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13 Things I’ve Learned about Successful Blogging [My 5000th Post on ProBlogger]

blog-lessons.jpgThis is my 5000th post here on ProBlogger.net. To commemorate the moment I thought I’d share some of the lessons that I’ve learned in building my blogs.

I was recently asked as the last question (with 60 seconds to go) in a radio interview how I’d built my blogs into successful blogs. What follows is what I wish I’d had time to say.

1. Anticipate Growing Trends

I started ProBlogger back in 2004 (after blogging for a couple of years on other blogs) with a suspicion that making money from blogs would be something that would become more and more common. This blog was an attempt to position myself in the middle of that emerging trend, to help shape it and to create a profile within it.

Take Home Lesson: Watch for and anticipate emerging trends and attempt to plonk yourself (plonk being the technical word for it) right down in the middle of them. Of course this is not easy and there’s an element of luck in picking the right trend (see below for more on Luck).

2. Solve Problems and Meet Needs

This blog has always been a ‘how to’ or ‘tips’ type blog. This is not the only type of blog that succeeds but it certainly is a great thing to build a blog around. I’ve started 30 or so blogs over the years and the only three that have had success and survive today take on a ‘tips’ approach.

Take Home Lesson: My mantra of late: ‘solve people’s problems and they’ll come back for more (and tell their friends about you)’.

3. Write for YOU

I began ProBlogger with multiple goals – one of which was to teach myself how to be a better blogger. While I’d been blogging for two years before starting this blog and had been making money from those blogs for a year – I was a the beginning of my journey and wanted to learn more about blogging.

Many of my posts (particularly early ones) have been recording of the lessons I’m learning, research that I’m doing into areas that I wanted to know more about and questions that I asked others to share their experience in (so we could all learn).

I also have a genuine interest in blogging. Again – of the 30 blogs I’ve run over the years its been those that I’ve had a genuine interest in that I’ve been able to sustain.

Take Home Lesson: Blog about topics you enjoy and have an interest in. Write for yourself as much as anyone else. Your readers will be more drawn into your blogging if they see you as the blogger are engaged.

4. Blog over the Long Term and Blog Regularly

In September of this year I’ll have published posts virtually every day on this blog for 5 years (that makes me tired just thinking about it).

5000 posts is small in comparison to some blogs out there but it signals to readers that you’re here for the long haul and are willing to be consistant in providing them with content to engage with.

While it’s not the only factor, sticking at blogging on the one topic for that long and people are bound to start noticing.

Take Home Lesson: if you’re looking for success with your blog – bunker down and set yourself for a long term project.

5. Be Interactive

While it’s an area that can always improve I’ve worked hard over the years to build a blog that is interactive.

Whether it be the comments section (there are now 148,294 comments on this blog), competitions/giveaways, polls, group writing projects etc – I’ve been quite intentional about giving people things to DO when they visit ProBlogger.

Take Home Lesson: People don’t just come online to consume content – many are looking to contribute, interact and belong.

6. Be Personal

I’ve not been overly strategic about this – rather I think it’s my natural style/instinct – but here at ProBlogger I’ve always injected a personal flavor into this blog.

It’s partly about the way I write but also comes out in the video posts that I do, using my own image around the blog, telling about the mistakes I’ve made as well as the successes, writing with emotion (at times), showing a more personal side on Twitter and the stories that I try to inject into my posts from time to time.

People respond well to this – my hunch is that they’re more likely to keep coming back to a blog if they feel they have a connection with a person there.

Take Home Lesson: don’t be afraid to let the real you shine through on your blog. People connect with people not just words.

7. Go Where People Are Already Gathering

I spend a lot of time OFF my blog interacting with people. Whether it be Twitter, Facebook or on other people’s blogs etc – I try to spend time where the kind of people I want to read my blog hang out (as well as the ones who already do read my blog).

When you do this you not only find new readers but you build your brand, meet others who are doing similar things to you to network with and you learn a lot of lessons that you can take back to improve your blog.

Take Home Lesson: Don’t be too insular and just spend time on your own web property – get out there and participate in the wider web.

8. Build Your Brand

My efforts in branding have come about more on instinct than much else but I have worked hard to get the name ‘ProBlogger’ out there over the last 5 years.

I use it (and the logo of this blog) in social media, on the book I co-authored, when I’m speaking or being interviewed and wherever else I can.

I’m fortunate enough (and there’s a big element of luck here in that I chose to use that name for my blog) to have a brand that people actually have come to use in describing those making a living from blogging.

