This is a guest post by Jeff Goins of Goinswriter.com.
The other night, I was catching up with a writer friend who is taking his first steps towards becoming a professional blogger.
He was frustrated and upset, wanting to quit.
Listening to him, I realized something: writing is discouraging work. It’s a time-consuming, underpaid, solitary activity. No wonder so many authors turn into drunks and most bloggers don’t receive their due appreciation.
If you’re feeling discouraged, you can breathe a sigh of relief. Relax. This is normal.
For most of the time I’ve been blogging, I’ve felt like my friend. Frustrated and discouraged, I’ve often wanted to quit. But recently, things have started turning around. And it’s all because of three very important secrets.
1. Automation is key
Step away from Twitter, Facebook, and any other online distractions long enough to actually get something done. You need time to concentrate and create.
If you spend all your time on maintaining your community, you’ll never able to grow it. You have to create margin in your schedule to do things like write guest posts.
I do this by writing weeks in advance for my blog and scheduling posts well ahead of time. I also use tools like Timely.is and Bufferapp.com to schedule tweets without having to think much about it. And lastly, I turn off most email notifications and alerts (including Twitter follows and unfollows and Facebook messages).
Don’t get me wrong. I still spend time on social media, but I don’t allow myself to be interrupted every minute of the day. Automating these practices helps me focus on what I need to spend most of my time doing: writing.
2. A bias towards creating keeps you focused
There are a hundred ways you could make money online. Why blogging? Probably because you enjoy creating.
This may fly in the face of conventional wisdom, but you should not be spending most of your time promoting your blog.
You should spend most of your time creating.
Writing comes first. Everything else (including marketing and promotion) comes second. If I’m not delivering the very best content I can every time I hit “Publish,” I don’t have any reason to promote my work. Similarly, if you’re not finding ways to add value to your readers, customers, etc., then you have no business trying to sell anything.
In this world of tweets and texts and blog comments, it’s easy to get distracted. To focus merely on the platform you’ve built, instead of on expanding its reach. The way that you do this is by creating compelling content, day after day.
You only have a limited number of hours in the day. Make them count.
Doing this will also keep you busy enough to ignore the jabs of critics, keeping you caught up in what you love.
3. Stop checking stats
In my experience, checking blog stats is a pointless exercise. These numbers can be a subtle form of procrastination, tempting you to “check in” multiple times per day, without actually doing any real work.
Of course, analytics are helpful. They allow you to identify overall growth trends of your blog, as well as keywords readers are interested in. But on a regular basis (i.e. hourly or even daily), they can be discouraging.
If someone doesn’t immediately read your writing, it may lead you to false conclusions. You may convince yourself that no one cares about what you have to say. Your inner critic might take over before you give your work time to make an impact.
Remember: if you’re writing posts that are optimized for search engines, then you’re not writing for today. You’re writing for the long haul. Constantly checking stats can undermine that purpose.
When someone asked Seth Godin how many blog subscribers he had, he responded, “I don’t know.” And neither should you.
Of course, you need to be available to your audience and to know how your blog is performing. But before any of that, you need to just write.
There are forces out there that would discourage you. I hope you don’t let them.
Because we need your voice.
We need your words.
Jeff Goins is a writer and marketing consultant. On his blog, he shares writing tips for new and aspiring writers. For a limited time, you can download his free e-book The Writer’s Manifesto. You can also follow him on Twitter @jeffgoins.
I love this post! Starting out as a new blogger it is so frustrating to write something I’m proud of only to see it received 8 hits….8. In addition, when you are new and you lose two subscribers, it is a HUGE chunk of your audience.
After reading this, I have decided not to check my stats again until January….or maybe March. :)
Hah! Thanks, Barbara.
Hey Jeff, this piece is timely, fresh and insightful! Keep up the great work!
I do hope that sooner or later we would have something to do together.
From: someone who shares your passion.
Another way is just enjoying writing. Like Jeff said, the traffic redirected by search engines doesn’t come right away. I remember I have written my first post about society and it had zero views for a couple of months and then one day I got 128 views from Google. In fact, this post brings me new visitors up until today.
So, don’t worry about losing 2 subscribers. There are much more to come! :)
That’s right. If you’re doing something right, you will always lose (and gain) subscribers. This is natural. Healthy, even.
Enjoying your work is the key factor of blogging. This is the first step before you get into blogging.
This is refreshing to hear, and a poignant reminder that social media, in and of itself, is not the answer.
that’s right. in my experience, they are merely means to an end.
