Oh hello, three year blogging anniversary.
I should clarify that I’ve been blogging here, at roseclearfield.com, for three years. I started keeping a paper journal when I learned how to write (though I haven’t kept one up in years). I’ve been blogging in one form or another online since the early 2000s, although you’ll have to dig hard to find my writing from before 2008.
But it’s a milestone to reach three years here because moving up to WordPress was a big step. And this has really been my first major attempt at serious blogging to make money. So I’m talking about a few of the things I’ve learned and observed these past three years.
Consistency really is key.
People talk about consistency in blogging all the time. It seems basic enough. But I didn’t fully grasp the concept for a long time. While there are a number of aspects of being a successful blogger, a huge part of it is showing up every single day. Publishing posts every single week, even when you’re struggling with writer’s block, frustrated with your photography, or being pulled in a million different directions in your personal life. Sticking with social media, even when the algorithms keeps changing. Continuing to learn SEO, even though it’s hard for you.
In just three years with this blog, I have watched so many bloggers give up on it. While there are numerous articles about building traffic and income quickly, blogging is a long-term play. It often takes one or two years, sometimes longer, for posts to build significant traffic. If you keep publishing high-quality, relevant content, over time, you will see results.
Being a good writer is important.
People get into blogging for a lot of different reasons. Writing isn’t necessarily the primary motivation, which is okay. However, I come across a lot of blogs with terrible writing. I’m not talking about one or two weak posts or a few minor typos. I’m talking about no basic grammar skills, poor word choice, and lots of sentence fragments. As a teacher, I would expect better from fifth grade students. I’m sure that this sounds harsh, but it’s true. I don’t want to read blogs with terrible writing. And Google does penalize you for consistent writing errors.
Put the work into your writing that you do into photography, SEO, and social media. At a minimum, install a grammar plugin, such as Grammarly (which is what I use but don’t feel limited to this option). Reread every single post with the grammar plugin running before you hit publish. Pay attention to the common grammar mistakes the plugin suggests and work to correct them in future posts.
The more I learn, the more I realize that I need to learn.
I thought that I knew a lot about blogging when I started this blog. I did. But I’ve learned so much in the past three years. Even the aspects of blogging that I felt confident about initially, such as my photography and Pinterest graphics, have improved significantly. And the more I learn, the more I realize that I still need to learn.
Also, blogging continues to change so much from year to year. Even when you’re on top of your game, you need to be open to learning new things all the time. Anyone who uses social media for business knows that best social media practices change constantly. You can’t ever take a “set it and forget it” approach to blogging.
There is no single approach that works for everyone.
I am so tired of seeing blog posts with titles like, “This ONE strategy will make you a successful blogger.” or “THE thing you’re missing out on to make affiliate sales.” There are so many ways to find success blogging, which is great because it allows bloggers to play to their strengths. Some bloggers kill it with affiliate sales. Other bloggers drive sales through Pinterest with their amazing images and tag lines. Still other bloggers rock the SEO game and simply drive a ton of traffic, generating staggering ad revenue.
Bloggers have different goals and different definitions of success.
I am also so tired of seeing advice not to start running ads until you have X number of views or passing on sponsorship opportunities unless they earn X number of dollars. Not everyone has the same blogging goals or definitions of success. It’s easy to feel like a failure in blogging because you’re not pulling six figures of views every month and making thousands of dollars. In reality, very few bloggers reach these levels. You need to set your own goals and expectations to define your success.
While there are tons of claims that it’s easy to make a lot of money blogging, the truth is that it’s a lot of work. It takes most bloggers years to make decent income, and they put in time and a half day in and day out to get there. Not everyone wants to work 80 hours a week on a blog. I have a husband with a stressful 50+ hour a week job, and I’m at home with my toddler son. I love that this blog is a part-time commitment.
You should never be ashamed at how much you’re making with your blog and what that money means to you either. When Jake and I were first married, he was finishing his undergrad degree, and I was making $14/hour with benefits as a classroom aide. Pulling $100-$200/month in ad revenue or affiliate sales from a blog would have been huge for us.
Getting a lot of blog traffic doesn’t make you an expert.
I feel like the second bloggers make it big, whatever that means exactly, they turn around and not only start giving a ton of advice but trying to sell people their advice. While there are good blogging products, there are a ton of garbage products, too. Again, going back to the “no single approach works for everyone” point, a lot of bloggers claim to teach fellow bloggers exactly what to do to achieve success. There are popular blogging strategies that work for a lot of people. But you’ll never be able to replicate someone’s blogging strategy exactly.
No one wants to read a blog with zero personality.
There is so much pressure in this day and age to optimize every aspect of your blog. People follow bloggers because they’re drawn to their personalities. Creating a “perfect” blog with fully optimized posts and nothing else is boring. It’s also not why the vast majority of bloggers got into blogging. No, your vacation pictures and favorite things roundups aren’t great for SEO. But they’re great for building readership. And they make blogging more fun for you. So don’t stop writing these posts.
Fellow bloggers, what are the biggest things you’ve learned while blogging?
What advice would you give to new bloggers?