* If you've been wanting to blog, stop pissing around, open a blog on wordpress.com and start writing. That's my first advice to anyone. Don't waste time on the technicalities, just write. You can move your blog to another platform later.
* Be regular. This is hard. I fail this rule most of the time. But a successful blog is a blog that's been going on for ages. I've posted 461 posts since 2013 on www.cryptologie.net and that's why it is working well.
* Do not look for perfect posts. You are not writing a book. A blog is to share knowledge in a quick way, or to share what's on your mind. No hesitation, once you have something, publish it. People might call you out for saying something wrong, fine, that's free publicity and you'll have learned something new.
* Mix short posts with long posts. It's impossible to keep writing high quality content and long blog posts. So write small ones from times to times to fill in between better blog posts. This is what make people keep going on your blog. It's like a facebook news feed, it needs to have something every time people check it.
* Write on trendy subjects. What did you learn recently that could be helpful to other people? What did you have trouble to learn because there was no good resource on the subject? You could be that resource. What is google trend saying? Are there any trendy topics in your field? What are people talking about recently?
Anyway, I agree with almost everything the article says, and there are some things in there that are not obvious to people who are just starting out, which I think puts it well above meh.
But, the one thing I disagree with is his first step when writing a blog post: brainstorm titles. I started that way, but I found I almost always changed the title and sometimes even change what the post is all about by the end.
I generally start with an idea instead of a title; then write down what I know about it; then I put those thoughts in an order that I can use to tell a story; then I research to confirm what I think I know is indeed factual. That is where it becomes interesting.
Sometimes I'm completely wrong, and the story becomes that -- the truth is often more interesting than the assumptions. Sometimes I discover things about what I knew that are more interesting than the original idea. Sometimes what I knew is true and I just back it up with facts and the idea alone was interesting enough to begin with. Lastly, sometimes it's complete shit and I shelf it until the time feels right or I find a new approach to the subject.
I’m 21, but I’ve been blogging for almost 10 years.
I grew up doing this.
What I’ve written on the internet has reached millions of people. Most of what I’ve written is in Italian, but I was also quite successful when writing in english. My Quora profile, reached 400k people in three months.
i feel like these are reasonable qualifications to give blogging advice. Your advice sounds good, but are you speaking from experience or is it just something that makes sense to you? what exactly do you find meh about his advice and why?
I don’t. As a 21 year old, 21 year olds are terrible at giving advice. There’s also the successful-bias problem, where you think you’re successful because of whatever you did, and that there aren’t other ways.
this is a generality. You omitted the next sentence where experience / results were presented. I would ignore most 21 year olds advice about snowboarding, but i would listen to everything Shaun White had to say at 15.
There’s also the successful-bias problem, where you think you’re successful because of whatever you did, and that there aren’t other ways
another generality (perhaps you're talking about survivor bias). in any case, these are general statements that may be true statistically but unless you tie them to the context of OP there is little relevance to this discussion
You missed the point. Young people, especially extremely talented ones, are terrible at giving advice. They don’t have nearly enough experience to recognize biases and will give out worthless platitudes like “always practice 6 hours a day” when the real key to their success is mastering some fundamental technique at a young age that they don’t even understand.
It’s like chefs that recite recipes with “a pinch of X”, “a splash of Y”, and “a sprinkling of Z”. This is completely useless to amateurs and is only marginally useful to professionals that might be able to deconstruct how the ingredients interact to get precise ratios.
Experience is experience.
An example: some people (like myself) really really care about blog design — it’s why I enjoyed looking at yours! I also like plaintext design and other stuff, but my point is I care. Your audience might not, considering how you defined it, but another audience might! Another example is the newsletter: you & your audience might like one, but Daring Fireball doesn’t have one and I like that aspect of the that blog.
So again, with all due respect, even your own points are contradictory. You didn’t look at blogging objectively — only what worked for you. Which is fine! Thanks for the advice. And please ignore mine — I’m 21. But hopefully you get my point.
