Earlier in the year I surveyed a small segment of ProBlogger readers on their blogging experiences as a way of keeping in touch with the needs of readers.
I asked a variety of questions, but the answers to one particular question stood out to me like a sore thumb, because I saw the same themes emerging again and again.
The question asked bloggers to think about the unrealistic expectations that they had when they started blogging.
Hundreds of bloggers responded, but I was amazed to see the same four themes emerge in almost every response. I thought that putting these unrealistic expectations out there might be helpful for others starting out on their blogging journey.
1. “I thought it’d be easy to come up with regular content.”
Time and time again bloggers reflected that they had never considered how hard it would be to come up with content on a daily or regular basis.
The struggle came down to two main things:
- Ideas: It’s not easy to keep coming up with ideas to write about. Many bloggers run into a road block on this just weeks after starting a blog.
- Time to write the content: Many of those who responded said that they’d expected that they could just whip out posts quickly, but in reality they found it took considerable time to write great posts.
Related to this, respondents reflected on how much time other aspects of blogging can take, including comment moderation, networking, social media, and technicalities and design.
A few bloggers also reflected that they thought that because they “write well,” they expected that they’d automatically be able to “blog well.”
They quickly realized that blogging isn’t just about writing—it’s deeper than that. It’s about communication, relationships, understanding people, and engaging with them (plus a whole heap more).
Blogs don’t just happen—they take time, energy, effort, creativity, and a lot of work.
2. “I thought that if I wrote good posts that my readership would grow.”
If you build it … they don’t necessarily come.
Many bloggers responded that they had completely unrealistic expectations about how easy it was to build readership. They’d heard stories of successful bloggers with millions of readers who seemingly had that success overnight, but found that the reality was that those blogs usually took years to grow.
To find readers, you need to do more than write great content—you need to put yourself out there and be interacting in places where your potential reader is. You need to build a presence there.
It won’t be the same for every person, but this can mean getting involved on other sites, social media, guest posting, learning the art of SEO, leveraging other networks, and even attending offline activities like conferences.
Building a great blog is just half of the equation. Then you have to get off it and meet your potential readers wherever they are.
Similarly many bloggers reflected that they thought their blog would grow much faster than it did. The expectation was that things would move fast, but that in reality they had to take a long-term view of it.
3. “I thought that engagement and reader interaction would happen easily.”
Related to the unrealistic expectation of quick and easy traffic was that when readers did come, they’d be ready and willing to interact.
Numerous bloggers reflected that they knew people read their blog by looking at their statistics, but that they rarely heard from those readers or saw them interact—particularly in the comments.
They shared that it took time for them to work out how to draw interactions out of readers and build relationships with them. That rarely happens without the blogger first reaching out and building community.
4. “I thought that making money would be much easier.”
Interestingly, some bloggers reflected that they had built good readerships and interaction with readers, but had found monetizing those reasonably successful blogs more difficult than they expected.
The expectation was that if you attract readers and community, making money would almost look after itself. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case.
Finding the right way to monetize a blog can be tricky. In some niches it can almost feel impossible. It’s not as simple as slapping some AdSense ads on a site—each blog’s different in terms of how it’s best monetized, and there’s usually a lot of experimentation and trial and error needed to get it right.
What unrealistic expectations did you start with?
I’m sure that there are other false expectations that others will add to this list. I’d be interested in hearing your experience in comments below.
Only a true Blogger can expressed the idea off blogging is not like walking in a park. It needs a long marathon with long trial and error process but at the end of finish line you can see the trophy on top of the podium. There is no such thing as auto blog, you can not just by setting about 20 article post it on article directories and may be spin it a little bit expect a great result.
As you said Darren “It won’t be the same for every person, but this can mean getting involved on other sites, social media, guest posting, learning the art of SEO, leveraging other networks, and even attending offline activities like conferences.”
It need all element to go a long. Good content no reader you need to SEO, Good SEO no good content you just need to write better. That is always come to Darren’s blog because I need the information. Thanks for sharing.
I thought I’d start my blog, develop an ebook, sell loads of copies, and live happily ever after. Obviously, I’ve learned a lot since then about product development and funnels and marketing! And reader engagement.
