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A Tortoise’s Guide to Blogging

The following post has been written by Kaila Colbin from VortexDNA

torthare2.jpgEffortless Traffic-Building. 5 Easy Steps to Number 1. Lose Weight in Your Sleep. We’re hardwired to be tempted by shortcuts, even in the face of overwhelming evidence that they don’t work. The good news is that it’s more fun—and more gratifying—to succeed in blogging the old fashioned way. This step-by-step guide will show you how to blow by the hares and laugh all the way to the finish line.

Step 1. Remember what a blog is about.

I’ll be the first to confess that I’m obsessed with my stats. I check them several times a day; I delight in every uptick and despair at every downturn. At the end of the day, though, stats are just one way of measuring what a blog is really about: people.

That’s why artificial jumps in stats aren’t sustainable, because people and traffic are two different things. You can pay for traffic, but people define your success. Traffic doesn’t come back again and again; people do. Traffic doesn’t tell its friends; people do. Traffic doesn’t comment; people do.

Hares only worry about traffic; tortoises create blogs to serve the people who read it, with the professionalism, quality and content that they deserve.

Step 2. To make a friend, be a friend.

When you meet somebody new, do you start by asking them to help you move house? Or do you wait until you’ve built the foundation of your friendship? Tortoises cultivate blogging relationships the same way you cultivate your friendships: one at a time, thinking about the other person as well as yourself, contributing at least as much value as you take away.

Hares, on the other hand, send non-personalized link-request emails to people whose blogs they’ve never read without offering anything in return.

True relationship building can’t be faked and it can’t be hurried. It won’t work if you’re not genuine about it, but it will pay enormous dividends if you are.

Rule 3. Stay humble.

Your blog cannot succeed without the help of a lot of people, big and small, buying into what you have to offer. Nobody owes you anything, so remember to express gratitude for everything you get: every link, every review, every comment, every visitor.

Tortoises write thank-you notes. They link to others. They offer guest posts.

View yourself as a contributor to society, and continually ask yourself, “What more can I do?” This takes time, but if you’re not willing to give your time to others, why should they give theirs to you?

When people link to you, they are entrusting you with their reputations. When people read your blog, they are entrusting you with their time. Hares do not appreciate the value of others’ reputations and time, but tortoises do.

Rule 4. Be patient.

The Internet invites speed, and hares love it. We can throw up a blog at the drop of a hat. We want six-figure AdSense checks, and we want ‘em yesterday. In the midst of all that speed, the longevity of the tortoise carries an unmistakable weight.

Started a blog a week ago? Why should I care? So did ten thousand other people. You’re going to have to prove to me that you’re dedicated to this before I’ll be willing to be dedicated to you. So don’t despair; just keep writing.

Building a successful blog is a marathon with no shortcuts, but great rewards. Do your training. Eat right. Sleep well. Pace yourself, and don’t give up. Day by day, link by link, your blog will build in reputation and reach.

Caution will turn to trust will turn to love, and the love of your readers will keep you going long after the hare has fallen by the wayside. Five or ten or twenty years from now, you’ll be amazed at how far you’ve come—even at the slow pace of a tortoise.

Kaila Colbin blogs for VortexDNA, whose technology can improve relevance for search engines, ecommerce sites, or any other recommendation service.

About Darren Rowse
Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
  1. Kaila,

    Thank you so much for the inspiring points. All four of these are very important rules, and I think that many unconsciously follow them just because of the kind of people they are.

    I especially like your first rule – remember what a blog is about.
    When I first started my blogging I had all kinds of highs and lows from my stats which either encouraged me to continue, or really discouraged me. But I agree that many jumps in traffic are artificial.

    Great insights,
    Hafiz Dhanani

  2. Your stats checking reminds me of me. I’ve read so often to bring stats checking to a minimum, and I even tried it, but, like you, I find joy in seeing my average visitor count make a 2 point jump in 3 days, and feel bad when it just drops 1 point.

    The message is clear “The first shall be the last, and vise versa”.

    Such a small article, but it gets my attention enough to want to read more of your writing

  3. Hi Kaila – Interesting post. And I totally agree, some people become far too impatient when it comes to blogging.

    I didn’t begin blogging on a regular basis until about ten months ago. Before that, it was patchy. But, I didn’t begin doing anything much at all to market my blog until recently.

    It just seemed more important to get plenty of decent posts behind me first and build a sense of community on the blog first. As you said – people are far more important to a blog than fly by night traffic that may not return.

  4. Hello Kaila

    Thank you very much for this post. To be honest, it wasn’t anything that I have not already read else where. But it conformed what I am just learning about blogging, in a lovely succinct way that really struck home with me. My blog is a ‘small’ blog compared to this blog (I think I have a grand total of 5 subscribers through my FeedBurner!) but after 6 months I am already feeling a sense of community, and what I have learned from my readers is no odds to nobody. cheers Sarah

  5. Am I dork? It says 5 easy steps, but I count 4?

  6. Great article and very true.
    And PublicRecordsGuy i only see 4 when it says 5

  7. Good guest post Kaila. It is easy to get obsessed with traffic spikes, but your point about the difference between traffic and people is poignant.

