If you just started a blog then you need to learn blogging lessons.
You don’t need more posts, you don’t need a new Facebook page, you need to learn the blogging lessons those ahead of you already know.
I know “lessons” doesn’t imply too much fun. Don’t worry, this is just one blog post and takes 3 minutes to read. You can skip down to the good stuff below if you’d like.
Why keep reading?
Alternatively, you can plunder through the blogosphere head first if you want, assuming people will read whatever you write and generally making every mistake we all make. It will still be fun to create a blog but it will take you longer to reach success. You could find yourself three months down the road without any results to show off other than your lonely blog itself. I know because it happened to me (more on that down below).
In this article I’m going to give you a head start ahead of other blogs by explaining 10 lessons I learned in my first year of blogging.
Nine years ago I was new to blogging. But I observed and questioned everything and now for the past few years have been able to blog for a living.
Without that first year, the other eight wouldn’t have happened.
Granted, this is only one man’s advice, but I’ve interacted with thousands of bloggers and gathered a lot of insight in my time. I hope at least a few of you can benefit from this.
Which types of bloggers should read this?
Some of the posts I write go way off track into abstract land and we talk about which images are most profitable and whether PageRank will make a comeback. This is not one of those posts.
I want to make sure that if you’re one of these types of bloggers you know that this post (and the lessons it contains) are for you:
1. Topical experts
If you’re an expert on a topic, whether it’s gadgets or gardening, you need blogging lessons to work those huge paragraphs of your advice into something more manageable and readable.
2. Business bloggers
Anyone who has signed up to blog for their business has to please the CEO, and they’re often smarter than you think. A little finesse will go a long way.
3. Ghost writers
The ghost blogger is assumed to be the craftiest blogger of all. You must know hundreds of styles and pick from your arsenal which to use at any given moment. So a post like this, where I’m letting you steal my styles, is ideal!
Developers often just write in shorthand. It’s great for other developers, but you need to learn your audience’s voice to get common folks (like your future investors) to read through it all.
5. Personal bloggers who want to blog for a living
It’s personal bloggers who want to make a living off a blog who need these lessons the most. The ghost writer gets $250 per post on big tech blogs and the developer blogs their notes to make millions off an app someday. They don’t necessarily need the income from their personal blog like we do.
As I said, it’s the solo bloggers who can benefit the most from a fast rise on the learning curve. Read the blogs of anyone who started small and now is a big blogger and they’ll constantly talk about what they learned. This was me. We don’t have the guidelines corporate bloggers might and have to create our own. For these reasons, let’s focus the messages of this post on solo bloggers.
Why you need to learn from those ahead of you
Before I go into several bite-sized lessons you can take away from this post, I want to share a story. This story is about a kid who could have made a huge blog in university and been a success story of his alma-mater. This kid was me.
A topic too late
Back in 2008, I started a blog about stocks. It sounded like a million dollar idea and there were many fewer blogs back then (100,000+ start each day). I was new to stocks and hadn’t invested but was taking a course called Money and Credit that made me super curious how it all works. This blog was going to be about my rise to fame trading stocks!
Well the stock market crashed the next year. My advice was basically useless and my rise to fame was cut short.
In 2010, I turned to blogging about college advice. I recruited about 50 guest writers and we blogged endlessly about advice for new freshmen. This one had more success – we even got free laptops and beverages to review! But the larger sites like College Confidential and College Humor dwarfed our blog and stole our traffic. My rise to fame was basically at a standstill.
Thankfully (and this is my first lesson for you) I had knowingly followed one strategy of many of the best bloggers: write about it as you learn it to take people along your journey.
[bctt tweet=”#Blogging Lesson #1: Write about it as you learn it to take people along your journey.” username=”hostgator”]
The college blog had resulted in several questions about how to even start a blog in the first place, and in mid 2011 I was able to start a free blogging advice community with the few dollars I could spare. By salvaging the value in it, I was able to “fall forward” and land on a newer, more successful venture.
The message? My rise to fame was returned to me, but I spent three years learning in order to get there.
When you start off blogging assuming it’ll be a hit you enter with confidence, but you kick yourself later for not knowing what worked. You need to optimize your time early on if at all possible. The good news is if you generate a whole trail of advice for others to follow, then you’ll distill something very valuable to a beginner audience.
10 blogging lessons to keep in mind
Now it’s time to get into the bulk of this post. Here are a few things to keep in mind if you’d like to borrow my lessons from nine years in this crazy industry:
1. Direct response copy is your friend
I’m starting strong with a tip I’d usually not give out, it’s that good. You will always get more attention on your post in the form of reads, comments and shares if you start out with the problem clearly explained. Then go into the solution. Us laymen readers need to know why you’re writing, so follow the steps in direct response copy any time you want to convert knowledge into an actionable article people will respond to.
