Lessons Learned in Growing a Blog

I started blogging in August 2010, after stumbling across a couple of blogs that I liked, and thinking "I could do this!".

I didn't put any thought into it. I went to Blogger, signed up for a free blog, made up my blog name on a whim, and posted an introductory post.

Then, I waited.

On the blogs that I followed, there were always dozens of comments on each post. I thought that's just what happened with blogs, so why would mine be any different?

For the first few weeks, I had fewer than eight visitors a day. I couldn't figure out why I wasn't getting any comments when I was posting some awesome-to-me material.

I started commenting on a blog post or two, trying to find more blogs to read. I remember going through a couple of my favourite blogger's blog rolls and clicking on the blogs that had interesting sounding names. Sometimes, I'd add them to my reader and never comment. Sometimes, if I had a strong opinion, I'd visit and comment.

By December of that year, I had worked my way up to reading dozens of blogs, but only commenting on a few, and I had anywhere between 1-5 comments on my posts at any given time. Sure, my traffic had increased considerably, but was still fairly dismal. I remember posting about minimalism, and I got 12 comments on that post. I was ecstatic.

Also, my blog was FUGLY. I know that term is outdated but it's really the only thing that can describe how ugly my blog was.

 

Some of you may remember the atrocity that was my blog. It was a mess. I used ampersands instead of the word "and", and posted 100 word posts (if you could even call them that).

But, I persevered. And, needless to say, I have learned so much about blogging compared to what I knew a year and a half ago. Particularly these things:

Give and You Shall Receive 

One of my biggest blogging lessons was learned quite recently. If you don't comment on other people's blogs, especially at the beginning, nobody will comment on yours.

I knew this before (not when I first started blogging but a few months in), but I guess I didn't really understand the extent to which this statement is true. I always coveted the 30 comments that were left on some of my favorite blogger's posts, but I couldn't figure out how to get there.

I suppose in some way I did know, but I didn't really enact the action of actually commenting on a lot of blogs. I commented on some, and I received anywhere between 2-15 comments on each post, but nothing like I get now.

Now (in March, 2012), as I write this, my average comments-per-post stands at 30. Some get more (weekday posts), some get less (weekend posts - link loves and spending reports), but in March, so far, I have written 20 posts and received 608 comments (I'm not sure if that counts my replies to comments or not, but since I don't reply all that often, it wouldn't change so much if it did).

What's changed with my commenting system?

I comment on anywhere from 20-50 blog posts per day. Except for on Thursdays. Because those days, I have school and have to go to work early so don't have time to comment before work.

I visit my reader's sites, and if I like them, I add them to my reader. I comment on any post that I have an opinion about, or that I like, or that I can leave something relevant about. It's extremely important to comment on other people's blogs; that way, they know you visited and are more likely to visit your site as well.

Commenting is powerful to gain readers who aren't bloggers, too. Blogging is a non competitive industry so that's how many readers find out about your blog.

Relevance is Key

On my Blogger blog, a year ago, I'd post 100 words on how I sold a textbook and made $60. I never posted how-to's, I never posted about interesting topics, and I stuck to what I knew: my life. I posted a lot about how I did things, why I did things that way, etc.

My life, and how I conduct it, is irrelevant to all of you. I didn't realize that early in my blogging career. Now, I do. I still post a lot about myself; if I got a job that I wanted or my spending reports, I'll post about it. My writing style is a lot more personal rather than general, but that's simply because I like personal blog posts and, also, because I'm anonymous.

I now look at the search terms that bring people to WLGYL, analyze what I can do to answer those queries or terms, write posts about issues that I think are relevant to most of my readers (though they may not be; that's for you to decide), and keep the "today, I ate oatmeal for breakfast" posts to a minimum.

Tweet or Die

Alright, I'm being a little melodramatic here, but when I first started blogging, and up until a few months thereafter, I didn't even know how to use Twitter, I just knew a lot of people liked it.

I decided to join Twitter on a whim, and am so glad I did. When I visit a blog that I like, and the writer of that blog does not have Twitter, something dies a little inside. I like conversing with bloggers and readers with which I have something in common, and Twitter is the perfect place for that.

Now, I just have to make my way to Facebook.

Promote Others

My first link love came about a year after I started blogging, and then I didn't do another one for months. I finally got into the swing of linking to other blogs (besides my blog roll, which I've always had) awhile ago, and it's paid off.

I think it's so important to promote other blogger's websites (if you enjoy them). We all want to be successful bloggers, so why not help others along as well?

