A Look at the Highs and Lows of My Blog for 2008

As is customary during this time of year, we all have a tendency to look back at what 2008 had in store for us and look ahead to 2009.  A lot happened in 2008 and I thought I would do what many bloggers are doing of course and post of few of my favorite blogs posts, top posts, searches, and tweets for 2008.  What was the highlight of your year?  I think we tend to remember the mosts recent and forget about what happened in January or February of this year but that’s what is great about a blog, all you have to do is go back and look at your archives.

What Was the Highlight of 2008?

For me personally, my highlight was probably joining the staff of Cornerstone Church as their IT person in December.  This was something I had been looking at, praying about, and preparing for, for many years, long before I ever moved to Auburn.  What made it even better to me was how outstanding the existing leadership staff (Rusty, Josh, Brian, and Jack) was when I came on board, and I can’t wait to move ahead in 2009 with the goals set forth by the church and the Church body as a whole.

I have only had time to just get my feet wet through the month of December but looking ahead there are great things in store for this small, but growing, church body, and hopefully I can contribute to its continued success in leading people to know and serve Jesus.

What Was the Lowlight of 2008?

Can you have a highlight or a best without a worst? I know many who believe this to be true, that you don’t have to have the existence of evil to good but that is for another post.  Probably the low point of 2008 for me and my immediate house was when we lost my mother-in-law Georgia to cancer.  It was not something I will ever forget, and is something I remembered in one form or another every day from April to this day.  I learned a lot, prayed a lot, and miss her as well.

Best of the Blog in 2008

These are some of the best according to me stats, but I am also picking the blog posts that I liked the best, which is not something stats will tell you.  It is interesting that stats will only tell you exact numbers, not feelings, so enter a feeling into the equation and it will change everything.

My Favorite Posts of 2008

Most Active

And as a bonus, the top searches.  This one is always weird to me.  If you pay attention to your searches (much deeper than this) you will see that people find your blog in some of the strangest ways, but yet the information is still relevant.

5 Steps on How to Easily Improve a Blog in 2009

I love stats.  Some people call you a stat whore or call stats evil, but there is a reason you can get a degree in statistics in college.  Stats are used everywhere.

Sports, financial, technology, everywhere data is kept and you can gain so much information by examining statistics beyond surface level.  It can show you where you need to improve, what works, what doesn’t, and how to reach more people.

There are many reasons to have a blog, but is one of them to reach more people?  If so, you should know something about how to reach those people your blog is targeting.  Statistics is one way to evaluate how to do that.  If you don’t care about reaching new readers than I guess none of that matters, but many bloggers want to reach out.

A quick few tips for reaching new readers in 2009 on your blog would be something you can gain from your statistics.  Your stats just tell you how you have done, not what to do.  So, my few tips for what they are worth would be:

1. Keywords – be descriptive in your posts and your titles, the Internet runs off keywords.  If you had to pick one or the other, blog titles would come first.  Google keys off title tags so choose a title that is descriptive (like a newspaper headline) that accurately describes your post.

Keywords are not bad, they are just describing your post more accurately for the search engines to find the post.  For example, instead of saying we are going to be watching new year’s eve shows tonight, say we will be watching Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve 2009.

2. Content – the phrase content is king is still true.  Want people to be interested in reading your blog, write original and thoughtful content.  Don’t repeat material found on other blogs and don’t re-post content from other places but instead, write about your thoughts on that topic and link to the original content.

3. Show Some Link Love – one of the best things you can do for a fellow blogger is link to the direct post.  Linking to their blog is great, linking directly to a post they have written is even better.  The reason behind this is by doing so, you give their specific post more relevance when being looked at by google and it creates a pingback to their blog.  Google operates their search algorithms by deciding what is more relevant that something else, and one of the ways it does this is by the buzz around a post or article, and lets face it, the higher you are on Google’s list, the more visitors you will have to your blog or website.

4. Consistency – post with some consistency.  You don’t have to post every day, but posting once, then a month later doing another post, then a week later doesn’t always work well with search engines.  The code on your blog should be consistent as well.  This pretty much taken care of by WordPress or Typepad but the more frequently you change the focus on your blog or theme or coding the less relevant Google sees your blog.