+1… They say eMail, Twitter & FB are Bermuda triangles of productivity :-) Stay away. Also liked stop checking stats. But isn’t it easier said than done ;)
thanks, basant. i think “they” are right — whoever they may be. ;)
Thank, I really needed to hear that today. Now I’m off to shut off all my notifications and get writing!
way to go, Chrissie!
Very helpful post for a blogger like me. In my case, I do check the stats lots of times in a day but I know it is not very useful.
Right. It’s a temptation that I sometimes give into as well.
Great points. It’s important to understand that blogging is a long term strategy. You aren’t going to notice an increase in sales or leads after writing a couple of blog posts. It’s about establishing trust over time. Too many bloggers throw in the towel after a few months, but it can take years to build up a loyal following.
thanks, Nick. totally agree.
Absolutely Nick! Success don’t come overnight.
Once you build trust, loyalty and followership, you’d go to bed with your doors open; while they ( your brand evangelists) do the promotion for you!.
I think we should check the status of our blog in Google analytic. Without checking status we can not improve our blog.
hi Suraj. That’s true that you do need to be able to measure success so that you can improve over time. however, constantly checking stats can actually be unproductive. all traffic has dips and downward trends. it’s important at that time to have a long-term strategy and not get too caught up in the moment. thanks for the comment!
Thank you! I needed to hear this today!
i’m glad, Mike! you’re welcome.
I am a sucker for checking stats, and I do get frustrated so much when I spend hours on a post doing the drawings and creating a post only for it never to be read. I hear so much conflicting advice it does my head in, some say you should promote some say you should just write blah blah blah. Personally I think all this concentrating on seo, marketing, social media, tweeting, facebook fan pages, worrying about keywords, tags, meta data and all the other things blogging now seems to involve, wouldnt it be great if we could all just forget about it and just well…..blog.
You’re right, Adam. It’s a pain, huh? The paradox is that the more you write for humans, the more search engines will love you. In other words, focus first on great content and SEO will follow.
Another important tip: Don’t always try to come up with something new. Let the discussion around the ‘Sphere and the inspiration from other bloggers and newsmakers take care of your blogging when you’re burnt.
How? Curate. Riff. Pick something people are already buzzing about and link to it and give your own .02. Having an opinion isn’t hard. “Riffing” off of the news or a trend of the day is a great, easy way to take the burden off of yourself to always produce content from scratch – especially when you have no ideas or you’re spending way too much time on 100% original articles.
There’s a TON to talk about out there. And the conversations have already been started for you. Chime in on popular topics in your niche instead of trying to start them all the time. People will appreciate your take on the news related to your blog’s focus and they’ll come back for more and pass it around. Making your blog more popular without the pressure of writing from scratch every time you sit down to blog.
Good point, Jack. Another trick I do is I occasional recycle an old post from the archives (just by changing the publish date to today). I will usually edit it and make it better, and I often do this with posts that are older and were published somewhat “incomplete.” Since my audience has grown, it’s new content to a lot of people, and no one has ever complained.
Well said Jack. Listen to your market and know what they cry about!
You sounded as a pro Jack. I love you.
This is so true and yet so unknown. I have noticed a clear pattern in my publishing career:
When I focus a lot on just creating and reaching out to my audience, my stats tend to reward me for it eventually. But when I focus on all the side orders (stats, SEO, promotion, software etc) I create very little and my stats pay pay the price for it.
If you take care of your content, the stats will take care of themselves.
well said, Adi. there’s a strange irony to it, but this is true.
I’m guilty of #3.
And you’re right, come to think of it, writing your blog is like farming.
As you sow, so shall you reap.
It makes not point planting a seed today and then digging it out again tomorrow to see how much progress you are making.
Have faith and trust in the process.
Feedback is good, but there’s no need of being paranoid about it.
great point, Musa. Thanks for reading!
Yep, I also needed to hear this today … there are LOTS of things that cause discouragement I’m afraid. After finally enjoying a serious surge in traffic and subscribers for my blog – got hit with a backdoor intruder who – thank heaven – hasn’t done serious damage, but did manage to actually send out 2 articles from my site – nothing x rated or spammy, nonetheless…
Thought we had the problem solved, but apparently there was more than one bit of code hidden – so now i’ve had to put my blog on maintenance mode through the weekend to do a major purge. I’m just sick about the timing because I was about to introduce a new eBook and thinking about what’s ahead trying to regroup and make up for lost time. LOTS of lessons learned, but Mother Teresa’s quote comes to mind – I know God will not give me anything I can’t handle, but sometimes I just wish He didn’t trust me so much.