The good news is I think what I’m doing now is more fun — putting on Webinars and teleclasses, developing a series of ebooks, and getting ready to launch my membership community.
I believe the greatest myth on your list is #2 — If you write great content an audience will gather. A lot of plans for financial success and engagement with readers are based in the belief earning an audience is easy. It’s tough and takes time :)
Your tip to engage with others where they exist is something we all should heed.
Thanks for the post!
darren, a great post. i thought your second point in particular linked up really well with something that amy harrison mentions over on diythemes.com regarding the need to make your content seductive. i.e. using all of the outreach tools in our tool kit -including content- helps us deal with the marketing and networking needs that bloggers (and others) have in terms of building reach.
When I started, I had the “write great content and they will come” mentality. Like you said, not true at all.
I’m working on writing great content AND building relationships with readers. So far, it’s been working very well.
I wasn’t sure how many people would read my blog but agree it is more work than people think. It is really a lot about networking and getting your name out there….great posts are a part of it but even those take time. I research everything I write about because I want it to be accurate. I never expected to be receiving press passes to events in NYC a little over a year after having my blog so I guess I have exceeded my original expectations. Just trying to increase followers now, maybe get some advertisers and still have the press passes coming, I will be pretty happy!!
I did think it would be much different than what it has been but with the help of this site and others, there has been growth :) About a year and a half into it and still nowhere near where I want but enjoying myself and learning every day.
Absolutely hit the nail on the head. I think to sum it up, you have to know why you are starting a blog in the first place. Once you know what your aim is, you can work out the best way of getting there. Most people start a blog because they have heard of a success story of someone becoming famous through it (a la Perez Hilton) or they heard of someone making an obscene amount of money from it. Believe me, the stories of overnight successes to these are few and far between.
If you want to be famous you need to do other things including social media.
If you want to make money with your blog you need to use more than just Adsense. Many people have had great success with for example Leadbolt which is especially optimized to help you make more money from your online content.
Which ever way you go, remember this all takes time but the rewards are worth it!
You mean I have to put forth effort if I want this to work long term? Thanks for helping me focus on why I am blogging, and to continue with the right practices if I want to grow my audience. I enjoy your post, and then the community that follows afterwards.
Patience….dedication…patience…dedication and then always engage with those who comment, contribute and engage!
The best way to do email marketing is a SMTP server.
I really thought I would be able to just write about whatever I wanted, but when I decided to really put efforts and have results through blogging (money wise, readership wise) I figured that I needed to have some sort of niche/topics to blog on a regular basis or else I would just start losing readers. I also thought people would just be interested in everything I write, which I don’t think is the cae. I know people are reading but I have having trouble getting them to follow and comment (just so I know they are there!) I started commenting on other people’s blogs and linking to things bigger blogs are doing, which is definitely driving traffic to my blog. I know this is a process and will take time. I recently went back to some of the blogs I follow with more than 10,000 followers and went back to their first blogs and noticed how different their blogs were in the beginning until they found their groove, so I don’t worry too much about making my blog a certain way, I feel like if I keep researching, writing for myself FIRST, and as long as I keep enjoying it, it will come in time.
I didn’t have any unrealistic expectations that I can think of. Nonetheless, trying to get readership up and monetizing effectively after 4 months is still a frustrating challenge.
I had websites before so I know some of the pitfalls already. One of the things that keep me going in blogging is that the constant change in content. It helps me feel that I can do something to make my blog better all the time. It isn’t that way with a regular site. Sometimes there is down times that you can do nothing about.
My biggest challenge? Finding enough time to spend on my site! I wish I had more as I love working on it. Its great to write and interact about things you love.
My biggest challenge by FAR was to find a proper topic that wasn’t to broad. Although I’ve been blogging for quite some time (years in fact) I’m currently starting a new blog with a much better focus. Although I find it hard to leave my old blog.
The side-problem with finding a topic is finding something that you’re passionate about AND people are interested in AND find a way to bring it in a unique way. A tough one.
Although this time I think I’ve nailed it with: “Helping you find tranquility and peace in a world filled with digital distractions”. oh yes, it feels fuzzy when you read it, but trust me. This is a very narrow topic that just keeps giving me more and more details to write about.