I think that blogging is kind of like painting, coding, entrepreneurship or any other creative activity. Everybody that makes it starts giving contradictory advice on what worked for them, which is all good. As an individual your job is to make your own decisions. Having a lot of advices to pick from can help a lot in my opinion
BTW You seem like an interesting person, hit me up!
You're assuming equivalent intents. The OP's advice is good if your goal is maximize the size of your audience. Many people (and I suspect more likely in this crowd), the goal is to generate interesting and meaningful conversation. You do need some threshold of views for this, but beyond that threshold, a larger audience is not of benefit. And a really large audience becomes a liability - the conversation becomes less meaningful very quickly.
If you have a stackoverflow account with at least 500 points, click your user profile and check out the "people reached" metric in the top right corner. Prepare to be amazed.
TBH, there are few tips or rules. I have seen successful blogs that employ virtually every kind of format and style. Some that follow all the rules an others that break them all. First-mover advantage seems to be important. I'm sure the first person to blog about Bitcoin did well, but the 284th guy? Probably not so much.
Using a blue background with white text used to be an "easy reading mode" in Microsoft Word (with a simple checkbox to enable it). So, I wonder if there is some research behind this color scheme.
Look at waitbutwhy.com and julian.com they don't write about stuff they find on google trends and don't post regularly, yet they're among the best blogs out there
Terrible advice. If your blog proves popular, it'll be impossible for you to move away without losing your position in search engines. Lock-in.
Starting with a cheap shared hosting is a no-brainer.
It's true that plugins are not available except on the business plan, however the most common plugins are already embedded out of the box, you don't have to set them up. It's a great experience as far as not having to manage wordpress. An apprentice blogger absolutely does NOT need any additional plugin.
The pricing is both insane and cheap. I looked into upgrading and alternatives after my blog had above 100k visitors and almost 1 TB of traffic in a month. Believe it or not, there was nothing else cheaper.
The point is to write.
I remember similar advice on patio11 (Patrick McKenzie) blog that i really took to heart. something along the lines of "it's better to have a few laser polished articles, than a ton of content". so to this date i start writing posts and quit half way through to keep only my favorite ideas up there..
there is another camp i.e. Seth Godin who write a short post every day, and that could work too perhaps. but i think most people would be better off with the advice in OPs post
The results of this change of format are mixed. On the one hand, it now feels like quite an accomplishment when we wrap up research, writing, fact-checking, recording (podcast version), sound design, illustrations, etc. And most readers/listeners seem happier than ever with the quality of the content. But on the other hand, our rankings in Google have fallen considerably to sites that post frequent, low-effort content. The gatekeepers seem to prefer the pap.
Additionally, there are a minority of readers/listeners who are outright hostile about our reduced output. Just as an example, I received this via email a few days ago:
You are the laziest website on the internet. If I was to succumb to your nag messages and give you money, you would just waste it. This isn't really a real website, and it has no reason to exist. Give up and shut down. A website isn't worth visiting if it looks the same every 6 months someone visits. Just put a bullet it in already and end its pain. You failed. Just call time-of-death, already. Or, whatever, die slowly of cancer... It's not like your life amounts to anything...
So, while I agree that deeper content is "better", it has its drawbacks.
(I have particular interest in this because geeks often cite them as the rationale for why not to price aggressively, because they complain about prices at every price point, including free.)
My next reaction was that those types of people exist and feel entitled to access content/entertainment. This should not be a deterrent from continuing to produce what you're already doing. If it is sustainable and you enjoy doing it, I hope you continue to.
The New York Times concluded years ago that those people would never pay you anyway, so why bother giving them access?
Doing things for "exposure" is somewhat of a meme nowadays, but it can work. That's why people let Google past their paywalls. Mileage varies a lot of course.
One issue for a large media outlet is maintaining standing, cutting off all access to those who won't/can't pay means you're no longer the go to place for news (or whatever), that can have wider consequences.
I've gotten some angry comments on my blog but I've ignored them, and they go away. When you reach a large audience, there's always going to be some portion that is disturbed. That's just how the world is.
