Starting a New Blog? Read this First!

Plane starting from an airport, shortly after the start.

So you want to start a new blog? Are you starting a new blog already? Have you started a new blog recently?

In case you said “yes” at least once this article is for you.

You will save lots of

  • blood
  • sweat
  • tears

thanks to my experience of starting several blogs over the years.

Yes, I have started lots of blogs by now and some have succeeded.

Other blogs haven’t. I can already spot patterns and issues. Read on to find out about it!

Just Another “How to Start a Blog” Affiliate-Scheme? Nope!

First off a word of caution. There are lots of “how to start a blog” guides out there. Their purpose is mainly to make money off affiliate commissions.

They will take you through the very basics of setting up WordPress and most importantly a hosting package they recommend, usually Bluehost.

Why do most guides recommend Bluehost? Bluehost is paying the highest affiliate commissions. It’s up to $130 per sale.

By pushing Bluehost you can make literally millions with such step by step “tutorials”. I have worked for a site that made money that way so I know.

Those guides will usually not tell how the art of blogging really works and what to expect once you have set up the software and paid the hosting.

This is NOT another sneaky guide like this. It’s not just another affiliate-scheme like this. I’m too ethical to make money that way. This is the real deal. It’s about actual blogging and how it works or doesn’t.

On a side note: Bluehost is fine although many complain about their customer service. They have a whopping 51% of 1 star reviews on Trustpilot:

You can get a WordPress blog and hosting plan cheaper and better elsewhere though. Make sure to compare offers first.

Past Success with Blogs I Established

It’s not a secret that I’m not as active on SEO 2.0 (this blog here) as in the early days anymore.

I’ve turned out an “occasional blogger” over the years.

I was publishing work related articles mostly over at the many client blogs I’ve written for.

I have been hugely successful with an Oxford-based agency client blog. It became the number one and most popular UK SEO blog according to Google and the UK Search Awards of 2011.

That year 9 out of 10 of the most popular articles (measured by engagement) were written by me.

It also had an impressive following on different social media sites and other parts of the blogosphere. Thus

some of my posts got shared by hundreds of people. – A cycling blog in German I established for another client in 2008 originally – still or again runs strong and ranks on top of Google in 2022.

The SEO 2.0 blog is is a dark-horse by now and by far not as widely acclaimed as it was once was.

I get Google traffic again after optimizing existing content and even social media gets me some casual visitors. After all I established also some engaged audiences on social media like Twitter or Pinterest.

When it comes to Pinterest it’s not even just about publishing fresh content. gets traffic from evergreen content as well.

How Long Does it Take to Create a Successful Blog?

Blogging is a marathon not a sprint. You have to show up again and again and ideally focus on your own project, ideally just one.

When you’re hugely successful like I was you will need a few months to get some traction.

Otherwise you need a year or years to get there. Most blogs do not succeed at all though!

By success I do not even mean money-wise yet. I mean traffic, engagement and vanity metrics like that.

Monetary success is the next level that needs the organic reach first as a prerequisite.

By organic reach I mean reach on your own site, not social media or through content you contribute elsewhere.

Even in case you succeed to get organic reach there is no guarantee there will be ongoing success.

How do I know? I made the mistake to become a successful blogger and get hired by someone else then.

I worked for many (other) blogs at once and was neglecting my own.

I was young and I needed the money so I have an excuse but that won’t pay the bills now that I’m old and need the money and other people run the successful blogs I started.

Another mistake was to create and try to maintain too many blogs at once. I still have four blogs I run part-time besides working for clients. You can imagine that none of them is really successful.

Spreading yourself too thin won’t work. Also life happens and you can’t always work nights and weekends when trying to make ends meet with a blog or two or three or more. So unless you make so much already that you can hire a team…

Blogging Success is NOT Enough

As a blogger I excelled. I wrote a lot and popularized that content with ease. I did not even have to self-promote. I could make people share my content by the sheer enthusiasm I exuded.

As long as I had the energy and motivation that worked. The times are changing though. You are also changing and aging!

At first things looked good. For many years people hired me to blog for them. It was a relatively stable and regular income.

The actual blogging jobs did not make enough money though so I had to do more “real work” apart of it.

I undervalued my writing and other services on top of that. Thus I did not earn enough money to sustain blogging for myself.