5. Focus (remember your readers) – know your readers and pick a few key subjects and focus your blog on those topics.  For my personal blog, I focus on faith, photography, and personal topics and I try not to stray to far away from those topics (which are broad anyway).  Remember your readers.  You may think you are writing your blog for yourself, but you are really writing for your readers.  If you are writing for yourself and no one else, then there are several journal programs that will accomplish that purpose, but supposedly a blog is a “web log” about life, sharing ideas, information, and most of all communicating with others (i.e. your readers).

Bonus. Read other blogs and comment – ok, so there were actually 6 points, but I left the best for last.  To me, one of the most important things to do as a blogger is read other people’s blogs, and leave thought driven comments.  Blogging is a two way communication, not one way.  You should be ready to interact with your readers, and interact with other bloggers.  Blogs that only go one way become stale and cold.  Bloggers love comments.  If you want comments on your own blog, leave comments on other people’s blogs yourself.  Don’t spam your fellow bloggers.  Read, and if it was a thought provoking post, leave them a comment with your thoughts.

feed-reader

You can have the best content, the highest ranking, the best graphical design, and if you don’t allow comments, and never interact or comment yourself, your blog will be cold and corporate.  When I come across blogs that don’t allow comments that are in my feed reader, I title them in my reader with the extension “(blog title) – [no comments]” and they are usually the last blog I read, if at all.

The best example of how not to do it I have is from Desiring God.  John Piper has one of the very best blogs, period.  The content is incredible, the design is great, he has a ton of readers, and he doesn’t allow comments on his blog and (as far as I can tell) does not interact with his readers or responds to his email (at least not mine).  His blog also does one big no no on rss feeds and that is provide a partial post that requires the reader to actually go to the site to read the article.  And because of this, I rarely read his blog, but it is one of the best on the Internet.

UPDATE 01/11/09: I have to say after a bit of reflection, I am not sure the above criticism of John Piper’s website is all that warranted, strictly because of the value of the content that actually is posted.  I guess my point was that in the blogging community, comments make the blogs go round, and I still think it is very important, but I guess purely great content can totally overcome this point, and the Desiring God blog is one example of having such outstanding content that it may not make any difference, but I think that is an exception.

What are your plans for your blog for 2009?

Receiving a True Gift Does Not Create an Obligation

Now that the Christmas holiday is over and the gift giving has basically gone back to normal, I have a few observations.  As simple as we try to make Christmas, it seems to get more complicated each year.  To try and simplify things at our house this year we went back to the German tradition of opening all our gifts (which is basically one each) on Christmas Eve after we got home from our church service, then have a relaxing and calm Christmas Day.

Throughout the several weeks leading up to Christmas I started noticing a common and expected behavior repeated over several people and basically saying the same thing.  When they were given a gift there was an expectation of something in return.  This is not new of course.  Many times when someone gives you something they expect something in return, or when you receive something, you feel obligated to return the gift with something of the same.

I am not sure where this “tradition” got its roots, perhaps it was just customary of the culture or something we have come to expect.  Something with strings.  If this is the government talking, yes, I would expect strings.  Many times close friends or family put strings on things, but not always.  To me, there is not much that follows the example Jesus gave us less than giving a gift with an expectation attached to it.  God didn’t do this to us did He?

One of the most famous verses in scripture is John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son”.  If we briefly break apart that sentence, we see that God did what he did out of “love”, and He “gave”.  The word gave or give appears in scripture so much that you can’t even get out of Genesis without those two words being mentioned over 50 times.  The example God gives us is to give out of love, and expect nothing in return.

So, if you received a gift from us this year, I do not want to receive an obligitory gift in return, and don’t expect one either.  If you feel like giving someone something, great, and if someone wants to give you a gift out of love, accept it for what it is and don’t add the obligation or expectation of something in return.  Personally I would rather receive nothing that a gift given in expectation rather than love.

He Must Increase, but I Must Decrease :: John 3:30

This past Sunday we were privileged to have Brian bring the message to us and he spoke around John 3:30, He must increase, but I must decrease.  It was a thought-provoking message but it left the details on how we are to carry this out in our lives something for us to think about and tackle on our own.  There were and are many applications for this, but I started chasing my rabbit trying to think about why, and somehow landed on the song, “When Love Comes to Town” by U2.  If everything we do and have comes from the Lord, and our actions are to glorify the Lord, then how do we do this.

