Personal tips from a successful blog writer with thousands of readers!
I’ve ran several successful blogs over the years. Built up thousands of readers. Even monetized a few. Made many friends and learned many lessons in the process.
Creating a successful blog, one with a loyal and engaged following can be one of the hardest things in life…but totally doable even if you don’t know what you’re doing (just like I didn’t).
Here are some important things to keep in mind:
1. Choose a niche you like
Try not to chase money
I didn’t say “choose a good niche” or “choose the highest-paying niche”. I said choose a niche YOU LIKE. You don’t even have to be an expert in it (although that helps). I much prefer it to be something you’re curious or passionate about. Something that you’re actually still learning or involved in everyday.
Why does it have to be something you like?
Cuz I’ve never seen anybody successful at something they hated, that’s why. Pick something you love to talk about day in and day out. Something you’ll never get tired of. Something you can get up every morning for. Anything less than that and you’re basically asking for a job that’s just as un-stimulating as what you love.
Sure, people say the moment you get paid for something, you’ll lose your love for it. Ehhh…don’t worry about that. As long as you’re not doing it only for money and you don’t let money become so much of your focus, you’ll be alright. Pick something interesting that you’re really engaged in as that will help you engage with so many other people.
Think of all the websites that people use daily. Most people will never have any desire to come back to your site again if your content doesn’t “stick” and doesn’t engage them well.
What if you don’t have a niche?
Oh boy…good luck. Pick something and see if you can develop a curiosity for it. At least don’t pick something you absolutely hate. Try many things. That’s just how life works. Try a bunch of things until you find something you like. Many successful people fail a couple dozen times.
2. Just write
I see newbies trying to “learn every facet about blogging”. No. Don’t waste your time with that crap. Just write. Don’t think about design. Don’t think about monetization. Don’t think about sharing on social media. Start with the writing.
How long can you write for? Are you able to endure 2 hours in one session? How about 15 hours? How about 15 days? Writing a quality post takes time. Oh, and it takes a heck of a lot more time to do when you’re not yet a pro. It’s a bit like photography. A beginner might take 500 shots, spend hours picking the best ones, then do lots of editing to polish them up. A pro takes only 3 tries and picks the best one within seconds, and doesn’t require any editing.
Without tooting my own horn, I’d like to say that I write like a “professional photographer”. I do it all in a simple text editor. No fancy spellcheck or grammar tool needed. It also helps that I type fast and structure my posts relatively quickly compared to a novice blogger.
Writing is the most important thing when it comes to blogging because it’s literally the main part of what you do. I often find that many bloggers fail because they actually don’t like writing at all. They like making money, or they like being famous, or having an audience. But at the very core of it, they dread writing. If you’re barely 6 months into your blog and can hardly make time to release a new blog post, you should just quit now. If you hate writing this early on, I can guarantee you that it doesn’t get any easier later. Your life will only be busy later, with more responsibilities and even less time. The only way to make time for writing is by actually writing more (so that nothing else can take that time).
I love writing. I can write anywhere. In a car, on a plane, on the toilet. Even in traffic (I’ll type some things very slowly one-handed into my phone). When I can’t sleep at night, I pull out my laptop and write some stuff into it. I get so lost in my writing that time flies by and I forget to eat. I even forget to other things that I’m excited about doing.
I also never run out of ideas of what to write. I feel like I have unlimited things to write about and endless topics to cover. The moment I finish one blog, I have ideas for 10 more. Seriously, I have so much to say.
3. Engage your audience
People forget that blogging is from the web 2.0 era. Web 2.0 (which has now been around for so long that it’s no longer “new”) refers to the era of user-generated content. This is vastly different to traditional content mediums (like magazines & newpapers) where the content only comes from the publisher. In web 2.0, any random person could generate content or add to the content. Blogging is a form of web 2.0 since any user can blog but also other users can leave comments which in turn contributes to the original content.
My point is…reply to your reader’s comments.
Talk to them. Agree with them. Disagree with them. Thank them for sharing. Ask them questions. Encourage them to share more. Use their comments, or your replies to their comments, as material for new blog posts. Just like you like your material to read and heard, so do your readers. Let them know they’re being heard and that they’re not alone. Talk to them like a human, like a friend, like a LONGTIME friend. Ask about their lives, how they’re doing, what they’re up to.
Honestly, reading comments is a genius idea for any blogger that doesn’t know what to write. Listen to your readers and they will tell you exactly what they want to read!
Suppose your blog was “How to buy a car”, and the comments were…
- Do you recommend the same steps for used cars? ==> “How to buy a USED car”
- Thanks but I wanted more detailed steps. ==> “Step-by-step guide to buying a car”
- But what if I can’t afford a car? ==> “How to save up for a new car” or “How to write off your car as a business expense”
- What cars do you recommend for construction business? ==> “10 best cars for handyman/contractors”
- What car insurance do you use? ==> “10 best car insurance companies”
You get my point!
4. Develop your voice
I mean this not only from a writing standpoint but also from a branding standpoint. When it comes to blogging, your writing personality is your brand personality. There should be some things about you that people know and come to expect. A comfortable place of familiarity. Something that they feel they know well.
How do you establish that? Ahhhh….heck if I know. I did write a helpful guide a while back called How to establish your own voice. Maybe it’ll help you. It’s the way do things, the way you speak, the way you think. There’s a very “you-ness” to your brand that is communicated in everything that you do. The more powerful it is, the more your readers feel like they know you and the more they trust you! Familiarity and trust is VERY POWERFUL, my friends! Develop it and use it!
