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7 Lessons I Learned by Starting Over with Blogging

This guest post is by Jeff Goins of Goins, Writer

Six months ago, I was frustrated with my blog. I felt stuck and stymied. I had written on it for nearly five years and built a small, but steady, stream of traffic.

But there was just one problem: it wasn’t growing.

And I was tired of trying.

Held back

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My blog had reached the dreaded plateau.

So I decided to quit. Despite my better judgment, I chose to start over, to launch a brand-new blog. It was hard and scary leaving something that took so long to build, but I had to face the facts: My blog was never going to be epic. It was never going to be extraordinary. And I wanted it to be.

So I threw in the towel.

When to quit your blog

“Persistent people are able to visualize the idea of light at the end of the tunnel when other’s can’t see it. At the same time, the smartest people are realistic about not imagining light when there isn’t any.”

-Seth Godin, The Dip

We mistakenly vilify quitting. We believe ridiculous adages like, “Quitters never win…” And yet, most successful people are serial quitters. They are relentless experimenters, striving to find the one thing that they can champion. They set aside everything else, save that one special cause.

I knew my blog wasn’t headed anywhere. It was time for a change. Without knowing what I was doing, I quit. As much as it pained me, I started over.

And in six short months, I quadrupled the amount of traffic it took me half a decade to build.

How starting over changed everything

In the past six months, I’ve learned some valuable lessons about blogging and why quitting is sometimes necessary for a breakthrough.

Here they are:

1. Guest posting is essential

It’s never too early to guest post. If you have a few posts on your blog, I would begin offering to write for other blogs now.

Start small, but work your way up quickly. Give away your best content, and you’ll earn new readers quickly—in much less time than solely focusing on your own site.

2. Your content isn’t as good as you think

I was a good writer, and I thought that made me an excellent blogger. I secretly compared myself to other bloggers who were worse writers than me, and I enviously resented their traffic and engagement.

But to be honest, I didn’t know the first thing about blogging.

So I started studying some of the masters (e.g. Seth Godin, Chris Brogan, Copyblogger, Problogger, Zen Habits, and others) and emulated their best practices. I realized that high quality of content was a common denominator.

Instead of spending twenty minutes on a post, frantically trying to just publish something, I started putting in the time to create content I could be proud of.

3. Design matters

If content is king, design is His Majesty’s clothes. Nobody wants to look at a poorly-dressed sovereign. People perceive what you write through the lens of your website’s appearance.

Design can either help or hurt your content.

Choosing a premium WordPress theme or investing in a good designer can go a long way. These days, quality doesn’t cost much.

4. A change of scenery can make you more creative

I changed domains, branding, and platforms just to get a fresh start.

As a result, I woke up every morning, excited to write. With my old blog, I often dreaded it. Not so this time.

I treasured my new blog. It inspired fresh ideas. It spurred on my creativity and innovation. It made me bolder and more imaginative. There is natural momentum to anything new. You can use this to take your blog to new heights.

5. You don’t have to be the expert

I was an arrogant blogger. Any time someone would challenge me, I would vehemently defend my argument, belittling them in the comments.

However, from people like Darren, I learned that it was okay to learn as you go. You didn’t have to be an instant guru. This was somewhat refreshing for me.

In fact, I learned that most people prefer being a part of community in which they’re invited into a shared learning experience, not a didactic monologue.

6. People don’t care that much about you

When I realized that blogging was mostly about other people (and not about me), everything changed. At first, it was a hit to my ego, but eventually I learned to embrace the opportunity.

I stopped making myself the center of attention and instead strove to make my readers feel like they were being heard and served.

Now, my blog is about helping others, not getting pats on the back for being a brilliant writer.

7. Focus is crucial

My old blog didn’t have a theme or a voice or any kind of central idea. It was just a hodge-podge of random thoughts.

Daily, I wrestled with what to write about. I also struggled to retain a dedicated readership.

By focusing on a particular subject, I’m able to more consistently deliver content that already has a built-in niche, ready to listen.