    I’ve read that over 40,000 blogs are created every day. I suspect many are created by the ‘hares’ and I often wonder how many make it through the first few months.

  8. Step 4: Be Patient

    That could mean step 5 is coming.

    As a beginner, this post seems like very good advice. To answer the questions posed: I did start a blog a week ago and it seems to me that you should care only because you enjoy the content of my blog. No other reason. Coincidentally, it’s the same reason that I started the blog; because I enjoy posting the content. It’s as much for me as for the readers, if I even have any.

  9. That was a very inspiring and motivating read! I just started blogging myself (1 month ago) and can definitely relate to what you’re saying Kaila.

    Often I wonder if it is all really worth it. Like you said, people often blog for attention. When you’re getting no attention, it’s kind of a bummer. (I have like 1 comment with 20 posts. The one comment wasn’t even related to the topic of my article).

    Though I find it very motivating to know that after many hundrends hours of work, I’ll have something to show for, something to be proud of.

  10. I love it – it is a marathon and so many of us get so darned impatient (me included). Thanks for an important reminder Kaila.

  11. @PublicRecordsGuy That “5 Easy Steps” was an example – not the point of this post.

    Kaila is definitely quite right about “people vs. traffic.” It really is far too easy to forget the humanitarian aspect of online life, as demonstrated numerous times by trolls and general cruelty in comments.

  12. Thanks Kaila and Darren.
    It keeps me motivated

  13. That is a really nice way of putting things. Having only recently just started my blog I do need these constant reminders. Blogging just feels so natural and I have made it a part of my life. I feel like I have been reading some of these blogs for years.

  14. PublicRecordsGuy wrote:

    Am I dork? It says 5 easy steps, but I count 4?


    I had trouble with that opening line, too, at first. The first 3 sentences (“Effortless Traffic-Building. 5 Easy Steps to Number 1. Lose Weight in Your Sleep.”) are the “shortcuts” talked about in the fourth sentence (“We’re hardwired to be tempted by shortcuts…”) :-)


  15. Don’t get me wrong, I think you’re dead right with the whole ‘it takes time’ approach but surely there are some successful hares out there!

    Could you write a series of posts about how to be a hare that actually beats the tortoise hands down? That would really speed things up for some of us.


  16. Thanks for reminding us, this is a very inspiring and also a very good guide specially for us new bloggers.


  17. Nice post, Kaila.

    Everyone else: I think the “5 easy steps” was an example of hare-like thinking, not a promise for this article.

  18. I was pointed here by another blogger, and you’ve made some fantastic points. Thanks for this.

  19. Wow, guys; thanks so much for the positive feedback! I really appreciate it.

    @Sarah Stewart: You couldn’t be more right that there is nothing new in this post. These rules aren’t any more secret than using diet and exercise to lose weight — but many of us, myself included, need regular reminders ;-)

    @PublicRecordsGuy and @Marketing Blog: I can see how the the 5 steps/4 points thing could be confusing! ChrisB was right about the intent, but I’ll try to be clearer next time.

    So grateful for your comments and now looking forward to checking out your blogs…

  20. “create blogs to serve the people who read it, with the professionalism, quality and content that they deserve.”

    That approach, along with being patient, will help all of us to create better, hopefully more lucrative blogs.

  21. Timothy Andrw says: 02/24/2008 at 4:18 pm

    Very helpful. Especially liked the hare-tortoise metaphor. In the end, blogging is about the fun you have doing it, and the people you meet, not the money you make. Period. :)

    Thanks Kaila!

  22. Nice tips. The last comment about 5 or 10 or 20 years though, ah, that’s a little long!! Most blogger’s would do well to have 20 months under their belt.

  23. Thanks for a great post. Reminds me of how to succeed in life – not just with blogs! I particularly like to references to being a friend to make a friend – it’s just so true. I am reminded of a saying that I treasure – it is in giving that we receive. Keep up the great work!

  24. I agree with this post, but I think that 12 months in blogging makes you a bit of an authority and someone I’d be willing to listen to.

    I am almost ready to start promoting my blog, as the post count is getting quite high now

  25. That’s a wonderful post Kaila Colbin!
    I’m myself experiencing some of those elaborated points. Patience, coupled with personal motivation, is one of the biggest point I will say. Without it, you get no where with the right framework..

    Best Wishes,
    – Wakish –

  26. I found this post really useful, and optimistic. I particularly agree with the part about 5, 10 or 20 years from now. If you look at how many bloggers give up, and how much you can achieve in just a few weeks then in 5 years time, if you’re still writing you should almost definitely be doing well.

