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Do You Have these 4 Unrealistic Expectations of Blogging?

Posted By Darren Rowse 6th of April 2011 Miscellaneous Blog Tips 0 Comments

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

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, Google+ and LinkedIn.
  1. I thought I would be earning more in adsense revenue and affiliate marketing.

    I found the best way to get comments on your blog is by either directly telling them to offline, or going to their blog and leaving a comment. This is the only method so far that has worked for me.

    I added comment luv to my blog so that when someone comments they can leave a direct link to one of their current blog posts.

    • I had very similar expectations. Especially about Adsense revenue. Also though, I believed that if I created a product of my own such as an eBook, which I did create, that I would make many more sales and affiliates would be signing up daily to help me sell it and so they could make a profit off my hard work. I’ve sort of gotten lazy in the networking aspect of blogging, but hopefully I’ll be coming back in a big way soon.

      Darren thanks for this awesome post, it’s very true about these sort of unrealistic expectations. And you can tell the ones who had those expectations tend to give up on blogging less than a year in.

  2. I really liked this post Darren. I have just started my blogging journey and have realized it to be much harder than anticipated. I am beginning to believe that becoming a pro blogger is much like becoming a pro athlete. However, it is possible if you work hard and set realistic goals.

    I started off pretty well and had 300 page views my first month (much more than I expected) however, as time passed I didn’t work on my blog much and expected readership and revenue to continue to grow. This is not the case. If you stop working on your blog, it will stop working for you.

  3. Very interesting post Darren! First.. I totally align with what you did here man, because I’m a fanatic for doing your own psychological studies, very awesome.

    Secondly, I had a lot of these same assumptions. I thought reader interaction would happen easier and faster, dead wrong.

    I guess one of the biggest misconceptions I had was that if the content was great, people would come. Like you said D, not the case. I had to realize that no one gives a crap about what they don’t know about.

    Great post, thought inducing for sure (as usual)

  4. Yes, I wonder this all the time. I am relatively new to blogging but my problem is that I can’t come up with a concerte topic. I want to blog about parenting….so many friends of mine have mom blogs. I want to be successful but not sure how to get so many followers.

    • Hey Crystal,

      I am right there with ya. I am just into my 4th week of my “mommy” blog. I didn’t know what I was in for and still have a hard time grasping what I’ve done. I had zero expectations coming in, but just trying to put out something I love and hoped that others would enjoy it too. My numbers have been really good (I think, so any experts out there, please don’t burst my happy bubble if they’re not) but I am struggling to get more followers to sign up. I am also completely clueless on how to make any profit. I spend 4-6 hours a day doing networking things. I absolutely love this blog because it has totally helped me get my own off the ground. Not sure I could do it without this support.

      So thanks Darren and all you other guest bloggers! Love you all!


  5. I didn’t realize how much time it would take for me to learn the ropes of everything. Things like ad placements, what affiliates make me the most amount of money, the time it took me to learn about SEO etc. I felt like I spent the first 2 months of blogging learning as much as I could. It was all that work that I put in upfront that has helped me earn money so far. I still have A LOT to learn, but find that there are more people out there willing to help now!
    Thanks for all your help!

  6. My unrealistic expectations started when I wanted to make my blog profitable I had the content, I had the audience, I had regular readers coming back and thousands of them. With all that I thought it was going to be easier to make a profit.

    I surely did not know my niche well enough.

  7. Liked the ‘Content’ Part. Sometimes it’s very difficult to get some content ideas.
    BTW, Thanks Darren!

  8. I felt I could 100% relate to this post. I have great intentions and ideas for my newly set up blog and so I was raring to go. I set up a wordpress account, bought my own domain, chose a theme and style for my blog. But after doing the ‘About Me’ section of the site, it came to a halt. I have all these great article ideas in my head and have started planning them on paper, but to actually create and post a finished blog? It has been hard, especially with full-time job commitments.

    I did have a few misconceptions about readership beforehand, but was wise enough to read another blog post of yours and on wordpress. There is some really useful content out there – it’s just a matter of finding it! Thank you for your wonderful helpful advice.

  9. When I first started blogging three years ago, I didn’t have any expectations. In fact, the only reason I was blogging was to get myself writing regularly again and not procrastinating. But over the years as the blog grew and I started to get a following, I think my expectations have become somewhat unrealistic in certain ways. I am working through that now. Thanks for reminding me that I’m not the only one who feels this way!

    • I had a very similar experience!

      I was just out to have fun and my blog went sort of viral. Suddenly I had lots of hits and more submissions than I knew what to do with. I put some ads on, made some money, got a book contract, but the hits and the ad revenue are waning and I find that I expected it to just keep going if I kept doing the same thing. Not so much.

