Today I published a new blog post and the Google spreadsheet I use to keep track of them informed me that this was the 100th post!
I thought it would be a great time to check in to compare where I was a couple of years ago versus where I am now… was all this effort worth it? Were there any wins or failures along the way that stand out? You betcha!
Here are the top 10 things I learned after writing 100 blog posts…
1. Nobody is paying as much attention as you think they are (at first)
I remember when I first hit “publish” on that first post, I was scared out of my noggin’. All of these irrational fears popped into my head…
- The internet meanies will be here any second to fill up my comments section with vitriol.
- People are going to figure out I’m a fraud.
- Who am I to discuss these things that have been discussed 1,000 times before?
The truth is, none of those fears came true (as it is with so many fears in business and life) and the reality is… nobody paid that much attention.
Sure, a few well-meaning friends dropped by to read those first posts and leave comments as a way to support and cheer me on, but they soon went back to their regularly scheduled busy lives and I mostly woke up to crickets chirping.
I was so afraid to say anything even slightly controversial for fear of what might come back at me from the internet mob, but pretty soon those crickets started to get on my damn nerves.
So I started being braver and just putting my real authentic voice and opinions out there. If people disagree? Great. Leave a comment. I’m here for it.
I learned that people don’t just flock to your blog the minute you launch it, so if you’re planning on starting a blog hit the damn publish button and get out there with it. The next step is building an audience, so you have a bit of time to build your confidence along the way.
When new bloggers ask my advice I often say, “bloggers blog, so just start blogging!”
(I should mention that while I’m no blogging expert, I’ve been blogging in one form or another since 2004, just not here or for business.)
You don’t need 10 blogs posts in the can, one is enough. The hard part is hitting publish on that first post so don’t put that off.
2. And yet, people are paying attention more than you know
Nobody ever did call me a fraud.
Quite the opposite in fact — people have reached out to me to tell me that I’ve helped them in some way and the way I say things is exactly the way they needed to hear it.
I like to assume that if one person took the time to reach out, there are others out there thinking the same thing who didn’t. I now write for THEM and I don’t worry about much else.
This “invisible impact” I was making took time to understand. Just because you’re not seeing signals doesn’t mean that all the hard work you’re putting into your blog isn’t paying off. If you’ve got traffic to your blog at all, there are people out there silently saying, “At last, I found exactly what I needed!”
That’s the beginning of forming trust and even bonds with your audience and you may not even realize it for a while.
3. They were wrong that blogging is too saturated to bother
Before I started blogging I hired a consultant (for something unrelated) who, when she heard about my plans to start blogging, pleaded with me not to…
“What waste of time that will be. Everyone has already said everything there is to say, you’ll just be contributing to the noise.”
Secondly: she was wrong and I’m glad I didn’t listen to her advice.
Even though I write about topics that have been covered by bigger, more established websites … guess what? Because I was consistent and focused on quality, Google eventually began seeing me as an authority and started ranking my content on competitive keywords.
Now, that did not happen overnight. But it did happen and that’s when I started gaining momentum in my business.
If I had listened to her? Not only would I have to PAY FOR TRAFFIC that I now enjoy organically (and consistently), I wouldn’t have any way to demonstrate my expertise around the products and services I sell.
And I’d never be able to leverage my time to scale my business because I’d always be out there trying to find new customers…
Having a blog means new customers come to ME. Instead of doing outreach, I can focus on building a brand that attracts — and that’s pretty hard to do these days unless you’re producing content in one form or another and there are only three choices: Audio. Video. Written.
(If writing is not your thing, choose from the other two.)
I put a lot of effort into saying “the same old things” in my way, and people naturally started linking to my blog posts, reaching out to interview me, and one of my posts is even featured in an upcoming book about brand storytelling.
Look, not blowing sand up your skirt here — blogging is a long game. But don’t let anybody tell you there’s no point. My blog content is what drives traffic to my website and generates leads, new clients, and sales.
4. The more I blog, the better blogger I become
I thought I was a pretty good writer when I first started out… but now, I look back at my old posts and I cringe. 😂
It isn’t that I was a bad writer, it’s that I was bad at writing blog posts. I learned there’s a formula for writing blog posts that get attention on social media and get people sharing.
Now I know what Google looks for too — it definitely favors content that’s well-formatted, answers questions both quickly and thoroughly. (For a great primer on this, I recommend this course.)
This post is something of a detour to my normal format — I’m here writing this like a journal entry (the way blogging used to be back in the day) just to share some thoughts and maybe help people who need to hear this stuff, but normally, I assume nobody cares all that much about me and my journey.
