33 Truths About Blogging Nobody Will Tell You (Learn From My Mistakes)
I’ve recently had a lot of people coming to me regarding truths about blogging. The people have spoken, and I have decided to answer.
For the sake of efficiency (I am a self-employed businessman now!), I decided I’d just drop a gem of information and point people here. Yes, I’ve made mistakes. No, I still don’t consider myself an expert. I consider myself somewhere in the middle. Someone who has done enough to advise you what not to do, but is still carving my own path.
This is primarily aimed at someone who wants to build a blog with an audience, with the potential to make some money off of it at some point.
33 TRUTHS ABOUT BLOGGING
1.) It’s not as simple as just writing a lot.
“Write, write, write” and the audience will come is a load of crap.
You have to be writing good content, you have to be marketing yourself, you have to be active on social media – it’s all part of the game, playa. There are a lot of blogs in the world now, so if you want to have an audience and build a successful blog, you have to stand out.
Just writing crap that someone has probably already written about isn’t enough.
The people who give this advice aren’t totally wrong.
But in some cases, they’ve been blogging five or ten years. SEO worked differently, there was a higher demand for content (now there is a surplus), and it was a more difficult barrier to entry in terms of the technology learning curve. These days, a monkey can install WordPress and have a blog.
2.) Yes, the profit margins on blogging are high, but only if you don’t invest in decent tools.
It’s easy to say that you’ll start a business when the costs are a domain at $0.99 and hosting is $3.95 a month. At that cost point, it’s very justifiable; “Oh, I’ll start this business and my startup costs are ***only*** $50!”
Sure, if you want some generic, shitty theme and no ability to capture leads properly.
Go right ahead, but you’re handicapping yourself.
Decent theme, or package of themes? $100.
Customization of theme, if you don’t have the skills? $50
Email list? $20 a month.
(I hate Mailchimp and prefer AWeber – who wants to start free and then pay later as you get more subscribers? Go big or go home.)
Decent SEO tools that don’t handicap you? $100.
You don’t even want me to get started on decent A/B testing software.
TANGENT, since people have asked: I use GoDaddy for hosting, mostly because I like having my domains and hosting consolidated, and they have top notch support.
But…I’m pretty fed up with GoDaddy and am in the process of preparing a move back to
Bluehost – they were one of my first web hosts way back in 2005 when I started designing websites. In my opinion, they have a faster platform than almost anyone out there, and I’ve used a lot of hosts over the years; Lunarpages, GoDaddy, HostGator, FatCow, Dreamhost, etc. I don’t think it’s as common of knowledge as my player stories, but I ran a web design business in high school. I’ve built or modified over 100 websites in my life. I’ve seen all the hosting packages out there.
I’d recommend BlueHost over GoDaddy any day. Actually, I’d recommend almost any host other than GoDaddy (though I think they are good for domains.) Do your own research if you feel inclined.
Are all of these necessary? No, of course not. But…
3.) The Internet as a whole is oversaturated. This means you have to either find a niche, or be really good.
I sometimes wish This Is Trouble wasn’t in the self-improvement-o-sphere.
Sometimes I’ve debated deleting it all and tackling a niche that’s more accessible. But the Internet is huge now – my grandma can find anything she wants in ten minutes, and she barely knows how to right click with her mouse.
Your choices are to find a niche you can dominate (you’ll need more than free SEO tools to do that, as a new website you aren’t going to outrank GQ on “best suits” or “how to be a stylish man”) or be a really good writer. You don’t have to be a good writer, but you are a brand. An entertainer. An advice giver. A relatable figure.
Whatever you decide to be, own it.
4.) You can’t write anonymously.
My face on my blog is a new experience to me.
And I only wish I’d done it sooner.
Sure, you can make it without showing your face – but this is 2016. Everything is already on the damn Internet already. Anyone can find you. I’m very tech savvy and can’t hide, trust me – you can’t either.
People will relate to you much better if you show yourself. It’s only taken two months for me to say this with no doubts in my voice.
5.) Affiliate marketing is not a piece of cake, sometimes it’s hard to get approved for stuff.
