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15 Years Blogging And Still Learning

A Guest Post by Chris Brogan from Human Business Works

I started my first blog back in 1998, when it was called journaling. It was on some Geocities site whose name I no longer remember. From there, I moved to Tripod, and then to Blogger, a quick side-step into another platform or two, and then WordPress. Along the way, it went from being a place to share my fiction, and then my self-improvement efforts, and there were a lot of other iterations, too.

Maybe more of interest to you: it took me 8 years to get my first 100 subscribers, and I can say without a doubt that blogging was what made me most every dollar I earned from 2006 until present, in one way or another. It also landed me a New York Times Bestselling Book. Want to hear more?

My First Biggest Discovery

In the beginning, I wrote for myself. I wrote about myself, too. And I gave my opinions on this or that. Guess who cared? Only me.

My first big discovery was to be helpful. The more I could create material that was useful to others, the more it would be rewarded by people visiting more, interacting more, and checking in more often to see if I had anything more to help with.

That same process of learning how to be helpful led to my course, Blog Topics: The Master Class, which was a much more structured and premium version of what I had accumulated for skills. In fact, learning how to help gave me the idea to create courses that would add value to professionals in lots of different subject areas. Which, of course, led to even more success.

How To Get More Readers

The predominant advice out there is to guest post (like I’m doing now!) and that’s not wrong. But what I’ve come to learn is this: the more you interact with people on their sites and where they are, the more people will flow back to interact with you. Not the “big names.” Connect with the up and comers. That’s part one. The second part is that you have to practice the “B Strategy.”

  • Be Helpful (already told you that).
  • Be Human
  • Be Interesting
  • Be Everywhere

The sketch is this: most blog posts I’m sent to read end up being boring, too short, not especially helpful, and feel like they were written as a chore. Does that sound like the way to attract readers? I think not.

Build the Newsletter Subscriber List Early

I’ll tell you the most surprising (and depressing) revelation of all my years of blogging. Though my blog has attracted a lot of opportunities, if I intend to sell something, my blog isn’t actually very effective. My beloved newsletter has only about 29,000 subscribers on it. Compare that to my 200K unique monthly visits. Now, get this: I get 10x more sales activity (by volume, not %) from my newsletter. So, 10x less people get my newsletter, and I sell 10x more there than via my blog.

If I could go back and change one thing early, it would be to create a valuable newsletter earlier. Get mine to see what I do to make it valuable.

The Best Part of Blogging

When I met Darren Rowse for the first time, it was in the presence of Brian Clark (Copyblogger) at the first BlogWorld Expo in Las Vegas. It felt like magic, because the three of us had been writing successful blogs for a little while. Both Darren and Brian were more successful than me (still are), but we had very different approaches. Here’s the list of what I love most about blogging:

  • It lets me build business my way.
  • It empowered me to meet smart people.
  • It lets me help others in a scalable way.
  • It affords me a place to earn leads based on my thoughts.
  • It enables a campfire around which a community can gather.

I won’t be closing down my blog any time soon, even if it’s supposedly dead. Again.

Some Lessons For You

Here’s some advice on the way out the door:

  • Never write super long posts like this one.
  • Never write self-referential posts like this one.
  • Don’t approach guest posting as an opportunity to stuff your links into someone else’s blog, like I did.
  • Don’t lecture people on what to do like I am doing.

Oh, and break the “rules.” Do whatever serves your community best. That’s what got me this far (15 years and counting), and that’s what will get me to my next level. See you there?

Chris Brogan is the president and CEO of Human Business Works, a publishing and media company providing courses, books, and live education to professionals like you. He wishes he were Darren Rowse.

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Comments

  1. Great post. The most important thing is to follow rules and break other. So you need to build a mailing list. But who said that you need to write small posts or long posts. Write the one that your audience love and need.

    Also Chris, You are really a great person that everyone loves to follow. And Darren Rowse is same and maybe more.

    So can I know why do you wish to be Darren Rowse.

