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ProBlogging – 10 Things I Wish I Knew when I Started

A Guest Post by Nathan Hangen of Making it Social.

As much as many of us want to get our blogs up and running and create an overnight success story, the truth is that having desire alone just isn’t enough. For starters, guys like Darren make it look extremely easy now, but it’s not like he rolled out of bed one morning and became an instant success. He poured hours of blood, sweat, and tears into his blogs before they became income worthy, but don’t fret just yet, help is on the way.

Even though we have to make our way through the learning curve until everything “clicks” into place, there’s no reason that we can’t shorten the learning curve so that we can spend less time wishing and more time living. By learning from our own experiences and, more importantly, the experiences of others, we can do just that. Darren does a great job of doing that here, but I’d like to present a list of things I learned the hard way, things I wish I knew sooner, and things that I think new bloggers could use to elevate their game to the next level.

1. Good design is crucial

Most bloggers don’t have a very long time to make a good first impression, and with the abundance of great content throughout the interwebs, readers try fo find ways to cut back and/or make quick decisions on which content they consume. One of the ways they do this is by judging a book by its cover. It might not be fair, but it’s reality. You dont’ have to give your kidney for a good design. There are dozens of theme providers that have both inexpensive and free themes that look much better than what was designed 2-3 years ago.

2. Narrow Your Niche

This is something that took me a long time to understand. I thought that by covering a bunch of topics, casting a wider net so to speak, that I would attract more people to my blog. The problem with that strategy is that when you do attract new visitors, you throw them off if your content isn’t consistent. They’ll wind up leaving and you’ll have to recruit new readers for every single post. So, try fishing with a spear instead.

3. Comments Really Do Matter

I didn’t take this seriously at first. I thought that my content was special enough to get noticed on its own. Boy was I wrong! It wasn’t until a few months ago that I crafted a comment policy that has helped my traffic explode. I do it by subscribing by email to a dozen or so blogs in my niche so that I’m notified as soon as there is a new post. I try to comment right away and do my best to add something meaningful to the conversation. More importantly, I come back and reply to other comments in the discussion. Do this often enough and on enough blogs and you will start to get noticed. You can’t give commenting lip service either; it is something that needs to be done every day.

4. Don’t Underestimate the Importance of Your Knowledge

When you master a skill, it’s easy to think that others might be on the same level as you, which can lead you to discount the value of your skill set and experience. However, most people don’t know what you know and would to pay you to teach them. Things that might seem simple to you can look like Greek to a reader. Don’t ever take your skill set and knowledge base for granted.

5. When You Have a Blog, You are the Authority

Own It! – We blog from behind a desk and see our lives as imperfect or incomplete. However, to a customer or new reader, you have an incredible amount of authority. If you have gone through the work of publishing content, then you need to step up to the plate and own that content. Take the authority and use it. You might be a 6 or 7 (on a 10 point scale), but to that new person, you are a leader. This excites people…they want a piece of your vision. Use that authority to step up to the plate and give them what they want. Don’t be afraid to be an expert!

6. Consistency Counts

I thought I could get away with blogging whenever I felt like it. I thought I could change the topic based on what felt right at the time. Looking back through my archives, I’m almost embarrassed by the casual attitude I took with my blog. These days, I know better and I keep a steady editorial schedule (3 posts per week on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday) and have narrowed the topics of my content to a degree that keeps my readers feeling like they belong. Changing it up all the time confuses people and scares away good readers.

7. Have a Plan

What are you going to do when your readership doubles? How are you going to handle getting hundreds of emails per day? How will you respond to comments? How do you see your platform evolving over the next year, 2, or even 5? These are some of the questions that you need to address early and often. Your plan might not be perfect, but at least you’ll have a direction to head. There’s nothing wrong with being flexible, but allowing your circumstances to dictate your business can lead you down roads that are better left untraveled.

8. Start Networking Early!

I cannot emphasize this enough. Use Twitter, comments, and guest posting as a tool to meet new people. The wider your reach, the easier it is to get noticed. Don’t wait for people to come to you…get out and network. People love personal connections! Go to conferences and shake hands with other bloggers. You never know which contact could turn into a great guest posting opportunity, a JV deal, or a new devoted fan. Blogging is a business, and you’ve got to get out and meet people if you want to take your blog to the next level.

9. Be Everywhere

This is tied in with the previous point, but to keep it simple – try to be in as many places as you can. Use Twitter, Facebook, USTREAM, YouTube, LinkedIn, and any other social network you can. You don’t have to live there, but having a presence there is important. People need to be able to find you in as many places as possible. You never know where that next source of income or the next reader might come from.