I have a lot of products I use that I’d like to recommend but don’t always get approved by the affiliate programs.
Some sites think This Is Trouble is too crass, and sometimes I get rejected due to California tax laws.
There’s always something, but you can’t count on everything working exactly how you plan it to.
6.) A free WordPress theme is NOT okay. Invest in something decent. This goes back to profit margins, again.
LOL at the people who still have the studio name in the footer of their site.
If you need to clear it, and there’s no easy way to do in “theme options”, edit the PHP files of your site.
A decent theme is going to cost you a minimum of $50, and in reality you might be better buying a package from a place like Thrive or Themedy so you can test different themes, and even use them for any other websites you build down the road.
I like StudioPress, too – but…
7.) Everybody is sick of Genesis themes (especially Manosphere/Self-Improvement/PUA blogs).
If I keep seeing guys come to me for advice after this one, and they have a Genesis theme installed I am going to start kicking kittens.
GENESIS IS OVERDONE.
METRO PRO AND NEWS THEMES (Genesis child themes) ARE OVERDONE.
DO NOT USE THEM.
Look at This Is Trouble. I use purple as my primary color, for crying out loud. I have bright oranges and yellows mixed all over, too. It’s like a fucking 80’s disco.
But I get compliments on it all the time because it stands out. Now, don’t get me wrong – I’ve been designing websites since I was ten years old, and I’m 24 now. I recognize many of you don’t have the skills I do. But guess what! There are some great themes that are easy to work, and if you really want my help, and you can even hire me to design your site.
Example: I recently re-designed the site Vigor & Spirit.
(For the record, This Is Trouble runs on Rise by Thrive Themes.)
Nobody will think you’re copying me, and I’ll be flattered that you like my taste. Send me an email when it’s built.
8.) Attention spans are short. Unless you’re very talented and become very established, nobody wants to read your 5,000 word essay.
Go reader some of their work, then come back here and ask yourself this question: can you write at that level? And be honest with yourself.
If the answer is yes – great. Go buy your domain and get writing. Your skills will take you far.
If the answer is no – figure out your strengths. I’m still finding what mine are at times. I’ve been told I’m good on camera, that I’m relatable, and that I write well with my own unique voice. So for now, I’m a jack of all trades.
Occasionally, I might be able to write something as insightful and in-depth as the above two guys (see here), but it takes a lot out of me and it’s not something that my audience seems to be thrilled about.
For the most part, just remember that people have a lot of things to do. Until you are someone, your blog isn’t one of those things.
9.) Women buy more than men, but men are more likely to start a business to…help people; i.e. blogging.
It’s in men’s duty to help each other. Brotherhood in the workforce and society as a whole has fallen apart. This is what we are left with – finding like-minded men on the Internet who want the most out of life.
This website will always be dedicated to helping men free of charge.
But if you truly want to make money, go sell to women. Go look around a mall. Men are holding the purses and contemplating suicide. It’s the women that are having the fun running around like wild chickens.
If you need proof of this, do this. Find a 25 year old male and then a female. Find out one of their interests, and send them to Amazon. The male will poke around, then go do his due diligence on the product.
The female will buy the thing related to her interest, as well as tampons, a new makeup removal kit, chocolates, and whatever else floats her boat.
10.) Blogging is a business, but it’s only going to be successful if you treat it like one.
This Is Trouble was a hobby up until…well, quite recently.
The first half of the year it was on a free WordPress domain. Then I started writing for Return of Kings and bought my own domain. I put out two books completely half-assed, then wrote Cracking OkCupid.
I took it seriously for a bit, then hardly posted all through the summer up to last November.
It kills me a bit to know that it could’ve been much more at this point. If you want your blog to be successful, act like it. Stick to a schedule. Make it a priority. Don’t dick around like I did for so long.
11.) Networking and guest posting is all it’s cracked up to be.
Make friends. It helps if people like you. Most bloggers know the struggle and are willing to help, to an extent, and with this caveat: you must take the advice.
Nothing pisses me off more than me writing a nice email critiquing someone’s website, and three months later they’ve done nothing.
