22 July 2009

Blogging Tips : 13 Things I’ve Learned about Successful Blogging

This is my 5000th post here on To commemorate the moment I thought I’d share some of the lessons that I’ve learned in building my blogs.

I was recently asked as the last question (with 60 seconds to go) in a radio interview how I’d built my blogs into successful blogs. What follows is what I wish I’d had time to say.

1. Anticipate Growing Trends

I started ProBlogger back in 2004 (after blogging for a couple of years on other blogs) with a suspicion that making money from blogs would be something that would become more and more common. This blog was an attempt to position myself in the middle of that emerging trend, to help shape it and to create a profile within it.

Take Home Lesson: Watch for and anticipate emerging trends and attempt to plonk yourself (plonk being the technical word for it) right down in the middle of them. Of course this is not easy and there’s an element of luck in picking the right trend (see below for more on Luck).

2. Solve Problems and Meet Needs

This blog has always been a ‘how to’ or ‘tips’ type blog. This is not the only type of blog that succeeds but it certainly is a great thing to build a blog around. I’ve started 30 or so blogs over the years and the only three that have had success and survive today take on a ‘tips’ approach.

Take Home Lesson: My mantra of late: ’solve people’s problems and they’ll come back for more (and tell their friends about you)’.

3. Write for YOU

I began ProBlogger with multiple goals - one of which was to teach myself how to be a better blogger. While I’d been blogging for two years before starting this blog and had been making money from those blogs for a year - I was a the beginning of my journey and wanted to learn more about blogging.

Many of my posts (particularly early ones) have been recording of the lessons I’m learning, research that I’m doing into areas that I wanted to know more about and questions that I asked others to share their experience in (so we could all learn).

I also have a genuine interest in blogging. Again - of the 30 blogs I’ve run over the years its been those that I’ve had a genuine interest in that I’ve been able to sustain.

Take Home Lesson: Blog about topics you enjoy and have an interest in. Write for yourself as much as anyone else. Your readers will be more drawn into your blogging if they see you as the blogger are engaged.

4. Blog over the Long Term and Blog Regularly

In September of this year I’ll have published posts virtually every day on this blog for 5 years (that makes me tired just thinking about it).

5000 posts is small in comparison to some blogs out there but it signals to readers that you’re here for the long haul and are willing to be consistant in providing them with content to engage with.

While it’s not the only factor, sticking at blogging on the one topic for that long and people are bound to start noticing.

Take Home Lesson: if you’re looking for success with your blog - bunker down and set yourself for a long term project.

5. Be Interactive

While it’s an area that can always improve I’ve worked hard over the years to build a blog that is interactive.

Whether it be the comments section (there are now 148,294 comments on this blog), competitions/giveaways, polls, group writing projects etc - I’ve been quite intentional about giving people things to DO when they visit ProBlogger.

Take Home Lesson: People don’t just come online to consume content - many are looking to contribute, interact and belong.

6. Be Personal

I’ve not been overly strategic about this - rather I think it’s my natural style/instinct - but here at ProBlogger I’ve always injected a personal flavor into this blog.

It’s partly about the way I write but also comes out in the video posts that I do, using my own image around the blog, telling about the mistakes I’ve made as well as the successes, writing with emotion (at times), showing a more personal side on Twitter and the stories that I try to inject into my posts from time to time.

People respond well to this - my hunch is that they’re more likely to keep coming back to a blog if they feel they have a connection with a person there.

Take Home Lesson: don’t be afraid to let the real you shine through on your blog. People connect with people not just words.

7. Go Where People Are Already Gathering

I spend a lot of time OFF my blog interacting with people. Whether it be Twitter, Facebook or on other people’s blogs etc - I try to spend time where the kind of people I want to read my blog hang out (as well as the ones who already do read my blog).

When you do this you not only find new readers but you build your brand, meet others who are doing similar things to you to network with and you learn a lot of lessons that you can take back to improve your blog.

Take Home Lesson: Don’t be too insular and just spend time on your own web property - get out there and participate in the wider web.

8. Build Your Brand

My efforts in branding have come about more on instinct than much else but I have worked hard to get the name ‘ProBlogger’ out there over the last 5 years.

I use it (and the logo of this blog) in social media, on the book I co-authored, when I’m speaking or being interviewed and wherever else I can.

I’m fortunate enough (and there’s a big element of luck here in that I chose to use that name for my blog) to have a brand that people actually have come to use in describing those making a living from blogging.

Take Home Lesson: Don’t just think about how you can find new readers - think about how you can make a positive impression upon those who come into contact with you or your blog.

9. Spot and Follow Opportunities

Tuning in to the opportunities that constantly arise around you is one of the main skills that I’d encourage new business owners to work on.

My recent 31 Days to Build a Better Blog workbook is an example of this. I was running this project as a free series of posts here on ProBlogger when participants began to ask me for something that put it all in one document to work on in their own time. I began to see an opportunity to extend the project and the workbook idea was born. I followed the thread of an idea and made it a reality and in doing so created another income stream for my blog.

Note: part of this process is making mistakes. For every thing that I’ve done on my blog that has worked - there are 10 - 20 that have either been ‘average’ and not worth repeating or screaming failures. The key is to try new things - lots of them.

Take Home Lesson: Never be satisfied with the way you currently do things. There’s always a way to evolve what you’re doing now and make it better, to take a mistake you’ve made and flip it into a success story or to grow something that your readers respond well to into a project of its own.

10. Develop Partnerships

I’m very aware of my own limitations. There are aspects of my business and my blogging where I lack skills or where I’m not experienced.

In these ‘weaknesses’ I choose to develop partnerships and relationships with others.

At times this has meant hiring others to do work, occasionally it’s meant bartering or exchanging services with one another and on rarer occasions it has led to business partnerships (almost always this business partnership type arrangement has emerged slowly over time).

Take Home Lesson: While it’s possible to do everything yourself there comes a ceiling where you either need to stop growing or involve others. My main advice on finding people to work with is to take it slow. Develop a relationship, do small things first instead of investing too much into the relationship and work with people you like.

11. Know Your Goals and Stay Focused

I’m not the most organized, disciplined, strategic or structured person in the world.

However…. I do have a handful of overarching goals and values that determine much of what I do each day.

I think it’s really important to have some kind of vision or goal of where you’re headed - without this you’ll easily get off track and become distracted.

Take Home Lesson: It doesn’t need to be a formal strategic plan - but do know why you’re doing what you do and be willing to filter things that don’t fit with that goal from your daily activities.

12. Work Hard

This comes out in some of the points above but I think it needs to be stated again. Some promote blogging as a passive income or an easy way to make money online.

While I know a few bloggers who make a little money with spammy, automated tools - the reality is that the blogs those create will never have great long term success. They might make a few dollars but if you want to build a blog that builds a readership, that builds your profile, that is respected and well regarded as an authority and that is profitable in the long term - you need be ready to work your butt off.

I can’t really speak for others but I know that the success I’ve had in blogging so far has come from a lot of hard work.

Take Home Lesson: Long hours, extreme effort, sacrifice and a lot of time go into building great blogs.

13. Be Lucky

I’ve spoken about this previously but Luck has and continues to play a part of my blogging success (previous mentions on luck include Be Lucky and How to Be Lucky.

While there are times where you make your own luck - there are also times where things do just seem to fall in your lap. The key is to make the most of these instances.

Take Home Lesson: When good fortune does strike think about how you can extend it and make the most of it.

What Lessons Have You Learned about Blogging?

I’d love to hear some of the lessons that other bloggers have learned in their time as bloggers (whether they be long or short journeys). Share your lessons in comments below so we can learn from your experience!

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