That would probably only bait the troll into doing something worse, though.
I wonder if it would be helpful/cathartic to have a central repository of hate mail that everyone could share their "fan" letters to.
There are tons of people like this, I observe this behavior more and more these days. Go and talk to a random youtuber/twitch streamer how much hate they have to deal with for their "free" content.
I once thought its the German culture (doing business and earning money is almost a nono-thing in Germany and makes you an easy target), but I guess some humans are just like that...
But hey, if you're writing more detailed content, then that's something I'm happy to see as a reader. The constant push for speed above everything else is exactly why so much content online is poorly researched and barely fact checked, and Google favouring quickly written stuff is likely a good reason why the media has fallen so far recently; everything's about trying to beat the curve on search engine results and social media sites.
Kudos for not going the same way.
Why? Because when you are out researching the next piece, someone else's article is being read.
That way you build an audience.
Wait, you say. I don't want my content on someone else's platform?
That's okay, the "platform" just links back to the long form content. It can even have ratings, which are even more important in long form content.
No one has ever taken issue with the YouTube Algorithm before.
Not a problem platforms care about, probably helps them, sucks for users though -- it becomes 'how bad can we make things and still have people use our service'.
A platform would be interesting too, but it’d be hard to curate without all the standard race to the bottom tactics that people would use to exploit your page rank.
In some sense, you can’t avoid the need to commit to a brand and a voice. So the way to achieve what you want is by federating with other brands and voices, not dumping into an anonymous platform.
If this email is authentic, I suggest disregarding it. I know it's easier said than done, but, some people will never be happy. Invest your time and emotional bandwidth on causes that matter to you, or otherwise aren't lost.
That being said, posting that nasty email here is part of my strategy for maintaining a rational view of it. It's less destructive out in the light.
Look at popular blogs, and when I say popular blogs I mean blogs where people keep on checking your posts, participate regularly in conversations, etc. They are all highly active.
On the other side, blogs that post rarely AND that are famous are very rare. People tend to forget about them. Note that a post that buzzes thanks to a link on HN or reddit doesn't make it a popular blog.
If you run your blog like a business, as in you have a real need for growth and to turn a profit, you will need to pump out content on a regular basis.
That is a big "if" though. A lot of blogs don't try to be businesses. Personally, I use my personal blog to write about things I'm interested in writing about whether it's hobby-related stuff or technology. About a year ago I was thinking about starting a separate travel and food blog I was going to be more serious about and quickly realized I really couldn't be bothered.
If you're going to run a blog as a business, you also probably need to have a clear area of focus and I'm just not interested in doing that. A lot of my tech stuff also ends up running in other places these days where it gets better readership anyway.
For every Daring Fireball, there are 100 blogs neither you nor I have probably heard of that are profitable businesses.
He averages about 5 posts a month, and has months where he writes 1 post:
I don't know if people really check blog websites daily anymore. Stuff like news, sports, Reddit/FB/IG are an exception; people expect there to be updated content daily.
I think John Gruber does a pretty good job at https://daringfireball.net where he posts shorter stuff mixed in with longer out articles. I think I heard him say once his goal was to get someone to check his site once or twice/week.
One another example is backlinko's Brian Dean. He writes really long articles and doesn't post often (but updates his older articles when relevant). He too seems to be doing very well
as another example Casey Neistad said that his vlog took off after he decided to produce content daily.
For most niches, it makes sense to write around 6-15 long articles (>6000 words) and then a bunch of 500 word articles that lead to the big article - most of the time a guide (you're doing on-page SEO and target long tail keywords with those small articles).
But people like Brian from Backlinko also show other ways. Strategies like Backlinko's depend on the backlink structure (he writes about it here ). If you try to do it without caring about the backlink structure (you certainly should, too), the way I've described is the most economic (basically a hybrid solution).
(And, half the time when you do publish that perfect piece, it lands with a thud because others apparently didn't think it was as great as you did. I've had pieces I've tossed off in a few hours get tons of traction while other pieces I've spent a few days polishing don't attract readers at all.)