A big blogger was kind enough to sit down with me for several hours and review my website. You know how long it took me to make all the changes he suggested?
If you ask for help, take it.
P.S.: I accept guest posts if you want to get a start. I pay it forward.
12.) You’ll be amazed at the lives you change behind the scenes.
Some of the emails I get blow my mind.
“If you could see yourself the way others see you, you would be amazed.”
13.) Fuck yeah, brand matters. Laugh out loud at those idiots who tell you to pick any random name and go with it.
This thing wouldn’t be as successful if the name wasn’t as strong as it was.
This Is Trouble rolls off the tongue quite smoothly. The original name of the blog (when on the free WordPress domain) was ‘This Blog Will Get Me In Trouble’.
Which one do you think would have been more successful long-term ten out of ten times?
14.) Your brand and pen name must roll off tongues.
It goes hand in hand with the above point.
I recently hosted a podcast with my buddy, Masculine Profiles – hopefully he doesn’t mind that I’m about to pick on him a bit. During the podcast, I had to keep referring to him, and had to as…”Masculine Profiles.”
Wasn’t exactly smooth.
He’s working on a pen name, so this is a reminder to him to get his ass into gear. And a notice served to you readers, too. You want to stick out and be remembered.
‘Kyle Trouble’, ‘Kyle’, and ‘This Is Trouble’ are all easy enough that people remember who I am.
But don’t copy. See the post I linked from Good Looking Loser above. If I see a blog with the name TroubleIsThis floating around, I’m going to laugh at you.
15.) List posts are okay. Too many list posts are not.
Like I said earlier, attention spans are short – so list posts really are okay. You just need to make sure they’re quality pieces.
Length matters too.
For example, this post started with 37 and is now cut down to 33. If I wrote 300 words on each of these points (which I could easily do), it would add up really fast and I’d be putting this into a book.
But if you write a list of 5 at 300 words a pop, that’s a very respectable 1,500 words. No one is going to hate on you for that, and if they do – forget them.
16.) People want to CONNECT. Write from the heart. Bleed on to the pages. Show your soul.
This is especially true in the men’s self improvement ‘sphere. People want to relate to the struggle, not listen to robotic field reports that all sound the same.
17.) Don’t put all your eggs in one basket in regards to social media.
Look at what’s happening to Twitter right now. People are freaking out over the changes, afraid they’d being ghosted, and all scrambling to migrate off of Twitter on to a new platform.
For a while, all I had was Twitter. But then I started making videos, started podcasting, and posted pictures of myself on Instagram.
Now, if Twitter died – no big. People can find me on other mediums with an established audience. Prior to that, I would have flipped out.
You wouldn’t put your entire life savings in one stock, would you?
18.) Also, what’s with building huge followings on social media then launching the blog? If you want to do it just dive in and DO IT.
I get it, you want to test the market and see if there’s a demand. By all means – test.
But fuck, just start writing. That’s the only way to do it. If your content is good, Google is the only “social media” traffic you need.
(Only 10% of my traffic comes from Twitter, but I spend way too much time on it admittedly – not worth the ROI.)
19.) Big bloggers make big money. They’d be stupid to give away all the secrets for free.
That’s all I’m going to say on the matter. I’ve given away some things already and am happy to answer questions. But I’m not “big”. I’m still learning the ropes. I don’t have all the secrets.
But really, making good money blogging is something everyone wants to do. Big bloggers would be mental to post each and every one of their secrets out there.
(Part of the “secret” is just really hard work and treating like a business.)
20.) Most people won’t take action on anything.
People would rather “feel” good from reading than “doing”.
Don’t be one of those people.
You’ll write email responses to people looking for advice and never hear back. It’s infuriating. Learn to accept it, continue to write from the heart.
21.) Blogging is supposed to be entertainment, and fun. If you can’t have fun at the very beginning, I wouldn’t recommend it as a business unless you’re supremely talented.
I know, I know.
Follow your skills, not your passions. That’s exactly why I said, don’t go after it if you hate it unless you’re very talented. Likewise, if you love blogging but suck at it – give it up.