  10. Never intended to make money as evident by my lack of a “real” website. Just having a little fun along the way. It follows my FMG plan.

  11. Hi Darren,

    Top post as always. I thought it would be more hands off, but its not at all!. The good thing is though that the more I get involved the more enjoyable it is…

    Thanks again,

    David Edwards

  12. I definitely fall into the category where I thought making money would be easier. It really takes a lot of hard work to gain traffic and you need to pay attention to details no matter how small you might think they are. Some times it is the small details that make or break a site.

  13. In my first 3 months of blogging I had pretty good success (alexa ranking 500,000, GPR 4) through ezinearticles, blog directories, social media etc. No SEO efforts though.

    Within a few months of that I stopped submitting to ezinearticles and became sporadic in blogging. It took almost a year after that to get back my ground, that was a hard pill to swallow!

    Now, it’s been almost 2 years since I started and in that time I’ve gone from blogging about Law of Attraction to Leadership, Happiness, Authenticity, Being your own person, Solopreneurship etc and my community of readers has changed completely. At first it was a shock to see fewer comments and engagement, then it picked up again.

    I’ve learned that there’s a tipping point in blogging – you can do it for 4-5 years and have minimal traffic and one day, you write something that catches peoples fancy and boom, you’ll never go unnoticed again. That’s what happened to last year, and just in the past FIVE days!

    Point being? You can never tell when and which post will take your blogging to the next level of visibility. So make sure you’re PASSIONATE about what you write and enjoy the process, for that way you’ll at least love what you do and do what you love and that’s a gift in itself.

    And make sure your blog’s optimized for ease of navigation, has a good design and is simple. As you change, so do your writing, blog and expectations.

    Patience and dedication, passion and perseverance. That’s the golden ticket for me.

  14. I didn’t realize blogging was such hard work!

  15. #2 Resonates with me. I have not blogged for money. (Not sure I want to.) But I believe writing good content is an outcome of understanding your abilities and the needs of your audience. It takes both to have impact. Always a work in progress for me.

  16. My chief unrealism was that I felt I had a specific enough message and niche to attract a good level of subscribers in a few months. How wrong I was. We are often too close to our blog that we look at it with rose tinted spectacles. This ‘hit’ to my ego meant I decided to spend a few months asking people to take a look at my blog and what it said to them and collated their insights, opinions, and criticisms (ouch!). Now I’ve re-worked it to be more distinct and representing my voice and work field and it’s doing well. I guess we all make mistakes early on so great questions and answers here Darren to help us think before we jump or dive in too far. A rain check is no bad thing, no bad thing at all.

  17. Reading your post Darren felt like a probing dentist determined to find the pain. Each point was a louder “ouch” than the last.

    Helping potential readers in my sector with what I know they need versus what they really want. I find myself sounding like all the rest versus really reaching out and connecting with my readership with what they want to read.

    I really think the time I spent thinking about “being different” told me that I was really was not.

  18. Actually, I find it easy to think of blogging ideas. It’s finding the time that is always a struggle! Also, #’s 2, 3, 4 are still common misconceptions of mine, and I find myself wondering what I’m doing wrong.

    Thanks for the article!

  19. the post brings forth the reality of earning money through blogging unlike many bloggers who claim it to be pretty simple. i had been following one such blogger and now am close to nowhere even after few months of blogging.. i have restarted the entire work from scratch and hope to do well this time.

    great post

  20. You hit the nail on the head.

    A beginning blogger

  21. I’m not sure if my goal of getting 2000 subscribers in one year is unrealistic or not. Either way it’s what I set out to do yesterday and hopefully will achieve. It’s bloggers such as yourself that share ideas and offers help that gives guys like me a fighting chance. Thank you.

  22. I immediately love people who provide the world with sincere reality. thank you, Darren.

    I especially like the point about visiting and supporting other sites, the “you get what you give” idea that I haven’t budgeted time for, but hey, I’m here now and love the results!

  23. This is an all to common problem, not just for bloggers but everyone looking to make money online. People have gotten the impression that if they throw a site up and plaster links everywhere they can find that they will start making money by the barrel full. If it were that easy, everyone would be doing it.

  24. This is an excellent post and I am running into the same issues. I started my new site last month and I am taking the time to write blog posts, but it is hard to receive consistent readers of my site. It makes me think I should go back to other forms of advertising, but I’ll keep pressing forward! Thanks for this realistic post! It definitely isn’t an easy thing.

  25. Great article, I especially enjoy how you didn’t just point out these 4 common problems, but mentioned workarounds / solutions as well!

    As for unrealistic expectations in blogging – personally, I though growing organic traffic would be simpler, and not as competitive. It does get a bit easier with time, provided one keeps refining their SEO sense, as well as constantly tweaking and testing different things.

