Blogging 101: How to find success as a new blogger

So, you want to be a successful blogger. Unfortunately, you have no audience, no subscribers, no… well, anything. Although many professional bloggers will argue that content is not necessarily the most important thing, my background in writing just can’t convert to popular opinion on this one.

Yes, networking is important. Keyword research is important. Having an e-mail subscription list is important. All of these things increase your traffic and keep visitors in the loop. However, people won’t keep coming back (or continue subscribing) if your content is mediocre. There are just too many blogs out there for users to commit to reading blogs that simply aren’t up to par.

So, what can you do to keep (or get) people interested in your blog? Take a deep breath, because it isn’t going to be as hard as you think.

Be passionate. You absolutely – and I cannot stress this enough – have to care about what you are writing. Your readers will be able to tell if you aren’t giving it your all. Would I have more subscribers and views per day if I wrote about finance? Without a doubt. Would my content be anywhere near solid? Not a chance in hell. There are certain niches that are, for a number of reasons, always going to be more profitable. However, if you’re blogging for profit, you’re doing it wrong.

Which brings me to my next point:

Be realistic. You can’t go into blogging with the mindset that you’re going to be another miracle — we all read the articles.So-and-so woke up one day, realized they were living a life they hated and decided to change it. They quit their steady job and holed up at home, where they decided to start a blog and.. ta-da! Suddenly, their blog is bringing in over $40k. If you start a blog and think that that’s how your journey is going to go, think again. Blogging is like any other creative pursuit – think acting, singing, etc. – in that, although some people make it big and live the dream, most do not. It’s the cold, hard truth but the truth nonetheless.

Find your niche. This is one piece of advice that you’ll hear time and time again. It’s impossible to start a blog without a clear idea of what you want to do with it (trust me, I know… just read through my old posts. Uffda). You need to find a niche that, again, you’re passionate about and that you aren’t going to get sick of writing about. For me, writing about marketing, media and, well, writing seemed too simple. I thought that it would be boring, dull or otherwise unexciting. So, for over a year, I wrote Buzzfeed-like posts and felt the creativity slowly seep from my life. Gif-filled lists are great, don’t get me wrong. However, everyone can write a post like this one. But, after writing it, does it mean anything?

Don’t shy away from your mistakes. When I switched from WordPress.com to .org, I definitely considered wiping the slate and starting this blog from the beginning again. But then I thought about the couple hundred people who have followed me since the beginning, making my day as they liked posts and e-mailed positive feedback my way. Do I wish I’d put a little bit more effort into beefing up my content? Yes, yes I do. But there are people who read what I wrote, appreciated it and maybe even needed it at times. I’ve decided to turn this blog into one focused more on marketing, media and helping people in a different way – but that doesn’t mean I should shy away from my not-so-exciting blogger past. If nothing else, people can look back (with my help or not) on posts that aren’t exactly superb and get ideas of what not to do. I enjoyed writing content in the way that I did, but it’s time to move on.

Write catchy headlines. As a journalist, the importance of headlines was instilled in me from day one. The unfortunate part? I’m just plain rubbish at headlines. I kid you not, I’ll spend more time writing a headline than writing the post itself. However, writing catchy headlines doesn’t need to be hard – and, in the over-saturated market that is the internet, it’s more important than ever. There’s a popular theory out there that anyone can create an eye-catching, clickable headline with this formula:

Number + adjective + keyword + promise

There are a few different variations but, overall, that’s the formula recommended by writers and bloggers around the world. Sometimes, “rationale” is added between keyword and promise; however, the ideal headline is six words or less, so you don’t want to get too wordy. Spend time on your headlines, since they’re sometimes the only shot you get at drawing in readers.

Quality over quantity. Your dad or grandma probably gave you this advice in regards to friendships when you were younger. If not, you know you’ve seen it on Pinterest about a million times. The idea that quality reigns over quantity is applicable to your blog as well.

“But, wait a minute. I thought that I had to post frequently to get people to read my blog? You mean to tell me that I’ve been stressing out about posting every day for nothing?”

In a word, yes. Newbie bloggers often get stuck in the idea that, if they post five times/week, it will drive more traffic to their blog. However, studies are showing that longer form content is back with a vengeance — and that is what’s going to drive your blog traffic. Don’t stress out about writing posts every other day because, in turn, the quality of said posts will suffer. Like I said earlier, readers want to know that you care about what you’re writing — not just that you’re writing it hurriedly on your lunch break because you didn’t write yesterday. Take your time and write quality posts that other people are going to care about.

Be yourself. It’s as true in the virtual world as it is in the real world. You cannot – and should not – pretend to be someone you’re not when you blog. Putting yourself out there is scary and it opens you up to criticism, but you have to devote yourself fully to this or accept that you’re just going to dabble casually in the world of blogging. Be the funny, quirky, creative, (insert adjective here) person that you are, and people will love you for it.

Take criticism to heart – but not personally. Does that make sense? I’ll elaborate. Criticism is a part of life, especially when you’re putting your work out there for the world to see. You will get positive feedback, but you will also get negative feedback. And, sometimes, you’ll run into people who are just plain cruel. My advice? Ignore the cruelties but listen to the negative feedback – because, chances are, the person who posted/e-mailed it is just trying to help. Constructive criticism is good! Just don’t take it too personally; for example, don’t let it bring you down or discourage you. Nobody is perfect so you can’t expect to be — especially when you’re just starting out. Take in the criticism, reflect on it, become better because of it and let it back into the world.

Relax. My number one tip for you? Just relax. Remember to breath in and out, grab a glass (or bottle) of wine, and just write. You probably decided to start a blog because you love to write or because you know that you can offer something of value to the world — don’t get caught up in SEO and stats and forget why you started in the first place.

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