What I Learned During My First Year of Blogging

A new blog is created somewhere in the world every 13.5 seconds. Alright, I totally made that statistic up but I am sure the number of new blogs started daily is HUGE. Let’s imagine something for a second. Every single blog you read both big and small, all had a starting point. I don’t know about you, but thinking back to a time when John Chow dot Com, Problogger or Copy Blogger didn’t exist seems a little odd. It’s hard to imagine that the big boys were at once where all of the beginning bloggers are currently.

However, over time their blogs grew, became popular and eventually their hobby blossomed into something much more than just a pastime. Now I am no blogging guru and I am surely not at the level of John or the others but I have learned a lot in my blogging experience over the past year. My website turned one year old in October 2009; when I look back I am just amazed at how much it’s grown and developed into something I never imagined it’d be.

Here are a few things I’ve learned throughout my blogging experience that I think we all need to take a second look at sometimes.

Writing First, Design Second

After I first picked out my domain I began theme shopping. I probably spent an entire month before I settled on something and I only settled because my web guru said I either “pick something now or forget about blogging altogether.” I settled on a nice little premium theme from WooThemes with a bit of customization added for kicks.

I actually moved some content over from an older blog I had started on a WordPress.com domain and then began writing fitness articles. It was slow getting started but I picked up some momentum rather quickly. The main point is that I wrote first and worried about design second. I left my original design up for about six months and just focused on content. Then once I had more content, more readers and an idea of where I wanted it to go with all of it, I then decided to hire a designer.

Once I knew I wanted a brand new, custom design I immediately bought the Thesis theme as I knew there were some really awesome designers out there using the framework. Not only is Thesis great out of the box in terms of SEO, it’s highly customizable and easy to hack and snip CSS when warranted. I ended up locating a great designer and getting exactly what I wanted with the overall look of my website.

My main point is this. Never start with an elegant, fancy theme. Never start off by paying a designer two to three thousand dollars on a blog you haven’t even started working on yet because chances are very high that you will not stick it out. Focus on content first and once you are serious about continuing, then look at a premium design.

Forget About Structured Posting Frequency

This is something I researched ten times over when I was getting started. How often should I be posting? I read so much information about how you must stick to a strict schedule when updating your blog; if you failed to stick with your schedule, it would cause reader attrition, lack of interest, blah, blah, blah. Then I also read that in order to be successful you must post frequently, as in three to five times per week. Some blogs were posting multiple times daily. How was I to keep up? I was getting overwhelmed but I also found other blogs that were posting only two times per week, some only once per week and still humming along just fine.

I decided to just do my own thing and post bi-weekly for a while. For some time, I always posted on Monday and Thursday. Then I thought about something. I started thinking about all the blogs I read. I asked myself, “Do I really care whether or not JoeBlogger posts on Tuesday instead of Monday?” Of course, my answer was no and I am sure everyone agrees. All I care about is that JoeBlogger posts quality content, period. As long as he does just that, I maintain my subscription. Now of course I would rather it be more frequent than not but I don’t get upset if he doesn’t post every third day.

The bottom line is that it really makes no difference how often you post as long as it’s updated fairly often (don’t leave your blog dormant for months at a time). If your stuff is good, your readers only care that you hit publish, not when.

Keep On Keepin’ On

I would say the two biggest challenges beginning bloggers face is making it past your first 90 days and getting your first 100 subscribers. I know I struggled with the first 90 days because I often got out of the writing habit, felt like I had no direction etc. It was then when I had to go back to my blogging plans to get back on track. Yes, I developed a plan; it included what I wanted to write about and how I was going to go about producing the content. Planning, especially in the beginning is crucial to succeeding long term.

Building up your first 100 subscribers seems like the most daunting task. I find that many people set a really steep goal of having “x” amount of subscribers by a certain date and find they fail miserably. The main reason is because they are so new to this blogging thing that they haven’t really learned how to promote their blog just yet. They may have all this great content but no one is seeing it. Building up subscribers takes time but as you get more exposure the subscriber count climbs faster than it did in the beginning. Keep on keepin’ on.

