When I started writing, I didn’t have great expectation. The first blog I started fizzled out, then my second, then my third. It wasn’t until I readjusted my expectations that I started to find success. I went in blindly and never read any blogging tips prior to starting out.
Fortunately for me, I eventually started a blog that stuck. After eight years I can say with confidence that I’ve created a successful blog. I’ve also learned a lot in the process. Occasionally I have people who ask for advice. The first time this happened, I felt like a phony. Then I remember that I was once a clueless newbie who would have benefitted from a few tips.
For the people who want advice, there are plenty of blogging tips I can share. Some of the information is very general, but you need to start with the basics before you can start to advance.
1. Your First Posts Will Suck
When you start, you’ll fit into one of two categories. Half the people are hyperfocused on everything they put out. They pay attention to each detail, ensure grammar is on point, and spend way too long looking for the right pictures. The other half will start with a “hello world” post and post blocks of text.
Regardless of when category you fall into, it’s OK. This is your first step, and once you start to immerse yourself in writing you will establish you own style. You’ll also get feedback, and if you’re passionate, you’ll seek out tips from other experienced writer.
After a year, you’ll realize your first post wasn’t the best. Nobody’s in, and that’s to be expected. All that matters is sticking with it and getting to the point where you can reflect on your prior writing.
2. The First Step Is Not the Hardest
Somehow I got the impression that my first post would be my biggest hurdle. It was not. The hardest point will probably be around post 30 or 50 or 85.
The beginning is usually when you have a collection of ideas, but as you progress the number of ideas starts to dwindle. The first step is also when you have the highest expectations, and as you exhaust your ideas, you start to wonder why you’re not getting more results. The fact of the matter is you will struggle, and the hardest steps are the ones where you have to continue despite not achieving the results you feel you deserve.
3. Your First Success Will Be Unexpected
There are a lot of times when I pour my heart and soul into a blog post. If I’m being honest, there are other ones that are less involved.
Usually the posts with my heart and soul perform well, but the top performers are random ones. When I was starting my blog, I received a lot of traffic from a short, simple post. It answered a question rather than used my knowledge to construct a list of tips or events. If you can add value to a trending topic or quickly answer a question, it might be worthwhile. You can’t fake your knowledge, but you can keep it simple and get results.
4. Inspiration Strikes Anywhere
I’ve become comfortable with whipping out my phone at random moments. My notes app is filled with ideas. Some good, some bad, but all of them related to blogging and my websites.
You can choose when you want to be productive, but you can’t always turn creativity on and off. I’d advise anyone to have a method of documenting ideas and keeping them handy. If you want to write a bad blog post, sit down with no thoughts in your had and a blank page in front of you. You can put words there, but it probably isn’t going to amount to much.
5. Keep Writing Casual, Not Too Casual
In my first point, I discussed the two types of first posts people make. The first is a way-too-casual “hello world” post. The second is a way-too-stiff and overly formal post. You should probably find a voice that lies somewhere in between, but closer to casual.
I’ve often heard the advise “write like you talk.” I can’t remember when I first heard this, but I’ve heard it multiple times and here ‘s a reputable source stating it. I’ve tried this, but while editing my posts I found way too much repetition in my writing. I also found a lot of confusing sentences and scattered points. Perhaps you should outline your post in a casual format, and you don’t need to adhere to every rule of grammar, but if you’re going to “write like you talk” just start a podcast.
6. Nothing Is Perfect
Editing is essential, but at some point you’re going to need to hit “publish.” If you feel you’d made your point and written a cohesive story, it’s alright to make the blog post public.
Remember, you can always edit your blog. If you find new and important information, you should revise your article. If someone catches a mistake, fix the error. When the pursuit of perfection slows your output of content, you should probably relax a little. Every post should be grade-A, but according to my high school teachers, 95% and 100% is still an A on my report card.
7. Do Research, Give Credit
Opinion pieces are nice, but ideas don’t spawn out of thin air. If you’re inspired by someone or something, make sure to link to the source.
Eventually you’ll see your statistics and realize very few people actually click those links. Does this matter? No. Just give credit to those who deserve it. The worst case scenario, the links get ignored. The best case scenario, readers know you did your research and you can back it up. This just shows you’re informed and willing to provide further resources for readers. It’s a good thing, and something valued by reader and search engine rankings.
8. Focus on Content First
Your goal should be making quality content, but it’s very easy to get overwhelmed when comparing yourself to other bloggers in your niche.
Remember, these people have done a lot of work to get into their position. The product you’re viewing wasn’t built over night. They started with a few posts, changed templates, added more graphics, built a following, and never stopped growing. The homepage you landed on was years in the making.
Commit yourself to making one change every so often, perhaps once a month. You’ll start to see your brand come together, but it won’t happen over night. At its roots, your blog is about the content that makes it unique and that should be your first focus.
9. Strive for Feedback
Your first few readers will mean the world to you. Listen to their comments and advice, don’t get offended, and internalize what they’re saying.
If you make information public you’re opening yourself up for criticism. People who handle this well know it’s a tool for improvement. You’re always going to like when someone agrees with you, but if someone curses you out they’re also experiencing a reaction to your writing. Stick to your vision, but be open to suggestions. Even if the feedback if non-specific there’s probably a kernel of advice hidden in there. Remember you’re writing for the audience, not just yourself.
10. Constancy Is King
If you want to gain success, just keep going.
Some days your views will be down. Keep writing. Some days you’ll see a spike and gain a lot of traction. Keep writing. You can’t dwell in your failures and your success, because things change. If you want to see results as a blogger, you need to keep producing content.
You can take a break if you need to, but your results will go away the more you ignore your blog. Just like it took continued efforts to spark your success, the lack of effort will allow your flame to burn out slowly.
There’s No Right Time to Start Blogging
I’d recommend blogging to anyone who wants to write but hasn’t started yet. It won’t be an immediate success, but it’s a lot of fun and a great way to share knowledge. I can confidently say blogging has allowed me to find a passion in life, and it’s something I enjoy doing regardless of success.
I also believe it’s important to go into the process with reasonable expectations. You could become very successful, but very few people actually go “viral.” You’re more likely to build an audience slowly, and that’s a good thing. Sustained growth is better than a fast rise and fall, but it also takes much more work.
Years of blogging have forced me to learn many lessons, adapt to changes, and push through slumps. If you start blogging with the wrong intentions, you’ll struggle with adapt when faced with challenges. The people who enjoy the process are the ones who are successful. They’re the ones who keep find reasons to continue rather than look for excuses to take a break. New bloggers should know they’re going to need to put in work, but they’ll also receive rewards. If they think longterm and focus on making improvements, they’ll have a lot of fun gaining those rewards.
Originally published at https://www.michaelbeausoleil.com on June 9, 2020.