Take Home Lesson: Don’t just think about how you can find new readers – think about how you can make a positive impression upon those who come into contact with you or your blog.

9. Spot and Follow Opportunities

Tuning in to the opportunities that constantly arise around you is one of the main skills that I’d encourage new business owners to work on.

My recent 31 Days to Build a Better Blog workbook is an example of this. I was running this project as a free series of posts here on ProBlogger when participants began to ask me for something that put it all in one document to work on in their own time. I began to see an opportunity to extend the project and the workbook idea was born. I followed the thread of an idea and made it a reality and in doing so created another income stream for my blog.

Note: part of this process is making mistakes. For every thing that I’ve done on my blog that has worked – there are 10 – 20 that have either been ‘average’ and not worth repeating or screaming failures. The key is to try new things – lots of them.

Take Home Lesson: Never be satisfied with the way you currently do things. There’s always a way to evolve what you’re doing now and make it better, to take a mistake you’ve made and flip it into a success story or to grow something that your readers respond well to into a project of its own.

10. Develop Partnerships

I’m very aware of my own limitations. There are aspects of my business and my blogging where I lack skills or where I’m not experienced.

In these ‘weaknesses’ I choose to develop partnerships and relationships with others.

At times this has meant hiring others to do work, occasionally it’s meant bartering or exchanging services with one another and on rarer occasions it has led to business partnerships (almost always this business partnership type arrangement has emerged slowly over time).

Take Home Lesson: While it’s possible to do everything yourself there comes a ceiling where you either need to stop growing or involve others. My main advice on finding people to work with is to take it slow. Develop a relationship, do small things first instead of investing too much into the relationship and work with people you like.

11. Know Your Goals and Stay Focused

I’m not the most organized, disciplined, strategic or structured person in the world.

However…. I do have a handful of overarching goals and values that determine much of what I do each day.

I think it’s really important to have some kind of vision or goal of where you’re headed – without this you’ll easily get off track and become distracted.

Take Home Lesson: It doesn’t need to be a formal strategic plan – but do know why you’re doing what you do and be willing to filter things that don’t fit with that goal from your daily activities.

12. Work Hard

This comes out in some of the points above but I think it needs to be stated again. Some promote blogging as a passive income or an easy way to make money online.

While I know a few bloggers who make a little money with spammy, automated tools – the reality is that the blogs those create will never have great long term success. They might make a few dollars but if you want to build a blog that builds a readership, that builds your profile, that is respected and well regarded as an authority and that is profitable in the long term – you need be ready to work your butt off.

I can’t really speak for others but I know that the success I’ve had in blogging so far has come from a lot of hard work.

Take Home Lesson: Long hours, extreme effort, sacrifice and a lot of time go into building great blogs.

13. Be Lucky

I’ve spoken about this previously but Luck has and continues to play a part of my blogging success (previous mentions on luck include Be Lucky and How to Be Lucky.

While there are times where you make your own luck – there are also times where things do just seem to fall in your lap. The key is to make the most of these instances.

Take Home Lesson: When good fortune does strike think about how you can extend it and make the most of it.

What Lessons Have You Learned about Blogging?

I’d love to hear some of the lessons that other bloggers have learned in their time as bloggers (whether they be long or short journeys). Share your lessons in comments below so we can learn from your experience!

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. BLOGERCISE says:

    I’d argue that point one, jump on growing trends, is the single most important point here for people looking for break. I’ve seen many blogs do all the other things well and not get anywhere.

    But I’ve seen bad blogs that are in the right place at the right time that have gone from strength to strength. Once you have momentum you have to really screw things up to drop off. I’d be interested to hear any stories of big blogs that went on to die (for reasons other than they shut down).

    My own successes all came from being at the right place at the right time (luck?) but once you are established the next steps are so much easier.

  2. David says:

    excellent post . You have achieved a lot with your blog . If I succeed half as much as you have I will be very happy

  3. Iris Rounds says:

    LUCK . . . is that “being at the right place at the right time”? If so, I feel lucky and blessed to have stumbled upon this blog post this morning! The things you pointed out resonated deeply with me and were just what I needed to read today to overcome my procrastination and begin blogging.

    Darren, I look forward to reading all 4,999 of your previous posts and at least 5,000 more of your posts yet to be released. You just don’t know how inspiring this 5,000th post has been for me! I look forward to learning a lot from you that will help make my journey as a blogger a much smoother ride.

    Thanks, Darren, for making my day!