Writers Block

It happens to the best of us. There really isn’t a whole lot you can do about it but just accept it and be ready to cope. What I used to do is have three to four articles written in advance; this way if I get behind or can’t think of anything to write about that weekend, I still had content to post. This was when I was still worried about rigid posting frequency, which we now know doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme.

My number one tip for dealing with writer’s block is to always be ready to take notes of some kind. I find I am always getting ideas for articles in the craziest places. In most cases, I usually just pull my phone out to save a quick note and then write a more detailed outline when I get back to my apartment.

Great Content, as Always, is Key

I figured I would save the best for last. If you suck at writing and/or your content is subpar your chances of building a popular blog are slim. People always want to read something that is coherent, useful and oftentimes entertaining. They want value and quality as opposed to most of the run-of-the-mill websites online today. If you cannot produce great content, then nothing else I have written matters because content is the lifeblood of your blogging.

So how do we create great content? There are a few ways.

  • You must know what you’re writing about. People would laugh at me if I started a blog on golf because the first article or two would make absolutely no sense. I know nothing about golf. I only know that a golf ball is small, plastic and bounces on the cement. Other than that I know zilch, nada, absolutely nothing. There is no way that I could create great golf related content.
  • You must really enjoy what you are writing about. I suppose you can call this part of the equation passion. If you are not passionate about what you’re blogging about, people will notice and will often get turned off because your writing will just seem like any other dull website.
  • You must be proficient at writing in the language you intend to blog in. This goes back to readability, coherence, grammar and even style. People like easy reads. People enjoy reading something over a cup of coffee. I personally like to read for relaxation. There is nothing more frustrating than reading something that is actually pretty good on the content and information part but terrible on the grammar and syntax side. It’s a turn off and you easily lose credibility.

While I am in no way an A-list blogger, I believe any beginner can start here and get just as far as I have without many issues.

This post was written by JC of JCDFitness.com, a No-BS Approach to Looking Great Naked where he writes about all things fitness related.

56 thoughts on “What I Learned During My First Year of Blogging”

  1. Tonya Thomas says:

    The best advice I can give anyone is not to post just for the sake of posting. Don’t say anything if you have nothing to say. You’re littering the Internet and wasting people’s time.

    1. Benjamin Cip says:

      Well, on the other hand, it’s always good to have content on your blog. If it’s not a quality content, you can still remove it once you get ideas to write good articles.
      I’m certain that nobody will remember how crappy your content was before… (Usualy people don’t have a lot of readers in their first year of blogging)

      1. Yea, but if your do write very good content right from the start, that’s what you will be known for. Some bloggers become famous for what they write.

  2. Thanks for help me with “Writing First, Design Second”, i will do it in my next blog… Thera are a good number of free themes to start blogging.

  3. I definitely agree with with your tips especially on the post frequency and content first before design.

    Base on my opinion, for a new blog, the frequency do not play big role to gain huge readership – the content quality is.

    It is because this type of blog’s focus is more towards attracting new visitors as mush as possible.

    On the content and design, sometimes for those who just started blogging, they make themeselves unnecessarily busy by ‘designing’ their blog.

    Although I do agree that design is important, there will nobody will come into our blog because of the design if there is nothing in our blog that can be read and be the reason for the new visitors to stay.

    Conclusion – Content first and follow with other stuffs…

    1. Benjamin Cip says:

      I don’t agree with you… whenever I see a blog without a compelling design, I leave it without reading the content. Both content and design are important in order to grab people’s attention.

      There are a lot of blog already, so people won’t waste their time reading a blog with similar subject when they can ready quality content on a well designed blog with great content on it.

      My advice for new blogger is to invest in an affordable theme and grab a logo for as low as $20, I got mine on Digital point forum for very cheap there, and it’s a well designed one.

      1. I agree that spending a couple of grand for a design when you first start is not a good use of resources, but I completely disagree with content first design second.
        You only get one chance to make a first impression. If your website looks like garbage, like Ben Cip, I will leave without even checking the content.
        If I can’t navigate your site, I also probably won’t read more than one or two posts even if they pretty good.
        In my opinion invest a little time or money to get a decent design that looks like you are serious about blogging, so others will take you seriously.

