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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. Absolutely love the list.

    One I think should be on there is the power of SEO-ing your articles.

    My highest viewed articles 3,000 page views or more are the ones that I at least made a minimal attempt at SEO.

    Another invaluable thing is social media. For me, while I just started with Twitter, I’m seeing exponential growth (traffic) to specific posts that I’ve tweeted–you can’t beat that.

  2. Great advice, as always Trouble is, I seem to spend more time reading other folks blogs than I do nurturing my own….still, education is a wonderful thing :)



  3. As I crank up my online business, these tips are well received. Thanks.


  4. Good post. It motivated me to start commenting more on all the blogs that I read. See, I’ve started already =]

  5. great post.. very useful for a beginner, like me. Hopefully i can implement all points above. cheers

  6. Tomas – I like the sound of that.

    AE – although thank you’s are nice, I treat comment sections almost like a forum. I like to try and read other comments before I make my own…it helps you to craft something more useful and get more replies.

    Liz – Check out my twitter stream: http://twitter.com/nhangen and you’ll see I am very active, but I’m not on there all day. Same with Facebook. I have a course coming out soon that might help people with Facebook marketing.

    I went to blogworld and hung out with Darren, which was fun. I also just got back from Affiliate Convention in LA. I highly recommend going to Blogworld and any others you can afford. Mostly though, it’s just trying to take part in or create your own community. Work hard and dedicate yourself before you give up.

  7. Hye Great idea man… Really useful for me and new bloggers like me…………..Rocks………I am still a student in blogs…. You are teaching me a lot

  8. I love reading the things you guys write about, however here is my problem. I started blogging and was making a little bit of money everyday through adsense. Over zealous friends and associates clicked on my ads everyday. I thought this was a good thing till Google canceled my adsense account, it would be nice to have information here about what to do with monetizing your sites after Google cancels you. I now have Kontera, and a few other programs to make up for the loss but I am not making anywhere near the amount of money I did with Adsense. Do you have any recommendations.

  9. Being everywhere (ie. facebook and twitter) is nice until people are getting enough information from tweets and facebook about your content so that they don’t even need to be on your blog to know what you are writing about. A double edged sword – approach with caution.

  10. Great tips! I need to work on a few of those ideas, especially with comments.I find myself commenting on the same blogs week after week. I need to expand my blog-commenting horizon!

  11. This post is really a wealth of information for a beginner. I am just staring blogging venture and looking out everywhere to learn new things and incorporate.

    Thanks for sharing the wisdom.

    Yes, it would be nice to stick to a narrow niche. But, I think you can cover related topics in a wider area and still keep readers interested. For example, if a reader is visiting your blog to read about stock trading, it is very likely that he won’t refuse content related to mutual fund investing. Just a thought. I don’t have enough track record to say this by experience.

  12. If only I had read this about 12 weeks ago.

    Many thanks

  13. These tips are great. It is all about working hard. If you aren’t willing to put in the time, you may not enjoy the business. I am loving it and blogging has been great. When you blog, pick something you enjoy- take http://healthofmyfamily.com for example. I have been a personal trainer for 17 years and know alot about health, nutrition, supplements, and now (from being married and a parent) family, kids and safety.

    Point #1 – Do something you know
    Point#2 – Do it well
    And enjoy it :)

  14. I’ve found it useful to sign off every blog I write with “If you have questions on fundraising, please write me, Katherine Wertheim…” That way, Google Alerts picks up my name and the word ‘fundraising’ which is my topic. I find it frustrating that a lot of bloggers don’t have their name and email address on their blog, so I have to go searching to find out who they are.

  15. RE: Pastorkayte we had the same problem, but the account wasn’t cancelled, but instead these ‘greenpeace’ ads started to appear about africa in need, earth needing to be saved. It’s now over 2 years and still the account is ‘cleaned’. It’s frustrating.

  16. Point 7 is the probably the most valuable for anything that you want to turn into a business and it’s the key that most people that fail at being self employed often miss. When you work for another company, your work is generally organized for you by others. If you want to get ahead in any endeavor, see it (have a vision), plan it (on paper), and work it (by hustling as you say here!) Great post!

  17. Hi, im a new blogger and this post was REALLY helpful. thanks for taking the time to post of all this information to help others

  18. Love the tips, just as we are in need of strengthening our business blogging skills we have found you. Thanks for sharing your knowledge!http://borodinomarket.blogspot.com

  19. THe most important thing in my opinion you related on the topic :1-3-6 and 8. This are really the golden rule to become a good blogger. sure, the other topics are also very important, but these ones are the key to success.

  20. Great list, but I’m not sure about narrowing a niche. A majority of my traffic comes from people using search engines, so niche isn’t quite as important, though a some sort of schtick is.

