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The 5 C’s of Blogging (What I’ve Learned Over 6 Years at ProBlogger)

6 years ago today I imported a series of posts that I’d written about blogging on my previous blog over to the ProBlogger.net domain – ProBlogger was born. I look back on that time and while I was almost making a full time living from blogging there was so much about the medium that I didn’t yet know. I still feel I have a lot to learn but thought I’d take a few minutes out today to reflect on some of the lessons I’ve learned about blogging.

I’ve identified 5 things that I’d concentrate (I only started this video with 3 but by the end had 5) on if I were starting out again today. They all begin with ‘C’.

Thanks to everyone for making ProBlogger what it is today – 6 years on from that first day!

Notes

Transcription of – The Five C’s of Blogging: Reflections on 8 Years of Blogging

I’ve had this video transcribed below for those who prefer to get it that way. The transcription provided by The Transcription People.

Today as you, as this video goes up on ProBlogger, it’s the six year birthday of ProBlogger. Naomi Dunford emailed me last week to remind me of the birthday. I think she started blogging on my third birthday, so she remembers it every year. She reminded me of it and offered to put a guest post up on that day, a birthday post which will go up later today.

I wanted to take a few moments out today to reflect upon the six years of ProBlogger and the almost eight years that I’ve been blogging. I started in 2002, and I wanted to reflect on some of the lessons that I’ve learned and particularly how I’d go about it if I was starting out again today.

Whilst what I’m going to share today isn’t really rocket science, I think it’s good to be reminded of these things, whether we’re new bloggers or older bloggers because whilst we often know this stuff, we don’t actually always do it – and I find myself in that category as well.

If I was to start out again today, there’d be three or four different things that I would be focusing upon.

1. Content

The first one is content. Now, that’s a bit of a no-brainer in many ways. Of course you’d be focusing upon content as a blogger, a blogs not a blog really without some kind of content whether that be video or text or audio or images.

But really, your blog’s success hangs upon what you put up on to it.

As I’ve said many times on ProBloggers over the years, if it’s not enhancing someone’s life in some way, the chances are, they’re not going to come back again. That enhancement of their lives, solving problems, meeting needs in some way could be a big thing. It could be helping them to be a better Dad or a Mum, or helping them to learn something that will help their career.

It could be big things like that, or it could be small things. Giving them a chuckle, giving them a laugh. Helping them to know that they’re not the only person with a problem. Giving them a sense of community, a place for them to connect with other people. These are problems that you can be solving with your content. Your content needs to be useful in some way. And really I guess a lot of what I would be doing if I was starting out again today, is identifying the problems that people have, needs that they have and trying to work out how I can develop content that is meeting those needs on a daily basis. Just putting content on a blog that doesn’t really mean anything, that doesn’t actually help someone in some way, it’s kind of empty, and as a result, most blogs that do that don’t really reach the heights that they could.

2. Community

The second thing that I’d be putting a lot of time into and I guess I did this particularly in the early days of my first blogs was community.

Helping people who come across your blog to feel like they’re being noticed, feel like they’re being heard, and giving them opportunities to meet other readers of your blog. It’s just such a vitally important thing.

People don’t go online just to consume content any more. They’re actually going online to belong and we’re seeing this with the rise of Facebook and Twitter and social media. The popularity for many years now of forums and chat, and all this web stuff that we’re seeing, it’s all about community, it’s all about belonging.

This is what attracted me to blogs in the first place, is that one, they would give me a voice, but two, they would enable me to connect with real people who shared my passions and interests in life. And yeah, so I guess, starting out again today and even tomorrow as I continue with my blogging, community is something that really I think needs to be a priority for us.

Taking notice of your readers, valuing your readers opinion, including that in some way. Valuing that in a public way on your blog is really important.

3. Connection

The third thing I guess I’d focus on, and this is something I didn’t really focus on that much for the first few years on my own blogging, was, is, I call it, to keep the “C” theme running, the content community, I call it connection, and giving people connecting points for you.

It’s perhaps not the best word for it, but if we want to keep the “C’s” rolling, then that’s what we’ll go with. Really it’s about capturing people’s email addresses, a place where you can continue to have that connection with them, it’s about getting them to subscribe to your blog in some way, it’s about connecting with them on Twitter or Facebook, wherever it might be that’s relevant for your niche.