        1. Sorry, gotta completely disagree with you guys. Design doesn’t mean squat if you have so, so content.

          I guess you all have never heard of Griz? He ranks #3 for “make money online” and he has an ugly blogspot blog. Oh yea, and he gets 80 to 120 comments on every post. His blog is zero design and all quality content, plus tons of backlinks.

          Design means nothing!

          1. That is one example. Being number 3 in the Google SERP doesn’t mean the blog gets read. A blog that has been established for 2-3 years years is going to have an advantage in search engines over newly established blogs.

            SEO has nothing to do with visual appearance.

            Furthermore, I would argue that if the design were to be improved the blog would be even more popular. (Only 18,000 on Alexa with less than 500 inbound links in spot 3 on Google… I would be interested to see how much repeat traffic the blog gets).

            Seth Godin’s blog is also very minimal as well if you’re looking for another example to point to.

            But a couple of exceptions doesn’t mean content doesn’t matter. John Chow didn’t have Google, does that mean most people can thrive without Google.

            I agree that so,so content won’t get you very far either. The “total package” is very important. I just think building a solid foundation with a good looking design will greatly increase your chance for success if you have a brand new blog.

  4. Donny Gamble says:

    In order to be an elite blogger and stand out from the crowd, you have to keep writing quality content on a consistent basis in order develop any kind of attention. If you are a new blogger, I would highly recommend that you start off by doing a lot of social media marketing to try to develop relationships with people on the social networks

    1. Benjamin Cip says:

      I would highly recommend people to create a myspace, quidoo and hubpage account to get more traffic as well.

    2. Get tons of backlinks too. That will help you way more than social media.

  5. Interesting view on posting frequency. It’s the opposite of what John does, as he prouds himself of never missing a single day without posting. Perhaps a strict posting schedule works better for some blogs and doesn’t matter for others.

    1. And don’t forget, John has a lot of people available that are only too happy to guest post for him. Having a good sized group of guest bloggers that are reliable and provide quality content is extremely important for a blog like this, SY

      1. Having guest posts is definitely a great way to reduce the workload for some blogs. If you want more guest posts on your blog, a lot of times all it takes is finding someone who’s writing you like and asking them if they would be interested in a guest post.

        Be sure to include the benefits they would receive from guest posting on your blog. It’s probably easier to get someone with less traffic than you to write a guest post for your blog, but don’t let that keep you from asking.

        “The World’s Strongest Librarian” has been doing a guest post marathon where he writes a guest post for anyone who asks. His site does very well, but writing makes him tick and he loves doing it.

  6. Getting a new blog off the ground is the hardest thing to do. Plus your posts won’t rank high on the search engines to get noticed. Consistency is the key and networking.

    I have tried press releases to launch new blogs which seem to make some difference. But at the end of the day CONTENT IS THE KEY.

  7. moneca says:

    thanks john, as i say, i am wanting to figure out how to begin. it is a medium that i think i will be good at just because i need a place to write and i might as well hope for the paycheck from it eventually.
    thanks for sharing and thanks for being so damn reliable, especially having the pho weekly meetings.
    one thing to have training from the computer but another thing to put yourself out and meet your public. i am grateful for both!

  8. Tinh says:

    Content is still the king and nothing is better without content

    1. Benjamin Cip says:

      Content is king, but charisma is beyond everything… if you have charisma and write good content, then you’ll no doubts become an authority… in some way, you can’t write good article if you don’t have charisma, and if you have charisma it means you can write quality articles…

  9. I think posting frequency schedule is still needed. It will be really helpful to face writing block.

    1. Benjamin Cip says:

      If you have some hungry readers, you have to serve them the meal by posting daily yammy articles everydays…

      so if you are not popular yet, don’t post more than one post everyday, cause there are great chances that people will only read your last post, you have write articles in advance to prevent yourself from the writer’s block.

  10. James M. says:

    Can’t help but smile as some of my experiences were reflected on this post.

    I’m into my eight month of blogging and while I have gained a few ideas during this period, I still have a lot to learn.

    1. Benjamin Cip says:

      We learn new things everydays, even dot com mogul don’t know everything. It wouldn’t be unteresting if we knew everythings…. I like to create community so as to share ideas with others and fulfill our lack of knowledge and information.

  11. “If your stuff is good, your readers only care that you hit publish, not when.”