10. Hustle

Really, it all boils down to this. If I had to give you one piece of advice, it would be that you need to work your tail off to become a problogger. There’s no secret recipe, no golden ticket…you’ve just got to work hard and treat your blog like a business. It might seem like you aren’t getting anywhere at first, but be patient and keep at it. Adjust your plan on the fly if you have to, but never stop hustling. You’ve got to love what you do…absolutely enjoy doing it every day, if you really want to quit your job and go full time. If you don’t love what you do, then stop what you’re doing and go do what you love. Trust me, the work will come MUCH easier at that point.

Although this is just tip of the iceberg, I believe that if you just learn to improve on a few of these points, then you’ll shave a tremendous amount of time off your learning curve. You still might have to learn the hard way, but at least now you’ll have the context to understand what’s might be going wrong. If nothing else works, then you can’t go wrong with #10. In fact, I’d say that’s a great place to start.

Nathan Hangen is an entrepreneur, social media consultant, and co-author of the book – Beyond Blogging.

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. I have read a lot about blogging, usually it is the same thing over and over again. But this list has been the best yet, it is simple and gets right to the point, also an entertaining read. Thanks for sharing

  2. thank you, many ways that can be done to achieve the goals and objectives consistent with what we want. spirit, hard work and proper technique is a way to make it easier. interesting article, learn from mistake and past time

  3. What a great list. I tell you, this are the things to put in place as a blogger or problogger to be.

    Nathan, your number 10 (HUSTLE) sums up everything. If we truly want to become a problogger then we must hustle to do all of number 1 to 9.

    Thanks a bunch!

    Congratulates on the launch of your book.

  4. Good points D. Finding your passion is also important. Some people don’t know where is their passion. That is a duty to carry on. After finding the passion, one can work in it with his full potency.

  5. Thank you for saying that you need a niche! This is the reason why I didn’t start my blog some time ago, because I felt that my niche was just too narrow. But I jumped in a month ago and already have a loyal following that comment on almost every post. It really does work! Not sure if I will make money at it, but I am learning so much and loving what I do, I will work that out in time… Again thanks for sharing..

  6. Some great tips which I will definitely be following.

    I’ve always had trouble narrowing my niche, and it was the stand-out point on your article. I’ve had a quite a few website over the years and always started off small with a couple of thoughts in mind, then just went wild and expanded to much. Luckily recently I’ve started learning my lesson and stopped myself doing it.

  7. Nathan,

    Thanks for this inspirational blog – I am glad I read this when we are just starting out on the blog road. I will treat it like and business and never stop hustling!

  8. Comments Really Do Matter – on your blog and everywhere else (part of be everywhere)
    If comments are important to you then make an effort to comment on other blogs, maybe they reciprocate and become a fan :)
    maybe it’s canvasing for comments or maybe it is just flare throwing all over the place – either way it creates awareness.

    I am re-designing my blog, it’s great to read these “Things I wish I knew before” and think how they can apply to the redesign.


  9. Hardwork…that’s the key!

  10. Great post! I heartily second ‘narrowing your niche’. It drives me crazy when a blogger tries to cover everything under the sun, when really, I come to their blog to hear about their specific area of expertise!

  11. Hi Nathan,

    What a wonderful post you have posted here. Darren is a legend and I do read his post quite a lot and do comment when I like a post.

    Your post have given me some very good tips for my own blog which I am planning to make a good living from.

    Presently, I am on a full-time job which I want to make it part-time and go blogging full-time. Seeing Darren and other full-time bloggers and yourself, now it looks that I am not that far with my thinking.

    Thanks for the tips and information.


  12. I guess the mayor problem I’m having on my website is the be everywhere part, you know for a part time blogger is really time consuming trying to keep up on facebook, twitter and stuff like that, school and job is a priority so I barely take a look on those, but thanks for the advice.

  13. I wish I had these blogging tips before I started. I spent a year following the directions of one “faked success blogger” and he actually taught me nothing. So I wasted one whole year. Then I find some experts who share their knowledge for free and now I know better how to blog with more success. Thanks.

  14. I’m having a problem with narrowing my niche. I guess I ‘ll really have to think hard how I can do that. But, thanks anyway for this wonderful post. I really learned a lot!

  15. Very interesting I’m going to tie some of the information into my website. Cheers!


  16. Yes.

    Hustling is a combination of passion, drive and ambition. It answers the question:

    How bad do you want it?

  17. Thanks for this post. I really enjoy your blog, it gives me an inspiration to keep going.

    Sometimes I wonder if my subject – sex addiction – is too narrow and unpopular, but I will keep “hustling” and hopefully something will come out of it.

  18. I agree that blog comments are extremely useful for driving traffic to sites – just requires a lot of time and involvement!