This is so important. I look back on those early days on my first blogs where I didn’t focus on this, and I think of all the tens and hundreds of thousands of readers that came through my blogs that I didn’t actually offer them a way of an ongoing relationship.

For many years, I was just satisfied that people were reading it, and that’s a great thing, but what if I could get those people back again? Those hundreds of thousands of people who kind of just slipped through my fingers over the years and that didn’t connect in some deeper way. Now many of them did, they went out of their way to find ways of connecting with me, and I’m grateful for that.

It was only in the last few years that I began to offer people newsletters or connection points on Twitter and Facebook and that type of thing. So, whatever it might be for your niche that’s a relevant way of communicating with them and connecting with them, go out of your way to find ways of connecting with them. Don’t rely on other people going out of their way to connect with you.

4. Cash

The fourth thing I’d say is, again, keeping with the “C” word is cash, is money, is it monetising. Now this isn’t a goal for every blogger, but for me, as someone after a year or two decided that I wanted this to be my way of making a living, I began to have to think of ways about monetising my blogs and really, it’s about sustainability.

If you’re able to sustain your blogging in some other way and don’t need to make money out of it, then that’s fine. But for many of us, we want our blogs to at least break even, we want to be able to pay for the costs of the blog. We want to be able to, you know, pay for a nice new design or the hosting and that type of thing. And for many of us we actually want to make a living out of that as well.

In this regard I’d say, experiment with different ways of monetising your blogs. Many of us start out with AdSense or an ad network or Amazon’s affiliate program, and these are great starting points, but don’t just be satisfied with, you know, doing it in one way. Actually be constantly on the lookout for new ways of monetising, and be on the lookout for ways that you can directly monetise, and you don’t have to rely necessarily upon an ad network, or some other third party to help you monetise your blog.

Be thinking all along of, ‘could I write an eBook? Could I run a course? Could I have a membership site? Could I sell myself as a Consultant? Could I write a book?’ These types of things that you can more directly monetise your site also.

5. Contribute

And I guess the last thing I’d say, and it’s not really a “C” thing at all, and it really comes down, it really incorporates all these different things is, actually do something that’s worthwhile. I come across bloggers from time to time who create blogs that kind of are, they’re just about making money and they’re not actually about contributing anything to the world that we live in. And whilst I kind of understand that on some levels, you know, we all need to make a living, I kind of went through a phase where I did that myself. I had blogs that were just creating noise, and, in the hope of, you know, getting a few readers from search engines and making a few dollars on the side. And I actually found that to be a really empty process.

Creating blogs that are just sort of spammy, adding random content on to the web may actually make you a few dollars, but make it your ultimate goal to contribute.

If we’re going to use a “C” word, perhaps it’s contribute. Do something that makes a difference in this world.

It strikes me increasingly as I do my own blogging that people are coming to read my stuff every day and I’m helping through my content, but perhaps there are ways I can contribute and make the world a better place as I’m also doing that in different ways. I, early next year I’m going to Tanzania with a charity to actually look at one of their projects and to capture the story of that in video and image and to share it on my blogs. And whilst that’s not really on topic in some ways, I kind of feel like as bloggers we have a responsibility to use the voices that we’ve been given and to use the profile that we have and the credibility that perhaps we have and to actually use it for good in some ways. And I think that’s a responsibility for us as bloggers, and I’d love to see us as bloggers really take this more seriously. And for me that’s something that I want to do over the next few years in particular.

So, there are my five “C’s”, content, community, connection, points of connection, cash and contributing something of value to the world and the blogosphere. They’re some of the, I guess, the lessons that I’ve learned. The things that I am wanting to inspire, re-inspire myself to continue to build on as I go forward in to the next six or so years of ProBlogger. And I’d love to hear some of your feedback in comments below.

Hope this has been of some value to you as you continue your own blogging.

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. Barbara says:

    Another C is Congratulations! I am very grateful for your constant guidance and great content Darren! I started my blog last feb. and was totally clueless. My husband forwarded me your blog and I immediately subscribed. It has helped me through lots of ups and downs, and I’m hoping you never stop blogging because I’m sure I still have soooo much to learn!
    Thanks for all you do!
    Barbara

  2. As usual, a great read Darren. Learning is one thing…now I must take ACTION!

    Cheers dude, Adam
    yourdigitalfix.blogspot.com

  3. M. Hawk says:

    Interesting thoughts about what you’ve learned. I’d love to see more postings about how your blog, and blogging in general has matured over the years. What worked 5 years ago, but doesn’t work today? What are up and coming ways to monetize and publicize that didn’t exist 5 years ago (obviously twitter and facebook…but what else)?

