Over the last couple of years I have been working on moving away from being ‘a distinguished professor’ towards becoming ‘an awesome blogger’.
Today, I’m breaking one of the core rules on The Money Principle – don’t go with the crowd – and offer you fifteen blogging tips I have worked out for becoming an awesome blogger and ways to take your ‘baby’ to the next level (irrespective of where you are in the blogging pack now).
What the heck, it is Friday and I can break my own rules if I feel like it!
Let me tell you a story before I share the fifteen blogging tips.
About a year ago, at a bloggers’ conference, a great blogger and a good friend of mine (Skint in the City) led a session on blog writing.
‘If you have written ‘the latte’ post please put your hand up.’ – she said.
A shrub of hands went up; all except mine. Small wonder; a Google search on ‘give up your latte’ generates over 3 million hits. There are three million bloggers out there who have written ‘the latte’ post; it is highly likely that 20 are in the same room.
I have never written one. I did write a post for another blog urging people to give up their frappuccino: not because they’d get rich but because it is real travesty of a coffee.
I don’t intend to write a latte post; ever. Latte doesn’t make my world rock. Blogging, on the other hand does. I love doing it, and it is becoming really important skill to have in today’s economy and society.
Did you notice that baby-sitting didn’t come up as one of the fifteen ways to make money to fill you fridge or the fifteen ways to make money to pay your bill? Blogging, in one form or another, came up three times. This tells us something.
And writing a post about blogging is even more ‘mainstream’ than ‘the latte’ post. A search on ‘how to blog’ just hit me with close to five million results.
Why would I be telling you about ways to become an awesome blogger?
Let’s start with the ‘why me’ question. I have something to say because:
- In the three years I’ve been blogging I’ve learned a thing or two about it;
- The Money Principle (TMP) has reached a decent level of popularity and reputation;
- I have doubled the traffic on TMP since Christmas 2013;
- I have done loads of research how to get over the next hump.
I know what has worked so far and what I’m going to try in the very near future.
And no, this is not meant as a ‘blogger’ post; I’ll share fifteen blogging tips I believe anyone should know and try out. If this is basic for you, just stop reading; go do something useful and get to the next level in your life.
I should also mention that this post is not about the technical aspects of blogging. If you want to learn how to register a domain, choose you hosting and theme, the advantages of WordPress or simply to learn to distinguish your plugins from your widgets don’t read me.
These are the blogs and people you should be reading:
The Minimalists published a post on creating a successful blog which is rather technical.
For all things blogging, Darren Rowse is your guy. Here is a post that links to all resources he has on ProBlogger about blogging.
You may wish to check out Penelope Trunk’s site as well. She published a post summarising what she’s been writing about blogging. I love it! May be because she has a post telling us not to waste time worrying about the typos on our blogs (I will love this, won’t I).
For most technical stuff about writing good copy (content) I go to DailyBlogTips. In fact, I went as far as submitting one of my posts for review and comments; check it out if curious. Great fun it was and Ali had something to say about the typos on The Money Principle.
Don’t go for anything that mentions ‘three minutes’, ‘several seconds’ or ‘dummies’ in the title. It is not very clever; this kind of post about blogging is also useless: blogging looks easy but it certainly takes more than three seconds to get it right.
Now, here are the fifteen blogging tips I wanted to share with you.
Tip 1: Names matter
What we call things matters a lot.
All I’m saying is that if you call your blog ‘Financial waste of space and time’ you have already set yourself for a specific type of writing. Don’t know about you, but when I see a blog name that tells the world ‘I’m a loser and intend to stay one’, I lose interest very soon.
Tip 2: How to work out your blog’s name
This is not a trivial exercise. When I was doing it, I remember knowing what niche I want to position the blog in; but had no idea what to call it.
The Money Principle came up in a brain-storming session with John (and the ‘principle’ part I owe to a colleague).
