ProBlogging – 10 Things I Wish I Knew when I Started

Written on December 5th, 2009 at 12:12 am by Darren Rowse

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.

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