Growing this blog

imageSometimes I wonder if I should do more of the “Right Things” when it comes to building a blog. You know the drill:

  • Focus on one or two topics so that people will subscribe because you’re consistent and reliable.
  • Research keywords so that you can optimize for search engine queries and write content that will bring people in.
  • Reach out to new audiences with guest posts, working your way up to A-list blogs.
  • Send e-mail newsletters so that you can build relationships and sell to people later on.

Why? Because it’s a way to scale up. Maybe I can save more people time. Maybe I can learn from more people. Maybe I can create more value for each hour that I spend.

It’s easy to see what success could look like, down that path. Sometimes I’m envious of blogs with tens of thousands of subscribers and hundreds of comments per post.

But then reading and responding to comments takes time, and other people glaze over when they see pages and pages. It’s okay. I like where we are – maybe half a dozen comments or so on a good post, and I feel good about writing many paragraphs in reply. I’m not entirely sure if I’m just sour-graping, but it makes sense. This is manageable. Slightly more is okay too, but we can grow slowly so that I can learn the skills I need along the way.

Sometimes I wonder if this should be more like other blogs. But then that’s a well-travelled path, with lots of other people exploring it and plenty of people willing to sell you courses along the way. I have this amazing opportunity to try something different. I should.

Actually, I already know what I should do: what works for me, what I should do more. The enduring posts on my blog are tech notes (Emacs, Drupal, etc.) and sketches. People also tell me they find this sort of reflective practice—this learning-out-loud—helpful. I can continue like this, growing slowly through links and search results.  Instead of spending hours on blog marketing, I can spend hours on learning and writing.

It’s good to reflect on what works or doesn’t work for you. A clear no saves you time and anxiety. I’ve figured out ways to hack around my introversion, and maybe the same will be true for blogging.

So here, I think, is how I’ll grow this blog compared to the “typical” advice:

    • Typical: Focus on one or two topics so that people will subscribe because you’re consistent and reliable. I’ll write about whatever I’m learning about, covering a variety of interests. People who want a focused view can use search results and category links. From time to time, I’ll work on organizing things to make it easier for people to browse around.
    • Research keywords so that you can optimize for search engine queries and write content that will bring people in. I’ll look at other people’s questions, and the search queries that are already bringing people to my blog. That will nudge me to write about certain topics if I’m curious about the ideas too. I don’t have to compete when it comes to topics outside my interests or experiences. I can start by making it better for people who care about things I care about.
    • Reach out to new audiences with guest posts, working your way up to A-list blogs. I’ll read other blogs and write about what inspires me, linking to those posts. Since many people don’t have their own blogs, I’ll invite people to share their tips and lessons learned on mine.
    • Send e-mail newsletters so that you can build relationships and sell to people later on. Since I find it difficult to send e-mail, I’d rather build relationships through comments (and the occasional e-mail for people who want to have slightly more private discussions). Instead of building a list so that I can sell exclusive premium content, I’ll give away as much as I can of what I know under an occasional pay-what-you-want model. There are all sorts of other non-monetary ways to show appreciation, so that’s cool too.

    So this blog will grow, slowly, sustainably, in a way that feels comfortable for me.


    That said, are there small things I can do to make it easier for you or other people to take advantage of what I know? Is there something I can do to lower the barrier to commenting or help people explore? I’d love to hear from you!

    • Raymond Zeitler

      Envy is a poor motivator for doing anything. And I can’t imagine a Renaissance person such as yourself focusing on just one or two topics. The reason your blog appeals to me is that it’s focused on learning how to do things better. Yes, I like some of the topics: Emacs, career crafting, gardening, cats, quantified self. But I like when you pull something out that I’ve never heard of, too.

      Just wanted to give the above feedback right away — I don’t have time to think / write about your questions now, sorry!

      • Sacha Chua

        Thanks for the encouragement. =) I’ve been coming to the realization that it’s all right to grow slowly and solidly, and it’s reassuring to hear that this is a good path.

        I think I’ll also postpone the idea of experimenting with a topic-focused blog. Instead, I’ll still go ahead with deliberately learning more about some topics, but I’ll keep the content in this one as a blog series that can be pulled out into a PDF for people’s convenience.

    • Patricia

      Sacha I agree with Raymond. Perhaps help with keywords, this news from google search if you put your English translator. Greetings and all post are Welcome!

    • khyms@ibm 10/21/13

      Global Rank

      Rank in Russia

      Awesome global rank for a blog, though your site Alexa info had been configured in Russia, should be CA right?

      how about monetizing your site?
      have an ad placements perhaps

      i’ll start blogging soon thanks for some WP tips
      I’ve been a web designer/developer for 14 years, i’ve never had a chance or had given time to come up with my own website as i’ve been fully committed with employment

      i’m still at IBM 7 years and counting =)
      glad to know you’ve been with IBM too …
      keep in touch

      IBM Web Services, IBM NA (US/CA)

      • Sacha Chua

        Rank doesn’t mean much. Conversations are good, and this blog has been a wonderful thinking tool for me throughout the years.

        Since I hardly ever click on ads myself, I find it difficult to imagine that other people who like the kinds of things I like would click on ads. =) I tried Adsense before, but I wasn’t happy with the kinds of ads it suggested even after I filtered the ads to get rid of things I found offensive or things I didn’t agree with. I do have some affiliate links (indicated where I have them) to make it easy for people to buy books or services I like if my experiences get them interested. =)

        I don’t want people to be limited by frugality, lack of cash, or lack of access to a credit card, so I released my Sketchnotes 2012 collection for free with a pay-what-you-want model. I’ll probably do the same for future compilations too.

        We’ll see how things evolve!

    • Tim Sebring

      Sacha, is there a particular reason why you renamed your blog from “” to I mean aside from the obvious name recognition, were there any other reasons?


      • Sacha Chua

        Oh, it’s always been =) I came up with as a way for people who have a hard time spelling my name to easily find my blog. I realized that a lot of people checking it out could use more of a “start here” sort of view, so I changed it from pointing directly to my blog to pointing to a landing page of sorts.