy your blog and writing so much. You were so gracious and nice to take time and write an email back to me with a lot of the points you have covered here for new bloggers. I really appreciated it and I will never forget it…thank you and keep on writing…

  22. Congratulations on your blog-a-versary! To echo what many have already said: Thank you for your work, your words, and your style. I learn so much from you! Not least of all, how to be gracious. And thoughtful. And stylish :)

  23. Words to live by, m’dear! Thanks for the good advice. My greatest challenge is getting the posts out regularly. My goal is once a week, which I often fall short of, and I admire that you are able to squeaze out two of them. Best ever, Reggie

  24. Good advise. So much that you have said rings true to my experience. Oh I wish I enjoyed writing. I’m dyslexic and struggle with writing anything. I love clothes and photography but fear my lack of writing skills limits my blogging. You are a fabulous writer. Congratulations on your blogging success!

    blue hue wonderland

  25. Interesting. I’ve seen my readership increase but my comments decrease after Google Reader closed down. Wasn’t that the name? You know I’ve been a fan of your writing for years now. For me, it’s not particularly about your content although I find value and pleasure in it, it’s because I just love reading the sound of your voice. xoxo

  26. You struck a wonderful balance between style and fashion with tongue firmly planted in cheek. Congratulations on five years of blogging.

  27. WOW! you are a big blogger dear!!!! I’m impressed with your stattistic. Thank you so much for your advices, I really like your blog and especially this post.


  28. Happy 5 year birthday! Yours is one of the more coherent and accurate descriptions of blog growth (although what do I know about growing a blog!). I notice and appreciate that you have maintained your own voice on the blog consistently these past years.

  29. Lisa,
    Thank-you. It is I that feels incredibly fortunate to read your blog over the past years. Your writing and take on this thing called life share it in such an adventurous spirit that I admire.
    Your kindness, your honesty are all very appreciated and how nice of you to share your insight. You should really write a book. I know I would be on line waiting for your privileged pen to sign your monogram.

  30. I’ve been a fan of your blog since I began writing in earnest several years ago, and now as I refocus myself on blogging professionally, this post could more be more perfectly timed. Thank you for your wonderful advice — classy and honest, as always!

  31. Oh yes, the long slow road is right … it does give plenty of time to work the kinks out though! I love “be prepared for nice” & “don’t give up”. Thank you for your post.

  32. I know I’m a little late to the game, but Lisa, thank you so much for your post. I encountered your blog from the comment section on a practical wedding on the post about your wedding. This post is inspiring and oh-so-useful–I used it to help get my blog started. I just can’t believe you just GAVE this information away. Thank you!!!

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