  4. Hi Darren,
    Another C I think you already use is Critical Thinking. You not only provide content but you work thru it to make sure it has impact and that requires Critical Thinking.

    Congratulations on 6 years of dedication to your readers.
    David

  5. Excellent points. Building your expert status into a role as a consultant is a good way to go. And the reverse can work, too. If you’re a consultant, you can leverage your blog to build credibility, community and collateral. Marketers have called brochures, whitepapers and reports “collateral” for years. It’s like proof of your worth. Your blog can help do the same.

  6. Darren:

    I have been following you for some time, and struggling a bit with my own blog. Your video reinforced for me the way I feel about blogging.

    I ran my own aviation insurance business for 30 years before selling it in 2004, and the thing I liked most about that business was sharing with my fellow aviators and helping those who needed help.

    I am following your 31 Days to Build A Better Blog and just purchased your book ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income.

    Thanks for helping to keep my focus on the 5 Cs.

    John a/k/a JetAviator7

  7. Carstarphen says:

    I like the 3 C’s.

    They all make sense. Under the contribute point, when you referred to blogs posting random content…were you referring to autoblogs?

    I think they are a good way to earn additional income, but I agree that your primary blog should provide much more of a contribution to society.

    Thanks for this post.

    J

  8. Faizan says:

    Seems you reflecting your career! And thanks for a share!

  9. Roger says:

    Very professional. Very meaningful. I think your strongest point is about connecting with people. Even if bloggers have something very intelligent to say, without community the story may become forgotten soon. Thanks for the inspiration Darren!

  10. this is a good wrap-up for what I’ve learn so far from this information bank.

  11. Really a great post. I believe all 5 points are important, but the “Content is the king” :) As Matt says

  12. Very Inspiring !

    I agree that connecting with people, whilst adding real value to whatever the community is, this should be what gets us to hit those keys every day.

    Robert

  13. Niki Aguirre says:

    I’m a newbie – that’s for sure. I am really digging your blog posts. You are a fantastic teacher. You are so right on about the community feeling. We all want to feel that we are important and apart of the big picture. Rock on.

  14. Tim Olsen says:

    Congrats on 6 years Darren!

    Your 5 C’s are spot on with respect to creating a successful blog.I think content and community are most important, for me, and like the old saying, “If you build it, they will come.” But, of course, it takes a sustained effort, as you have demonstrated over the years.

    I’m always looking for good content to write about, but sometimes need to get out of my own way. Distractions abound, and soon I’m swimming in the cesspool of procrastination. Content is all around us… I know I just need to follow through.

    By focusing on good content and giving readers a chance to participate inevitably will build community. But, also incorporating fun stuff and industry-oriented news makes it more interesting. Another thing you have shown all of us.

    Your 5 C’s have given me a simple way to refocus when I’m distracted. Good, basic, sound advice to keep it simple and motivate oneself. So, I’m getting back to work here! Thanks Darren!

  15. Tim Olsen says:

    Hey… another good C to consider might be Commitment. Be committed to creating and building a great blog. Commit to your vision of the blog and the goals you have set. Commit to your readers to provide that great content and community and everything else that goes with it. Just sayin…

  16. instyler says:

    Another C is Congratulations! I am very grateful for your constant guidance and great content Darren! I started my blog last feb. and was totally clueless. My husband forwarded me your blog and I immediately subscribed. It has helped me through lots of ups and downs, and I’m hoping you never stop blogging because I’m sure I still have soooo much to learn!
    Thanks for all you do!

    i agree barbara

  17. Thanks so much for your 5C’s. Such simple concepts (another c!) but your post has encouraged me to repair my blog’s foundations. I need to cut through the ‘noise’ that I am creating and provide a more meaningful contribution for teaching colleagues who are trying to make sense of the web 2 tools available for their classrooms. I can do that. I just forgot how. Printing out the 5Cs now!

  18. Just have to thank you for this awesome share. Its much appreciated :) Now i can use the five C’s on my own site

  19. Great post.

    Six years of blogging huh…..how many is that in dinosaur years?

    Keep up the good work.