2. You must find an idol
No matter what type of blogger you are, the easiest way to get inspiration and know that there’s more out there for you is to find an idol who’s already killing it in your field. Read this person every day and subscribe to their email list. Learn, learn, learn then apply it.
3. A good domain name matters
Measure twice, cut once. If you’re the best blogger ever with a confusing or just misleading domain, you will face unnecessary setbacks. Pick a domain name that reflects your work and the community you hope to build. Humor is a-okay. But blogging on an old domain or a subdomain, like greatidea.tumblr.com, can hurt your credibility.
4. Don’t wait for roadblocks to move. Move around them.
A big key to rising to success in blogging (quickly) is the ability to avoid roadblocks.
Don’t try and blast through your writer’s block or force a topic that hasn’t worked for you. Move on to a new topic.
Ask yourself: is what you’re working on worth the time, and is it going to get you more of what you want? I see bloggers constantly dwell on a certain design only to trash it later. Don’t get bogged down! Step back and focus on what you really want out of your blog (things like comments, shares, popular articles, and a large audience).
[bctt tweet=”You don’t have to move blogging roadblocks! Just stealthily move around them. #inspiration” username=”hostgator”]
5. People want to write for you
In every niche and every time, even as I write this at 12:50am, there are people who want exposure. Even if your blog is two weeks old, someone can still help your growth and their own resume by guest posting for you. If you’re trying to build a community of readers, consider building a community of authors first. Everyone will share their own work!
6. The 80/20 rule
The 80/20 rule applied to blogging can mean either:
- 80 percent of the success you achieve comes from a small 20 percent of your activities, or
- You should spend 80% of your time blogging away from your blog and 20% blogging at your blog, not the other way around.
Both 1 and 2 are very much related. You achieve way more success on your blog by blogging for other blogs and promoting your content in places that already have readers. Like Derek Halpern of social triggers says: “It’s smarter to find another 10,000 people to consume what you’ve already created as opposed to creating more.”
7. Get self-hosted WordPress and a host you can fall in love with
The sooner you get on self-hosted WordPress the happier your life becomes. Instead of wondering why you can’t do something, you have the full set of tools used by the web’s most famous, profitable, prolific bloggers. HostGator is the solution I used to get my first WordPress.org site setup using the most basic option available anywhere on the internet, Hatchling, but they now have managed WordPress cloud hosting too. So it’s just a decision of whether to get basic WordPress.org, or get super-charged lighting-fast full-throttle WordPress.org.
[bctt tweet=”The sooner you get on self-hosted WordPress the happier your life becomes. #bloggingadvice” username=”hostgator”]
8. Your email list is your #1 priority
I say #1 there because #4 doesn’t sound quite as urgent, but the truth is this: if you run a blog you should hook it up with an email list ASAP to start building your community and to show every reader that you’re serious about what you’re creating. Even if someone doesn’t join your email list right away, they’ll always be intrigued by some inner community with secret offerings you’ve created. Just knowing your email list exists will actually make someone a lot more likely to interact with your blog.
9. Behind every success story is heaps of blood, sweat and tears
Every blogger who packages their advice into a beautiful eBook, course, or blog post has gone through many hard nights and long days to get their blog where they need it to be. You have to love the journey. It’s never as easy as they say it is, which makes it all that much more rewarding when you do succeed.
10. Use blue shirt trust to your advantage
The phrase “blue shirt trust” describes the phenomenon that if you wear a blue shirt to interviews or appearances, people are more likely to believe you and inevitably choose you over the competition.
My final tip is a lesson that truly applies across blogs and niches and the lesson is this: if you can present yourself in a trustworthy way, you will be far more successful than if you do not, regardless of the content you provide. Whether it’s leading with a positive quote, using a reliable WordPress theme, writing in a trustworthy tone, or simply using a blue color scheme, you want to do this.
Learning for blogging success
Do not underestimate the value of learning from your blogging ancestors. I don’t want to see you start several blogs before hitting it big – I want the first blog you make to go big. Take responsibility — humble yourself — and pride in learning in every corner of the web. I really hope this post helps, and if you’re interesting in going deeper with some more hands on blogging lessons, check out my WordPress blog tutorial below.
See you down below in the comments.
Greg Narayan answers hundreds of blog questions each day while probably spilling his coffee. Find your WordPress answers at DearBlogger, get travel answers at DearTraveler, and check our sister site for easy website ideas. When not blogging, you might find Greg snowboarding, golfing or scheming on how to optimize credit card points.