What this means for you

The past six months have been incredible. I’m back to where I left off with my old blog, times four.

All because I chose to quit.

If you’re feeling stuck with your blog, it may be time to start over. My journey isn’t a formula, but it’s not a bad place to start. Following these seven steps will get you started on the right track—they’ll help you develop the momentum you need to get to a new level.

It won’t be easy, and you’ll have to hustle. But it’s doable. And worth it.

Have you thought about starting over with a new blog, but not sure if you should make the leap? Maybe it’s time.

Jeff Goins is a writer, innovator, and marketing guy. He works at Adventures in Missions and blogs at Goins, Writer. You can connect with him on Twitter or Facebook.

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Comments

  1. Morgan says:

    You are absolutely right, Jeff! I have had to quit and start over a couple times and there’s nothing wrong with that. Sometimes you may not have had the clarity then, as you do once you start writing. I’ve discovered so many things about myself and where I want to go, simply by starting a blog. And that’s totally cool, because as you said, quitting is not the end of everything; sometimes it’s just the beginning!

    Great post!

  2. Thanks Jeff. Would appreciate if you can explain a bit more on how you choose related blogs for writing guest posts and based on what criteria?

    Ramsi

    • Jeff Goins says:

      Hi Ramsi – I’m actually not too picky about that. One reason to guest post is for the backlinks. And as far as I’m concerned, a link is a link. That said, as I’ve continued blogging, I’ve tried to focus on the sites that are related to my topic of writing. A simple search on Google or Technorati should lead you in the right direction, but don’t think about it too hard.

  3. Holli B says:

    I feel that you’ve written this post specifically for me. I’m currently going through those same transitional issues and it’s good to see that it’s possible to come out even better in time.

    Thanks for the great post!

  4. Feliza says:

    This was probably the best article I’ve read on this topic, especially for those like me who are college students just starting out – it’s nice to know what mistakes to avoid as I start. Thanks for the informative post!

  5. I went through the process of quitting as well. After closing my blog around January of 2007, I am back to blogging in again… and enjoying more.

    Very good post here.

  6. Seriuosly, this could not have come at a better time. Ditto on EVERYTHING you said about starting over. I used to love blogging. So much that I did it for free (who doesn’t?) five times a week at Blogspot. My babies were small. They were my brand, without knowing I had a brand. I just loved them. It landed me a gig at BabyCenter for 3 years then at Good Housekeeping for 3 years. Over the past year, though, I realized I am in limbo. No more professional columns. Ramblings on my Weebly blog aren’t working. And so… I bought Darren’s 31 Days to a Better Blog book. I’m switching platforms to WordPress (God help me) and I’m focusing on Tourette Syndrome – a disorder my son deals with in a very minor form. I’m off to dispell the notion that all TS folk curse! And yes, this is a long comment. I’m just so inspired… how much more so with my new blogging platform! Thanks. Will be back.

  7. I think my last rambling comment died. Just wanted to say this post was very appropriate for where I am at right now. Quitting to start again on a new platform is just what I need to do. I’ll be back!

  8. I understand where you are coming from as I felt I would quit and start fresh at one point. In fact I had ‘quit’ but I decided to redesign and refresh my blog and keep the domain name.

    Doing so has been great as I can see myself dedicating myself to writing and keeping at it, rather than if I had left it as it was.

  9. Good on you for quitting. Makes me think of Winston Churchill’s wisdom: “Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.” I’ve been blogging about being an expat American city boy turned olive grower in New Zealand for almost 2 and a half years. I’m still loving it and traffic is still growing, but I know at some point I’ll stop this blog and work on something else. It’s good to remember the sometimes quitters win.

  10. Rather than quit a blog, I prefer to find new ways to work on – and develop – one.

  11. Matt Snyder says:

    So good! I’m proud of you, Jeff. You’ve grown through a lot and it’s been so awesome to witness the process and to learn from you. Keep up the great work!

  12. I already start over my blog, but I don’t think that it works best yet. And I think that the biggest trouble is just what you said, that we must be focus. Even though I already set some niche, but I can not focus on it. How to overcome this?

