Preconceptions about blogging that could be holding you back
I started a blog because I wanted to write about stuff I wanted to write about.
I quit blogging (repeatedly) because I spent far more of my time doing all the other crap you need to do in order to have a successful blog. I didn’t enjoy that, plus I wasn’t getting the results I was promised.
How many times have you read that blogging is 20% writing and 80% promotion? Spending 80% of my time promoting my writing was not my jam at all.
But everyone says it so it must be true.
Turns out, whilst spending 80% of your time promoting your work works for some people, it’s not the only way to get eyes on your words.
So what other preconceptions did I have about blogging that turned out to be rubbish?
By the way, it took me YEARS to realise I didn’t need this crap. I still struggle with ‘my blog would be more successful if I only had…’ now. But I’m learning to ignore that little voice in my head.
1. People care about you
Don’t write about your day, your favourite products, your pets.
No one cares.
I mean, why would they? Unless your mum or your friends are searching ‘what’s X’s favourite mascara?’, who the hell is going to find your content?
Those types of blog posts (and vlogs) are dominated by giants in the field, who started blogging years ago.
I’m not saying you can’t write those posts, but you need to make them useful.
What is it that you love about your mascara? Do you have sensitive eyes? Live somewhere where it rains so much and you need a waterproof mascara that doesn’t rip out your lashes when it comes to removal?
Write for you, but you six months ago, when you were searching for makeup that wasn’t whipped off by the wind. Other people have the same pain points you do — and you’re exactly the person to help them.
People only care about your experience if it helps their experience.
They may love you once they get to your site, but you need to get them there.
Maybe you have a unique way of training your cat. Or you live near a cool tourist destination.
What is it about you that people are interested in, and you can help them with?
2. SEO is hard
SEO can be hard if you’re looking to hack the system and get a lot of pageviews quickly.
But when you’re starting out, forget about everything that isn’t about user experience.
You don’t need backlinks to help your user, you need them for you. To get more traffic. The person you get on your site looking for answers doesn’t care how many other people are there.
Concentrate on answering your user’s query (no clickbait, linking to more informative sites where necessary), and not bugging them (quick loading time, no popups or intrusive ads).
There are a few things you can do that will help — learn how to format your post properly using subheadings, add images where necessary, and don’t waffle on — but this all falls under the spectrum of user-friendliness.
Don’t try to hack the system here. An old trick used to be to keyword-stuff the alt tags of images, but Google’s wise to that now. The alt tags are partly there to help visually impaired people — so help them by using alt tags to describe the picture.
3. I need to be a photographer
You don’t and you don’t need a fancy camera.
There are some niches that you should avoid if you either don’t want to take your own pictures or can’t hire someone — Product reviews are possible, for example, but it’s hard to stand out from the crowd if you’re using the same stock images of everyone else.
Fortunately, Unsplash is well-supplied with photos of house plants, so I mainly use those. If I need to take pictures of my own plants, I use my phone and resize it in Canva.
If you’re interested in photography, good for you. But after a fancy-pants DSLR, countless courses, and so much equipment to go with it, I gave up on all photography bar the odd unprofessionally-composed iPhone picture.
4. I need fancy equipment
All you need is a computer or a phone.
You don’t need studio lights, or a DSLR or an expensive laptop. All you need is a device with internet access.
It could be an iMac, it could be 2004 Hp laptop. Your reader won’t know.
5. I need fancy software
You don’t need Photoshop, ConvertKit, Canva for pros, Tailwind or any of those.
For a start, there’s usually a free option.
You may say there’s no free Pinterest scheduler, but there is: you, private boards, and multiple reminders on your phone.
I set up my house plant blog as an experiment. I paid for a domain name and hosting, but nothing else.
Six months in, it has the same number of pageviews as my other blog, which has a premium theme and a Tailwind plan (which I don’t use anymore since Pinterest’s recent algorithm change).
6. I need to promote my blog
This one is controversial.
If you want to be a full-on ‘blogger’ and do the linkups, the commenting, twitter parties and all that stuff, then go for it.
A lot of people LOVE spending time working out how to tame the algorithm on the various social sites, and I’m a bit jealous, but I hate that stuff.
I’m here to write. That’s what I like to do.