I see some bloggers only promote those blogs that are more successful than theirs, and that makes me sad.  There are a lot of amazing blogs out there, and whether they are new or old, they deserve some love too.

When I read a post now that I like, I'll Tweet about it, +1 it on Google+, and now even Stumbleupon it (though I don't know much about that site). Sometimes, I drop the ball on this, or forget to do it, but have found that if you promote other people's blogs, they'll help promote yours. Even if it just puts you on the map for other bloggers, you are gaining awareness and networking.

Furthermore, sharing other people's posts gives your non-blogging readers more material. Make sure you actually enjoy the post and would want to read it though, otherwise you could lose some serious credibility.

At the end of the day

I'm not the most successful blogger out there, so you can take all of this with a grain of salt, but my blog is growing very quickly with all of the efforts that I've listed above. Is it time consuming? Heck yes. But it's rewarding and fun, and I think blogging is a great hobby.

What are some of the biggest blogging lessons you've learned? Are you new to blogging, or a more "seasoned" blogger? 

 

Starting a blog? You may also be interested to read some of my other posts about the subject:

Blogging 101

 

Should You Blog Anonymously?

 

Feel free to email me with any blogging questions and I'd be happy to help!

 

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74 thoughts on “Lessons Learned in Growing a Blog

  1. I have no tips as I am a very new blogger, but I really like seeing your roots! It's funny how we just assume that the world will flock to us with little to no work, but content is still always king.

    1. Like FrugalFries, I'm a new blogger too and the first thing I learned was to comment on other people's blogs. It's REALLY important! And then you starting building relationships with people and it becomes even more fun blogging. The 2nd thing that I just learned a week ago was that it's important to hyperlink to other people's blogs. If yo'ure story is like theirs or is relevant, mention them! It gets you even more social in the blog world and helps out your blogging "friends"!

  2. I have been following you for awhile on twitter. I am not sure how I stumbled across your tweets, it might have been from the now defunct PF book club. When I meet a new blogger I usually follow them on Twitter for awhile before adding them to my reader. I have you on a Twitter list I read all the time, so I must have liked your tweets from the get go. Just recently I started clicking on your blog posts, after reading a post or two I added you to my reader.

    I don’t comment on blogs nearly as often as I should. I only comment if I feel I have something interesting to say. During March I wrote only 10 comments to date and I have seen a huge drop in the comments I receive.

    Glad to see you blog is taking off. I enjoy your voice.

    1. Post author

      I feel honored, then! Thanks for adding me to your reader 🙂 Thank you for the compliment. Sometimes it's hard to find something to say, hey?

  3. I am new but just starting to see traffic pick up. I dont really know if I have any regular readers out there but I like to think I do. I enjoyed this post about your roots. I wrote my first few articles and was expecting search engines to find me and people would flock and Id have comments galore. It is much harder and requires alot of work. But visiting each site and reading the posts, I feel I am alot more intelligent by just blogging. I pick up a nugget of info here and a tip there and it all is in my head and I love it!!! And as you read this post you can see run on sentences and bad sentence structure but who cares!!! lol

  4. Katie

    I recently found your blog through the Ultimate Women Money Bloggers list. I'm really enjoying it so far!

    I had an old blog that sounds a lot like your original posts. When I started Slowly But Surely, it still reflects my life but it's more goal focused that people can relate to better. I don't keep my blog to get comments but the online community and support is really helpful and rewarding!

  5. I am a relatively new blogger (just a few months) so I don't have any advice to share. But I agree about commenting on other blogs. It's how I find new blogs to read. I'll see someone's comments and if I like what they said, I click their link. Voila! A new blog to follow!

    Love your blog Daisy 😛

  6. Great post, Daisy! I've been blogging for 6 months now, and have been trying to follow the same pattern. I have never commented 20+ times in a day, though.. Keep up the good work!

  7. I've been lazy about commenting on the blogs of my commenters. I too think commenting is important and I used to do this more back when I first started blogging. I think a good strategy is to respond to the comments of those who don't have blogs on your website. And to leave a comment on the blogs of the commenters who do have blogs. I hope that wasn't confusing. Thanks for the reminder!

  8. MoneySmartGuides

    These are great points. Many new bloggers think that it is super easy to be successful at blogging, but it takes time and lots of work! The best advice I have is what you already said: promote others. They thank you for doing so and become aware of you. Once they are aware of you, they start promoting you too.

