This guest post is by Nick Thacker of livehacked.com.
I first started blogging in 2009, and I had to learn the hard way.
I chased every shiny object there was—the informational products that were going to hand me the blueprint to strike it rich overnight, the newsletters promising me the “latest and greatest” in making money online and blog marketing tactics.
I am a lifetime (paid) member of the Warrior Forum, and still subscribe to the old-school “guru” blogs out there.
But only now, after three years, am I starting to build the platform I’d originally envisioned.
Don’t think I’m saying that I’ve “arrived,” or “I’ve made it”—on the contrary, I’m only just getting started. Instead, though, hear me when I say that as soon as I stopped focusing on myself, my blog, and my future, I started to really grow.
For the last few months, I’ve been working on a new book that helps bloggers get their dreams and aspirations on paper—and onto their blogs. I used this method to grow very quickly, and I haven’t slowed down since.
We bloggers love to see tangible, visible results, so here’s what I’m talking about:
That is my Google Analytics traffic growth over the period between March and April 2012. Obviously there’s a big spike right at the end, but you can see a steadily increasing amount of traffic in a little over two months.
Okay, one more:
This image is taken from my MailChimp dashboard, showing the 200% increase in my newsletter subscription rate for the past few months.
Now, I hate the “braggy” feeling of showing results (part of the reason I took off the numbers), but I want to stress one important point:
If I can get these results, so can you.
Seriously. I’m not an expert on any of this–in fact, I have a degree in music. However, I’ve realized the difference between the blogger I was three years ago, and the blogger I am now.
What is that difference, you ask?
I can tell you one thing for sure: it didn’t come from a “magic bullet” strategy, or even a “guru” answer. It didn’t just spring up overnight, either. It was a change in me that happened only after I put in the hundreds of posts, thousands of words, and countless hours of Twittering, Facebooking, and connecting.
The difference between my old blogging self and my new blogging self is deceptively simple.
Rather than focusing on finding the right answers, I started asking the right questions. I began to look for the right questions to ask myself, and then I asked them.
- Instead of trying to find the answer to “how can I make money online,” I asked myself, “if I could make money online, how would I do it?”
- Instead of looking for the answer to “what is the best way to advertise on my site,” I asked myself, “do I want to advertise on my site? Do I ever click on ads?”
The answers I gave to these questions, as far as many of you are concerned, are completely and utterly irrelevant.
They don’t matter.
The “answers” don’t matter because they’re mine—they’re the perfect answers for only my blog, my niche, and my products. They won’t work in the same way for your stuff.
I could easily have given you the “right answers” (according to me) to these and other questions, like “set up Google AdSense and start writing 60+ search-engine friendly posts a month!” or “focus on guest posting only and wait until you have 2,000 visits/day before setting up ads!”
But the problem with those answers, even if they seem to be well-intentioned and harmless, is that they’re not based on your particular site and demographic, they’re based on mine.
There are stereotypes for a reason, and there are generalities that make answers like these common at best and downright overused and over-promoted at worst. There are answers that are all-around “good,” but because they’re not laser-focused on your blog’s niche, they’re not as useful to you.
But if you ask the right questions…
If you ask the right questions, you’ll come up with some answers that fit your brand perfectly. You have already read up on the most popular blogging platforms, advertising systems, and income-generation methods.
It’s time to stop reading; to stop focusing on other peoples’ answers, and start asking yourself the right questions. Start with these:
- Why do you want to blog?
- Do you want to make money blogging? How much?
- What is your passion, and how will it be incorporated?
- How do your passion, your blog, and your marketplace relate and interact?
- Why will someone buy your product from you?
These questions get progressively more difficult to answer on purpose—they’re meant to make you think; to make you really dig down into why you want to make it as a blogger. Sure, grandeur, fame, and fortune all are a part of it—but why?
You already know these answers, so I’ll let you in on a little secret: you can read every word on every blog, in every corner of the entire Internet, yet none of it can answer these questions for you.
It’s up to you—you decide the “why,” “what,” and “how” of your future with blogging—not us.
The blogging world can give you tools and ideas and products and methods and on and on, but we can’t answer these questions for you.
Unless you’re still a baby blogger, someone who’s brand new to all of this (and that’s perfectly fine! You’re in the right place!), you already have a large stock of these answers in your brain’s blogging storehouse.
You’ve got the tactics and strategies you need to make a killing online, and you already know the best plugins, resources, tools, and PDFs to help you with the details.
You have the right answers—you just need to ask the right questions.
Why I’m harping on this
Alright—you get it. You know you need to start asking the right questions, and more importantly, start answering them for yourself.
I’m a stickler about all of this for two reasons.
First, I talk with writers, artists, and creators every single day (through my fiction-writing course) who are all struggling with getting noticed, building a platform, and growing to a respectable size. They’re great at what they do—creating art—but are confused with all of the terminology, methods, and possible scams out there. It’s difficult for them to wade through the baloney and figure out what’s going to be helpful to them.
To these people, I offer the exact same advice every time: focus on the one or two areas where you can make an impact, and start connecting with people by adding value to their lives. Once you get this down pat, start adding channels and networks, and begin asking yourself the right questions.
Second, I really care about this concept of “asking the right questions” because I’ve been struggling for years to ask them myself.
I’ve suffered through eight or nine incarnations of my current blog, and many failed attempts at other blogs. I’ve sat by and watched as blogs I loved took off and started gaining massive attention in seemingly no time at all. The frustration and jealously I’ve felt was, though hard to admit, present.
Again, I’m nowhere near where I think I can be in one or two years’ time, but I’m doing much better than I’ve ever done before. It’s possible, it’s doable, and it’s not even hard if you ask yourself the right questions.
I’d love to hear your take on this—what are the right questions you’ve asked to achieve your blog’s growth? And what are the answers that you’d give to these questions?
Leave a comment below and let’s get this thing started!
Nick Thacker is a blogger, writer, and author of fiction thriller novels. He recently finished his book, Building A Blog for Readers, available through Amazon. You can check out his site at LiveHacked.com, or subscribe to the LiveHacked.com newsletter here.