  27. Kalia:

    The beginning of your article about our obsession with stats brought a huge smile on my face this morning. Me too. As far as I am concerned, no serious blogger out there completely escapes this little obsession. Haha.

    This was a FANTASTIC article becuase it reminded me of exactly what I’ve been doing. Building relationships, thanking people for linking, stumbling me as well as offering guest posts, commenting on other people’s blogs/websites.

    It also reminded me of what happened when I was a stockbroker on Wall Street. I worked with a woman named Maggie. We both started on the same day.

    Within months, due to my aggressiveness and desire to succeed, I pulled ahead of her quickly. She was the tortoise while I was the hare, in a hurry. Eventually she pulled ahead of me and far exceeded my sales performances b/c she took the time to develop relationships. She went to client funerals, weddings, wakes, tea parties, etc. I was more in a hurry to make money. I never forgot that lesson.

    I’m now applying the tortoise lesson in blogging, taking my time, developing relationships, taking the power of giving and receiving to a new level. My traffic stats have grown slowly but surely as are my subscriber count. I’ve seen hares and tortoises in blogging and I’m proud to say I’m a tortoise.

    Thanks for a FABULOUS article. I loved it.

  28. This speaks to me, and my philosophy, part of which has come from Problogger, and its wealth of resources and information. I am blessed to have people who offer their wisdom free of charge in this consumer world. Thanks.

  29. Great post Kaila!

    The points you’re discussing are exactly what I see as important when blogging.

    btw, I just browsed through your blog, and I’m hooked.
    btw2, The mywebDNA is very cool. ;-)


  30. Starting a blog is hard work. I started about 2 months ago and I’m getting a few unique visitors a day. I want thousands. Somebody help.

  31. Thanks for this post and help for those new bloggers that really want the simple basics and not the technical startup tips. I’m going to use your steps!

  32. Darren,

    great choice for a guest post. I really liked how Kalia made very simple, yet profound points about blogging.

    There is one more point I’d like to add to Kalia’s four (yes, for those that misunderstood the reference to ‘5 Easy Steps to Number 1’, let me add a fifth one for your perusal).

    5. Reinvent yourself
    For many of us, blogging started as a hobby with no defined purpose. Some will stop blogging within days/ weeks / months, and some others will keep going. For those that keep going, a subtle yet powerful transformation will happen over time. They will become more passionate about their readership, and start becoming more interested with the ‘Expressions of Interest’ from others: Page stats, subscriber counts, Number of comments to their posts.

    At this point, a transformation often takes place: As per Skellie’s suggestion, we start re-evaluating who is our target audience, and what topics do we want to focus on for them. (link) As we follow this line-of-thought, we often re-invent ourselves.

    When I started writing my blog, I was very broad on my intentions: I just wanted to put down some of the ideas and thoughts that occupied my mind while I was in boring meetings; I sort of started a series around paradoxes (see here and here for examples). Yet as I continued blogging, I decided to add more depth and research to my topics. I used stats & comments to help me make decisions on how to refine & improve my posts, and to some extent reinvented myself within the confines of my blog.

    My advise: Re-invent yourself with some regularity. If something is not working, listen actively to what your readers “tell you” with their activity; and re-assess whether you are hitting the mark for your audience.

  33. This is an amazing post, and very inspiring. Sometimes I wonder if it’s worth it posting every day, but lately, as a consequence of trying the very same community-based techniques you’ve written about, things have picked up.

    Checked out your blog Kaila, and I like it :)

  34. Kaila,

    Thanks for the reminder! This was a great post and inspires me to keep going!

    Even though I’m new, I constantly feel let down why nobody seems to be reading my blog. Let’s face it, we all write because we want to have our ideas heard (or in this case, read). Even the smallest experience would gain significance if somebody else somewhere adds his/her thoughts to it.

    That said, at times, we personal bloggers find ourselves at a crossroads on whether to continue to write for ourselves or to write for our audience. Do you have any tips for this kind of situation? I’d really hate to have to close down my blog because it’s no longer going in the direction I intended.

  35. I love this one :) Genuine stuff

    it serves as a really good reminder that it is not all for naught (as some dude told me recently – would you believe that)

    I have come to really appreciate some bloggers I have met recently on my way up and I see there is value in link love.

    Yes, there are many new blogs every day – but with dedication, one can stand out. This is my goal

    very inspiring post :)

  36. I applaud Kaila’s post because it comes at a good time for me. As a blogger of three months, my head spins with advice about how to build audience quickly with various technologies.

    . Kaila’s post reminds me why I blog in the first place — to help people. I needed to be reminded to be a tortoise day by day and work for the love of doing it, not the results.