  9. bogofdebt

    I'm fairly new to blogging so I have no tips but I do agree that commenting on other blogs is amazing for traffic (and return comments). I hate when I get too busy to comment because I have read so many wonderful blog posts but would get so busy that I wouldn't comment. And then of course I didn't want to go back a few days later to comment.

  10. You're definitely right that you need to comment on other blogs and share some link love to get that in return. I'd echo Shawanda's sentiments about replying to comments though. I take the time to reply to almost every single comment since it shows that if they're taking the time to comment, I'll at least take the time to acknowledge their comment. I guess it depends on the blog though. If people are used to a certain format, other commenters answer questions and respond to other points of view.

    1. Post author

      I do agree that it can be very important to reply to comments left on your blog, but it just takes me soooo long to do that. I have sort of done a time/benefit analysis and have decided that I'd rather comment on others blogs than reply to every comment left here.

      I feel like my readers value it more. I only give myself about 3 hours a day for blogging activities so I'm time limited. One day, when I graduate, I hope to be able to reply to all comments, though.

  11. So true Daisy! And I totally remember that old header hahaha 😛 Your blog was one of my first few favorites, and probably the only one I ever commented on.

    Plus TWITTER OR DIE. I die a little inside when I can't find someone's twitter and I die happy when I find someone on twitter. Twitter is so fun!!!

    1. Post author

      It's so ridiculous! I can't believe I thought it would be a good idea. Yours was one of the first blogs I ever read! I still feel like I can relate to your posts!

  12. I had a similar path as you. I started my blog on a whim, used blogger and just went for it. Some thought and planning would have been useful. But with applying lessons learned, I am here 2.5 years later and doing alright.

  13. Just learning myself as well (only blogging for 1 month) and the commenting is crucial. Of course SEO (search engine optimization) is key to increasing your comments. If you have more traffic, more people are likely to leave a comment. However, the comments you get from the other bloggers that leave a comment on your site seems to add even more value (because of the quality of their comments) to your post so that people trust they will find all the information on any certain topic that they read about on your site, thus gaining more consistent traffic... and more comments... and more value... you get the picture. Great post! I totally agree that you should write "personable" blogs, it helps the average joe (who you really want as a follower) to relate to you as a person... not a business.

  14. John | Married (with Debt)

    This is great advice. I'm not on FB in real life or PF life, but maybe I need a PF FB page.

  15. I definitely noticed your major growth after you went self hosted.

    You're right, much of it is reciprocal - used to hate reading threads on 20something Bloggers about 'how can I get more readers? why is nobody commenting?' SIGH.

    I've decided to stop commenting on some huge blogs because I'm positive mine never get seen all the way down the page. Also, I never get any traffic from those.

    That said, it's not tit for tat. I hate being asked to add someone to my blogroll because they added me to theirs. My blogroll is sacred and i curate it carefully. I need to read and like you to earn a spot there.

    And nobody has the obligation to reciprocate - you can't make them. I am sometime disappointed when blogs I frequently comment on never stop by - not even leaving one comment, ever - but c'est la vie.

    When I get new commenters, I always click over to check them out and comment on a few posts, even if I don't want to add them to my reader.

    And that's a huge thing for me. I don't have the time or inclination to seek out new blogs to read in the quest to grow my blog, let alone comment on 20-30 a day. That may mean my growth is very slow, but that's just how it is.

    1. Post author

      I have a big blog roll, but I read a ton of blogs. I definitely wouldn't be commenting on this many blogs if I didn't enjoy doing so; blog growth is certainly a plus side, but if I wasn't into reading blogs and commenting and stuff, then I don't think I'd be doing it. Life is too short.

  16. Great post Daisy! I'm a new blogger and even though I know that commenting is key, I just don't have time and haven't discovered enough blogs I love and want to comment on. Yours is one of the few! I also like your point about relevance because that's something I'm struggling with. I've been posting a lot about 'me me me' but would like to start writing more relatable content. Which you do really well, btw!

    1. Post author

      I always said I didn't have time before too, but I work full time and am in school full time, plus I commute to school and juggle blogging as well. I'm the epitome of no time! I wake up earlier than most people just so I can fit it all in.

      Thanks for the compliment! It's nice to know some readers think so.

  17. Young Professional Finances

    Great tips! I'm new to personal finance blogging and before this, I never really tried to make my blog more "popular". I'm still stuck on the point you made about writing about my life and my views - I know I need to move more into the advice/how-to area but I'm having a hard time transitioning to that.