  13. Julia says:

    Recently, I had the same thought about my guitar practice – the benefits and upside to “quitting.” I came to the conclusion that quitting is good in the short run – little periods/episodes of quitting. When my fingers get tired, they won’t play well, and Ihave to walk away or risk losing sight of the joy which first drove me to learn in the first place. Maybe we shouldn’t be so afraid of little spans of quitting?

  14. J.J. Lancer says:

    Great advice. Congrats on having the stones to start all over!

    This post kinda makes me wonder where the cut-off point is between “keep persisting” and “start again.” Seems like something you’d only know with your gut.

    • Jeff Goins says:

      That’s a tough call. Nine times out of ten, I’d recommend persevering. In my case, starting over was the best thing. Part of it was mental — investing in a new domain, design, etc. just made me take blogging more seriously than I had before. And part of it was intentionally focusing on ONE topic instead of many.

      I think I’ll do a followup piece to this article on my blog tomorrow — about when to quit and when to stick. It’s an important question. It really depends on if your blog can take you to where you want to be in five years. If you don’t think it can, as much as it hurts, it’s time to quit and start over. But be prepared to work REALLY hard.

  15. Jeff,
    Very nice article. I like the points 1,2,and 7 are more interesting. Thanks – Manickam

  16. I agree with you. I didn’t have the courage to simply quit, but I was forced to. I had to start over in 2009 with a wordpress blog at my own domain name, when I lost my 4 blogger blogs because they were infected by malware.

    In the end, I understood that it was better to begin again and focus on only one blog, instead of trying to keep 4 blogs, which I couldn’t update everyday. Today I’m glad because I have this blog.

  17. This entry is very timely. I’m launching a new blog in January not because I’m sick of my current blog, but because I’m starting a new chapter in my life and a new blog feels right. The problem is I don’t know what to do with my old blog. Should I let it sit there or is it better to delete it? For folks that throw in the towel and start anew, what do you do with your old blogs? Thanks.

  18. Dion Lynk says:

    I just completely deleted a blog that was going nowhere and I channeled the focus to my design biz. Since then, I’ve been able to network more, connect with clients and just really put attention to what really works for me. I guess a question that I had to answer was, am I doing everything possible for design on time to succeed? The answer was a resounding no, and primarily because starting another site was so enticing. I feel much wiser now and I’m happy to be moving forward with the fire that I had when I 1st started.

  19. Hey Jeff,

    I think your point that it’s okay to learn as you go along is a critical one. Defending your points like a madman in your comments is one way to express your need to feel like the expert.

    On the other hand, feeling like you NEED to be the expert in order to blog can stop you dead in your tracks. This was my problem for a long time, until I realized that it was okay if someone more knowledgeable showed up in my comments and made some great points, or even improvements to what I wrote.

    Cool post.

  20. Martyn says:

    Excellent stuff man. I’m realizing that we started our blogs at the same time. That’s cool, because my blog was a “starting over” experience as well.

    Love that quote from Dip. That book is actually next on my list. Just finished Purple Cow today. Seth’s timeless.

  21. afandi says:

    This is a great stuff. I really like the way you delivered your article. Me, myself is still in the process of developing my blog and yes my blog is a “starting over” too. A lot of things that need to be done for my blog. I will take your advice. Thank you. Love your blog.

  22. Carrie Smith says:

    Nothing like reading someone’s experience to inspire and encourage. Thank you for sharing the lessons you’ve learned and for taking that leap of faith, which paid off. Bravo to you and good luck in your future ventures.

    I absolutely love your personal blog, Goins Writer. I can see why you have loyal followers and subscribers. Count me in!

  23. Hi Jeff,

    It’s 100% critical to be honest with yourself.

    Sometimes you need to move in a different direction, others times, to keep going in the same direction. Our intuition knows, we just have to be silent and listen.