I quit blogging so many times because I convinced myself that I couldn’t blog without promoting, and I couldn’t promote without either spending money that I didn’t have or spending hours a week (that I didn’t have) on promotional strategies.
I’ve wasted hundreds of hours promoting my vegan blog, sharing on Twitter, Facebook, and setting up Tailwind, which would have been better spent writing posts.
The ultimate promotional strategy is writing content that people are searching for, that hasn’t been written about (or has been written out badly/incorrectly) yet.
7. I need 1000 pageviews a month from day one
It’s so disheartening reading about how new bloggers are getting 1000s of pageviews a month in the first few months of their blog being launched.
The thing is, either they’re extremely lucky, they blog full time, or they’re getting vanity traffic, i.e. traffic that only reads their post for a couple of seconds before clicking away.
And sure, it’s nice to look at your stats and see 1000 views per day, but not if you hated the process of getting there, and are feeling burnt out.
And not if when you stop hustling for the traffic, it disappears.
That just sounds extremely stressful.
If you go down the getting-100%-of-your-traffic-from-SEO route, you won’t have thousands of pageviews a month in the first month.
You may not get any. Or any the next month.
In fact, it may be nearly a year before you reach that point, but the traffic will be organic — you didn’t need to fight (or pay) for it. And it’ll be relatively stable. Unless you pick a niche which disappears off the face of the earth.
8. I need an email list
I’m not saying you’ll never need an email list.
I’m just saying don’t waste time making an opt-in freebie, and learning how to use Mailerlite (it’s free and pretty simple to use, but still, hold off for a bit), and design pop-ups and landing pages until you have traffic.
The problem I have with email lists is that we have to practically beg people to sign up, and it goes against my whole ethos of helping people.
I don’t want to bug people. I want to be forgettable, and then memorable in my forgettable-ness.
If you’ve ever worked in a restaurant you’ll know what I mean.
The best customers are the ones that are forgettable. I don’t say that to be mean, but it’s true.
It’s probably true for teachers too — the best students are the ones that just…get on with it.
After a while, you will remember them because they didn’t bug you, and they’ll become your favourite.
But how will they return, if you don’t continually badger them?
Because they want to. Because you write the content they’re interested in.
And when you write a book and write a kick-ass blog post about it, they’ll buy it because they know you won’t bug them about it.
9. I need a consistent upload schedule
Google doesn’t care. Your readers don’t care, especially in the first year.
NB this isn’t true of Youtube. The algorithm favours regular uploaders.
But on your blog, if you can only write five blog posts in a day, twice a month, that’s fine.
In fact, I wouldn't recommend writing a few posts and then scheduling them at regular intervals. There’s no benefit to it, and it’ll just take Google longer to rank them.
Write ’em, publish ’em. You can always go back and add stuff if you need to. That’s the beauty of Wordpress.
10. I can buy success
If you’re rich, you probably can.
You can pay for good freelance writers, great keyword research tools (a human being preferably), great hosting, a speedy theme…
But you’d need to spend A LOT. For most of us, it just isn’t worth it.
There are shortcuts that we’re tempted by. Software like Tailwind to skyrocket our traffic. A blog course that’ll teach us how to make thousands from affiliate marketing.
These can be extremely powerful tools, but you need to put the work in first. Affiliate marketing won’t work until you have traffic, so concentrate on writing first. Tailwind is time-consuming, and at the mercy of the Pinterest algorithm, so it’s not a sure-fire win.
The problem is, it’s hard not to be tempted. I’ve bought Tailwind subscriptions twice. So set yourself a date. You’ll give Tailwind a go in a year. That’ll give you a year to get some great content up.
The problem with buying solutions is that it’s so much more demotivating when they don’t work.
If you pay for something, it works, yes? So you begin to question why it didn’t work for you.
It worked for everyone else — there’ so many case studies on it.
Self-doubt begins to creep in. You think that blogging isn’t for you. You picked the wrong niche, the wrong side hustle, etc etc etc.
Don’t let it. Build up some search traffic first. The rest can come later.
If you’re reading this, you don’t need anything more to start a blog. You already have access to some kind of internet-enabled device.
If you have some cash, go and get hosting and a domain name. If you can’t afford that, read this post.
Good luck. Don’t get sucked into the list building hype.