To do this, we must not take His glory for ourselves.  Not something very easy to accomplish, especially when you take today’s culture and modern technologies into consideration.  We do almost everything for ourselves, with ourselves in mind.

Driven and drilled into us from day one in our great country (for those who live in the U.S.), life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, which sometimes seems like the pursuit of ourselves.  The American dream, to own a house, 2 cars, have 2.4 kids, a good career, and a full 401k.  For some reason, “when love comes to town” reminded me of the reason for Christmas and even moving on into Easter, and the love He showed for all of us when He became flesh, and is why He deserves the glory.

The point of this message (at least in my interpretation) was to bring the Christmas season series to a close and bridge into our new and upcoming series on bringing our spiritual life alive, but I think we use the example we were given and use love to accomplish this.  For God to increase, I must decrease, for me to decrease, I must do this out of love.  To me, matters of faith start from the heart.

I was there when they crucified my Lord
I held the scabbard when the soldier drew his sword
I threw the dice when they pierced his side
But I’ve seen love conquer the great divide

When love comes to town I’m gonna catch that train
When love comes to town I’m gonna catch that flame
Maybe I was wrong to ever let you down
But I did what I did before love came to town

As the year comes to a close, I always start thinking about a recap of where, what, when, and how of this year and what is coming up next year.  This year and leading into next year, to bring my spritual life “alive”, I must decrease. [I am not sure why we only do this at year-end instead of all year-long, but it just seems like a natural break where we mark a point in time that has an end and a beginning at 12:00 midnight at on December 31st.]

Some random thoughts on how I can try to extend this into next year:

  • read more
  • do less for my reasons, more for His reasons
  • work as if no one will ever know or see the results of my labor but God Himself
  • remember I am working for His glory, not any one person
  • give more :: time, money, effort, support, attention
  • give up more :: control, of self…
  • don’t give up when… I feel like it
  • appreciate :: time, life more (not to be confused with Time Life)
  • serve more
  • make a don’t do list, and don’t do the things on my don’t do list

I like top ten lists but all the items above can be narrowed down to “love”, and I did what I did before love came to town.  Happy New Year everyone.

Beautiful December Day with Valkyrie Movie :: Friday Feet

Tree in Winter

feet in concrete

This was probably once of the nicest late December days that I can remember.  It was over 70* with partly cloudy, blue sky and I ended up working outside all day.  We ended up taking down our Christmas lights today and replacing them with our “everyday lights” which will remain up the rest of the year (these are lights that go around the inside of our patio).  We started decorating the patio for this coming summer, which actually was an idea in part from a friend Cindy Wall during her baptism (photos will be coming on down the road).

As the holiday days wind down I am really looking forward to getting back to work (without holiday interruptions).  We have so much coming up in the next few months, and I am really looking forward to seeing how it all plays out.  One area we will be ramping up is “Twitter church”.  So if you are not a Twitter member yet, sign up and see what it’s all about.  Once you have signed up, you can follow Cornerstone from @cornerstonebuzz and if you are so inclined, you can follow me at @scottfillmer as well.

My Friday Feet post is a little late because I spent most of yesterday with family and at the movies.  My dad and I went to see Valkyrie and if you have any desire to see the story about the assassination attempt on Hitler, I would highly recommend this movie.  I knew very little about this story from WWII and although it was a movie, it did seem to follow the historical account fairly close.  Although I am not a big fan of Tom Cruise any more, it is hard to deny that this was one of the better movies of 2008.

My friday feet post today is in recognition of the last Friday of the 2008 calendar year.  This photo is on the corner of our patio.  Deb and I placed our feet in the wet concrete just about this time two years ago when we moved into our house.  It is a marker or reminder of the passage of time to me and I look at it almost every time I walk across the patio.  2006, 2007, and a lot of 2008 are almost a blur in history now but this image has become almost a time capsule in my mind of when we finally moved into our house here in Auburn.

Welcome home to all those who were traveling over the last few days, hope your New Year will be great.