In just a few days, this website will pass the 30 million view threshold.
Since its inception in November of 2012, my blog has officially been read (almost) 30 million times — with about 29,800,000 of those hits coming in the last 6 months or so.
Everything has changed because of the success of this endeavor. Through the revenue from the modest bit of advertising I do on this site, coupled with the folks who generously donate to help keep the ship afloat, I’ve been able to leave my job, move back home to Maryland, and concentrate on writing full-time.
In the last six months, I’ve been republished by several major news publications, invited on TV shows, asked to speak at banquets and graduation ceremonies, approached by book publishers, and presented with other kinds of exciting opportunities (that I have to vague about, for the time being).
I thought about what I should do to mark this 30-million-views occasion. Tempted as I was to celebrate the moment by finally writing a post full of useful alpaca grooming tips, I had to fight the urge. Sorry, but I generally charge 300 dollars an hour for grooming consultations. I can’t give my secrets away for free. These cutthroats in the alpaca grooming industry would steal my formula and run me out of town faster than you can say “alpacas aren’t llamas.”
Instead, I thought I’d offer a different sort of consultation. In fact, the most common question I get from readers (second only to “why are you such an opinionated jerk?”) is this: “I have/am starting a blog. Can you give me any advice?”
I try to respond to some of these inquiries individually, but I can’t answer all of them. I’ve been toying with writing a general “blogging advice” post for a while now, yet I always decide against it. Even though I’ve been successful in this arena, it still feels arrogant and presumptuous to position myself as some sort of authority.
Then last night, in a moment of curiosity, I Googled the phrases “blogging advice” and “how to get a million hits on your blog.” I just wanted to see what pearls of wisdom are already floating around out there. Of course, my search yielded millions of results. Sifting through some of it, I did find helpful morsels here and there. Still, most of the advice appeared to be written by “advisers” who have no actual experience in the area (surprising, I know).
The sheer volume of bad blogging advice prompted me to submit my own.
So, for whom it may concern, I have jotted down a list of blogging tips. My list is shorter than you might expect. Actually, it’s only two items long. And they are:
Look at this site. It’s ugly, isn’t it? It isn’t very aesthetically pleasing. Nothing fancy, or hip, or sleek. Very few pictures. No graphics. No videos or gifs. Nothing flashy, nothing stylish. No gimmicks. All you see is the name of my site, my ugly mug, and then my writing.
That’s because the point of my blog is my writing. Nobody goes to a blog for the scenery. They go for the content. That’s it. That’s all. That’s all that matters.
If your content is weak, it doesn’t matter how you dress it. Alright, dump thousands of dollars into a snazzy design if you like — you’re wasting your money. I can’t tell you how often someone sends me a link to their blog, asks for my feedback, and I click on it only to find the prettiest pile of boring I’ve ever seen.
It’s sad, really. So much time spent wrapping a box, and then they forget to actually put something in it. I don’t want to be harsh, but if you’re wondering why your blog doesn’t get traffic, don’t worry about marketing tactics, or layouts, or email lists, or whatever else. Worry about the fact that your content isn’t good enough.
Content is king. Put all of your energy into crafting great content. Become obsessed with it. It’s your passion. Your art. It isn’t easy to consistently create effective online content, but there isn’t any other way to have a successful blog. Every successful blog in existence got to that point through the content they offer. Nothing else matters. It’s all window dressing, as far as I’m concerned.
Yes, it’s easy to simply say, “produce great content.” Shouldn’t I explain HOW to accomplish this?
No, I can’t. I’m not you. You’ve got something to say — that’s why you’re starting a blog — and whatever you want to say is not what I want to say. You have a voice, and your voice is not my voice. Anyone who comes along and says, “here’s the formula for good content” is either lying, or they don’t understand good content because they’ve never produced any themselves.
That’s what disturbed me when I read some of the blogging “advice” out there in cyberspace. So many snake oil salesman pretending to have the recipe. I hate — really, hate — when people try to contain creativity like that. There isn’t any step-by-step process. There aren’t any rules to it.
Content is king. And great content can come in infinite forms. You just have to figure out your own.
2. Plan on being successful.
Sometimes I lie to people. I don’t know why. I don’t mean to lie, but I do. I lie when I say things like, “yeah, I don’t know, I just started this website as a hobby. I never thought it would get a ton of traffic. It all just kind of happened on its own.”
I started this website because I wanted millions of people to read it. I put ads on it because I wanted to make money for my family. The success didn’t “just happen.” Every bit of it was intentional. Thousands of hours of work have gone into this blog, and I was purposeful about every second of every minute of every hour. It was never a hobby. I don’t have the luxury to spend that kind of time on a hobby. My wife isn’t going to make the sort of sacrifices she’s had to make just so that I can dedicate hours a day to a “hobby.”
There’s money to be made online. Success to be had. There is no sky and there is no limit. So go into it intending on making that money and having that success. I’m not suggesting you quit your job because you started a blog last week, but if quitting your job to blog fulltime is your goal — great. Make it your goal. Say it out loud. Get good enough to make it happen, and then make it happen.
This is another fallacy I saw amidst the myriad of bad blogging tips. “Don’t expect to make money,” they said.
Don’t expect it to be easy or automatic, be prepared to blog for months without making a dime, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t expect to ever make money. Who goes into a thing not expecting to accomplish their ultimate goal? What sort of an attitude is that?
One thing is for certain: if you don’t expect to achieve it — you won’t. This stuff isn’t accidental. You either do it on purpose or you don’t do it at all.
By the way: If you ARE blogging as a hobby, that’s fine, of course. But I assume you wouldn’t be seeking advice if you’re doing this strictly for your own enjoyment.
And that’s it. Great content, plan on being successful. Sure, there’s more to it than that, but this will be your starting point. If you don’t have these two covered, I guarantee that your blogging exploits will fail, and fail spectacularly.
On the flip side of that coin, if you produce fantastic content, and you bring a hefty dose of ambition and effort to the table, every other “strategy” and “tactic” will develop naturally from there.
Happy blogging. Go make a million dollars. You could do it. You really could.
And, when you do, please come back around and give me a couple blogging tips of your own.