    I luv to follow the top bloggers. I see what rubs off, and I also see bloggers who buck the trend. Take Seth Godin; most people would find his blog’s design as dull, bland, etc, but he has one of the top blogs on earth. So pretty packaging doesn’t make much of a difference if you’re damn good at spreading your word ;)

    Thanks for sharing.

    RB

    • Jeff Goins says:

      Thanks, Ryan. Seth’s blog would be a great example of the importance of content over everything else. Plus, he’s persevered for YEARS. I’m not a proponent of serial quitting. I had my last blog for five years (and still occasionally contribute to it). It was HARD to start a new one. Painful, even. I don’t want to go thru that process again unless absolutely necessary. So while I am advocate of quitting to move ahead (maybe 10% of the time, if that), I don’t think you can reach a tipping point with any message if you don’t persevere. Seth and other bloggers (like Darren here) are great examples of that.

  24. Lisa Wood says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this information. I have six blogs, but I have realised that I have been spreading my self to thin. I am now putting time and effort into our main blog, which is about our family travelling around Australia in our Motorhome. That is where my traffic is, and where my passion is. Its paying of!! We now have over 9,000 visitors every month! And its growing all the time. I am still learning, and I am still finding new information. That is the beauty fo getting online and the wonderful aspect of blogging.

    Cheers
    Lisa

  25. James Greg says:

    I think starting over is not at all easy. We create one thing nourish it, feed it and take every possible step to protect it and when the results are not satisfactory yet again we hope it will bear us the fruit we desire. When the time comes to quit it feels like parting with a friend or a someone very close. The 7 points are realistic and when all signs become positive I agree with Jeff that it’s time to start over. Great post the idea is really painful but effective. Jeff when you started over again, did you change the name of your website too? And thanx for the great article.

    • Jeff Goins says:

      HI James – it definitely IS painful. I deliberated over the decision for months before I finally worked up the courage to do it.

      And yes, I changed the name of my website. I wasn’t just changing platforms or doing a redesign. I was quitting my old blog — over a thousand posts, years of content — because it was time for something completely new.

      Btw, because I knew this post would stir some stuff in bloggers, I wrote an addendum to it here: http://goinswriter.com/quit-blog/

  26. Jeff, congratulations on the success of your current blog. I’ve been reading your work for several months and find your blog inspiring. I think your points around knowing when to quit are very good. It seems to me that your first blog offered you an education. That education obviously benefitted you, and by sharing it… we, as readers, reap the rewards.

    I’m just getting started with blogging, and I appreciate the advice. Keep up the great work!

    • Jeff Goins says:

      I think you’re right, Stephen. It was a long preparation period. I’m glad I made a lot of mistakes there so that I can share more helpful content now.

  27. Christin says:

    Well, it certainly did something because I just found you a few months ago, Jeff! I enjoy your writing and am glad to be in your “circle”. Good job!

    I did the same thing a couple years ago, but for different reasons. I went stagnant on a blog I was writing on, but I left it behind for other reasons. When I began a new blog with fresh ideas and a fresh perspective [with a willingness to learn from others], my readership has gone up 1400%. {That shows you how small my readership was!} But the point is that there is growth, and it is climbing. And I am learning new things about blogging, writing, social media, community, etc., everyday. You never stop learning, and when you do…I think that’s when things can really plateau.

    Thanks again! :)

    • Jeff Goins says:

      Thanks for reading, Christin. I agree with your definition of plateau — it’s often a result of our own ambivalence. When we cease to care, so does our audience.

  28. Love what you’re doing, Jeff. Rather than starting a new blog, I kicked mine into gear. Upgrading the theme, writing every day, and lazer focusing my content has also caused my blog to quadruple in the last 9 months.

  29. @bibledude says:

    Great stuff as usual Jeff! Particularly, the two that resonated most with me is #1 (guest blogging) and #3 (design). These are two ares that I’ve been putting a great deal of effort lately. I’m trying to establish a regular schedule of contributing at other sites, and have a few very strategic targets that I’ll be writing at regularly. Additionally, not only am I trying to leverage good themes, but I put a lot of effort into thinking about the images that I use with my posts as well… I’m finding that really good images can greatly enhance the content of the post… it helps set the tone for the reader before they read the first word…

    #fistbump dude!