  18. Great post and I totally relate! Although you've been blogging waaayyyy longer than me (I only started this December), I've been slowly learning all the lessons you listed, so you're right on the money. Cheers! 🙂

  19. I'm learning so much from blogging and have come a long way since I started last summer. I too started with a Blogger blog.

    I definitely agree about the relevance issue. I am always reminding myself that not everyone wants to hear about my boring personal details. Finding that right balance between being PERSONABLE and being PERSONAL is tough. I'm still learning.

  20. he he My blog IS fugly. 😳

    I love comments! Nothing makes my day better than comments on my posts! It's crazy to think that anyone actually wants to read what I have to say... 🙂

    Great tips! I am still learning how to harness the power of Twitter. Hopefully soon I'll get the hang of it.

  21. I can't imagine commenting on 20+ blogs a day. WOW! I usually read about 20-40 posts a day, but have issues leaving comments on them. Too bad I can't just leave a comment like: Jen was here. That would be much easier. LOL. Great post, Daisy. 🙂

  22. You certainly do get a crap-ton of comments. Hopefully I will make it to 30+ comments on every post!

    It's fun to read other peoples' experiences with blogging because at the end of the day I believe all of our experiences are very similar:

    I used to want all of the comments and was told that I needed to network with other bloggers, but I never did it. Now that I do it has changed everything and you see all of my posts getting commented on rather frequently.

  23. I consider myself seasoned even though life got in the way of blogging for almost a year. A YEAR!! I've found that in addition to relevancy, consistancy is key. Something I lost in not blogging for a while (and working on getting back).

    You also want your own "flavor" - a writing style, a personality. It's ok if your early writing doesn't get a lot of comments. If you're new to writing, you're probably figuring out that style anyway. And I don't know about everyone else, but I don't like it when people watch me struggle to figure something out. 🙂 My writing definitely improved as I went (and continues to improve).

    Finally, I stepped back to remember why I was writing. Was it for the comments? No. Don't get me wrong, I love them and feel validated when I get them, but for me it was that I had something to say. Remember what your goal is in blogging, do what you need to attain that goal, and enjoy the ride!

  24. Katie

    I think commenting on other blogs you like or relate to is super important. I try to comment on all the blogs I love (including yours 🙂 ) as much as possible. And I also try to link to blogs that haven't made it big yet because I appreciate when someone links to me.

  25. That's funny. I started exactly how you started. I thought easy peasy. I'll just sign up and write, doesn't sound too difficult. Little did I know it's a lot of work but ohh so much fun. My writing skills are not the best, oh who am I kidding it's horrid. I really don't care though because expressing myself and sharing my stories, while getting to read about others is what really matters most to me.

    You are a great blogger and the reason I follow and read every single one of your post. Glad I was able to find your blog and see how wonderful it's turned out for you.

  26. You are really good about commenting and I always notice and appreciate that. It's a lot of work to comment all those blogs! Who was the blogger that recently said "bloggin aint easy." ha...truth!

  27. Great tips! I think you have to find what works for you & go with it. I don't tweet, am rarely ever on FB, don't "pin it" or whatever else either. lol! With 4 kids and a husband, I don't have time to comment on 20-50 blogs a day either. Ever. lol! I do try to comment & read a few daily though, and try to return the "commenting favour" to those who comment on my blog as well. 🙂

    1. Post author

      I think you certainly do too, and I think that's a good way to approach blogging. I think that's why I didn't really try harder before; blogging was a hobby.

      Tell me about it! I work 40-45 hours a week, go to school full time, try to exercise, blog, and network. Nobody has less time than I do! I'm a crazy person, though. I wake up an hour and 15 min earlier than I need to every day to read/comment on blogs. I just make time for it.

  28. Congratulations on your speedy success! I too am new to blogging, but I'm finding it a lot of fun. I’m a talker, so this is like talking without having to have someone here to listen. Good post!

  29. Thanks for this list, Daisy! Being a new blogger myself, I have made some of the same mistakes, but I hope to learn from you. Your site is great and glad you changed updated your logo from your original 🙂

  30. I'm going to print this post out at work tomorrow and study it. I'm about a year into the blogging world, but I still feel at times like I'm a beginner because I struggle finding enough time to post/comment as well as write engaging material.

    Your blog is very inspiring though, and hip-hip-hurrah for all your success and sharing your secrets.