On the other hand, I wouldn't counsel putting out a lot of crappy 500 word posts even if you don't have anything fresh to say.
I find this true not just of blog posts, but any time I've done formal writing at all. There is an immense gulf in quality between writing that has gone through even just one heavy edit/revision process and writing that never has.
I've recently been encouraging my technical co-workers to expend more time on not-code, such as documentation, tutorials, plans, postmortems, internal RFCs, carefully worded PR/commit comments, etc. One challenge is that people sometimes think that when they "finish" a piece of writing, they're done. Unless you've been iteratively revising pieces of it in smaller chunks, I think you're really only halfway there.
Lastly, I encourage everyone to publish blogs or articles. Each blog post on an independent site is a blow against the content farms and social media giants that control so much of the discourse these days.
Otherwise, you publish on Medium, which IMO is just as bad in terms of handing over your IP to content farms.
I host my blog on a Digital Ocean droplet with a total cost of $90 spread out over 12 months. I realize that not everyone has disposable income or the time but this is a very cheap hobby even with the massive overkill of a whole droplet. And this is not even the cheapest way to host, you can get much cheaper shared hosting for almost free for smaller static sites.
It is remarkably convenient, high Google ranking, with zero technical maintenance and seemingly permanent.
Sometimes better solutions are given by other people.
I have even found my own past comments when googling for solutions!
The simple explanation for this is that I'm more keen to keep stuff if they're on the internet. Otherwise, they will just rot in my home directory and get thrown out on next reinstall in a couple of years.
It's also a good emotional exercise. Am I really up to the task of releasing my inner thoughts publicly, even though nobody is likely to read it? The thing that made me start it was this challenge from Neil Gaiman.
>The moment that you feel, just possibly, you are walking down the street naked, exposing too much of your heart and your mind, and what exists on the inside, showing too much of yourself...That is the moment, you might be starting to get it right.
Just more vague tips that maybe worked for him and won't for most. i have several articles on my own blog/website that are over 4000 words and all original content. Want to guess how much search engine traffic they get? Z-e-r-o
- Have any other websites linked back to your content? 'Backlink' volume is a quality signal for search engines.
- Is your blog about a specific topic, or does it cover multiple different topics? A niche-specific website will get better ranking than a website that covers multiple topics.
- Is you website mobile-friendly? I have seen dev blogs that area clearly not responsive. Search engines can detect that and will ding you accordingly.
- Have you tried to promote your content? On Twitter, on message boards, on HN, anything?
- Is your content structured to be search engine friendly? Some devs build blogs in React, or some other framework, where the HTML is dynamically generated, leaving your page source looking like a framework template, with no content shown. A search crawler won't know there's any content there.
As someone who has 50k+ views per month on one site I know a thing or two about this.
I also write a personal blog where I don't do SEO and only get around 300 views per month. I could optimize that, but I just write about things that I find interesting (without doing keyword research, doing A/B tests, ...).
High DA and quality links are a necessity, but I have people in my network who make 100k profit per month with a lot of sites that have DA17-25 (pretty weak) and some backlinks (around 30 per site, although there are some strong ones). They usually analyze the content of their competitors and write articles that are simply +500 words longer. You wouldn't believe what's still possible today, although I agree that it doesn't work for main keywords.
It's cumbersome (analyzing niches, competitors, finding long tail keywords, organizing content writers), but it still works.
Disclaimer: I don't sell online courses or something. I know that I may sound like a fraud, but it's simply a network of the best SEO people in Germany. I only know 4-5 people who earn this amount of money passively, so they're the 0.0001%
It's very far from the practice a long time ago of creating hundreds of domains linking to each other to get the top page, filled with placeholders and tags.
Several times I googled what should be expected amount of visits to see if I am doing ok or not. Result? It is kinda disheartening to see that after pouring a lot of love, getting rather nice feedback about articles etc, you see that you are getting e.g. 2k visits a month, while someone states that is "should be about 1k visits... a day". And you put some effort into marketing your content!