Every step of the way: writing, getting traffic, engaging and monetizing is hard work. But if you look at them closely that can be broken up into ever smaller pieces. Can you write one blogpost? Then you will be able to write another given enough time. Can you get one person to visit your blog? Well, leave a comment on another blog (like problogger) and even if one person clicks through, you just got traffic+1. Selling one affiliate item is the first step in money, more WILL follow.
Start small, think big and take it one step at a time. You’ll get there
With Varsity Blah, my first blog, I figured it would be easy to come up with great posts. Initially, it was. My first five posts (Birthday Bashing, Why Climate Change Can Wait, Shooting Stars, Calling All Customers, and Slap in the Face) did INCREDIBLY well and some even went on to appear in print magazines.
But after that, it was like I’d said all I wanted to say (at least what was most ‘urgent’) and it took a while to come up with almost 100 more posts over the next two years. But with my new blog, I’ve got all the content planned (I have enough books to review for at least a year and a half) so that shouldn’t be a problem!
Spot on, Darren.
I could give this post a great big hug!
I chose to highlight you in a recent post, Darren, for one important reason — you don’t “gloss over” the nitty gritty and the actual sweat equity that goes into developing a successful blog. Your vantage point is to be respected.
When I first started the exhilarating adventure of blogging, I had to work through one huge misconception. I began as the quiet (okay, more like invisible) gatekeeper of my own little corner of blogland. Little did I realize then, you can’t blog QUIETLY!
It’s not enough to just throw a gob of the proverbial ‘mud’ against the wall, hoping at least some of it will stick. Blogging doesn’t work that way. The majority of your energies and efforts have to be focused on getting your writing out in front of the right eyes. Not always an easy task, is it?
Very enlightening and transparent post!
All four of these expectations definitely applied to me when I started my blog in September 2009. I’ve learned that blogging is a marathon not a sprint race. Great insightful blog piece. Thanks
Gordon Ramsey has this nailed with his catchphrase “Where’s your Passion?”
Writing for the sake of writing ends in frustration, for me at least. Being passionate about the subject, living and breathing it daily will shine through to your readers. Punching the clock and writing uninspired in the hope of gaining cash and sex appeal is not, for me, pleasant. So i have recently started a business centred around what i am passionate about – and in the process i get to write constantly about it – it is win all the way.
I think if people blogged about something they are interested in AND an expert in they will find they don’t have much trouble coming up with new blog content. Unfortunately, so many bloggers don’t have this relationship with their niche.
I thought my more thoughtful and researched posts would draw more readers. So far, I’m only in my 3rd month, people seem to love silly photos of dogs, odd headlines, and quick posts.
In response, I’m planning to schedule weekly quick posts, funny dog photos and start posting original video’s for dog lovers.
I continue to enjoy reading many blogs, learning & meeting new people. It’s fun. It also is taking time away from polishing my WIP final draft and the revision of my second, Dog Leader Mystery.
Darren, I’ve read that a blog is the easiest and hardest business in the world. Easy to get started but hard, hard work to make money. These are great unrealistic expectations. To be honest, I didn’t really think about the audience or niche, I left the doors sufficiently wide open. However, as I’ve become more focused the readership has grown and email subscribers has increased. Remarkably with less content!
I never expected it to very hard to come up with topics to write about and it hasn’t been. What has been hard is finding original and remarkable content. I can come up with several things I want to write about, but most of it isn’t very interesting to anyone else but me. It’s difficult to come up with posts that are consistently congruent with my brand. I never expected very many people to read or comment, so the views and comments I do receive are really exciting and pushes me to want to produce more. So I guess I never expected how gratifying it feels to know that others (besides those I force) are reading my content.
I actually find this post something of a relief. I’d gotten the impression that reader engagement and monetization were SUPPOSED to be easy and automatic. I was willing to put effort into building them, but I was wondering what I did wrong.
Your number one point about coming up with regular content is the big one for me. Being consistent and devoting the time it takes to write the posts is very challenging. I’m pretty sure if I had a niche it would be a little easier, but since I’m all over the place it makes it difficult to produce consistent content.