Typically I do a ton of research upfront to figure out what topics people are looking for information about and I create an outline of the subtopics and questions they have before I even start writing.
Crawling inside the mind of my audience and creating content for them has made me a better blogger fo’ sho’.
And here’s the true scoop — the first 30 blog posts I wrote were pretty much garbage and I had to massively re-work or delete most of them. (Yes, technically I’ve written a lot more than 100 posts.)
That’s why I say just get started, you’ll learn what works and what doesn’t by doing.
Most of my traffic comes from around 10% of my blog posts and all of those posts were written after I started being more strategic and intentional about it.
I learned how to write posts that people want to read and I learned how to get them on my mailing list so I can nurture those relationships too.
I go more in-depth into this in my free course if you’re interested. 👇
5. My audience helped me define my sweet-spot niche
When I first started blogging, I thought I’d focus on website conversion optimization and usability issues. It’s what I was interested in at the time and I NERD OUT HARD on this topic. But a lot of the content I wrote fell flat so I wrote about other things I knew a lot about too.
And some of those things went viral and took off like gangbusters.
This was my audience saying, “Yes, help me with this, more like this please!”
(Side note: using analytics is SO important! If you’re not sure what to do with it, check out my snack-sized course here.)
So I started writing more about client attraction, branding, and the way mindset issues affect just about everything when you’re running a business.
I even stopped focusing so much on website-related services (after nearly 20 years!) and ramped up my branding and strategy services.
People started hopping into my inbox with completely different questions and problems than they ever had before and that was the start of a new direction for me.
I planted my flag as a go-to expert in an area of focus (helping service-based businesses build their brand and attract higher quality clients) I was both passionate about and my audience needed help with.
I may never have gotten that clarity for myself if I hadn’t been blogging and been listening to my audience. I went from operating in my zone of competency to operating in my zone of genius.
6. The more I niched down, the more expert I became and the more I had to say, too…
At first, I thought for sure I’d run out of things to say by month #2 but the more I blogged, the more my audience taught me what they were interested in and what they weren’t. The more niched down I became… the more I had to say about it!
The more I narrowed down my content, the DEEPER I was able to go! An avalanche of questions and opportunities for things to write about presented themselves and now I need a spreadsheet and an editorial calendar to keep track of it all. (And 24 more hours in a day!)
The more I came to understand my audience and the things I’m qualified to help them understand, the easier the content flowed. I began to solidify my unique approach to things in my mind and now, I can sit down to write about something in my niche because I know it like the back of my hand.
This lead to me making a couple of digital products too, and those now bring passive income into my business on autopilot.
The more content I create, the larger my audience becomes, and my sales go up with it.
This is something I never thought was for me, but I discovered that once you have a bank of content and an audience of people who are interested in that content, there are all sorts of ways you can monetize.
Without a blog, I’m 100% sure I’d never have gotten there.
7. Writing SEO content (and ranking) is really f’ing hard
I have to mention this because I hear a lot of people out there who will tell you the secret to riches is to focus on SEO like it’s no big deal — they get hundreds of thousands of page views and make tens of thousands per month from it.
Don’t get me wrong, I believe SEO is the single best way to build your audience and attract customers… and the best way to optimize your website for search is to blog. SEO is the holy grail. It’s evergreen traffic and it’s FREE, and of all my promotional strategies for my content, it converts the best.
BUT, it’s harder than people claim.
A lot of the people who are dominating in search and teaching others about it started out 10 years ago and have 500 blog posts in the can… or they have a super-defined niche that’s not overly crowded with competition that has lots of buyer-intent keywords associated with it.
OF COURSE they are making tens of thousands per month.
How successful you can be with SEO and how fast Google will begin to reward you in search depends on a lot of different factors.
For example, I had a big advantage when I started blogging on this domain because it had been around for 15 years and I had loads of backlinks to it out of the gate. I know it would have taken me MUCH longer had I started with a fresh website — I would have had to do a lot more guest blogging and link building to gain traction.
While your content is out there “percolating” with Google and other search engines, you will first need to promote it on Pinterest, social media, curation sites and directories like nobody’s business. (This course is badass at showing you how to use social media to get your content visible and creating systems that make it easier.)
But my best advice is to learn how to do SEO so in time, your posts will start to rank. You will, at some point, see a “hockey stick of traffic” where it mostly looks flat for a long time and then BOOM, starts to pick up momentum.
It took me a while to learn what Google will reward me for. Now, even if my website isn’t as “authority” as others, I can find topics that I know with pretty accurate certainty I’ll be able to outrank them for…
Staying focused and showing you have expertise in one area means Google sees you as more authoritative than “big name” websites whose content is not as relevant to the topic at hand. YAY relevancy. THIS is probably the best lesson of them all.