  26. I too thought that making money would be easier. There are a lot of people that make it seem so easy…”start a blog and you will be making money overnight”. There is a lot of work that goes into getting recognized and then once you have followers you just have to be yourself. Don’t try to sell something on every post or even on every page. Provide your readers with value, not adsense or banners. Most sucessful bloggers make their money somewhere other than their blog. Use your blog to drive your followers somewhere else to sell them.

  27. I’m totally having a “I’m about to give up on this” kind of day today! So maybe leaving a comment here will help me feel better.
    I knew when I started blogging, I was entering a highly competitive niche of coupons/deal shopping blog. After almost a year of working on this, I’d still be making more flipping burgers, and that is very disappointing.
    I’m determined to not give up, and I told myself I wouldn’t make much money the first year. I was just hoping for more progress by now. I liked reading above when you said it took big bloggers usually years to build up a strong readership. I have a lot of plans on my plate for the blog to grow…just needing the encouragement right now to do so, and not feel like I’m wasting my time.

    • Maura, have you tried the 31-day challenge? I found it extremely beneficial for keeping me focused, and giving me little bursts of inspiration to keep going.

      • I have the 31 day challenge – have done a lot of it, but not all. Also in the middle of another 30 day SEO course.
        But I’m also planning offline gatherings, keeping up with posts, learning about new affiliate programs, finding companies for review/giveaways – oh yeah, and am a mom.

  28. When I started my blog, I treated it like a job where I had just started out at the bottom, and this has helped me out immensely. You can’t expect to be everything (writer, editor, layout designer, graphic artist, seo expert, etc) when you first start out. You have to take it one piece at a time, and slowly build on what you’ve already accomplished (much to the chagrin of my wife).

    I personally decided to do a post Monday to Friday, leaving Saturday open for learning about site design, seo, graphics, or whatever else I need to work on. This way, I might have to look at the same design all week, but it also gives me 5 days to figure out what I don’t currently like about it.

    Developing content has probably been the easiest part for me. I have a mind map tacked to the wall by my desk. As I write a new post, I’m always thinking of new articles, and draw them in to include them in the map. Right now I’m running out of room, and may have to think about software.

    I really don’t expect AdSense to pay a whole lot of money, so I am using the ads as placeholders for my own products.

  29. this is so true, not just about blogging but general online activates, such as e-commerce, forums, blogs, you name it, i speak to business al day long who generally have a shock after couple of months, as what they expected was something completely different, and more to say a walk in the park.

  30. I’m finally appreciating #2. I believe that I am a good writer, but I’m beginning to realize just how important it is to put myself out there. It’s not always easy.

    I’m trying to get over the awkwardness of reaching out to other bloggers. I was nervous to send an email to a couple people, asking them to read a couple of my posts. But in reality, they got back to me fairly quickly and said that they thoroughly enjoyed my writing. :)

  31. Awesome post, Darren. Tks!

    My biggest issue is getting people to comment. I know that I have regular visitors, but they rarely comment on posts. I use sites like Facebook and Twitter to blast out links to new posts. What bugs me is that people would rather comment on the FB link or respond via Twitter than comment on the actual post! What part of the game is that? Haha!

  32. I absolutely did have all of those unrealistic expectations. It is tougher than I thought overall. Right now I’m working on building up quality, timeless content. That way, once I build my readership up, they will have lots of great posts to read.

    I would have liked to have read this when I first started just to have more realistic expectations, but better late than never. Thanks!

  33. Good questions Darren! I started my third blog a month ago and this one is actually doing better than I had expected. My first blog was for friends and family only so I had no expectations there, but the second one was a writer’s blog that I had really expected to do reasonably well. But there I ran into problem 1: creating good and original content, considering the competition. With my last blog I made a well thought-out plan beforehand, gathered a lot of info and followed my plan. It’s about a topic I have both experience in and am really passionate about (youth ministry), so that solved that first problem. Page views are going well, but I’d love some more engagement comment-wise. But I’m working hard on that one as well :)

  34. I did have the second unrealistic expectation for sometime. But after selling my first blog, I am going to start this new blog with completely realistic expectations.

  35. I treat my blog like a job (in a way). I plan content in advance so I’m not wasting precious time deciding what to write about. If I need information or to prepare something for it . I make time to do it. I actually do love to blog. I think you get out of it what you put into it (or maybe that is newbie thinking because I am a bit of a noob).

  36. I have an anime/manga blog and since I jumped into blogging late after it had already been well established, I knew that I would likely never reach the traffic levels of the early bloggers or blogging sites with teams of bloggers. I knew it would take time to grow readership and I knew that comments would come from eventual regular readers of the blog or in response to something I’d written on a controversial topic (censorship in anime & manga for example). I knew ad revenues wouldn’t be much but I’m glad for what I get.

