I started my first attempts at blogging 13 years ago, in 2008. It was a guest post for a German fitness website as a way to earn a few bucks in college. I went through my gym routine. Little did I know that this would kickstart a lifelong passion for blogging. I wish it had led to a lifelong passion for working out. It didn’t.
In these past 13 years, I wrote for numerous blogs, I built and discontinued a number of websites, I ran a tech blog with a friend that we eventually sold, and I still enjoy blogging my heart out every single day. Here are 6 invaluable lessons I’ve learned in 13 years of online writing.
#1 Great writing was enough 13 years ago, it’s not anymore
On the surface, this might sound like a bad thing, but in reality, it’s an opportunity. Great writing is not enough anymore. In turn, this means average and good writers have a chance to become big. While great writers retain that chance nevertheless.
I’m neither a bad nor a great writer. I’m in between. As a non-native English speaker, writing in English has me at somewhat of a disadvantage over native writers. It won’t hold me back though.
Why isn’t great writing enough? Writing is art. Unlike other forms of art like painting or singing, however, everyone can write. Or let me rephrase that: Everyone can learn to write. It’s a skill. Singing or painting, on the other hand, can only be taught to a degree. The rest is god-given talent.
That’s not the most important thing though. In today’s online writing sphere, great writing is also not the most important factor for the most important goal of a blogger: getting views. Because getting views nowadays has much more to do with the next point on this list.
#2 SEO is the most hated but valuable skill
Yes. I hate it. Search Engine Optimization is a horror term. It’s real though. Unfortunately. There’s a reason why every single article on “how to be a blogger” mentions SEO.
SEO is more important than writing skills or formal writing education. It’s more important than topics or trends. Great SEO will turn an average writer into a successful blogger. And it will deny a great writer the joy of success. Okay, maybe I’m a little overly dramatic here. But it’s true. SEO can make or break success.
Two things to keep in mind when it comes to good SEO:
- Keywords are key
- So is the headline
#3 Technical details matter
SEO is not the only important factor for bloggers. Numerous technical details do their part as well. One of those details is website speed. Even great SEO won’t matter much if users don’t have the patience to wait for your blog to load. Main factors for website speed include overall size, image optimization, and caching.
Another factor is hosting. A great hosting provider shines with low to non-existent downtimes, accessible support, easy-to-use backends, and one-click installs for popular blogging platforms like WordPress.
Next is mobile optimization. The main source devices nowadays are smartphones. Therefore, your blog must be optimized for small screens and accessible through touch.
Lastly, blogging has legal implications. It’s not enough to purchase a domain, install WordPress, and start writing. You need to think about and take care of the legal requirements. Cookie policies, privacy pages, and disclaimers, to name a few. Blogging is a business, even if you’re not making money yet. Unfortunately, legal aspects vary greatly from country to country and even within national borders.
#4 Community is everything
When you become a blogger, you become a member of an online community. That has its upsides and downsides. An upside is the wealth of like-minded people you’ll find online.
A downside is competition. One thing, I can assure you: Competition will always be ahead. So, stop competing and start collaborating!
Finding an online community and thriving in it is vital for your blogging success. This doesn’t mean you have to be on every social media network out there. It just means finding a social outlet for your work. I discovered a wonderful Twitter community this way.
Community building is important for another key aspect of a blogger’s career: mailing lists. Call it an email list or a newsletter, it’s all the same idea. Building and fostering your own audience. A small email list trumps high Google traffic in many cases. Even if you’re not sure how to make use of it yet, starting an email list early on can’t hurt.
#5 Patience is the Achilles heel of every blogger
Blogging success won’t come overnight. It’s patience that counts. Don’t expect views on your first posts. I celebrated the hell out of my first 3 (organic) views that I got after 3 weeks of writing for my first own blog. A rule of thumb, I’ve learned over the years: Wait at least 6 months! The reason for this is two-fold:
Firstly, if you can keep consistent blogging up for 6 months, you’ll know it’s for you. You’ll be surprised how many bloggers give up within a few weeks without success.
#6 Quantity matters
We always hear “quality over quantity”. But for blogging, this is only partially true. As I said in the beginning, great writing isn’t the most important aspect anymore. Quality blog posts do matter, but so does quantity. Even more so if you ask me. Quantity means two main things:
- Post frequency: Write regularly, publish frequently.
- Post length: Long-form content is preferred by search engines.
Shoot for 1000 words or more in your blog posts. You can sprinkle some shorter articles in between here and there. But you’re main focus should be lengthy posts. Within those, you can easily increase the keyword density and the use of similar keyphrases. You will also have more opportunities to crosslink between your posts and backlink from other sites to your blog. Additionally, try to publish multiple posts per week if you find the time. You’ll have a fine catalog of stories in 6 months.
The bottom line
To recap the lessons I’ve learned in 13 years of blogging:
- Great writing was enough 13 years ago, it’s not anymore
- SEO is the most hated but valuable skill
- Technical details like page speed, mobile optimization, and hosting matter
- Community is everything for the present and future success
- Patience is the Achilles heel of every blogger
- Quantity matters just as much or even more than quality
Now, these are the lessons I’ve learned. Yours might be very different. In 13 years, I’ve seen bloggers master these 6 key factors to be successful and I’ve seen others that became famous without adhering to any of the above.
The bottom line is: If blogging is your passion, you’ll find a way to make it work. Just keep going!