Joost de Valk, Gretchen Rubin And Jacob Gube On Blogging

Conversations

Joost de Valk (JV) is an authority in the blogging world. He is famous for his plugins that have been downloaded millions of times and are daily used by thousands of authors. Especially his search engine optimization plugin is popular.

Gretchen Rubin (GR), the author of The Happiness Project, a site where you find her experiences, thoughts, theories and studies about how to be happier (her book, The Happiness Project, has been on the New York Times bestseller list for a year).

Jacob Gube (JB) decided to share his expertise in web design through Six Revisions. His site is a multi-author site very much and widely appreciated because of valuable content, emphasis on quality and comprehensiveness of its articles.

How and why did you start your site?

JV: I was doing a lot of coding and wanted to share that with people. In the beginning that coding was mostly CSS and HTML stuff, I did a lot of CSS3 previews which I later split off into its own site.

GR: I started it in March 2006, as one of the experiments in happiness that I undertook as part of my research for my book, The Happiness Project. I wanted to see if the experts were right, that “novelty and challenge bring happiness.” I started a blog as something new and (very!) challenging for me.

JG: I started our first site, Six Revisions, almost (it seems like) on a whim. I’d been an avid reader of several sites which inspired me to start my own. One day, I just had the sudden desire to start a website. So I made a short list of site names, picked one and registered it. Then I got a hosting account, installed WordPress, wrote my first post, and published it even before the domain name fully resolved to the hosting server (it can take up to 72 hours for DNS records to propagate). One of the reasons I started Six Revisions was I wanted to catalog the things I learned while working as a web developer and web designer. The other reason was out of a desire to share useful and practical information that would help professionals in their jobs.

How much time do you spend working on it and what are the usual tasks?

JV: A LOT of time. From writing posts to doing link building to coding on my plugins, it takes up hours and hours of work.

GR: You know, I can never figure out how much time I spend on it. That work is so intertwined in my writing day. I post six or seven times a week, answer emails, shoot a weekly video, read and reply to comments, take notes, research, and write.

JG: I spend quite a lot of time running both of our sites. I’d say at least 10 hours a day, including weekends. Oftentimes, it’ll be 12-15-hour days. Some of my usual day-to-day tasks are:

  • working with our authors (we have over 250 people that have contributed to one of our sites)
  • communicating with readers (through comments and via email)
  • writing articles
  • editing articles
  • reading industry news

That’s on top of projects like our first set eBooks, web development work (such as site upgrades) and so forth.

What is the best lesson learned that you’d like to share with people who want to start?

JV: Just do it. Find something you love to write about, start writing and never stop, but make sure to keep on improving yourself.

GR: Write every day, or just about every day. Weirdly, it’s easier to write every day than just once in a while. Also, constant engagement feeds creative thinking.

JG: The best lesson I’ve learned is that you should focus on content quality over anything else. I’d much rather post infrequently rather than post articles that I feel do not meet the quality standards we’ve established.

What is your best advice on how to grow your traffic?

JV: First of all, don’t focus on the numbers but focus on the quality of your readers. In your particular niche there just might not be 10s of thousands of readers available. Second: guest post on other, related, sites, be active in the comments on other pages, write stuff that people will want to read, build stuff that people will want to use. In other words: do something cool and tell people about it.

GR: Get to know the other people working in your area. Write frequently. Link to others. Have something to say.

JG: Create great content. If you do this, Internet users will eventually find your site, share it on their social networks, and you’ll be more likely to build a strong community of supporters.

What is your biggest achievement and the biggest mistake as a blogger?

JV: As a coder, they’re my WordPress plugins. My biggest mistake… I’ve made a few I think, especially in the beginning. I did some undisclosed paid posts back then and some other stupid things, like selling links, I now wouldn’t ever do again.

GR: My biggest success was just jumping in and starting. I felt so unprepared to do it, but I pushed myself, and now my blog is a giant engine of happiness for me. My biggest mistake? Waiting too long between re-designs.

JG: I’m humbled that we’ve been able to grow our sites consistently since we first started them, though I can’t take credit for this since it’s our hardworking, talented authors and our supportive readership that’s really helped our sites become what they are now. My biggest mistake? Delaying the redesign of the site for this long! The design and structure of your site is important, and should support the content of your site. I have been working on the redesign and hopefully launch it soon.