I’m sorry to hear that, Marquita, but glad you’re recovering well. Love that Ma Teresa quote.
I too needed this today. I have become quite discouraged and planned on giving it a rest. I think the more we work at it, the more we learn in the long haul.
That’s right, Lucie. It’s good to have a long-term mindset.
I agree that it’s disheartening checking stats and twitter/facebook. I love blogging though. I’ve only just started and have loads of ideas in my head but just don’t know how to publicise them. Maybe I’ll get meself a nice cup of tea and do a bit more fretting.
Your repeated emphasis on creating is challenging to me. It’s hard to create great content and promote it at the same time, but I think that I really just need to step up the amount of time I commit to my blog. And thanks for the encouragement – I’m glad to know I’m not the only one who gets down at times.
You’re welcome, Loren. Thanks for reading and accepting the challenge.
Amend. The content must come first; and it must be constant. Then social media. You hit the nail on the head.
Thank you for the great post Jeff. All three points hit home with me.
I really like advise given in problogger, esp as I’m new to blogging in terms of reaching out to bigger audiences. Thank’s again to get me going on writing and not checking out statistics!
Yet another wonderful post, Jeff. Thanks so much for sharing. It is really easy to get discouraged sometimes and so important to find inspiring and clever articles such as yours.
well, i’m agree with the first comment.
i always try to the best without see the result. i’m sure if the good result will behind of our good job!
i always try, try, try, and never surrender as a beginner! :)
I am a brand new blogger. I haven’t yet become discouraged, but I cold deffinately see how it could be easy to do so. I think I have had only 7 page views this week :( I’m going to stop checking stats every day. When would it be appropriate to start looking at stats? After a couple months – then monthly?
I always struggle with the paradox – do I publish my best content now or keep some in the vault for the right time? I guess I’ll need faith that my future writings will be just as good and better!
Thanks for the encouraging post Jeff! I’ve learned to be patient with my writing by publishing content that has been filtered through my soul and spirit. Until I get the inner green light of peace, I wait, edit, and tweak for message clarity. This keeps me focused on quality over quantity and allows me to trust the results to the audience of the One who created me with the passion to write as He directs. Thanks again Jeff! May you and your family have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday!
I have to admit I check my stats way more than I should. I’m just starting to utilise Hootsuite for auto-tweets and facebook posts and it’s great.
You’re very right, ultimately a blog is only as good as it’s content so that needs to be the focus.
Thanks, Claire. You should check out Timely. It works like Hootsuite, but you don’t have to worry about WHEN to post. It automatically does that for you, based on your highest number of retweets.
Btw, one technical note regarding Facebook: I don’t automate sharing blog content on there. The way the FB algorithm works is that it discounts content shared (links and such) by a third-party app. So I still share my posts manually, but only about once a day.
Thanks, Jeff, for another targeted post. I don’t fret about stats on my blog, but I do check Facebook regularly — way too often during the day. I just committed to blogging 5 times a week on my blog back in May, after reading the Problogger book, and I checked stats for the first time last night — 7000 unique visitors last month. That’s almost tripled since May. I’m still not getting the monetize thing down, but it was a huge boost to keep on. Thanks for the encouragement to keep on writing.
Doing monthly reviews is a good way to step away from the daily grind and focus on the big picture. Nice work, Chris.
Pretty sure I need to work on all three of these areas…
ditto. anytime i write something like this, i’m writing it to myself. :)
Totally agreed with the Stop monitoring the stats part. Just focus on posting optimized articles for search engine is what matters the most and rest will follow itself.
Hey Jeff, Great Article! I couldn’t have stumbled across this at a better time! Great to pick up some automation tips to make things run a little more smoothly. I am always looking for different strategies on how to simplify the process and not get discouraged! :)
As soon as I read the word “drunks”, I knew this post was all about me.
1 of the quite recent things that got me really frustrated as a blogger was the recent Google update on October 14th which wiped about 50% of my traffic (I’m sure many bloggers can identify with this). This was probably my most frustrating experience in over 4 years of blogging. Based on this I have a few tips for dealing with discouragement…
1) Get Away From The Computer:- I think 1 of the best things you can do for yourself when you get discouraged is to get away from the computer for an hour and re-focus. When I noticed that my traffic was down I kept checking my stats even more than usual (yes I’m very guilty of point number 3) and also started asking around in forums if anyone else was experiencing similar problems. I then continued to check my stats frequently and read up on the latest forum theories to figure out exactly what Google had done. I probably wasted most of the day doing this and didn’t get a single piece of work done on my site.