Some of you don’t feel like you have much to say. Or maybe you feel that you’re boring. Well let me ask you this…DO YOU HAVE FRIENDS? Because if you have friends, then NO, YOU ARE NOT BORING! Just write like how you talk and you’ll be just fine. (I’m sure your friends don’t find you boring. Most people won’t either.)
5. Sharing strategy
Think about how your stuff gets out. How does it reach your readers and how do they share it with other people? I’ll go over the various mediums out there and how I think they should be utilized. I will say this…don’t stress out about all the mediums out there. Yes, doing more helps than doing less but you can also do more within the networks you are most comfortable with. Pick a workflow and medium that fits your personality and you’ll enjoy life more. Otherwise, trying to keep up with many social networks will stress you out, feel like a chore, and make you hate life. Worst of all, the more successful you are on them the more you will feel drained having to keep up and respond to so many followers/fans/etc.
- Word-of-mouth – have such great content that people tell other people about you. Let them do all the marketing work for you! You just keep creating incredible content and let your work speak for itself. This is honestly the best way for me but it can be really hard when nobody knows you yet.
- Facebook – tons of people on here of all demographics and interests. Feels personal and professional. Easy to use and highly recommended. Good for sharing all kinds of material.
- Instagram – good for sharing visual stuff like photos and videos.
- Twitter – think of like just the Facebook Status function. Good for sharing photos, videos, links, and personal commentary.
- Pinterest – it’s for photos but blog posts do well also.
- Medium – I’m torn about putting my content on other networks and praying that some of the readers will actually click through to your site. It’s your call but I don’t believe you should invest in it. Always better to have your content on YOUR site in the long run, IMO. If you want to use Medium, only put part of your content here and somehow direct readers to your site.
- LinkedIn – good for professional stuff.
- Quora – good Q&A format that can link to your stuff.
Honestly, I recommend to use only the networks that you already use anyway! This way it doesn’t cost you as much extra time. Stick within your usual workflow. Don’t create more work for yourself. Stay effortless and build a rhythm that you can comfortably keep up over the longterm. More is not better!
This is something that EVERY blog owner will have to think about at some point or another. And it’s actually very interesting how some people approach monetizing. There are several different ways:
- monetizing for extra cash – common for people just blogging for on the side and don’t mind getting rewarded for their efforts.
- monetizing so you don’t have to work at your OTHER JOB – people who want to quit their job and focus on their blog full time.
- monetizing to make money – people who take their blog seriously and hoping to grow it as their full-time business.
As you can see. Some people blog to quit their job. Others blog as part of their full-time business. Knowing which one you fit into will definitely help you prepare a business strategy to maximize your blog’s earning potential.
- Your own product/service – selling your own product or service is really the only longterm monetization method for me. It makes no sense getting a percentage of affiliate commissions when you could take all the profit by selling your own product offering.
- Affiliate commission – this is really great, can make a nice revenue for some time. The problem is that after you’ve built it up and found a nice place to sit on, the industry changes and you’ll have to rebuild completely from scratch in about 5 years. Amazon affiliates is the popular thing now but you just wait and see. In 10 years, there will be something else.
- Ads – nice for making small chunks of change. I think it’s a waste of time but you can try and see for yourself. It’s better for some industries than for others. For bloggers, I think most of you won’t have enough content and traffic to make this one worthwhile.
- Paid content – I think this one is worth so much less than ads. What you make in paid content, you are hurting your brand value in doing it. Paid content often has so little value because it isn’t seen as genuine…but hey, it’s your blog. You do what you want with it.
(not about doing more work. it’s about freeing up more time)
7. Extra skills
One thing I never knew about blogging was how many extra skills you will need to really become successful. If you thought all you had to do was write, well you’re wrong! You have to learn a hundred different micro-skills and you really have to figure out how to do it yourself. SURE, you can try hiring someone but it almost never works. The cheap/lowcost person you hired will half-ass the job doing it in a way that you could have done so much better had you learned it and done it yourself.
Here are the extra skills:
- SEO – getting your content to rank on Google
- Copywriting – learning how to write titles, hooks, and lines that grab the audiences attention
- Social media – basics of using social media and getting content to be seen. (Probably a free/easy skill for younger and tech-savvy folks.)
- Buying ads – you may need to learn how to buy ads efficiently to get fast traffic.
- Image editing – yes, you’ll have to learn basic editing skills.
- Webhosting – to learn how to manage or even host your own site. The more visitors you get, the more this will become a huge task to manage.
- Google webmaster tools/analytics – how to sign up for tracking your website’s SEO health and progress. Ahhh what a painful process this is for beginners!
- CMS – having to learn how to work with your blogging platform, whether it be WordPress/SquareSpace/etc.
- Email/newsletter – yeah, you’re gonna have to learn how to manage newsletters and things. Basic design and sending them.
- Business/taxes – at some point, you’ll have to figure out how to deal with the taxes for your blog earnings.
Hmmm…come to think of it, it’s almost like having to RUN A BUSINESS! Yeaup, that’s what blogging is. If you thought all you had to do was write, NOPE! You gotta learn how to do a million things.
8. The X-factor
This is really a key one. There are so many incredible blogs out there already. They’re helpful, they’re entertaining. They’re funny, well-designed, have a great newsletter and presence on social media. Catchy name and URL. How are you going to stand out?! To be honest, I don’t know. But it’s your job to figure out what makes your blog special.
I’ll leave you with this question:
- What was the last blog you read regularly?
- What did it offer that no other blogs did?
- Why did you choose to keep reading that blog instead of the others?
Figure it out. And study from that.
Very helpful, real things by a real blog expert. section 2 I like most , tks .
Really solid post, thanks Johnny! Confirms much of what I already suspected, and expanded my knowledge especially about monetization.
Great thoughts and ideas.
Thank you, Alec. 🙂