    And If you wish to be Darren Rowse, I wish to be Chris Brogan. Yes, you are really a great person. :)

    Regards,
    Ahmed Safwan

    • Chris Brogan says:

      What makes Darren so great is his warm and kind heart. I wish I had even more compassion which is what makes Darren who he is. : )

  2. To keep running your life on blogging learning is important, I really like to learn new things, I saw many new bloggers call them experts or pretend that they know everything…
    That is the real difference between a new and pro blogger, A pro bloggers always learn where a new bloggers thinks that he learned enough..

    Great Post!

  3. Marko Saric says:

    Congrats on the first 15 Chris! All the best in the next 15! Love the lessons at the end by the way :)

  4. Hi Chris. Great reads. I love reading your Sunday newsletter and I always learn something from it. I enjoy the pace and the topics you bring up. I specially like when you tell me upfront that you’ll sell something. I love to know it upfront and feel trapped.
    I’m just starting on blogging and I truly enjoy the learning process, reading from bright minds and getting inspired to be better – I think when we’re better, we do better!
    Helena

  5. This is just awesome haha

    I tend to get ridiculed for not playing by the rules (I removed my sidebar for a month) but I’m always testing and tracking new things. By the way, the results were just slightly better than with my old sidebar. My new one is way better.

    Anyways, building an email list is the best online business practice I’ve found to date. I actually have been doing email marketing since before I knew blogging was a viable marketing method. It’s super helpful and profitable!

    Thanks for this post,
    -Gabe Johansson

  6. Bruno Coelho says:

    Thank you Chris for candidly sharing how you became the “Chris Brogan” that we know today!

    For the up and comers (like me), it’s both reassuring and inspiring to know the hard-work and how many days it takes to become an over-night sensation. What I get from your experience is that we need a mix of passionate determination with the humility to change our approach to get to where we want to me.

    When I first “met” you (meaning when I first landed on your blog), I thought that I was going to learn how to master this channel called social media. Thank God I was wrong. It isn’t about social media. It never was. It wasn’t about blogging either. You showed me that it’s about making a connection. It’s about doing business in a Human way! It’s also about making a meaningful IMPACT that outlasts our Life.

    The key moment, from what I’ve read about your story, was when you turned your focus to others. It’s like that quote by Ken Blanchard: “People with humility don’t think less of themselves. They just think about themselves less”. And like you experienced: it’s worth it.

    Following your journey as done wonders to me as I learn how I can be more helpful for those I serve.

    Here’s to the next 15 years!

  7. Ryan Naylor says:

    Congratulations on your success and efforts, Chris.

  8. Scott Ellis says:

    Chris,

    Nice retrospective. I’d guess that another thing you did that lead to your success was that you stuck with it. I too have been “blogging” since around 1998 (built my own CMS because that’s what I was into at the time) but my blogging as come and gone and it’s only when I’ve done it consistently that I’ve found any success.

    I’d echo the idea that helping people is what drives success. On my own site it’s the posts that actually help people solve a specific problem hat consistently get all of the traffic.

    Keep up the good work and here’s to another 15 years!

    Scott

  9. Rob says:

    Hi Chris, I started blogging a few weeks back and chuffed that I’ve started to get an audience and some interaction. A newsletter is next on my list so looking forward to seeing yours for inspiration!

    Rob

  10. Mitch says:

    Always look forward to your blog posts. Keep up the great work!

  11. Sheree says:

    Great post and advice Chris.

    I’m still evolving as a blogger and you’re a great teacher. LIke you, I started out doing it for myself, to explore things I was interested in and share whatever I thought might be interesting, sometimes helpful. What I’ve learned over the past year, by actually looking at traffic stats, is that my posts on how to prepare some dish, or a restaurant review, or how to do something (like make a rain barrel) continue to have traction.

    The key for me is to figure out how to create the right newsletter for a diverse audience.

    I expect I’ll continue to learn from you on that topic, as well!

    And I expect you’ll still be going strong 15 years from now!

    Sheree

  12. marty says:

    First I have to say congrats on the 15 years that impressive.I think the biggest thing is learning to balance how much you talk about yourself and experiences and how those experiences can help your readers .Right now I am still trying to figure that out.I never considered the whole never right long post becuase my long post or the ones that do the best

  13. John says:

    Thanks for the inspirational post. Congratulations! Hopefully we can all experience the same level of success.