  31. Below Her Means

    For what it's worth, I envy all the comments you get and your Alexa ranking. 🙂

    This is all solid advice. I'm new to PF blogging but not to blogging. So far this is my favorite realm. Everyone here is so incredibly supportive.

  32. Kari@Small Budget Big Dreams

    I'm not new to blogging, but am very new to pf blogging. I think all of these are excellent tips. I didn't really know or use twitter until I started blogging. Now I try to use it regularly and I've seen an increase in traffic, and met a lot of really nice people that way. PF bloggers are the best.

  33. My goal for the next 4 weeks is to comment on a minimum of five new blogs a day. I'm working on it, but with work, blogging on two blogs, and training for a Half Ironman, sometimes I slip.

    The big benefit? Not only do I get a little exposure (I hope), I get to read some awesome (new to me) bloggers!

  34. I've just started blogging and this has been my discovery as well - every day I comment regularly I get so many more hits than I do when I just post. The comments haven't started coming quite that much yet, but I haven't been at it long enough to figure out what works and what doesn't. 🙂

    Thank you for sharing your experience! It's good to know that progress does indeed happen!

  35. The Happy Homeowner

    This post is great! I am currently struggling with how to balance everything given my varied responsibilities, and I like hearing from someone like you who's just as time-crunched. Thanks for the encouragement--this post reminds me that it can be done! 🙂

  36. Hi Daisy,

    I love your writing and your blog. I'm glad things have been going well for you with this blog recently. My blog is coming up on being only 4 months old. In that time, I've learned almost everything I know about blogging. I learned how to set one up and tweak it (including code). I've learned how to network with other bloggers. I've gotten to know many awesome people (like you) and am excited about going to the financial blogger conference in September.

    Most important things? I'd say commenting on other people's blogs, writing personal posts based on life experience that other people can relate to and just being persistent. My blog isn't anywhere near where yours is, but it's still coming along and I'm very excited about continuing its growth and success!

  37. Anthony Thompson

    This is very eye-opening for me. I enjoy your blog, and love reading your posts. Congratulations on your success. I need to take a page out of your rule book, and follow your example. Thanks for the education and the inspiration.

    1. Post author

      I have Google+, but I haven't really gotten the hang of it yet. I +1 a lot of posts, but don't know it's other uses!

  38. Sherice

    Hey Daisy,

    I love your website! I must say this post hit kind of close as I also have a blog. It's an entertainment blog. http://www.SheSoMajor.com and I've been trying to grow and I have found out that by supporting other blogs are very important. Many people only source and promote bigger blogs but I've found smaller blogs that are so much better than bigger ones. It's all about helping each other out!

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  40. I've learnt all the same things as you. One important thing I have learnt though is that it takes a lot(A LOT) of time. You have to dedicate time not only to writing post, but like you mentioned, reading and sharing on other blogs,

    I haven't been a good blogger as of late, I just don't manage my time properly, I do enjoy reading other blogs(like yours) more so than I enjoy writing my own post but I still try to do both. It's a fun hobby so I try not to let it take over but it requires so much time.

  41. I'm definitely new to blogging, but I have been reading personal finance blogs for the past year, so I had a pretty good idea of where I wanted to go with my blog from the start. My main problem now is finding time to write and read/comment on other blogs :(.

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  44. You are absolutely right about the commenting, although my 10 or so a day will never hold a candle to your 20-50 posts! That is remarkable! My tip for bloggers is to have a purpose in mind when writing. For me, I try to make investing as easy as possible for people to not only do it but also to "think" they can do it - because I honestly believe they can. I feel like this is my niche audience.

    I guess I'm going to need to get a Twitter account if I want to be your friend! I give myself about a "D+" when it comes to Social Media!

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  46. Investing in Silver

    I think people start to feel guilty if you keep posting on their blog that they eventually will go and post on yours. I hate to call it a pity comment, but I have given a few of those in my day lol. People have this impression about the internet that there is this huge audience that will instantly find your content. So when they begin a blog or website, they get disillusioned when they don't immediately have a lot of traffic. Traffic takes time no matter how timeless your content may be.

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  50. Thanks so much for telling me about this post. I'm trying to comment as many posts as I can and visit as many pf blogs as I can. I still feel like a bit of an outsider to the pf blogosphere. Some of you guys almost seem like you know each other so well. lol

  51. I'm a new blogger, so I loved reading this post. I am active on social media, but commenting on others' blogs is a great idea to add to my repertoire. Thanks for all the helpful info!

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