  19. Blogging is always fascinating people has been forgetting main stream website

  20. So nice of you to sharing this . thanks to you .

  21. What awesome information! I really enjoyed you breaking it down. I think the comment about “hustling” is extremely important, because you have to be active to get noticed!
    Thanks for the great post!

  22. Interesting article, I like the topic about niche blogging. Narrowing down your niche would help you be more focused and in control to your blog. Very helpful tips, thanks.

  23. Narrowing down your niche is precisely what more poepl need to do. You can hardly become a successful blogger with out it.

  24. Agreed, I try to focus only on political issues and then conservative on top of that..

  25. Having to do a blog daily is hard but actually to focus on tighter area makes it easier instead. It doesn’t really sound right but its true

  26. Consistency is a most important factor in my opinion. It’s better to post once a week, then loads of posts on one day and nothing for the following month. Visitors are most likely to return knowing when the website should be updated then randomly.

  27. The idea of subscribing to a dozen or so blogs, and then commenting as soon as a new post goes up, is an idea that recently came to my mind. Of course, this post coupled with the volume of your readership confirms that it makes sense to follow your advice on this. In other words, it is a good practice.

    Moreover I like how you had mentioned that you ought to add value to the post by commenting in a meaningful way. Too many people fall short of doing this. Entering into a discussion with other commentators doesn’t only help you to become more visible to other like-minded individuals; it does a great service to the person who put up the post, as it fosters a sense of community, which is a good thing when it comes to blogging. After all, a discussion tends to encourage people to return to your blog (repeat traffic).

    You know, the more I read your posts the more I am thinking that I need to start allowing comments again on all of my posts. I realize that I would be taking a risk by doing this, as I would have to deal with a lot of spammers. However, I like what I am seeing take place here, as you have a community. I would like to have that too.


  28. hello there, I really found your post was extremely useful and wished to say thank you very much

  29. In reference to HUSTLE and working your tail off I like the maxim: a little extra is all that’s needed for extraordinary…..

  30. many think the money comes easy online; however, you’re in competition with MILLIONS of other sites so you’re right, you have to hustle!

  31. Great advice, Nathan. I especially agree with your third tip; Commenting and forming relationships with relevant bloggers is an incredibly effective way to increase traffic. I want to add to your sixth tip that not only do you need to post consistent content on your blog, but you need to post high-quality content that has value to your readers.

  32. Blogging has been a recent addition to my marketing startegy, or should I say problogging. I’ve built numerous wordpress sites but mainly used them as content management systems and not blogs really.

    When I decided to create a blog to try and brand myself, meaning it was something I would update frequently and consistently with useful content, I of course came across your site. You are the go to site for great info on how to build a proper long term blog from the start and although this is the first time I have left a comment here, I did want to thank you so much for all that you do.

    It is obvious that you have a passion for this extends well beyond just doing it for the money and we are all better off for it, thankyou!

  33. I think the “design” point is a bit more murky than it seems. There are many very successful blogs that have designs that leave something to be desired, personally, I see design as a boost. It isn’t at all necessary but it can only be benefitial in the long run.

  34. I think my design is adequate, could be better. I like the advice to narrow things down a bit. I need to start doing that for my blog. I tried to tackle way too much at the start. I am slowly but surely streamlining now. Good avice overall.

  35. I will remember these, Thanks!

  36. The point about finding other blogs and making comments is excellent. You cannot expect to be accepted into a community without reaching out to that community first.

    I also love that you make sure to say that, in the end, this is hard work. I focus on health and fitness and I’m constantly amazed by the amount of effort put into getting around working hard.

    Anyway, thanks for these! Glad I stumbled on this blog!

  37. Audrey says: 02/21/2010 at 5:14 am

    Scheng1 – Good point! Squidoo lenses have that kind of laser focus i.e. one subject and it does eventually get boring or, the topic is old and then you are left with an audience that will be lost. I have a Business blog that encompasses technology, innovation, etc. http://www.businessissuestoday.blogspot.com I am therefore never short of material to blog. I also recommend RSS feeders to drive traffic.

  38. Very nice… will come back often to get tips and ideas. Thanks

  39. Great post, Nathan with an excellent list. Wish I had this to-do list when I started! I love the one about comments. This is something I discovered very late. I also took a while to learn not to read every e-mail I received and not to try to follow every new trail! Become picky about who you listen to, otherwise things can become very confusing.

  40. It’s funny when you look back and when you first starting making blogs, articles, e-books, etc. how little you actually knew back then. If I even knew a fraction of what I know now, I’m sure my previous endeavors would have been much more successful.

  41. I wish i would have know unless your using a wordpress your not going to become big.

    That said blogger is great to start with just to get the feel of blogging.

  42. When you say “narrow the niche” , i assume you mean find the highest traffic niche and stick with that?

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