  30. Robert.G says:

    Thanks so much for the Tips its nice to see it’s working for you.

  31. Sinea Pies says:

    Wow! This is really a great post and challenging. I work as the Assistant to the Principal in a Christian school and my blogging is my second job. I LOVE blogging but got off to a rocky start. Finally I have 96 FB fans and get nearly 200 views per day…. a far cry from my 3 followers (one was me!) and maybe 3 hits a day from a year ago but nothing impressive compared to the greats that you mention in your post.

    Not ready to can it entirely but I am honing my approach. Darren’s First Five Days ebook has helped me a lot and Leo’s How I got 150,000 Subscribers ebook, too. Now I add this post to the reference library. Guest posting has helped me but I haven’t been consistent at it. Got to get going again! THANK YOU!

  32. Jeff Goins says:

    Sounds like you’re doing great, Sinea! You’re on the right track.

  33. Jeff Goins says:

    Hey all – thanks for the comments. In case you’re wondering if it’s time to quit your blog, you might enjoy this post that I just wrote as a follow-up to this piece: http://goinswriter.com/quit-blog/

  34. Excellent points, both for those needing to start completely fresh and for those just getting going. I have created and then killed a blog when I realized that the writing was more of a chore than something I was truly passionate about. You know deep inside when something isn’t working – whether it is because of the specific topic or they style of writing or just poor promotion.

    My current blog is fairly new, and so your points are great reminders for me about what it takes to remain energized, focused and engaged. Thank you for sharing!

  35. It’s know good flogging a dead horse, you are going to get nowhere. But having the balls to actually chuck the towel in and start again would be a nightmare for some people.

    Most folk don’t like change and get stuck in their own little world. If you are not reaching you goals and plans then something needs to change

    So hats off to you Jeff and thanks for sharing your story!

    Craig

  36. Jeff Goins says:

    You’re welcome, Craig. Appreciate your comment.

  37. Lainey says:

    This is an excellent article.

    I had to quit and start over when I realized that I was headed in the wrong direction.

    I too found success when I started from scratch.

    Thanks for the great post!

  38. Atish says:

    Guest posting is the most important thing if you want a successful blog. very nice post. Good description here. thanks for sharing such a nice post here.

  39. It’s important to learn those lessons from a fresh start. Like you, I spent a few years on an average blog that had a bit of traffic and participation. I convinced myself the reason the blog wasn’t growing was the lack of keywords within the domain name so I sold my blog and found a better domain. When that didn’t help I decided it was the niche. After several more changes I’m just starting over once again, right back at the original niche, almost. In the mean time a bunch of those same blogging buddies from my first site have been enjoying successful blogs. I was far too slow to learn the lessons needed and it set me back. I’m glad you learned from the change and then decided to share it with us.

  40. Roni Loren says:

    I love this quote so much:

    “We mistakenly vilify quitting. We believe ridiculous adages like, “Quitters never win…” And yet, most successful people are serial quitters. They are relentless experimenters, striving to find the one thing that they can champion. They set aside everything else, save that one special cause.”

    As someone who has changed careers more times than I care to mention and has a nice, expensive Masters degree I’m not using, this resonated with me. It took me many false starts before I found my way to writing. Now my debut is coming out in January, and I finally feel like I’m at home in what I’m doing. So thank God I did all that quitting, lol. Glad you found your way on your new blog. :)

  41. Great post! I’m learning the value of quitting daily. As someone who hourly has to look at a to do list and re-prioritize which job must get done first I’m learning that in some areas I must quit and move on. Spending an four and a half hours tweaking a web banner design when I have REAL important deadlines is never beneficial.
    As always, great insight.

  42. Thanks for the post, Jeff. Your tips are solid and specific.

    Sometimes it’s simply time to move on.