  4. Robert says:

    WOW!! 5000 is pretty remarkable. Obviously you have a gift for writing, It isnt easy to always come up with the right thing to say, but you seem to have a skill for it. Congrats…

  5. I thought 400 over the years was a feat but 5000??!!!

    I’ll try not to feel too small among greatness.

    I do however get some comfort from your 13 tips that I not only agree with but practice on my own. I had no idea that my own blog would still be going strong but get such enjoyment out of it because of these very tips you have found.

    Most likely you’ve found these the same way I did, through trial and error over time.

    Thanks for the list and helping me realize I’m doing this for all the right reasons.

  6. fas says:

    5000 posts, that insane and you still have ideas for the next day, super stuff there. You know how to brainstrom.

  7. Darren-

    Congrats! 5000 posts is a huge accomplishment! Is there a Guinness Book Record for that one? :-)

    Excellent outline, and that you put Be Lucky at #13 far after all the hard work is a fair placement. It took a lot of work to get things where you are at, and you deserve it.

    Thanks for inspiring so many.

    -Travis

  8. Congratulations on your 5000th post, Darren! That is a lot of work, a lot of sharing.

    As to what I’ve learned about blogging, I think thus far I’ve learned at least as much about what doesn’t work as what does. I’ve been blogging for a couple of years, but have more recently done so from a standpoint of making a living with it eventually.

    I do know the more I read others, the more I learn. I have also found out that taking risks gains more than always playing it safe, so I experiment.

    Thank YOU for all I’ve learned here.

    Karen Chaffee

  9. Denise says:

    Congrats Darren on your 5000th post!! I’ve learned more than I could ever even have imagined to be possible. A very long story shortened was I was tired and frustrated, to put it mildly, that I was constantly being told that there were basically nothing but scams and the like and merely a whole lot of dishonesty on the internet. I am happy to say to all of those nay-sayers that they are wrong. I found a very informative and enjoyable blog authority right here, and many others through ProBlogger, and my world has changed significantly. I appreciate all that you have shared, the education, the sincerity and the honesty. I’m finding that it is a lot of work and long hours but am enjoying it. I look forward to your next 5000 posts. Continued success to you Darren.

  10. quickmoneyone says:

    Defenitly awsome 5000 post???? incredible I havent event started mine yet but I cant wait to be there thanks for the book hope i can read 31 days soon I am getting so exited from just reading all the success stories from you really inspiring dont change

  11. Julie Duriga says:

    Congratulations! 5000 posts…what a an incredible accomplishment! As a new blogger, I aspire to be as credible and as well known as you. Thanks for your honesty and for your contribution.

  12. filoss says:

    Congrats!

    I found your blog just few weeks ago, but I like it. Now Im reading all your new posts and try to read older. 5000? Oh, I will spend there a looong tim ;)

    Good luck ;)

  13. Keith Dsouza says:

    Congrats on completing 5000 posts Darren, that’s huge achievement, I reached a milestone too recently and it felt really really great.

    Congrats once again and Cheers.

  14. Congrats on a really inspiring, sincere and practical post. I’ve been reading and learning a lot from your blogs. But 5000 posts? I thought it was a typo error. Here I was agonizing on my 40th post, with few visitors. Now I’ll just keep your 13 points right beside my computer for handy reference and reminders. Work hard, build your brand and be ready when luck comes around, that will be my mantra. Thanks.

  15. Congratulations on the 5,000th post Darren. I think I’m about 3,000 behind you :-) But then again, I’ve only been blogging for about 9 months now.

    I have to say that last year when I had no clue what a blog was, why I would want one, and how I could make money from it I stumbled across your site and as luck would have it won a copy of your book from another site.

    Winning is what I write about and I help people win cash and prizes everyday. I have been VERY lucky blogging and did exactly what you said, tried a lot of things until the topic fit. Of course, I should have known it would be my topic because I haven’t stopped talking about sweepstakes since I started entering them in 1993.

    Anyway, I wanted to give you one more thing I found that works very well. As my blog(s) have grown what I have done is listen and adapt my blog based on what the readers are telling me. If they suggest something I may try and if it works I keep it. I found that the readers have helped me grow but only because I was willing to adapt and change. If you only stick to what you think is best and aren’t flexible you won’t grow as much as if you listen to your readers and actually learn from them.

    I am now a full-time blogger and my site was featured on MSN, AOL, CNN Living and I got to appear on National TV (Tyra Banks show for all of those US people here) so I’d say luck did have something to do with my success.

    Keep up the good work – I’m loving the EYEBALLS! I think I need a picture like that on my site – NOT!

