All bloggers are writers, but not all writers are bloggers.
That’s a tough reality for many people who want to produce content online because people assume that to be one is to be the other.
But there’s far more to blogging than just being a good writer.
In fact, you could be a mediocre writer and still make money as a blogger. I see it happen all the time.
It’s not always about skill.
For some people who don’t consider themselves to be good writers, that might actually be a blessing in disguise.
Because the truth is that anyone can be a blogger. Yes, anyone.
It does take some writing skill, but it also takes some other skills that not every good writer has.
Here’s what I mean.
Why some writers struggle as bloggers
You can see examples of good writing anywhere.
Take almost any piece from a site like The New Yorker, and you’ll witness firsthand how the power of words can transform the most basic ideas into something enjoyable.
It’s almost enough to make you jealous. Some people just have the gift.
But as Jeff Goins from Copyblogger once pointed out, you don’t actually need “the gift” to be a good blogger.
You can be a “prolific, mediocre blogger” and still see success (which I’m sure frustrates the “gifted”).
It’s true, though. You can be a successful blogger and a mediocre writer if you understand that blogging is a business.
Blogging requires skills that writers don’t always have, like marketing, SEO, social media, branding, and time management.
Take a look at any major influencer in the marketing world, and you’ll see what I mean.
Ann Handley, Head of Content at MarketingProfs, is a great writer, but she’s also media-savvy.
She regularly posts to social media. She guest blogs. She writes for MarketingProfs. She does email newsletters.
She’s kind of everywhere.
And that’s what it takes to be a successful blogger. You have to be everywhere.
You have to sell yourself.
Does this mean that you can’t be a good writer and a blogger? It pays to be both, actually.
Good writers who know how to blog will make a giant impact in their space.
You just have to learn all of the other marketing skills that go along with it.
Here’s what you need to do.
1. Commit to regularly publishing content
One thing that many of the world’s best writers share is writer’s block or a lack of inspiration to write.
Writers tend to only work when they feel inspired (“unblocked”).
A successful blog won’t wait for you to feel inspired, though. You have to publish content even when you don’t feel like it.
That means creating a regular posting schedule and putting out content sometimes 3-4 times a week.
According to HubSpot’s State of Inbound report, the more blogs you publish, the more traffic, leads, and sales you will get.
So if you want to run a successful blog, you’re looking at a minimum of 2-3 times per week, or daily if you want to see growth.
That’s not taking into account all of the social media promotion on top of the actual writing.
Buffer has a rundown of how often you should post on each social channel:
So on top of your blogging, you have to spend time crafting engaging social media posts.
You have to spend time checking your stats to make sure your posts are generating traffic.
And at some point, you will probably have to pull a Google Analytics report or two.
Basically, it’s a lot of work.
It’s a lot of writing every single day.
You know what you won’t feel every day? Inspired.
That’s why it’s important to commit to publishing content because you won’t always feel like doing it.
2. Manage your time and create a schedule
With so much work going on, one of the essential skills you will need is time management.
You will have deadlines, and blog posts take a while to produce.
The average posts take between 2-3 hours to write.
That’s not including editing, uploading it to your website, creating social media posts, etc.
Let’s say the whole process takes about 4 hours for a single blog post.
If you’re publishing three posts per week, this means you’ll need around 12 hours of dedicated time each week just to blog.
How will you manage that time with everything else you have going on?
But that’s not all.
According to Coschedule, there are actually three big time commitments that bloggers should pay attention to:
- The length of your average posts — Writing a 1,500-word post will take much longer than writing a 500-word post, for instance.
- How many graphics each post will need — If you’re creating your own graphics (website banners, social media images, etc.), you will need to budget time for it.
- Content promotion and distribution — Social sharing, repurposing, syndication, and any other content distribution will all require varied time commitments.
It’s important to budget your time to make sure you can fit it all in.
You can use different tools to help you manage your time, though.
Remember The Milk can help you manage your daily to-do’s:
3. Network with other bloggers
You’ll also have to budget some time for networking.
Bloggers who simply keep to themselves usually don’t achieve the same goals as those who partner with other bloggers.
It’s important to build a network of contacts, clients, and resources that can help you out.
The first place to start is by checking out other bloggers in your space.
You can use a tool like Pocket to bookmark blogs, videos and other sites you like:
Once you have some sites saved, you can get to work commenting on those blogs, retweeting the authors, and otherwise building relationships with them.