  14. Wow – 15 years. I started blogging in 2009 and it still blows me away that I joined the party late. Congratulations. I learned the same lessons in the past 4 years and I’m still learning. But I guess that’s part of the appeal :)

  15. Love hearing your story Chris – also enjoyed the satire at the end. I think you hit it bang on about being helpful to your readers.

    Keep doing what you’re doing.

  16. Very helpful! And a strong reminder too.. I started mine in 2003 and sometimes I need to be reminded about being helpful in first place before thinking of what I’ll get.

  17. Hi Chris,

    Fun to see you here! Love the lessons “out the door” to not do as you’re doing. I was thinking “this is a long post? What huh?” But they’re good tips. I suppose some of us can get away with doing the opposite :) And you know, I do try to get over to your blog from time to time, but I *never* miss reading your Sunday newsletter. Never. It’s always so helpful, even in ways you might not have intended. Loved the video and all that today. Thanks.

  18. Sharon says:

    I haven’t been blogging for long, but I’ve come to learn that posts (like this one) often draw the most interaction. I like what Marty said about finding a balance … learning to be vulnerable with my readers has been a tough one for me, but I’m slowly getting there. Thanks for this post.

  19. Zul says:

    A very helpful and motivational post for me. You got 15 years experience of blogging for human and I got only 1 month experience blogging for human. Any advice for new starter like me how to grow my audience?

    Congrats on your long journey. You sure got a lot of tacit knowledge to be shared with us. Will take a look your blog to learn more.

    Thanks :)

    Zul

  20. Rohit Sharma says:

    I have been following you during some part of your journey,

    It really requires lots of patience and creativity to blog for such a long time..

    Its very inspiring when you say “it took me 8 years to get my first 100 subscribers,”

    Looking forward for many more creative years ahead…

    All my good wishes for u :)

  21. Arup Ghosh says:

    The line really inspired me “It lets me build business my way.” and I follow this rule as everybody is unique and let everyone do it in their way.

  22. Suzi says:

    Hey Chris, So nice to see you guest posting, thanks for you generosity of spirit and your humour. I hope we get to see you visit Australia soon. I’m sure I owe you a thank you hug. Best, Suzi Dafnis

  23. Edson Hale says:

    You every tips is not so new but the way you mentioned here added value in all of them. This is I think your art that you put life in a dead thing; also the way you maintained the level of interest is in your post is ammazing this is another quality which forced me visit and bookmark your blog. After reading your post my three years in bloggins seems to me nothing and it energises me to work more and remain patient for a huge success; thanks buddy

  24. Uche Unogu says:

    “Being helpful”, like you pointed out Chris is key to successful blogging. It is something, I’ve found, that successful bloggers have in common. Blogging about oneself may bring friends and family to your blog. Blogging helpful tips and materials will bring the world to your blog. Thanks for sharing.

  25. Justin Keith says:

    Thanks for your insight Chris.
    Service is something the business world needs more and more and you deliver that so well.
    Congrats on 15 years.

    -Justin

  26. Josh says:

    My favorite rule of blogging is that there are multiple paths to success. It is not a single formula realm.

  27. Anirudh says:

    15 Years :O You would have lots of Experience. And Congrats, to your Blogging Career Darren :)

  28. Tammi Kibler says:

    “Be helpful” and “and break the “rules.” Great advice, Chris. Thanks! :D

  29. Chris – Those are some great tips from an established pro-blogger. I too never thought that building my subscriber base is equally important as building my blog. I did not have anything to offer on my sites, so I did what every other blogger does – write content.

    Recently i wrote my first ebook, and that is when I decided to build my subscriber list, let us see how it goes.

  30. Scott Ayres says:

    I say write your own rules.. Screw what everyone else thinks will work. Just because it worked for them, doesn’t mean it will work for you..

  31. RMSorg says:

    Chris, great blog post! I love your honesty and intention to help!! I really enjoy your “B Strategy” and will start incorporating into my day to day SM strategy.

    Congrats on your 15 years!!

    RMSorg
    WallStreetBranding

  32. Njeru Nthigah says:

    Great post Chris. Recently connected with you online. I look forward to learning from you in the days and years ahead.

  33. Hi Chris,

    Still stalking you buddy ;) Great to see you on PB. I would have loved to see your first Geocities blog. Also amazing to hear it took you 8 years to get 100 subscribers. Many forget the winding, interesting journey we all take.