    That! +100

    I follow few bloggers who don’t post frequently. Actually they do it approx. one time in two-three months, but they rock! Every post is worth reading.

    Regarding John Chow… I do not remember when I found this blog. May be two years ago. But it’s still good as it was.

    P.S.: don’t like posts about food 🙂

    1. Benjamin Cip says:

      Many people visit John Chow dot com just to learn new making money online methods, they don’t really care about food, but it’s a great idea to write about food as it can fill in the gaps when you have the writer’s block.. John loves foods, no doubts there!

  12. However you look at it, content is and always will be King. Then you need to focus on quality vs quantity, and rather have a couple of dozen unique and insightful posts than 1000’s of pages worth of inane drivel.

  13. Nice lessons learned from your first year. You are so right about producing quality content regularly.

    As for the posting schedules, I’m about to switch from an every weekday approach to just M-W-F schedule. I’m curious to see the effects.

    1. Benjamin Cip says:

      if everyone write quality content, we won’t be able to call it “quality content” as there won’t be any bad content anymore lol…just kidding.

      It all depends what you call quality content anyway…

  14. EarningStep says:

    very nice article … this is really fit for me as a new blogger.

  15. JC says:

    @Helmi: Yes, I was one of those lost in trying to get the perfect design for my blog. Luckily I had someone more experienced than I suggest that I stop wasting time and worry about design later.

    @Donny: I don’t really agree with getting all gung ho on social media at first. I think building up content and then slowly integrating social media is a better strategy but then again I am sure there are lots of opinions on this.

    @Moneca: If you are going into blogging with the expectation of making money and have never blogged before, you are doing it wrong. If your sole intent of blogging is to make money, chances are highly unlikely that you will succeed.

    However, if you blog about something you are passionate about, you are more likely to profit from it later due to the fact you are more likely to stick with it longer.

  16. Chews4Health says:

    Your posts will see better results if you post on things you are familiar with and have a passion for. Don’t just post because you think you should blog every day. The content will suffer as you carelessly post just to meet your daily requirement. Post less, with much better content and your blog will be 10 times better in the end.

  17. Grok says:

    I’ve recently become online buddies with JC. He’s a good guy. If your into fitness stuff, you should definitely hop over to his blog and read some of his stuff.

  18. I couldn’t disagree more about not having a posting schedule. Look at the majority of the successful blogs. Only about 1 in 15 don’t have very regular posting schedules.
    If I have to check a blog multiple times for updates at odd intervals, I usually quit checking.
    In my own personal experience, weeks where I have had posts ready to rock and publish at 1200 midnight I get way better traffic. As soon as I start posting at irregular intervals, my traffic takes an obvious decline.
    If posting 4 or 5 times a week is too much, no big deal, but at least try to stay regular.

    On the flip side, don’t post something you wouldn’t want to put your name on just to stay on schedule.

    1. JC says:

      I understand your reasoning in a sense but think about it like this. If you read a blog often, chances are highly likely that you are subscribed either by email or RSS. So in that case there is no reason to keep checking back if it’s been updated nor not because you WILL be notified once a new post is up.

      read this:

      1. Not everyone uses RSS and most people won’t subscribe to your blog newsletter right away (especially if you’re just starting and don’t have social proof or a nifty upside (bribe…) to get them to subscribe).

        I’m not trying to knock that site’s content (in fact, some of it seemed solid), but considering he has no AdSense on his site and talks about AdSense and his Alexa hasn’t had a day in the top 100,000 in the last 6 months, I have a hard time knowing how credible that site is as a source. The person doesn’t even use his or her real name (that I saw).

        People like Darren Rowse, John Chow, and Daniel Scocco all preach get on a schedule. Other people like Chris Brogan and Copyblogger stick to their schedule religiously (although since their topics aren’t 100% blog they don’t touch on that as much).

        Honestly, if you can’t come up with a kick ass post frequently enough to start a schedule, you’re probably not passionate enough about the topic. When people are passionate, you can’t get them to shut up.

        If you are serious about making your blog grow (bring in new readers, not just keep the ones you have), you really should have some sort of frequency. Just cut back how frequent it is if you’re having a hard time writing quality content.

