Building a successful blog only requires two steps. Earning a living doing what you love requires two more steps. Publishing 500 blog posts taught me this and more.
A couple of weeks ago, we crossed over a big milestone here at Think Traffic. There are now over 500 blog posts published on this site. 500!
I don’t know how many bloggers out there have published 500+ posts, but I’ll guess it’s not many (compared to the hundreds of millions of blogs that have been started), which is a shame because it’s impossible to publish 500 posts without accomplishing something significant or even life changing.
For me, publishing 500 posts has helped attract an audience of 100,000+ unique visitors here per month, which directly led to building the little 3-person business now known as FizzleCo. My life and career has literally changed because I published my first blog post in March 2009, and kept publishing every month.
Publishing 500 blog posts also taught me a lot about rocket science. Well, not exactly. Mostly I learned that blogging isn’t rocket science. Let me explain.
Blogging isn’t rocket science.
Let’s get this out of the way first. Blogging isn’t rocket science.
Here’s my 2-step formula for building a popular blog:
- Publish useful stuff.
- Attract an audience.
Rinse and repeat. Do this until you have a big following. It might not take you 500 posts, or even 50. It depends on how useful your stuff is, and how hungry the audience is.
This might sound glib, but it’s true. There is no magic to building an audience through blogging, or podcasting or video-ing. The trick is in figuring out how to create truly useful stuff.
If what you publish is useful enough, getting the word out is easy.
Then, the 2-step formula can be expanded to a 4-step formula for building a successful business:
- Publish useful stuff.
- Attract an audience.
- Make and sell something your audience is willing to pay for.
- Grow your business, repeating steps 1 through 3.
Some people start businesses at Step 3. I prefer to start with Step 1 because it lowers the risk of building something no one wants.
The simplicity of publishing and growing an audience (and likewise growing a business) has become clearer and clearer the more I’ve published. This above all is what I’ve learned from publishing 500 blog posts.
But of course, there’s more to know than simply “publish useful stuff.”
5 Other Things I Learned Publishing 500 Blog Posts
Engagement > Traffic
This probably seems like a weird statement for a blog with the word “traffic” in its name. Honestly, I didn’t always understand this myself. It’s so easy to get caught up chasing vanity metrics.
If you’re blogging to ultimately support yourself doing what you love independently, as an artist, coder, writer, freelancer or other creative type, raw traffic numbers are meaningless.
What matters is whether people are really listening to you, how much influence you have and if people will trust and like you enough to hit the buy button when the time comes.
A hundred true fans is worth more than a million social media shares.
Epic ≠ Long
There’s useful, and then there’s epic. To stand out from the flood of media and content we’re all swimming in daily, average content isn’t going to cut it.
You have to write things that make people think. Inspire people. Change lives. Create value. Blow people away with your usefulness.
But epic doesn’t mean long. The perfect length for any piece of writing or video or audio is the length it takes to make a lasting impact and change your readers’ lives. Sometimes this will take 4,000 words. Other times it will take 446.
It’s hard to be useful without being different.
Whatever topic you choose to blog about, chances are there are plenty of other blogs out there already on the subject. When a new visitor stops by, they’ll be asking themselves “why should I spend any time on this site, when I know there are other great sites out there already?”
To make your useful stuff stick, people have to stick around long enough to digest it. If your site doesn’t seem unique enough, your visitors will move on before even giving your ideas a chance.
Useful can mean helpful, entertaining, educational, inspirational, motivational or all of the above.
This is something I’ve learned more recently from publishing The Fizzle Show. The show is 50% useful tips for starting and growing an independent business, and 50% inside jokes, mediocre impressions and fatuous cultural references.
Yet we’ve gotten a more heartfelt response to the show than almost anything else I’ve ever been a part of. Listeners have been saying things like: “Hands down, my favorite podcast. Ever.” and “This podcast has been one of the best things I’ve come across in a VERY VERY long time. These guys are great. They balance great meaty material with humor, and the whole thing has a great organic flow.”
Being useful is great, but being useful AND entertaining, that’s a home run.
Your work will suck, and you have to fight through it.
In the beginning, your work won’t be very good. Most people quit because it’s so painful to publish work that you know isn’t very good. It’s embarrassing and the only way to get better is by producing a huge volume of work.
If you keep blogging and keep working to serve your audience, you’ll eventually find your voice and start attracting true fans.
But getting through the first couple of years is the real challenge, because what you make when you first start out probably won’t be all that good.
As Ira Glass says in this beautifully illustrated interview clip, the only way to get good is to produce a lot of work. And to me, the easiest way to produce a lot of work is by focusing on things you really care about.
Our full 500+ posts are available in the archives.
If you’re new here, I suggest starting with these:
- 42 Timeless Ideas for Attracting More Visitors to Your Website
- 21 Quick Actions You Can Do Today to Set Your Blog Up for Massive Success
- Write Epic Shit
- Top 10 Mistakes in Starting an Online Business
- The Fizzle Show (this one isn’t a post, per se, but, statistically, this is something you will enjoy)
If you had only 1 or 2 pieces of advice to give someone based on your experience publishing so far, what would your advice be? Tell us what publishing blog posts or videos or podcasts or anything else has taught you in the comments below.