Once I figure out a sweet topic that people are actively seeking out and is relevant to my blog categories, I try to write the best piece of content I can on that topic. And I must say, that doesn’t happen in an hour or in 500 words like some bloggers will tell you. Quantity and quality both matter. My content that ranks in search is a minimum of 1,500 words and some are 4,500 words or more.
It takes creating a piece of content that goes in-depth on a topic with supporting research and graphics and a logical order of content covering all of the possible questions people have about this subject to get in the game with more established websites.
I try to create one “Pillar SEO posts” per month because it takes me about a week to do this properly and the rest are shorter posts.
Click here to learn the three types of blog posts I write for a perfect content mix.
8. They were right about building your list, it’s important
Sometimes, if I touch on a painful problem my audience has with a blog post, people will reach out to me to hire me on the spot to help them even more with that problem.
But it rarely works like a magic bullet like that.
People hire people they know, like, and most importantly TRUST and I build trust with my audience in my emails. A twist on a famous Zig Ziglar quote is something I keep in the back of my mind every single day:
“If they don’t trust you, they ain’t buyin’.”
My email list is where I build my reputation with potential buyers and clients and once you have an email list of a certain size, you can start depending on a certain amount of income from your email promotional efforts.
I like to think of this as “turning on the money faucet” — that’s what we all want, right?
Well, there ain’t no turning on a money faucet if you aren’t building a list of potential buyers, so start building your email list from day one. It will take some time for you to learn what strategies will work best for list building and it will take you some time to learn what the heck to even email people.
My best advice is, even if you only have 3 people on your list, start sending regular emails to them as though you have 3,000 or even 30,000. By the time you do have a larger following, you’ll be comfortable with it.
Click here to learn the list-building strategy that FINALLY worked for me after taking courses and doing all the things the gurus told me to – those things never really moved the needle for me, and I think a large reason why is because tactics just stop working over time as people become fatigued by them.
My strategy may not work for you, but I’ve also learned it’s important to test things first hand and if it doesn’t work, there’s always another strategy to try.
9. It’s impossible to be for everyone and you shouldn’t try
I remember those first emails I sent to my meager list. I knew exactly (to the number) how many people had signed up because there were under 50 for gosh, at least a year! 😂
So if someone unsubscribed, it would hit me hard. I’d contemplate all day what I had done wrong and what I needed to change.
Looking back I laugh at this because now I know that every person with an email list gets unsubscribes with nearly every email they send.
It’s not personal and it doesn’t mean you’ve done anything wrong. It just means you’re cultivating your community and building your tribe of people who actually need you.
10. It’s harder than I thought it would be and more rewarding too
I guess you could say I come from the “first generation of bloggers” back in the day when your friends and family probably weren’t even on the internet. Businesses weren’t blogging yet, there was no such thing as social media, and blogging was enjoying its wild wild west days.
Back then, all you really needed to do was show up and write — it was easy enough to build an audience because it was a much smaller pond.
When I returned to blogging for the purpose of building my business, I wasn’t quite prepared how much work was required to create “competitive content.”
It wasn’t enough to be a decent writer and have a nice website design, what’s underneath the surface of the blogging iceberg is making every piece of content the best of its kind out there and then promoting the ever-lovin’ bleep out of it… forever. For as long as that content exists.
Twice a year I do a complete blog audit and update posts and that takes about a week of full focus. The more posts I have, the more time I spend managing that content… creating new promotional graphics to keep things fresh, adding more detail to bump it up in search, and creating new opt-in incentives and sales funnels.
I literally had no clue what I was signing up for, but the bright silver lining is that blogging has taught me nearly everything I know about online marketing (even though I’ve been in this industry for a loooong time). Unless you’re in the trenches, you just can’t grasp how much goes into it.
As for how I feel about things now and where I see things heading, surprisingly, my blog is turning into a business in and of itself.
Creating content is something I ADORE and because I’ve been able to monetize my content by partnering with affiliates and selling my own products, it’s an income stream I can count on and I can’t wait to look back and see where I am after post #200!
But some of the most rewarding exchanges I’ve had with my audience are people who can’t afford my products and services at all. Without my blog, I wouldn’t be able to make an impact in the lives of the people I’m here for. Whether they ever become a customer or not, I’m richly rewarded.
So blogging. *raises glass* Here’s to the next 100. Thanks for reading!
Taughnee Stone is an award-winning designer, brand strategist, and location-independent business owner for over 15 years. Originally from Anchorage, Alaska, she now lives in Croatia with her husband, energetic Samoyed, and three bossy cats.