        Schedule posts ahead of time if that’s what it takes to stay on the schedule (that’s probably a good idea anyway).

        1. JC says:

          you are definitely entitled to your opinion about what is optimal but I do not believe there to be one way to build an audience.

          If you don’t post every damn day, it does not mean you aren’t passionate; it could actually mean many different things. The writer may work 60 hours a week at a day job where he doesn’t have time to write all the time or he may be running multiple websites already.

          My issue is that I used to follow a set schedule but then realized it doesn’t really matter(I tested it) because if people like your stuff, they are only concerned that you post, not that you do it every 10 seconds.

  19. tony says:

    What about comments from people who obviously didn’t read the post but, just want to get a link back to their site? This happens a lot on my site I think because it is of a religious nature. Many times I just delete them. Sometimes I disable their link. What do you think?

    1. JC says:

      I used to get this but I don’t anymore. I think it’s because I always delete their links and stupid comments. I also don’t get why people try to get a link back from a comment. As far as I understand it, wordpress comments are “no-followed” so the only benefit you might get is a few clicks.

      1. Some people use a plugin that makes their comments do follow. It is pretty popular among sites that aren’t well established in order to promote additional commenting.

        It does tend to yield more spammy comments, but that’s the price you pay for extra comments (if that’s your objective).

        Tony, I have that happen a lot too. I usually just delete the link/comment if it isn’t appropriate. It’s your blog, you have the right to do that.

  20. vga says:

    Congrats on the growth! Love the ‘keep on keepin on’ comment…..so many people throw in the towel way too early….blogging isn’t a get rich quick with no work scheme.

  21. Writing Blogs was not anything I even considered doing 3 months ago. I have always had a lot of stuff in my head that I wanted to write about, but didn’t think I could do it. I joined one of the free sites and the more I wroe the better I got at it. I found John Chow’s site andlearned a lot from him. I just started my own blog site strictly on the John Chow priciples. It’s not even been up a week yet and my following is growing. So This proves that if you are good at writing the people will come to read. I am like John where I want to monetize my blogs as well… I hope by this time next year I will be a full time blogger myself.

  22. Shane says:

    Good post. I’m not even at the 100 subscribers yet and not past the first 90 days for that matter, but I’m already quite surprised at the growth of my blog.

    I’ve also wondered about the “regular posting” thing. I’ve not stuck to a schedule so far and I’m still not sure if I should give it a try or not.

  23. Take a time for thinking post a certain topics. You could make impressive by your topic certain only category

  24. fas says:

    Posting good is important and thats what keeps you kicking.

  25. I think whatever you have learned from your first year is great as many people are not doing like this you have made. Posting with good frequency is the way to get good repution in blog and unique content is always helpful too.

  26. Kajanova says:

    I’m guilty of worrying about the design over content sometimes.. I cant help it! I want my websites to look pretty!

    Nice post.

    1. JC says:

      you don’t seem to be too worried as your blog you linked to is a generic template.

  27. China blog says:

    I think the key thing is, that you actually do something. Write text, marketing, build backlinks. The thing is: keep going! Over time you will learn some tricks to improve further and the road to success opens up.

    1. I agree, don’t stop is the most important thing to do! If I don’t have something to write about, I response to comments, build links, write articles, research etc. Just don’t give up and hope the success comes “magically” over night, SY

  28. Construction says:

    The toughest thing for me is staying interested in the subject matter. Blogging for hire can be tedious work, man…

  29. I remember the day when I had no idea what a blog was and thought, “why would I want to start one?”

  30. I’m trying to figure out how successful a person can be with a fitness blog when they don’t have a 100,000 line sell page. I’m not sure I believe in the “popularity” of your blog.

  31. Couldn’t agree more…great tips from someone who’s clearly out there doing it for real. Rock on man! Congrats on your successes so far 🙂

  32. Excellent resource for seasonal and probloggers. thumbs up.

  33. Linda Mirano says:

    Could not be written any better. Reading this post reminds me of my old room mate! He always kept talking about this. I will forward this article to him. I’m convinced he will have a good read. Thanks for sharing!

  34. Gold Party says:

    Is there anything that you tried that you wouldnt suggest doing? Things you learned people responded better or worse to??

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