Before starting a blog, read this.
My first blog was a blog about politics. After blogging on the subject for nearly five years, I finally learned that blogging about politics was a complete waste of time – but, that’s not what I am writing about today.
This article is about those truths that I wish I knew going into blogging but ended up learning the hard way. The humbling way.
Before starting a blog, you gotta love to blog – not just love money.
After all, everybody loves money.
Yes, it is true that people can make money blogging. In fact, some folks like Michelle over at Making Sense of Cents earn an incredible amount of money from their blogs. But, you can’t get into this game because you love money.
You blog because you love to blog. The money might come after, and if it does, that’s great. There is nothing wrong with diving into wheel barrels of cash earned through your blog. Have at it.
But if you don’t truly love to blog, you probably won’t stick with it, because making serious scratch from your blog takes a ton of time. And persistence. And patience. And other words, I would imagine, that begin with P. And speaking of earning money from your blog…
Earning money from your blog is not easy
If you’re a Quora reader in the blogging sections, one of the most common questions that get asked is how to make money by blogging. Or, what topics to write about in order to earn money? How much can bloggers make?
Those questions are so damn repetitive that I finally stopped answering them.
Success stories from wealthy bloggers sound wonderful. And truthfully, they are. Imagine pulling in $30,000 to $50,000 a month from blogging! Hot damn, that’s sweet.
But, here’s the truth: Earning money from your blog takes time.
It takes time because your blog needs a serious following first. You need traffic. And for traffic to form, trust needs to build.
Eventually, your readers begin to form a bond with you. They aren’t just reading your words because they have nothing better to do. They read your words because YOU wrote them. And, they come back for more. They share your links with friends. Eventually, the wildfire begins to spread and links to your blog are all over the place.
Google picks up on your blog and throws a link up on Page 1 of popular search results. Tens of thousands of hits come pouring into your site each and every month (or week). You’re just swimming in the page views! Monetize the hell out of your blog through advertisements or affiliate marketing and convert that traffic into a source of your retirement.
Umm, but yeah – starting a blog, and especially building a huge audience, takes time. Lots of time. And, there isn’t a set formula that every blogger has to follow in order to make money.
Are there any blogging “secrets”?
Here’s a secret to blogging that virtually no successful blogger ever talks about: There isn’t a set formula. Another blogger could do the exact same set of things as another blogger but see wildly different results.
Most successful bloggers don’t talk about that because it implies that their super detailed course, or “complete guide” e-book or huge email list might not actually work for them. Admitting that truth might hurt sales.
What works for one blogger might not work for another, and that’s because there’s an incredible amount of nuance in blogging. Timing is huge. Slight variations in keywords and titles make a profound difference. A single backlink from one source could skyrocket your rankings.
And, “going viral” is completely unpredictable.
This stuff takes practice, too. Building an audience, placing well-thought-out ads, affiliate marketing and so many other elements of blog monetization come into play. It takes a lot of trial and error.
Don’t take temporary visitor spikes to mean you suck
You get featured on a major site like Business Insider. Or Forbes. Or MarketWatch. That day (and maybe the next), your page views soar. You’re killin’ it! Finally, you’ve “made it”. Stand back, fellow newbie bloggers. YOU got your shit together. You’re not a newbie anymore, right?
Uh oh. The next day, your page views drop in half. The day after that, another drop. By the end of the week, you’re getting’ just as many page views as you did before the feature.
Well, shit. Is it something I did? Or said? Maybe people don’t like my stuff after all…
I got news for you: That’s how this works.
You don’t suck (at least not for this reason). These temporary spikes in page views after highly visible features and mentions around the Internet are a part of doing business as a blogger. You get a nice little influx of traffic, but it never lasts. Ever. You might hang on to a few new readers, but most of the time, it’s temporary.
It’s happened to all of us. It’s normal, believe me. Enjoy the ride while it lasts, but don’t be surprised when the traffic falls back off to whatever you were getting before.
I saw incredible spikes after features in Business Insider, Forbes and CNBC. Each and every time, traffic slowly returned to normal – for the most part. The CNBC feature actually generated quite a bit of interest from other media, too – which is beginning to snowball.
But – keep getting mentioned from around the Internet and, over time, that WILL make a difference. Your blog will grow.
Related: Want to be a full-time blogger? Be careful what you wish for!
Other bloggers are your friends, not enemies
When I began blogging, I assumed that other blogs in my same niche were competitors. The traffic they got was traffic that I didn’t get. I never posted links to their blogs. Not on my blog or on social media. It was all about me. My blog. Nobody else existed but me.
In reality, that was a horribly destructive attitude to hold.
Other bloggers are not your enemies. Instead, make friends with them. Throw some love in their direction. Post links to their stuff. Network. Comment on their articles. Seriously, don’t be a dick to your fellow bloggers. After all, we are all in this thing together. We all love what we do. We all want popular, well-read blogs.
The more friends you make throughout the community, the more you learn. The more traffic they will send in your direction. This is how communities form, and it’s amazing to watch how successful everybody becomes in helpful, nurturing communities. Yes, even online.
Your mom will probably be the only person reading your blog for a while
It’s true, you know. Even if you haven’t told your mom about your blog, do you think she doesn’t Google your name from time to time? Or find out from a friend of hers within her wide-reaching and sophisticated network of mothers who all work together to know as much as humanly possible about their offspring?
For the first few weeks – or even months, your mom will probably be the only person reading your blog. Or whomever you give your link to. Yes, commenting on blogs, starting a social media presence and all the other stuff bloggers do to attract the attention of readers will lead to more visitors. But at the beginning, it’s just you and her, pal. We all start somewhere.
Regardless of your niche, blogs don’t instantly become overnight successes. That’ll take time, just like making money from your blog. Just take it one step at a time. You’ll reach your goals.
Finally: Your blog is your baby
This goes right along with loving to blog rather than simply loving money. Your blog is your baby. Seriously, treat it like your offspring. Do whatever is in its best interest. Give it attention. Say nice things about it. Tend to it when it’s sick. Pretend its only chance of living a full and productive life is YOU.
Because, in so many ways, it’s true. Your blog is YOUR blog, and it’ll only be as successful as you make it. If you want a successful blog, you probably won’t be writing an article a month and calling it good. You need to give it the attention it deserves if you expect recognition, attention and page views.
Believe me, it makes a world of difference.
What say you? What do you wish you knew before you started blogging?
Steve is a 38-year-old early retiree who writes about the intersection of happiness and financial independence. Steve is a regular contributor to MarketWatch, CNBC, and The Ladders. He lives full-time in his 30′ Airstream Classic and travels the country with his wife Courtney and two rescued dogs.