Thing is, if you look at the amount of searches of the topics you cover, you might find that the person who posted such advice caters to 20x as large audience as you, so that 2k/month might be a really good result! But to see that, you have to put the numbers in some context instead of looking at the absolute numbers. If we applied this to e.g. youtubers we could conclude, that random gameplay streamer does a several times better job than a science channel author.
At the average $2.80 CPM, we'd make $9 per month. In a city of 10,000 people, what would get more attention: a cheap Google ad, or your name sitting at the top of the only digital media outlet in the city? That's worth a $10 CPM, I think.
It's about the percentage of the market captured, not raw view numbers.
During the early hay-days, my site witnessed million visitors monthly and boasted of Google PageRank of 8. If I can recollect, I'm sure the Alexa Rank was also in one of the top 100 or 1000 for a pretty good amount of time. There were advertisers willing pay good dollars that the site easily earned few thousands each month. There was No YouTube, No Twitter, No Facebook, No Github. My free and open source "downloads" would choke the servers and (mt) would gladly host at a good discount to handle hundreds of GBs of download each month.
I used to write anything and everything that fancied me. Readers "Digg" it and many other aggregators love reposting the articles, and the site won enough awards that I stopped adding "badges" to my site.
But then, I learned more, realized that many of my articles are shallow and pretty much stopped writing. If I pick up a topic, I research and saw that many have written about it, then I just don't write. I write once a while, sometimes lengthy and personal opinions. Traffic has dropped so much that my current blog is grandfathered by WPEngine on a free tier, shielded by CloudFlare and is just surviving.
Here is what I believe one should do;
* Pick a niche but don't be afraid to go wide once a while.
* Ok to go short (Seth Godin style) or lengthy journalistic style writing.
* If it is a personal blog, be personal.
* Have a content strategy, plan and just write.
* Learn to re-purpose content. Your YouTube video can become a Podcast audio, the transcripts can become a blog post, interesting text/quotes from your post can be fodder for your social media.
* Keep Writing.
But it helps if the font is legible in all media.
Good, straightforward advice, better than many similar articles.
Personally, in my blog, I only write what I like.
I also do what he says about editing and linking old articles.
Some people want to use their blog as a kind of interactive CV but that should be treated as a separate project, as it will just introduce more clutter.
There is a German blog who hit "minimalist" rather well.
Tbh, I prefer this kind of representation not just when it comes to blogs. Hackernews is another great example for "less is more".
i take it to mean, don't worry about going crazy with hiring a PR firm to give you beautiful look/feel and/or some unique functionality
That seems to be such a high barrier to entry that the contact I do receive is almost always because someone disagrees strongly or because they are very thankful for something they learned.
In either case, it stops pointless crap like 'first'.
I don't have a commenting feature on my blog - partly because I haven't gotten around to setting it up yet, partly because I'm worried about potential spam. But I would like to get some feedback from my readers, so that's a bit of a conundrum...
If you think someone might become a spammer, and is just posting "I like it" and "Wow great" comments to get past any first-comments manual reviews, then you can mark that user as a possible threat, and forever get notifieid about his/her posts (before they're made visible).
That was nearly 7 months ago I guess? Looking in Webmaster search console it says I had 15.5k clicks and 237k impressions last 28 days (compared to 17k/297k 7 months ago), so maybe there are less visitors now. Not sure.
I might turn the analytics back on at some point to find out!
Most successful blogs and news sites I've seen tend to have multiple ways for their audience to contact them. Usually comments for posts plus accounts on various major social media sites and some sort of chat feature (for gaming sites nowadays it's often Discord, though it could be a forum, or Slack or IRC).
Of course, you then have to strike a balance between getting setup on every platform under the sun (and spreading yourself too thin) or putting all your eggs in basket (and depending too heavily on traffic from a single source or platform). But yeah, there are usually multiple ways for people to contact successful blog authors.
