Blogging Lessons, 3 Years Later
My full time blogging career began back in December of 2007. Back then I wrote Full Time Blogging and My first 15 days as a Problogger which offered advice for webmasters who were blogging part time and not sure whether they should make the big leap forward to become full time bloggers.
More than three years have past and looking back, I can firmly say that this was the best decision of my life. It was not always easy and I'm still struggling at times. This post is about the good things, bad things, and advice that I would like to share.
Full time blogging is not for everyone. You are from that moment on responsible for your well being and that of your family. You need to get up and write. I write 365 days a year which may be an extreme case.
I learned to reduce my output at times to recover and gain strengths. Regular Ghacks reader may have noticed that I started to write less on weekends and holidays. Those are my recovery periods. I still write between one and four posts on these days, but the reduced output gives me time to concentrate on other things.
I have not been on a lot of holidays in the past three years, my trip to Israel and Vienna have been the two exceptions. I try to write and schedule articles in advance to enjoy those trips. Still, I have to spend at least an hour or so per day to check the blogs, websites, servers and emails.
I met lots of great people, fellow bloggers, entrepreneurs and companies, and even more charlatans and thieves. When I began blogging in 2005 I read all the posts of the self-proclaimed problogging gurus. This stopped when I realized that they had nothing to offer but self-promotion.
I started concentrating on the business aspects and learned a lot about SEO and business marketing at that time. It took me more than two years to get there, a process from noob to someone who knows what he is doing online, what works, and what does not.
Being a fulltime blogger has other implications. Bloggers can make money in two ways: Advertisement or writing content. If you have your own website you usually combine the two. Managing the advertisement side of business takes lots of time, especially if you have a blog with visitors from all over the world.
Advertising wise, you usually make use of Google Adsense, because it can deliver ads to a world wide audience. Banner advertisements on the other hand are usually limited to a few English speaking countries. Some companies use low paying ads for the rest of the world, the majority tends to ignore it.
Another advertising related problem is that you often get emails from new companies who want to sell your ad space. You know have the option to try them out to see if they perform better than your current company, or deny the proposal outright. If you try them out you may end up with a big dip in revenue if they perform not as well as your previous advertiser. It seldom happened that a new company outperformed my active advertisers. I suggest A-B tests for those cases which give you better comparison options.
Then there is the webmaster side of things. If you run your own sites, you are responsible for your websites and servers. You need to make sure that they are accessible, that the contents are up to date, that they load fast enough, that bills are paid, domain names renewed and so on.
It is possible to automate a few of the things. I'm working with a company that monitors my websites and servers 24/7. If anything that is monitored goes down, I get an SMS no matter where I'm. (see Monitor Your Servers With Livewatch).
But you cannot automate everything. I spend about 30 to 60 minutes per day for webmaster related tasks. Fix broken links, moderate comments, update scripts, make changes to pages, design or structure of the site, check web statistics and reply to users and companies who contacted me.
This can become a fulltime job on some days, for instance if a site goes down, if a site is moved to a new server or if I have made the decision to change a site's theme (never change a running system).
You think that being a writer, webmaster and marketing expert is all that you need to be to be an independent full time blogger? Think again. Enter SEO.
Search engine optimization, love it or hate it. Still, it is one of the essential skills that you need. You could outsource your SEO, but believe me when I say that you will have a very, very, very, hard time finding a reliable SEO company that does your SEO for acceptable rates.
Don't even think of hiring a SEO on a webmaster forum. If you frequent there you may have seen the packages that they offer. 20k visitors for $x, Mininets, 10,000 backlinks for $49, profile links, web 2.0 links, comment links, autoblogs, private blog networks and more.
The core problem with the majority of offers is that they can hurt the site's rankings, besides that the majority of them rely on link building that many would call outright spam.
SEO is in my opinion the hardest part. If you do something wrong you can crash your site, get it banned in the search engines. If you want to do it right, you need to monitor every move which takes lots of time and effort on your part.
Without SEO on the other hand, your site won't take off. Sure, you may get lucky and see an article of your site promoted on sites like Slashdot or Reddit, or constantly mentioned on popular blogs like Lifehacker. But that's an exception, not the rule.
Traffic does not automatically come even if you have the best content about a certain topic. That's where SEO comes into play, to get that content into the open, recognized.
You can do a lot of SEO groundwork on the site, onpage optimizations, good internal linking structure and so on, but you eventually come to a point where you need to add offsite SEO. If you can afford it hire a reputable SEO company. Most bloggers, including me, cannot afford that on the other hand as you have to pay thousands of Dollars usually per month for that.
One of the options that I want to explore in the coming months is guest blogging on other sites.
Lastly, as a blogger you are also dependent on others; Especially on search engines, referring sites and your visitors of course. Ghacks experienced two huge drops in traffic after recent Google algorithm changes. A false positive so to say but nevertheless extremely hurting. both financially and mentally. It was never that bad that I thought about quitting, but it was close. The site recovered each time after three months.
The lesson I learned from that? Diversify your traffic profile. Get a newsletter, a Facebook page, Twitter. Get the word out on sites like Reddit, Yahoo answers, become a brand that people know and trust. You cannot be dependent on one main source of traffic.
I would do a lot of things differently if I would have to start all over again starting with the domain name. Should have picked .com and not .net. It is not a major thing so.
Still, blogging is fun and while it is stressful at times it is also very rewarding. I can work from home, and every other place with an Internet connection.
The post has gotten a bit longer than I wanted it to become. I apologize for that. If you have any questions about blogging, or Ghacks let me know and I try my best to answer them.Advertisement