    Breaking the rules seems to be the way to go, at least in most instance. Basics: solving problems, being interesting, engaging people on their blogs….important stuff. Like the note about engaging, as I am an aggressive, engaging commentor these days. Writing guest posts rocks but many bloggers only leave their portal to check out the dude or dudette who commented on their blog. This is why I feel you stress a super smart strategy, and this is why I comment so frequently on other blogs….at least as of a few weeks ago ;)

    Congrats on your longevity Chris,

    Ryan

  34. San says:

    Darren is good in his own ways so are you great own your own voice. I like your voice as well as Brian (Copyblogger) [Straight kinda voice]. Thank you for your post and I read most of your newsletter.

  35. Drewry says:

    you are a true inspiration that if you keep going in anything, you can succeed! :-)

  36. Well done on the first 15 years! I like the bit about ‘breaking the rules’ – there seems to be a law (!) that blog articles should be 500 – 600 words. I take the view that if you can say what you want in 200 words then so be it – if it takes 2,000 words then that is fine as well. Same with number and ‘quality’ of links. Cheers. Rich

  37. Ani says:

    :) made me smile. Brought some hope and encouraged somehow…
    Thanx

  38. Wali says:

    Indeed, great tips by Chris, I’ve been blogging for last 3 years but still I understand I’ve just entered to blogging. I’ve learnt a lot for this post, keep going on Pro-Blogger.net.

    Regards;
    Wali Khan

  39. Ashley says:

    Very useful information. I had to create a blog with my team for a class and its still hard for me to write entries and gain more readers. But I think I should keep my entries short for sure and comment more on others blogs. Its extremely hard to type out a short post but I will try! Thanks.

  40. A big congo for completing the first 15 years of blogging, Chris. Loved the lessons, I think being helpful and adding value to people’s life is the way to go. That’s you, Darren and Brian have been doing from long time.

  41. Arbaz Khan says:

    Great post,
    Frankly speaking, I have never read any of your posts (Don’t know why I am so foolish) but after reading this maybe I will now start reading them.
    The advice you have given are too good and I know I won’t ever be able to follow them. Darren Rowse is surely a great blogger and I love reading his blog now more often as he writes more. :)

  42. ed cyzewski says:

    I would add that your personal, almost chatty writing style draws in readers. I read through this post in no time and thought that it wasn’t long at all!

    Along similar lines of thinking, I’ve found that my longer posts often attract the most conversations, shares, link backs, and hits on my theology blog. I spent years keeping my posts short, but I eventually learned that my readers wanted me to really dig into my topics. On my writing blog I get more interest if I keep the posts short, so it seems to be a matter of niche for me on post length.

  43. Hi Chris,
    I like Darren’s work and yours is great too. I have to say you offered great advice on this month’ Success magazine CD. In fact, you offered tons of great advice. I particularly liked your reminder to return to text newsletters, to me they are more personal, less like emailing a web page, more like emailing a note to a friend. Keep up making a great impact. And hey! I recommend all readers to check out Chris articles in Success magazine as well.

    David

  44. Rohit says:

    15 years of blogging..!! it is tremendous..,
    I salute your patience and your dedication Chris.., it is great to see your post here, its truly inspiring… and 1 more thing, your writing style is awesome :)

  45. Katherine says:

    I Don’t Think You’d Get Too Bored or Find Short Posts on My Blog! (; My Health Blog Copywriter site — recipes, online tips, web writing tips, practical advice.

  46. Katherine says:

    Very nice post! And even if my posts appeal more to those who grew up in the 60s and 70s (; — I’m learning so much still!

    Lifetime learning, folks …. we need to keep learning. Thanks, Son! J / K — that’s Twitter Speak for ‘just kidding.’

    I’ve had my blog for 3 years in March, . . . and it seems like awhile. But my most important take-away here too is to get my AWeber active, build my LIST, however small — and write a good e-newsletter. Thanks, Chris!

  47. Thanks for your insight Chris.
    Service is something the business world needs more and more and you deliver that so well.
    Congrats on 15 years.

    -MaK

  48. Mayur says:

    Thanks for the inspirational post.