  20. Mukund says:

    As usual, another great post!!! You inspire me always with your writing. Another ‘C’ which I would like to add is, the Curiosity to learn. I have seen many of your older posts, may be yours or in the guest articles, where you/author declares that they are in learning the art of blogging and I don’t find any one saying that they have reached the saturation limit. Any way, great article Darren!!!

    Free Premium Blogger Templates

  21. janwong says:

    First and foremost, congrats to an awesome 6 years of 5Cs, commitment and dedication!

    The 5Cs will indeed help many bloggers out there that are still trying to find their place in the blogosphere. Simple and straight to the point. I doubt one can actually go wrong reading your posts.

    I’ve personally benefited a lot from your tips and advices as an entrepreneur and blogger myself. Thank you and keep up the awesome work! :)

  22. Darren

    Happy belated 6th Birthday
    Congrats

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on what you have learned along the way.
    I will reach the 6th year mark in March 2011.
    Regarding Ad networks, I cannot say I am satisfied with control on Ads displayed and I feel that in the past 2 years it has brought diminishing returns so I am thinking of dropping Ad networks altogether.
    I started selling ads directly. I know what they are, how long they will run and will bring in and I get paid upfront.
    I am also considering a ‘marketplace’ page with products and services I like and feel comfortable recommending.

    I have broadened my readership in past year by starting to do interviews with chefs, cookbook authors and others in wine and travel field.

    In the process, I have established a working relationship with around 10 publishers and as a side benefit I get review copies of many nice books.

    Hope to catch up with you in person soon

    Serge
    ‘The French Guy from New Jersey’
    http://www.sergetheconcierge.com

    Facebook: sergetheconcierge
    Twitter: @theconcierge

  23. Peter Mello says:

    Hi Darren,

    you are certainly right. I would say especially the first year of blogging should be all about the writing. I think the first year is the most crucial because although you might like writing, you have to get used to write the quality posts on a daily bases and not just when you are in the “right mood”.

    Without this first C there would be no others.

    Wish you many successful years to come.

    Regards,

    Peter

  24. Kelly B says:

    I’m feeling really upset. And so I came to search on ProBlogger
    I read: Idol Blogger Crashes Server and Teaches us a Lesson about Hosting

    This EXACT thing has just happend to me right now. Funny I thought to come here straight away. They have suspended my site and now say I need a dedicated server and pay $150 per month to get it back. I just don’t know what to do. This has come TOTALLY out of the blue. No warning at all. I’ve been blogging for a year and I’ve seem great growth but I just can’t see how I could be responsible for taking up 35% (or so they say) or their server.

    *sigh* Emailed my host. Waiting for a reply. Waiting. Waiting. Waiting.

  25. Kelly B says:

    Oh, and sorry I didn’t even read this post. I just needed to say something, this was the first point of call for me.

    Happy 8th year of blogging and 6th year of problogger.

  26. Happy anniversary!

  27. Saf says:

    hey dude, it is real useful what you did, that I tool note of every point you mentioned since the beginning..
    I’m a future blogger struggeling to pay for my hosting. Right after then, I start officially :P

  28. Hello

    Happy 6th Anniversary

    From Azhar

  29. Hariklia says:

    Great advice, and thanks for sharing. Someone said to me recently “It’s a shame your blog hasn’t taken off.” I’ve been blogging for about 3 months, so I guess I shouldn’t give up yet!

  30. Marney says:

    Darren – I love what you said about Contributing and leveraging the voices we’ve been given for something good. Your Tanzania trip sounds like a great opportunity to do that. That’s the kind of stuff that can mess nicely with all your perspectives.

  31. Mehmet says:

    Hi Darren,

    As far as i get from your video, i really appreciate that contribution point of view, but one question comes to my mind after thinking about. Do not take it wrongly- contributing useful stuff to the world is very nice- However, does that mean do not create a blog about photography because it is already done or do not create a blog which provides a blogging tips because there is one blog for that and so on. Really, i really want to hear what do you think about it?

    Thanks!

    ~ Mehmet

  32. Vivek says:

    Hi Darren,
    This is clearly one of the best posts that you have written . You speak with so much grace and authenticity. I have myself come to realise that you cannot get a lot by just focusing on getting. Contributing is the key. Thinking about others. Thanks.

  33. Do you have any tips on blogging for restaurants? This advice is still relevant of course, but just curious if you blog for any restaurant websites and have articles on that approach.

    Thanks,
    Tim