  37. Kaila

    This is a great post. Too often we hear of bloggers who have thousands of visitors a day and tens of thousands of RSS feed readers/subscribers, but we forget they have been blogging for years.

    Your post puts it all into perspective. Patience, perseverance and determination pays off.

  38. Great post- I especially like the part about writing anyway. You can create the most informative posts and no one reads them but later when your readership is higher you can always link back or repost or better yet, use that information in other writing venues.

    I just started a month ago and it is hard to be patient when you have a friend with large readership who has been the tortoise and started two years ago. She deserves the higher rankings because she has been working it!

    I would add that commenting on other blogs, putting your name into links, contests, telling your friends and family, etc. are all a part of marketing yourself. Marketing is key to success in any field including blogging and a lot of what marketing is about is building relationships.

  39. Being patient is so hard. I too am obsessed with stats.

    It’s more an ego thing really. I want to know that people are reading the site. That they like it….you know “they like me, they really really like me!”

    Being patient is hard but good advice…keeps you from being discouraged.

  40. Great post. I am having a very tortoise-y day — and was feeling very annoyed by it — now I don’t feel so bad. Thank you for this perspective!

  41. This is a great post. I have been blogging for roughly 7 months or so now and have seen gradual improvements with traffic, monetization and readers. From reading several other posts around the web on this & from first-hand experience it does in fact seem that this thing takes awhile. If you have quality content that offers your readers an interesting take on things or possibly an original idea (if that’s even possible today), & remain true to the topic(s) your blog is based around then gradually you should see a better ROI if you will. You really do get out what you put in but people must keep in mind the “return” may be further extended out from blogging then from other ventures.

    Personally, I have so much fun doing this and actually building something from the ground up that I can’t see myself NOT doing it. It’s somewhat addictive and I think I’m finally getting to the point where I’m ready to participate in the community part of this adventure!


  42. True!

    I would totally agree on that because blogging would not be easy without the help of other individuals.

    In fact, there are times that we also view other peoples blog just to have something to post on our websites.

    I may say that we could not credit all the success that we are having to ours alone.

  43. Thanks for the wonderful post…

    It lies true with regards to blogging..Patience is a need to all bloggers. Blogging earnings is not easily pouring out everyday especially if you are a newbie..

    it really takes times before generating frequent visitors and buyers for our blogs…

    Thanks again!
    I will surely come back here again..

  44. Hey there! Thanks again for your positive and honest responses.

    @Mike King, you’re so right about most bloggers doing well with 20 months under their belts; imagine how well they’ll be doing with those seemingly unattainable 5 or 10 or 20 years…

    @Peter of Web Tool Tips, you’re hilarious! My two-step plan for you: 1) Get a rifle; 2) Shoot the tortoise.

    I can’t help but notice that there’s a pattern in these responses; namely, that it’s easy to feel alone in blogging. @The Crazy Columbian offered a great step 5, so I’ll put forward step 6: get a training partner.

    Blogging is not a glamorous exercise; it’s one that requires a lot of self-discipline without any immediate rewards. Having someone to share the journey with (like the people on this site) helps to keep us motivated.

    Thanks everyone for keeping me motivated!

  45. Very good article! I need to read this every day…

    Being patient is very difficult sometimes. We all tend to be wanting an overnight success.

    I’m a little obsessed with stats and also tend to give too much care for small things (design and xhtml/css coding validity and stuff).

    What’s more important is quality contents… I often forget this. This article is good reminder.


  46. Great article and it certainly makes you sit back and take another look at your original objectives. I too have gone through the tortoise and hare senario and even rote my own experienceses of how blogging can soon become a stats and adsense obsession in an article on http://www.tapasandtantrums.blogspot.com/ entitled “Are You Blogging For Fun Or Money” I have now become the tortoise once again and enjoy watching my blog readership build slowly but surely and as long as I cover the cost of my internet connection I’m happy. Keep blogging fun!

  47. I sure needed that article – I’ve become rather stats dependant, and I was shocked to see a huge fall in unique visitors, even though visits are increasing, bounce rate is coming down and page views are up too.

    I think possibly I’ve gone too commercial too fast, and have changed the flavour of my blog, and this may have put some off.

    Still, it’s early days, I’ve only been up an running commercially since October last year when I bought my domain and moved over from WordPress.

    Kaila’s article has caused me to reflect, and, hopefully focus more on being a tortoise and not a hare.

    As ever Problogger provides me with hope and inspiration.



  48. Yet another great, inspiring, real-world post about what you’re up against as a blogger. We do need to be reminded to be patient on a regular basis and just do what we love. As with most things in life, if you stick with it long enough and do a good job, success will come.

  49. this guides are really important when you want to be a good blogger :)

  50. Yes, I believe most people fail at producing a successful blog because they are not patient, it takes time to build up a group of followers and steady traffic.

    As always good stuff, problogger

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