With hindsight, what I should have done was get out of the house, go for a run (I find running really helps me work off stress), come back with a clear head and then plan my work for the rest of the day. If your blog is making you feel discouraged just get away from it temporarily and find something that can clear this discouragement from your mind. Otherwise you will become unproductive and even more frustrated.
2) Look At The Bigger Picture:- My very first thoughts to losing all that traffic were “This sucks. Months of work down the drain.” However, then I looked back at this point last year and discovered even with this current drop in traffic, my year on year improvement was pretty good. This made me feel a lot more positive about the situation.
Blogging is a long term process and you are probably going to face some pretty significant setbacks along the way. However, if you try to look at them in the context of your overall blog’s development you can see that they are probably not as bad as you are making out.
3) Look At Your Most Popular Posts:- I found another good thing was to remind myself of the value I am providing to other people. By looking back at 1 of my popular posts and the related comments I could remind myself that no matter what is discouraging me now, I am still a good writer and people enjoy reading my work.
So no matter what is discouraging you now, remember you have the ability to write great content and your most popular posts prove this.
I like #1. A common mantra for me is: “Work smarter, not harder.” This is especially true with writing. Most professional authors don’t spend eight hours a day writing (in fact I don’t know ANY who do). Instead, they dig in for maybe three hours, at the most. When you are creating, it’s important to have concentrated times of focus (with zero distractions) and then intentional times of turning it all off.
Awesome tips Tom! you really hit it home with how you should really focus on the brighter side of things.
This inspired me.
I had a very good friend who began blogging. I helped get her set up and rolling. She was amazing; a real natural. I loved her writing – I loved her voice, and knowing her most of my life, I knew she had so much experience to share.
Stats destroyed her. She stopped blogging just shy of 5 months.
All the cheering and encouragement I had to offer was no match for what the stats revealed to her. I was so sad to see her go. :(
that’s a sad, but common story. thanks for sharing, Gayla. I have a friend who’s been blogging for about that much time. he was discouraged by one day of bad traffic. I told him, “Don’t even pay attention to traffic right now; it’s too early. You just need to be stockpiling content. It’s an investment that will pay off for years to come.”
People blog for various reasons. If your motivation is doing what you love and passionate about you’ll be a able to stay through with or without stats.
You must love what you do first, what others say is secondary. I hope your good friend would find solace in other endeavors.
well said, Benjamin. I completely agree.
A good one especially the part on automating stuff.
I always find myself jumping over to facebook and twitter several times a day and realised sometimes it takes away time to create new blog posts.
Scheduling posts also gives me a piece of mind….when I schedule posts for three days in a row I get more time to create new content…though my blog is still a baby, am waiting for it to start crawling.
Thanks for the encouragement.
Me, too. I love the peace that comes from feeling like I’m on top of stuff.
This post made me close all my social network tabs after reading number 1. Nice post Jeff!
Well done, Valerie!
Thanks for giving out some encouragement because we the bloggers needs it a lot on the daily basis to keep going and making most out of our inner interest and life learning.
I read this post just in time. lol
I love to write. I was a linguistics major in college and writing was like water for our bodies, we needed a lot of it everyday.
But when I came into blogging, it started to get overwhelming about how I should promote your blog this way if you want more readers or build it this way to attract a more engaging community. I mean all those things I’ve learned are good, but in the end, they almost completely phased me out of focusing on just….writing good content for my blog.
Definitely going to change my focus today.
Thanks for the reminder Jeff :)
Right now, I am caught up in the widget aspect of blogging. I want to make my site easier to access to social media sites. My need to drive more traffic to my blog has taken over my life. I am trying to back off a little bit and concentrate more on the writing…but, it is difficult to do so! Great post.
sometimes i feel that facebook is a sheer waste of time. i think it causes more harm than benefit.
When I started reading your article you made me feel like you were talking about me.I spend a lot of time promoting my blog instead of writing more good content. I check my stats every 2 hours or less because I don’t know it become a habit I think.
I feel you, Salah. A good question to ask yourself is this: “Why am I checking this? What action will I take depending on what I find?” If the answer is “nothing,” then don’t check your stats. Wait until you know that if your stats are down or up that knowing that will lead you to take some kind of action. Then, and only then, is it okay to check (in my opinion).
Having a positive mindset at the outset no matter what has been helpful.
Success in blogging, like other human endeavors, requires focus, commitment, perseverance, HARD WORK and FLEXIBILITY. The rewards come in the LONGER TERM.
I urge anyone who wants to make substantial success to envision the end results. Remember WINNERS are not quitters; when the going gets tough only the tough gets going.