  43. James Hussey says:

    Jeff –

    Fascinating points on design. I used to own a direct marketing franchise where the psychology of sales often boiled down to, “Will your customers open their mail?” Quite a bit of thought went into the design of the envelopes we’d mail to customers, it was unreal at the time. Your post reminds me of the myriad nuances which lead to or detract from sales.

    I also can’t believe how many mistakes I’m making according to your post – but now I need to figure out how to fix them (since it means digging into the theme editor of WordPress, not my strong suit).

  44. Andrew says:

    I’ve certainly tried this over the years Jeff, and so far none of my attempts have come up trumps yet. I had one blog that became mildly successful, but didn’t convert to anything worth continuing.

    I really don’t think that blogging really is for me after so many failed attempts.

  45. westwood says:

    “When I realized that blogging was mostly about other people (and not about me), everything changed.”

    Quote of the day.

  46. we can always learn a lot along the way, so it’s nice that you share what you learned when you start blogging.

    - Jack Leak

  47. Joni Mueller says:

    1. “Choosing a premium WordPress theme or investing in a good designer can go a long way. These days, quality doesn’t cost much.” Really, Jeff? Cheap design can do as much to ruin a site’s credibility as my no. 2 point below. If the designer doesn’t know squat about usability and other design issues. And you won’t likely find that for cheap.

    2. You didn’t mention spelling and grammar. Nothing destroys a message faster (for me anyway) than a typo or misused word. Don’t use the word if you don’t know what it means. Learn the correct word to use (there are many “gotchas,” e.g., affect/effect, its/it’s, etc.) Bottom line, proofread it carefully before you hit the “publish” button. And if you can’t trust your own eyes or grammar skills, ask a friend to look it over for you.

    • Jeff Goins says:

      Thanks, Joni. I’m not an advocate for poor design, but there are a lot of cheap or free out-of-the-box templates (meaning less than $100) that look GREAT. And yes, good call with grammar.

  48. Julia says:

    I read this post a while ago, am learning from it, and reread it prompted by a tweet again today. Only I didn’t comment on it before. (Should have. I’m still learning!) Thank you, GoinsWriter, for the helpful content!

    I have a blog under a pseudonym on blogger.com that never went anywhere because I posted sporadically and had no focus. After quitting blogging for a year, I decided to start a blog on wordpress, buying my real name as my domain and taking off the mask, so to speak. I’m struggling along, trying to be consistent. In trying to get content up – thoughtful, edited content – I’m only averaging about 1 post every two weeks. Still trying to find my “voice” as well. I’m excited, and terrified, and discouraged by turns. But I’m determined not to give up this time.

    Here’s my question: when I do find my elusive voice, should I go back and gut the blog of unfocused content? or make a new category for it and corral it from the content after I discover my focus?

    • Jeff Goins says:

      I would find my focus first and then start creating content. Unfocused content may not be salvageable. Taking the time to focus is hard, but good. That said, we’re all figuring this out as we go. Best of luck!

  49. Marni Arnold says:

    Jeff, this is an excellent reminder that quitting isn’t always a bad thing (the very thing society makes it out to be). I learned this recently from reading Jon Acuff’s book, “Quitter.” He put a completely different spin on “quitting” like I had never heard before – and it began to challenge my way of thinking concerning my blogging and writing.

    Thank you for this wonderful insight, and sharing what you learned through the process of quitting (something that would’ve had to remain stagnant if you stuck with it, instead of growing and flowing like we are created to do). This is deeply refreshing and encouraging.

    • Jeff Goins says:

      Me, too, Marni. I love that book.

      • Dr. Oddy says:

        Thank you so much for your information! After having just finished my first book (Apolegetics), I decide I would stick my toe into blogging and I am finding it to be like studying a new language (which I had to do when I came to this country). I am sure I will return to this posts many times over as I perserver to learn from you and the comments posted in response! I love challenges and your post spurs me on to a new adventure! Thanks again!

        • Dr. Oddy says:

          OOOOPS! Sorry for the typos – it shoul have said “I decided” on the second line and on line 4 “persevere”. It’s getting late!