Blogging by itself is not a business model unless you are hugely popular and by that I mean millions of visitors or a very sales oriented affiliate marketing set up. Blogging is a fantastic means to get

  • steady traffic
  • engagement
  • inbound links

Yet as long as you don’t sell something with it or on top of it you still won’t make enough money by the actual blogging.

Thus make sure to come up with a viable business model before you start blogging. What do you want to sell down the road? Check out exactly whether it can work. Ask yourself questions like:

  • Who will be your audience and where will you attract it?
  • Is there a lot of competition already?
  • Are the affiliate commissions etc. paying enough?

For my bike blog I had all the above answered but failed to monetize it through affiliate marketing anyway. People just did not buy bikes immediately after clicking on my links. They were still looking around and not yet ready to buy.

Success Can Become Routine

As long as your blog is successful everything is alright? Well, it bored me a little. Thus I joined a completely new client blog over at a promising software startup from Eastern Europe.

Their blog was almost completely empty when I started to write for it. I had to build it up from scratch and it worked.

We parted ways long ago. My content still ranks well on his blog a decade later.

While blogging there and for the Oxford agency has become routine, both in a positive and negative sense on the startup blog I had to rediscover the art of blogging in a way. I had to

experiment and find a new unique writing style once again.

As this was actually my third flagship SEO blog I developed it was not as easy to become someone else for it. On the other hand I can’t just copy the blogging style I use on SEO 2.0.

I didn’t want to use the same types of posts, the same headline formulas. I don’t even like to repeat myself all the time.

Once success becomes routine you are already in a downward spiral though. Repeating the same type of formerly successful posts won’t work forever.

When there is no joy anymore consider selling the blog. Once the blog goes down the drain it will be too late for that!

Can you Repeat Success Over and Over?

Who else could start a new successful blog? After all I’m the guy who explained how to achieve blogging success in 2007 and has proven ever since that it works.

It’s bizarre. It’s the same person writing, the same topics (search, social media and blogging) and even the same Internet.

My readers vary though. Surprisingly very different people seemed to read the three blogs I wrote for about the same topics.

  • SEO 2.0
  • the UK agency blog
  • the startup blog

even though all three of them serve the search industry audience and cover very similar tools and techniques.

At least they appeared to be different as other people shared the posts on social media for instance.

You could think that the audience follows the author, like with books.

On the Web the publishing house, here the blog, seems to be much more important though. People know a particular source to be trustworthy or interesting and they return to it again and again.

A new source has to prove it’s worth it, even if the writer is already known from elsewhere.

Many people do seem to ignore the author altogether though. Just the brand of the blog counts and gets memorized. This is especially true for multi-author blogs and corporate blogs.

Sometimes s the author’s name is not even mentioned. That’s ghostwriting then. For a blogger it’s like a disappearance.

Always ensure that your name is mentioned, ideally with a link or more.

Thus every time you start a new blog you start from scratch. You can’t simply move your existing audience to a new blog. It takes time and effort and you will never get the same people, online some of them.

Also consider the cautionary tale of Michael Arrington – the man who created and popularized the back then most well-known tech blog: TechCrunch. One day he was fired by new owners AOL from his own blog.

I know his pain. It happened a few times ever since to myself. You build up a new blog for someone else and once you*re done they don’t need you anymore and get rid of you.

After such a huge step back it’s hard to start again. You can’t repeat the blogging success of the early days over and over. It has worked for me for a few times but it’s not an automatic process that works every time!

Back to the Future

Before starting to blog over at my startup client I considered writing again for Hubspot – by then a hugely popular marketing blog. I did a few times in 2007 but then lost touch with them.

Writing for the same blog after a pause of several years felt a bit weird. I didn’t really know what to write about. Could I really use the same formula I used in the past in a different context?

That was strange because Hubspot’s inbound marketing is largely the same as my SEO 2.0 philosophy.

Such lack of inspiration doesn’t really happen with a new blog. I think I know why:

A new blog is like a new love. It’s full of insecurities but it’s also exciting.

A new blog exciting because not everything is routine and popular. You have to find out what works. You have to find your voice and audience. It’s trial and error and it’s fun!

I love it. Call me a serial blogger. I love blogging despite the hard work it takes to get just a few shares on social media. That’s the joy and pain of starting a new blog.