    Wendy (Sweetie from http://www.sweetiessweeps.com)

  16. Typhoon says:

    Cool 5000 Posts…Can someone count it? ha ha just joking.

    Congrats Darren on achieving this big landmark.

    So in how many years can we look your 10000th Post?

    Regards
    Typhoon a.k.a Sushant
    http://www.smartbloggerz.com

  17. Mukund says:

    Congrats on your 5000th post. You serve as an inspiration for bloggers like me! Continue blogging! Love your site a lot!

  18. Elizabeth says:

    Congratulations Darren! 5,000 posts is a ton of work!

    As far as tips that worked for me… I’m a children’s book illustrator so I started participating in Illustration Friday which made me post at least once a week. Then I countered that with Coloring Page Tuesdays – my own thing where I offer a free coloring page every week – http://coloringpagetuesdays.com/ . So that was two posts per week (and I surprise hit). I fill in the gaps with industry news, interviews, reviews, etc. I’m now posting almost daily and have a pretty decent following…not like yours – but it’s growing!

    These are great tips – thanks for sharing!
    :)
    e
    Elizabeth O. Dulemba
    http://dulemba.com

  19. Kerry Dexter says:

    Darren,
    two lessons I’ve learned: network with other bloggers. for me, this has brought in repeat traffic from areas outside my niche, which is Celtic folk music and the practice of being a musician.

    blog at a pace that works for your readers, your topic, and yourself. I’ve been at it for three years this summer, and find that three posts a week gives me time to let ideas flow through the web and bring in/bring back readers.

    congratulations on reaching five thousand — I’m closing in on five hundred.

  20. A HUGE Congratulations on your 5,000th! I look forward to that one day. I have to say you have been such a valuable source of knowledge for me and a great inspiration. I truly believe that you have to have a passion for what you blog about. Thank you so much for helping all of us!!

  21. Lee Ka Hoong says:

    Wow, 5000th post is damn huge number Darren! I appreciate what you write here in Problogger.net and I’ve learned quite a lot from your blog. Thanks for help us out in the blogging journey. Keep writing great articles! :)

    Regards,
    Lee

  22. Your posts always get me inspired, Darren. Congrats!

  23. Tim Bossie says:

    Holy Mega Blogging Batman! 5000 posts is a milestone that should be highly commended. You are truly an inspiration for both veteran and rookie bloggers. Thank you for the incredible information and guidance along the journey.

    Looking forward to the next 5000…. but, don’t take so long this time! :)

  24. Congrats Darren! One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is to be helpful, which is really what ProBlogger is all about. I try to help people figure out how social media, whether it’s blogging or Twitter two name two, is right for them. When my fellow mom bloggers have questions about ad networks or how to handle PR pitches, I try to share some sound advice based on the experiences I’ve had over the past five years blogging, so they don’t make the same mistakes I have and get over the learning curve quicker.

  25. I’ve recently picked up your site from a recommendation from Google Reader, your words are helpful in keeping me working towards my goal to becoming a “blogger.”

    Thanks!

  26. Meagan Clarke says:

    What a great post! It is so much more meaningful when you are blogging about something that you are passionate about.

    I have had the opportunity to do some extensive traveling and am wanting to start a blog of my adventures and tips for other travelers. I was wanting a reliable site to put my site on to get more viewers. Someone suggested travelhqr.com. If this works, I am definitely going to take what you’ve written about under consideration, it was some great thoughts!

    Thanks so much.

  27. Tiger says:

    Dear Darren,

    Congrats on the sheer amount and effort. 5 years is no short time. Just stumbled on your blog about a week ago and am loving it. I would love to know how to make money by blogging. I think I need to look at your archives first. Let me do that and I will come back. Keep posting.

    Regards,
    Tiger

  28. Wow we must say that you have explained your 5 years experience in this post. Really useful and should go to Hall of Fame Posts.

  29. Jack says:

    Congrats on 5000. I have a lot of post to read. Just found you site today and have read through a few. Hopefully I can learn a lot from your experience and make my blog better.

  30. Congratulations on 5000 Problogger posts! And thank you for starting and sustaining this great blog. I owe a debt of gratitude to you for your generous teachings.

    Wishing you (and all of us) many more years of your great posts.

  31. David N says:

    I just created my first blog site today and have really appreciated your advice that I took time to review before getting started.

  32. Congrats, Darren, on your 5,000th post.

    Your posts have inspired a lot of bloggers to view blogging as a business with huge income potential that requires perseverance and commitment for actualization.

    Keep blogging. We are reading.