  21. Hi Nathan,
    I was thrilled when one of my associates sent me an email today, and the only thing in the email was a link to this post. It was an “aha” moment, because I’ve been developing our team with all of these social media ideas (except USTREAM which I have never heard of and will check out in a moment…) We’re getting to really know people by hanging out in the same pond! I enjoy my twitter friends and hope to meet some day. And I’m glad to have found your guest post here, I’ll hop over to Making it Social in a moment. Keep up the good work!

  22. Good points. I found by fault too that design is critically important with site or blog.

  23. I find “Narrow Your Niche” is very important when you are a new blogger and trying to compete with all the “big players”.

  24. Content is King and Always will be I believe. Thanks for the Article.

  25. I agree Content is most important, but do not forget. You need to be pleasing to the eye too. Also, ASK for comments that gets the reader more interested too.

  26. Good stuff.

    I do cast a fairly wide net, but I spun off lighter stuff into one blog, and sports into another blog, and that decision has started to pan out for me.

    If you have readily identifiable kinds of posts–i.e., political stuff, cultural stuff, technical stuff–then spinning off content into a new blog can work. It was much slower than I had hoped for those two sites, but here we are 5 months or so down the road and things are looking up!

  27. This has certainly gives me some ideas. Thank you

  28. Yes, I agree. After redesigning my site, my traffic increased by 40% per day.
    I am thankful to Mr. Kranthi of bloggertricks.com for the same since I am using the template designed by him

  29. Thank You Darren, your comments have helped me set a direction for my blog. I am a retired referee and have entered the referee niche with my blog for referees. I will use your sugestions to make my blog a better blog.

  30. Great tips, really helpful. Thanks.
    I’m new to the game. Thought it would be better to broaden my niche… now I know better. :)

  31. I started a couponing/living thrifty blog a short while ago and I am absolutely loving it! Reading this article has gotten me even more excited about what I am doing. My one issue is getting my readers to leave comments! I will be working on that….as far as getting out there and networking, I will be doing that too. Thanks!

  32. The basics of pro blogging is greatly covered in this article. Post gives people the ambition to keep going even when they see they aren’t gaining any ground with their blog. There’s alot more hard work out there to be done to have a successful and extremely profitable blog, but if you just stick to it long enough you definately will see results.

  33. Excellent post, i’ve really enjoyed it.
    I own a blog for months now (it might be a short time for you) but i used some of your tips by instinct and they work like a charm.

    Thanks, really, i enjoyed it.

  34. rock solid advice. one you missed:
    reading problogger!
    (sucky i know, but there are a few places that really help ALOT around the interwebz, and problogger is one, Leo is another – for staying grounded if you actually do make the 6 figures…)

  35. Everybody wishes they had done some things differently. Hopefully your helpful list will help some folks avoid the same mistakes. Thanks for the info.

  36. I think a beginner blogger should work harder and post more unique and individual content if there is time and energy. Reading blogs like yours is great and educational, however the best way for the start-ups is to actually go out there and do it, again and again. I agree with you that success comes with time, not right off the bat. Good luck to everyone reading this blog, you are on the right track!

  37. These are excellent tips. Most people don’t realize how difficult it can be to run a successful blog.

  38. Thanks Pro for the excellent Advice and your blog is a good resource.

  39. Thanks for the nice tips. I overlooked the importance of comments. From now on, I’ll start focusing to leave more comments on any interesting post I found

  40. Thank-you for saying that you need a niche! This is the reason why I didn’t start my blog two years 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…

  41. Thanks, Great article!

    I am new in blogging, and I agree that we should narrow our niche, since my blog is covered by a bunch of topics.
    After read this article, I can’t wait to “re-create” the niche of my blog… :)

    About Blog Design, I think each person has their own definition about what good design is. Perhaps you could write about “good design” on blogging that will work on the future blogosphere…

  42. 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. That is a way to achieve success faster, including in blogging.

  43. Hey, these tips are really helpful for new bloggers like me in starting their blogs. I will keep in my mind all of these tips in my bloggong and hope it will help me a lot. Thanks for your help.

  44. quality content more matters than quantity content,hey thanks for your advice, i was really in need.i have started my new blog

  45. thank u for this i just started and it looks very helpful! i will try to follow those :)

  46. Thanks, this is a great article for many bloggers around the world.

    Me as a new blogger learned very much just by reading your article.

    I’ll try implementing the skills I learned to my blog and hopefully success.

  47. Really good tips. You have taken some of the slope out of my learning curve. Really appreciate that! Keep posting more on what you have learned over the years. Cheers.

  48. A wonderful tips! Thanks, it is really helpful, especially for a new blogger like me.

  49. Narrowing niche is something most difficult task as I experience. Diverse dimensions always influence and throwing them all off because your niche is very narrow, is something kills blogger. Keep on talking about same thing with different titles and different sentences – will it add up life?

  50. Great article Nathan. Having recently started my blog, I found your tips very helpfu, especially the one regarding comments on other blogs;-) ….keep up the great work.

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