Lately, I have started making lists; I make lists about everything I can think to make a list about. This generates loads of rubbish but I am also becoming a systematic ideas factory – some of these ideas are decent; few are really promising. Try it!
Deciding what to call your blog links to the domain name you could have; so come up with a list of names and then do a domain search. If the domain is taken, go back to the drawing board or find the owner and buy it.
When I was starting out themoneyprinciple.com was taken; so we went with themoneyprinciple.co.uk. It’s working out okay.
Tip 3: Passion is overrated
There seems to be an agreement on the internet that when starting a blog people should follow their passion.
I believe passion at the start is over-rated. To be passionate about anything you need to know enough about it; and you can get passionate about most things you know a lot about.
Another reason I believe passion is overrated is because you will want your blog to be read. People read what they are passionate about, not what you are passionate about.
I know someone who is very passionate about the mating rituals of a particular type of turtle. Fascinating! I can take about five minutes of this and he can talk about it for days. Would I encourage him to start a blog about his passion? Probably not.
Tip 4: Work out a problem that many people share
Did I mention that if you wish to start and run a popular blog it has to be read by many people?
Well, people will read your blog if they are convinced your writing (information) is useful; and your writing will be useful if you write about a problem many people share. Oh, and you offer solutions that are easy to enact, original and are proven to work.
This is a hard one and takes a long time to figure out. I am just honing on three or four big problems.
Tip 5: Learn all there is to know about the problem
Yep, people who have built successful blogs became experts. Learn everything there is to know about the problem; analyse it, research it and synthesise it.
Don’t shy away from different sources of information. Read the press, follow blogs and research what academics have to say about it.
This is what I did when starting The Money Principle; I read all the usual self-help books about money, how to make it and keep it; but I also read academic articles on finance and economics. Reading economics was a hard step for me, though; I am a sociologist and philosopher.
Tip 6: Build credibility with your audience
As a blogger, you are as good as the trust you inspire. If people don’t trust you, you are done – they won’t read you and you may as well call it a day and come back when you’ve figured out how to build trust and confidence.
One way to build trust is to build credibility.
Are you writing about paying off debt because you think this ‘will sell’ and you’ve read couple of blog posts about it? If you do, stop now! You can write about debt when you have experienced it, have conquered it and have learned all there is to know about it. Oh, and you have figured something on top so you bring value to the table.
When I started The Money Principle, I told the world how much debt we had; I also said we are paying it off. Credibility came when we paid off £100,000 in three years. We also became a story which the Business Insider (and others) picked up.
Tip 7: Build credibility with other bloggers
Your readers are the most important people in your life as a blogger.
The other bloggers in the niche come close second. Blogging is an occupation in which you are not likely to make it on your own. It is about connectivity and what I call ‘hunting in packs’.
Being an active, useful and helpful member of a group increases dramatically your chances for success. To be credible with other bloggers make sure that you are professional, interesting and nice. Work from love not from hate.
Use every opportunity to hone up your skills as a blogger: ask for feedback, get a mentor and solicit opinion on your blog posts.
Why do you think I submitted my post on five unorthodox ways to spot an upcoming neighbourhood for judgement on DailyBlogTips?
Once you have some credibility start your Mastermind group: becoming part of one is the best thing I’ve done lately.
Tip 8: Connect with other bloggers
This is kind of obvious but it still needs mentioning. There are different ways to connect with other bloggers. One is to read their blogs and comment on their posts; please try to be helpful, engaging and to the point. Getting comments like ‘great post’ are very annoying.
Another way is to drop the bloggers you read (and discover) a short e-mail; just tell them how much you enjoyed what you read. Don’t ask for anything: most bloggers feel so pleased about getting an e-mail recognising and appreciating their effort that they will offer you something (I offer guest posting). If not, you can always write again later.
Yet another way to connect is to guest post.
Tip 9: Guest post
I told you that I doubled my traffic since the end of December, 2013, didn’t I?
