If I were to tell my blogging story in a single sentence it would be this:
Do what you can, and regularly work on small improvements.
In 2009, I was a consumer of blogs. I had tried a time or two to blog about something or the other. But I never really had a focus other than the single thought. Mark Lee (of Third Day) hosted a summer book club on his blog and I blogged about several of the books I had read over the summer.
A few months later, John Saddington inspired me to put forth real effort to blog my book reviews. By the end of 2009 I was regularly blogging 2 or 3 book reviews a week.
By February 2010, I started regularly posting about free books that were being offered for Kindle. It was a small addition, usually only once or twice a week at first. Primarily I was collecting free books for my own kindle library and I just started blogging about them as a service to family and friends that also had kindles.
Soon after that I started also reviewing ‘reading tools’ (kindle apps, websites for readers, etc.). These additions were primarily about trying to blog every day. There was no way that I could review a book every day. And there were not enough free kindle books at the time to justify a post every day by itself.
It was not long before I started finding ways to support my blogging. Initially it was signing up to receive free books in return for blogging about them. I was already spending a ton of money on books. And as long as I was only accepting books that I thought I would read anyway it seemed like a perk that pushed me just a little bit further.
Each little step made the blog a bit better. I moved to wordpress, bought Standard Theme, added advertising, took off the advertising, started focusing more on formatting and layout, all little steps.
In late 2010 I started being pushed to develop a blog brand away from my then MrShields.com. Over a couple weeks I ask friends and family and eventually Chris Ames and John (not sure who had the initial idea) came up with Bookwi.se.
March 2011 I officially made the transition to the new domain. I screwed it up lost a bunch of RSS subscribers, fixed it and hosted a book discussion and started out with the best traffic numbers I had ever seen.
But that led to a several month decline. By summer 2011, readers were in the dozens a day and I was putting in a lot of time for a few readers.
I went back to content. Really focused on writing better reviews, being consistent and paying attention to the little things. Going into the Christmas season traffic really picked up. It seemed like that two year mark of blogging was a switch. I started getting more organic search traffic and my previously static RSS subscribers started inching up again.
Again I started making little changes. I added an SEO plugin and started paying attention to what seemed to be successful. I added a Facebook fan page and started regularly submitting my posts to StumbleUpon after reading about in Tentblogger. Both January and February 2012 I had more than 15,000 page views just from Stumbleupon (each was equal to my total 2011 traffic.)
Again in July 2012 I had a slight summer slump. But Facebook offered me $50 in free advertising for my fan page. It had taken six months to go from the initial 32 fans to 51 fan. In 7 days and $49.94 of free advertising I went to 162 Facebook fans.
The shift at about the same time to Standard Theme 3 also really spiked my organic traffic. In May, I had 8000 impressions and 60 clicks from Google. The first thee weeks of August, I have had 60000 impression and 400 clicks.
There are lots of tweaks on my radar. I want to continue to work on generating new contributors. My process, especially for my free book posts, needs to be simplified so I am spending less time on simple things. I still really do not understand SEO as well as I should. And my technical skills are very mediocre at best. But I am on track to go from around around 16,000 pages view in 2011 to around 100,000 pages views in 2012. That is in addition to expanding my RSS/email to nearly 200 and continuing to add Facebook Fans.
The secret to my modest success seems to be keep at it and keep making small changes.