Thank you for the tips. Recently i decided to write blog to release my ideas and thought. I find writing is one of the best way to release stress and tension provided you dont have hidden agenda to make money especially. When you free your mind, your ideas flow.
He… attractive writing dude.! I’m very agree to the 3rd point and 1st point my self. Because years ago I’m also rely on watching stats of my blog and others’ blogs too. But That thing waste my time much. So I know how damn that is. I’m also using automation system to distribute my blogs links using twitterfeed.com.
Anyway Simple Ideas. But worthwhile to read it 100 times. Because they are Important and Simple too.
Great advice for a newbie blogger like myself, particularly in regards to the stats. I set myself a one month goal in terms of number of page views to achieve in the month. Four days to go and it looks like I might miss my goal by about 100. I have been stressing a bit over this, but should really be celebrating the number of page views I have had instead. Cup is half full, not half empty after all!
Thanks for the comment, Loren. You’re on the right track — stay positive.
I’m a huge culprit of checking my stats way too often. It’s definitely something that I’m trying to stop doing as it almost never adds any value to my site. Don’t get me wrong, checking stats on a weekly basis can be insightful, but checking more often than that if often a waste of time especially considering that this time could be used to create content.
I agree, Phil. If it’s not actionable, don’t do it.
If we’re talking about making money online, doing business, etc., I always tell people there’s a difference between those who “play in business” and those who “do business”.
Those who play in business will be very marginally successful (if that). They are the ones who consistently stop what they are doing to toy with their header image, send tweets, check Facebook, check stats every couple of hours, etc. Basically the things you mentioned in your post.
Those who make the real money know that they need to always be pushing ahead and creating the new, not staying where they are.
One thing I’m a little at odds with is the automation thing.
Don’t get me wrong, to make money online I certainly use automation and outsource, but in this regard I’m talking about automating your “live” social media things. For example, Twitter was designed to provide real-time interactions, not scheduled posts.
It’s almost as bad as “bots”.
I’m sure in the long run and business-wise, auto tweets and Facebook automation will get you ahead, but it’s not really what it was meant for.
You’re right, John. I agree and was hesitant to put the automation part in there for that reason. That said, if I don’t automate some posts, then I will be checking Twitter every second (I just don’t have much self-control). So the automation allows me to close my window and focus on creating, while having the peace that I’m not abandoning Twitter. It also allows me the opportunity to passively share my work. I still log in to connect with friends and followers a couple times a day. This just allows me to be productive and focus on what I do best — create. Great feedback. Thanks for the comment.
Thank you for writing such an inspiring words. It’s truly energizing me. :)
I’ve been blogging for about 2 months and I just get 10 unique visitors a day, it drives me frustated.
I checked my analytics each day, and it only made me discouraged. I’ve learnt something from you. Maybe it’s not just about unique visitors I should concentrate on. No matter how long times it takes, I’ll keep trying to provide ‘good’ quality content. Again, thanks Jeff for such an inspiring words. Have an awesome day! :)
That’s right, Amalia. You are in a season of making investments. It may take months before you’re able to see a return, but it’ll be worth it. Keep up the good work.
Yes, twitter and facebook are the worst distractions alive!
Sometimes, I know what to write but then feel lazy about writing it!
Great advise, not that I know anything except that being writer is hard work. Back to my novel now – Gotta get away from the ‘pulp’ of twitter’ but its like eating corn snacks when you need a 3 course meal – Write healthy!
everything you said in this post makes pure common sense. And, I’m also discovering that good written press releases, in addition to guest blog postings, get passive traffic and good rankings in longtail search for years to come. One can easily become discouraged in their blogging efforts, but, when looking at the bigger picture about the Internet and how it can work good for anyone, then one make reconsider strategizing on a more duplex level for blogging success.
That’s interesting, Drewry — the bit about press releases. Very cool. Thanks for sharing!
Wow, went to add a comment and had to scroll past dozens. Obviously a topic that resonates with a lot of us bloggers out here, and good suggestions on how to keep the fuzzy discontent out of our writing and the mojo back in. I’d add one more suggestion…If you write for a corporate blog or blog that needs to be approved by other editors before posting, remember the feedback and call for changes will make you a better writer in the long run and probably make your writing better as you learn to prep your thoughts for both internal and external audiences. A little artistic or verbal freedom exchanged for closely channeled readers can make your blog less “I-centered” and more professional. It’s a price I pay for the privilege of actually getting paid to blog as part of my responsibilities, and happy for that!