Most of this is because of guest posting. I have not had a pitch for a guest post refused yet; and it is not that I approach only bloggers I already know (I started with my friends, though, true).
I think that there are several reasons for that.
- First, I already have reputation in the personal finance niche.
- Second, I made a list of the blogs and sites that I like reading.
- Third, I worked out what article I can write for the blog and what value it will contribute; I pitch only one idea.
- Forth, I put a lot of effort to make the title-line of the e-mail and its content as different from the spam e-mails we all receive as possible.
- Fifth, I write guest posts I’m proud of.
Having a list of potentially ‘killer posts’ helps.
Tip 10: Work out a strategy for reaching people
Here is the deal: you may be writing really good stuff: original, informational, educational and entertaining. Oh, and let’s not forget useful.
It is not much use if nobody can find it.
This is why it is very important to work out strategies to reach the people who could benefit from what you research, try and write. These strategies can be different: from identifying the sites and publications your target groups read to word of mouth. Figure it out and do it.
I am in the process of changing my strategy; I’m going for three big problems in personal finance and targeting the mainstream publications to get the word out there more widely. Watch this space!
Tip 11: Have a strong and simple core message
Successful blogs have very strong and simple core message; one that make people immediately identify with it.
‘But this will narrow down the number of people I could reach.’ – you may think.
True. But you don’t want to reach just anyone; you want to reach the people who can appreciate your message and join ‘your tribe’. You want examples?
Just have a look at Mr. Money Mustache (Early Retirement through Badassity) – the message couldn’t be clear. MMM is not a blog; it is a cult!
Tip 12: Tell people how what you do will benefit them
This is very simple: most of us spend most of our time telling people how great what we are doing/have done is. We do it not only when we blog, we do it with all kinds of products, services and occupations.
At the same time people want to know how what you offer would benefit them. The benefits can be different: from solving someone’s problem to making their life easier or more enjoyable.
You have to be clear about this and tell your readers. On The Money Principle I have made a statement of benefit on the ‘About’ page and in the ‘welcome box’. I’ve re-written and re-framed this statement many times; it still can be clearer.
Tip 13: Offer solutions
Some bloggers spend most of their time telling their readers what their problems are. This can be interesting for some time – there is a voyeur in each of us. There is also a little bit of the masochist in most of us – tell me I have ninety nine problems and I’ll find ninety nine excuses.
At the end though, we are all looking for the solution. This solution has to be imaginative, easy (even deceptively so) and actionable.
The rest is interesting but won’t last; your blog won’t last either.
Tip 14: Reach beyond the blog post
Bloggers’ success depends on publishing regularly. We publish blog posts – these are fairly short articles: between 400 and 1,000 words. These should be published regularly – two, three or more times per week.
This is why most bloggers focus on the blog post: on having ideas for posts, writing them and publishing them.
What most highly successful bloggers do is they go beyond the blog post. This can be done by thinking about a movement to start, by coming up with flagship content in several blog posts and marketing these like crazy or by becoming the hub of a community (and the quality of what you write is given).
Think about this step. I am thinking about it (cheeky request: any ideas about how The Money Principle could get beyond the blog post are very welcome in the comments).
Tip 15: You thought blogging is easy; forget it
It amazes me to realise that many people see blogging as an easy way to make buck; and they also believe that success in blogging – however this is measured – is easy.
Forget it! Blogging is a hard and long process of learning, self-discovery, experimenting and obsession.
And you know what? Bloggers, drug dealers and academics have something very important in common: at the early stages of their career they all work for well below minimum wage. Why do they continue doing it?
I don’t know about the others but I do it because I haven’t lost my hope that ‘I’ll get to the top’: I did in academia. Oh, and it is really good fun.
Thing is though, just like with drug-dealers and academics, very few bloggers make it to the top.
It turned out I had a lot to say about becoming an awesome blogger. Much more than I’ll ever have to say about giving up your latter and the miracle this is for your finances.