    The only thing that surprised me was the time aspect. It should be fairly easy to watch an anime episode and write a review on it. However, as I got into blogging, I found myself analyzing episodes more and often rewatching them. Plus, since having screen captures from the episode makes the article visually more appealing, finding the right images took longer than expected. I used to have image titles for when one moused-over an image but when it got to six hours to write a single blog entry about a 24-minute anime, I had to cut that out.

    Time is tough and it gets worse if I end up doing some research on Japanese culture or some other aspect of the anime/manga in question. That was the only thing where my expectations were unrealistic and sadly still are. (I’m reading this article instead of working on an article! ^_^;;;)

  37. I’m actually pretty happy that most bloggers have these unrealistic expectations. It weeds out those among us who aren’t really meant to make it in blogging. Which, of course leaves more room for the rest of us. Not to sound selfish, but if someone doesn’t have it in them to stick to it, they need to find another way to make a living.

  38. Well I’m totally in agreement with your 4th point. I’ve a decent traffic, good reader engagement but AdSense earnings are pretty less. Maybe it doesn’t suit my blog. As you said, I will try out some other methods after attracting more traffic.

  39. Best advice I can give is to build relationships instead of focusing on money, content, seo, google traffic, etc. I write extensively about this in the my book, The Why People Course.

  40. I had the first expectation – specifically the “write well/blog well” part. I had a lot of confidence in my ability to write well, so I thought blogging would be great for that. It wasn’t until after a while, I saw that my inability to create and maintain quality relationships offline was reflected online as well, so I’m working on that now.

  41. Thanks for the post. Our blog has a new theme every month, so the content piece isn’t that difficult. I do have a hard time with gaining readers/followers and also getting comments. It seems the same 5 or 6 people comment (mostly friends and family), which is great, but I long for more interaction.
    I’ll be patient though, keep blogging away, and keep checking in here for more tips.

  42. Any new blogger always has high hopes and optimism when starting a new blog. The energy level is also high. But one could get easily discouraged when nobody comments or seems to read the blog, and the grind of just coming up with fresh engaging content can bog down even the most enthusiastic blogger.

  43. I thought I wouldn’t need to know anything about coding, design, html, etc. Turns out you have to at least have some cursory knowledge of all of these and more.

    • *laughing* I found the same. Every time I want to change something I’m avenging the net looking for an answer.

  44. I am having a bit of trouble coming up with new content. It turns out, I’m not nearly as fascinating as I thought I was. :)

    But I’m using that realization to shift my focus and hopefully make my blog less about me and more helpful to readers. ( I realize you’ve been saying this for years, but sometimes you have to hit your head against the wall before you really get it.)

  45. My unrealistic expectation was totally that people would actually buy what you’re selling. Why would they if they were already content with what you were offering for free. I’ve got some ideas to better implement that and start making a little profit. I’ve got all sorts of monetization and not doing that bad, but like you said, I thought it would be faster.

  46. Reality check indeed! Thanks Darren for this post. Newbies should get more balanced opinions like yours, not from those scamming Internet marketers out there that says that blogging is easy to earn quick bucks.

  47. Well, I redesigned my site and blog and over the years I’ve learned a lot about blogging, seo, and what not. I never tried to give myself expectations just so I don’t feel like a failure. I’m always inventing and reinventing myself.

    With my new iteration I have plans but I won’t share them haha.

    Thanks problogger for being a guide in an interesting journey.

  48. Good article. Still, I wonder if blogging as a means to an end is always important. For some of us just putting stuff “out there” is a satisfying activity in itself. Who cares if no one reads it, or it doesn’t make money? My blogs are about me and my interests. If other people want to read them that’s fine by me, but that is not why I have posted them. Furthermore, when I think about it, the blogs I most enjoy are ones where people blog about themselves, not about what they think other people might want to read or hear. Still, it’s a big world and there is room for everyone in the blogsphere!

  49. RainbowEU says: 04/06/2011 at 7:32 pm

    Wooow. That did hurt, but I guess after a while and especially after reading the comments the pain started to melt away. My aftershock thoughts are that you never will know till you try. I haven’t got a blog worth showing yet, but I have learnt so much. I have read so many reports and e-books and tutorials and posts and reviews and Problogger’s books have been “in” bed with us regularly. However just a few nights ago my 16-year-old asked me to help her design and promote her blog! That is huge in so many ways.
    Thank you D.

  50. I never had any expectations. Started my humor blog on a lark. I’ve been pleasantly surprised every step of the way.

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