  33. Darren, this post inspired me to focus more on my goals to become a successful blogger 5 years from now.

    Blogging in the topics that I have had a great interest in Entrepinoy Bank is a great .-learning experience. I got many information about entrepreneurship which is a growing trend here in the Philippines, many livelihood skills and success secrets from successful entrepreneurs in the Philippine business community. And I learned a lot in the golden rules from the rags to riches, the young millionaires, the business icons, the achievers and the taipans. I quote their golden rules and posted it in Entrepinoy Bank. I share it on this page…http://entrebankph.com/success-secrets-golden-rule-from-philippines-50-top-entrepreneurs/

  34. Sam says:

    Coming from a creative person – your words are great affirmations of what it’s like to be a creative, intuitive… and I have only been on this site for 15 minutes!!! Thanks for being you! Keep up the good words and Congrats on 5000!!! Look forward to reading more!!!

  35. Congrats! I have been coming to your blog often for tips and tricks to improve my blog. I have a long way to go but I am getting there. Once again grats on your 5000th post. I will be back!

  36. 5000 posts! Makes me tired to think of it as well.

    Sure you didn’t miscount? Just joking.

    I would take some exception to the idea that you should only blog about what you personally are interested in, what if you are the guru to only 100′s? Better keep your day job.

    Better advice may be to learn to love the subject that lots of other people love or perhaps try a different way to achieve the goal of making a living from the internet.

    I do understand where you’re coming from and it would be easier to keep motivated to keep blogging if you love the subject but…

    Regardless, keep up the good work.

  37. Wow 5000th posts and still growing ! Amazing, Darren!

    The tips surely repesent yourself and what you have done so far to this blog.

    Keep blogging and keep passionate about it. Results will surely follow afterwards

  38. I think you hit the major points very well, Darren, and I’m glad that a friend of mine pointed me to your post through a comment to something I wrote (http://www.knowprose.com/node/20197#comment-47413 ).

    As I noted, being a successful blogger depends a lot on how one determines what the blogger considers to be success. Some may think it’s Technorati ranking (how fickle), or how many people read something, or how much discussion there is, or how much money the site makes.

    And after about 10 years of blogging, what I do know is this: As you write, your definition of success will change. And probably most importantly – you can’t please everyone… so why bother? Stephen King wrote in ‘On Writing’ that writers cannot be a part of polite society. I think that this applies to bloggers as well – good bloggers. But then, that’s my own perspective and not one that I expect everyone shares.

    But if everyone was a good blogger, we’d have no time to write. We’d be too busy reading. :-)

  39. Good luck I think you will make these projects into a success also!

  40. Nathaniel says:

    Excellent post. I really enjoy reading all of your stuff Darren – keep up the great work!

  41. Abhishek says:

    This is simply awesome…I read this post for 2-3 times thoroughly and learned from each and every words you mentioned out here.This is definitely going to help me in the long run…I am writing for three months and have managed to get good amount of visitors by now…..A good part of the success is because of you…This is definitely going to help me in the long run.

  42. teratips says:

    Congratulation, it’s great achieve for you, happy to hear
    but 5000th posts in how many years?

    http://www.teratips.com

  43. FreeRoller says:

    Congs, darren 5000 post plus the moderation of the other blogs & keeping it reliable is perfect.

    i think it matches with rule #12 (Work Hard).. congs bro

  44. i m late man but congrat ……………….

  45. Gavin says:

    An amazing achievement, and this post as fine as the other 4999, Pro-blogger has helped me so so much, and for that, and you Darren, i am grateful.

  46. Congratulations on reaching 5000 posts….as someone who is new to blogging that seems like an amazing accomplishment. All of your 13 points about what you have learned are valuable and useful to anyone just starting out. I particularly like that you point out that blogging involves hard work- that you don’t just become a success by spending 15 minutes a day working.

  47. 5000 posts thats amazing. Well for me it is lol. The great thing is your content is still fresh and insightful after so many posts. You find new topics to blog about everyday. One thing I need to work on is posting everyday or at least as much as I can. Great tips and post btw.

  48. Congratulations, Darren!

  49. Thanks for the great read, it was very informational on what to do with my blog!

  50. SEO training says:

    Darren, congrats… 5,000 posts…that’s insane! Most bloggers will never achieve that many posts in their lifetime! I definitely have to agree with you on writing about something you’re passionate about. If you don’t love what you do, go home.

    I think readers know when you care about a particular subject matter or topic – it comes through in your writing. I’ll be sure to pick up a copy of your book.

    thanks so much!