Start a different hustle and blog for fun.
The verdict is still out on whether I’m a no-talent hack 😉
22.) Reply to everyone.
When you leave a comment, don’t you feel a little anxiety, and then relief and happiness when the author (assuming he/she is someone you like/respect) answers? Well, give your readers that emotion.
23.) You will fuck up a lot of opportunities in your first years, but that’s okay.
I’ve listed 33 of them here.
I could probably write another 333 of them if I sit down and wanted to list it all out. While I kick myself sometimes, I know it’s not in my best interest to dwell on it. Screwing up is part of the process. Making mistakes makes you a better man.
24.) You will meet some amazing people, but watch out for the crazies.
I’ve been very fortunate to meet dozens, if not hundreds, of amazing readers and fellow bloggers.
But there was one guy who was a bit of a whacko – just his entire attitude threw me off. It’s hard to explain, but I legitimately felt uncomfortable, and I’m a guy who can handle just about any social situation with a reasonable amount of grace.
Just screen carefully, and don’t hesitate to walk away.
25.) There’s always going to be someone bigger than you.
Use them as motivation and as someone to strive to be. Strive to be on their level, not to blatantly copy them.
This applies to just about anything in life though, and most of you know by now that jealousy doesn’t get you anywhere. Just keep working on you and the results will shine through.
26.) If you want to be anonymous, but someone really wants to find you, you’ll probably lose.
There are so many ways it can happen, so many people it could be potentially be…eventually, it can and probably will happen.
Be prepared to handle it accordingly, but don’t let it run your life. If you are too busy worrying every second of every day if your identity is going to be leaked, well – blogging may not be for you. Dedicating entire days to protecting your face is dedicating…well, entire days of precious time to doing something that doesn’t help your blog at all.
I always knew in my gut that I wanted to put my face out there someday, but it took time to build the courage. With that being said, since I started writing this blog, I can honestly tell you I have taken no extra or extreme precautions beyond the basics to protect my identity.
I would have gone mad.
27.) Email list from day 1, for the love of God.
This doesn’t mean you start spamming and selling it. But if someone likes you enough to sign up, it means they’re interested. Treat it as a mutually beneficial relationship.
28.) Don’t even bother launching your site until you have 15 posts lined up.
If I click to a site and like the first thing I read, I naturally want to read more. If I then go to your homepage and you have all of three posts – it’s disappointing.
If you truly want to get an audience, start right now. Just jot down a list of things you’d like to write about, and then try to write a hundred words on one topic a day. Two weeks later you’d have fifteen posts. Your first posts don’t have to be works of art, but they need to exist.
29.) The entire business world is about solving problems. Blogging is no different.
Facebook was built around the problem of people needing to communicate (and attention whoring, but that’s another battle).
Doctors exist because people get sick.
Lawyers exist because people break the law.
My former engineering job exists because people need a place to store their data.
The entire world hierarchy is built around problems. The audience, success, and therefore, money is based around solving problems. People are naturally selfish. And of course, people are going to put themselves over you, some random writer on the Internet.
But solve someone’s problem and suddenly they start to care a little more.
30.) Blogging isn’t a recognized career yet.
I tell people what I’m doing now and they stare at me blankly. I’m learning to roll with it.
31.) You must learn some technical skills.
Unless you want to be at the mercy of an overseas designer who hardly speaks English, learn the basics of WordPress. Learn how to install and configure plugins, set up themes, and do all the basics. Dive into the PHP and CSS if you are brave enough (back it up first!)
32.) Yes, I promise he will be overseas.
Because I know you’ll be too cheap at first to hire a native English speaker to do your web work when you’re just starting out.
33.) Blogging is a work of love.
I look at This Is Trouble and am more proud of it than anything else I’ve accomplished in my life. I look at the emails I get and feel inspired.
I look at my transformation and evolution since I started writing this blog in July of 2013 – the blog itself is a big reason why I’ve been able to change so much.
That’s the truth, and I love it.
Are you ready to bleed?
P.S. Stay tuned for a review of Victor Pride’s The Blog Artist’s Handbook – dropping tomorrow.