1. "Measuring Consumer Sensitivity to Audio Advertising: A Field Experiment on Pandora Internet Radio", Huang et al 2018: https://davidreiley.com/papers/PandoraListenerDemandCurve.pd... [experimental]
2."The Effect of Ad Blocking on [Firefox] User Engagement with the Web", Miroglio et al 2018: https://research.mozilla.org/files/2018/04/The-Effect-of-Ad-... [quasi]
3. and my own A/B test: https://www.gwern.net/Ads [experimental]
Way back when I experimented with ads and links but I came to the conclusion that the money was pretty trivial in the scheme of things and it took away from the otherwise non-commercial nature of my site.
Note that this one person is getting significant attention writing about a specialized topic (EDM). That probably characterizes most blogs that attract much attention.
A few people managed to be 'generalists' in the early days (e.g. Kottke), but you're probably better off trying to find a congregation that feels under-represented online and is looking for a home. (It's not a blog, but, e.g., deviantart.)
> For SEO don’t write short articles (>2000 words)
The recipe format was perfected in the middle ages - a simple list of ingredients and a description of the steps required. But the sites that capture the first page of search results for even the simplest recipe are all designed to keep you on the page long enough for the video ads to play through.
Listen up idiots, if I like your recipe I will be on your page for minutes figuring out how to follow it and will return every time I want to make the meal. Your stats will be favorable - no need to bother me with how your dead granny used to make roast beef sandwiches or whatever.
Just another way that advertising kills everything it touches.
It sure smells like shenanigans, I'm just not sure why.
I've been noticing more and more that every time I'm looking for a recipe, I end up with a blog post the size of a novella as the first few results.
A recipe blog post where you can simply copy/paste the recipe into your notes app is going to receive a bad SEO grade.
That's why so much of the Internet feels so 'corporate' or make so many seemingly 'WTF' choices. They are optimizing around a monetization and growth strategy, not for your experience as a user.
Do many people actually copy-paste recipes? I usually open a recipe page and keep it open until I'm done with the dish). If I like the result I may copy the recipe.
The length of a text doesn't seem like it would factor into the outcome of the page ranking unless I'm missing something.
How would you determine what is a "good" or "bad" article, given a reader's preferences rather than one that simply gets associated most regularly with a search query?
Another explanation I've seen is for ranking longer texts higher is that longer text is assumed to be of higher quality because it's more content/took more work to produce/whatever.
Whatever the reason, this leads to the rambling articles I mentioned, which seems to be a trend even for cases when the actual useful content is short.
In my experience the best approach to deal with this is the TLDR on top idea, so the Reader experience stays good and then going deep into the topic for the curious ones and the SEO juice
If there's more and more pressure to say less, eventually you'll say nothing. If you say everything, nobody will read it unless they have eyes set on your work.
Most people seem to be trained to write an expository piece in a classical model of assert a premise => provide an argument => yield a conclusion. They're not used to putting the conclusion where the premise should be sort of like an abstract.
Which one are you going to read first? If you picked the first one, does that indicate a dilapidation in reading ability, or that you needed an answer, and the first option provided the best one?
Surely we read more than we ever did? Surely more people a literate than ever before?
Certainly we didn't read much television...
My friends that are dyslexic or illiterate have learnt to read in their 30s and 40s because of the internet.
I wonder if it only applies to new blogs though? Perhaps if you have good DA/PA/TTF metrics already then it doesn't actually matter about your content length.
I am genuinely interested in the answer to this though. The idea that the article has to be longer/more detailed than the competition makes total sense.
Compare the site engagement of users who willingly gave you their email address, to a user who landed on your page from a search query, browsed it and left the site. What are the chances that that user will remember the name of the site and make a return visit? Your page could have been one of 10 he looked at to get an answer to his question.
But there's real email fatigue out there. I know some folks who are reasonably well-known in the tech space who have tried newsletters at various times but gave up (as did I) because people generally just don't want another weekly or biweekly email. (And even if they give up their email address, they mostly don't open or read.)
It's too bad in a way because a newsletter is a nice format for short form topical news and commentary on articles in a way that blog posts really aren't.
wtf..mindblown.. His IQ must be off the charts. no wonder he is so successful.