Despite how intimidating it might feel at first, you can build organic relationships with even big-name influencers.
You just have to put in the effort.
But if you’re not ready for that just yet, you can also use networking sites like Scoop.it to publish content and curate from other bloggers in your space.
This will give you the chance to connect with other bloggers who are doing what you’re doing without the intimidation factor.
Ultimately, there’s no one strategy for networking, though.
The point is just to reach out to others and grow your relationships in some way.
Networking has a few really great benefits that include:
- Building a new audience of other bloggers who will promote your content to their audience
- Opening up opportunities for collaborations and guest posting (more traffic)
- Providing more content for your site if they guest post on your blog
- Promoting each other with affiliate links and monetize your blog
It’s also just nice to have other people on your side sometimes to give you advice.
Networking like this will all come down to successful time management, however.
Catherine Oneissy has some suggestions for new bloggers trying to fit networking into their busy schedule:
And you should absolutely try to work it into your schedule.
Figure this will add another 3-5 hours to your work week as a blogger (now you’re up to 15+ hours).
That extra time will inevitably be worth it in the end, however, so don’t skip this step.
4. Seek out new blogging opportunities
Good bloggers (successful bloggers) do more than just write blogs.
They dip into all types of content, like self-published books, e-books, and online courses.
They use affiliate marketing. They advertise.
You can make a lot of money as a blogger by doing more things than just blogging.
At the very least, successful bloggers aren’t just writing content for their own site.
I often say that one of the best ways to grow your influence is to become a guest blogger.
Guest blogging requires pitching your idea to another blog, or a syndicated publisher like Huffington Post, Forbes, Fortune and so on.
But it’s more than just pitching a blog topic — you’re pitching yourself.
You have to self-promote. You have to sell.
When Jordan Teicher, associate editor at Contently, was asked what makes a good pitch for a guest post on their blog, he said:
“If you come to me with an experience and can weave it throughout the narrative, you definitely have my attention.”
In other words, if you can show you know what you’re doing, you stand a chance.
And that’s really what it all boils down to — showing.
Show that you have the experience and that you can do more than just write.
If you’ve never pitched as a guest poster, there are plenty of templates you can use to get started.
Don’t be intimidated by the process.
You’re a good writer. You’re learning how to be a good blogger.
So go on and show them you can be both.
(Don’t forget to add guest blogging to your weekly count. Let’s assume you do one or two posts a month. That’s another two hours a week or so. Now you’re up to 17+ hours).
5. Learn how to do SEO
Now comes the hardest part of being a blogger — growing your website’s ranking on Google.
While guest blogging and befriending other influencers can be a boost, you need a sustainable source of traffic.
This means that you need to get good at SEO.
So where do you start?
First, get your website set up with Google Analytics if you haven’t already.
As an extra step, add Google Search Console to your blog.
This will give you a bird’s eye view of your blog’s impressions over time.
Analytics will be your best friend in the whole world.
Without it, you won’t know whether or not your content is succeeding.
If your content isn’t succeeding, you’re not succeeding as a blogger, so it’s essential that you take the time to analyze your data.
(You’ll probably spend another 2-3 hours or so on analytics every week. Now you’re up to 20+ hours).
The next step is to take advantage of any SEO tools out there to help you do the job.
Each serves a different purpose, but they all have one main goal: boost your SEO.
You might also consider using a tool like:
- Google PageSpeed Insights — Check the speed and usability of your site (speed affects SEO rankings under Google’s new search algorithm).
- Keywordtool.io — Find SEO keyword suggestions based on a single keyword.
- Google Webmaster Tools — Get website analysis, alerts, and error reports.
- Open Site Explorer — Perform link analysis to see who is linking to your site (backlinks).
- Google Keyword Planner — Do keyword research based on current search volumes.
- Google Alerts — Set up alerts for your website when others mention you in their blogs.
- QuickSprout Website Analyzer — Run a full analysis of your website to spot any errors or potential performance issues.
- Schema Creator — Customize the way your search results appear on Google and create rich snippets.
- SERPs Rank Checker — See where your site ranks for certain search terms.
- Find Broken Links — Discover errors and other broken links on your site.
You can also use Google Trends to spot changes in interest for certain topics or keywords.
While it’s not an SEO-specific tool, it can help you with content planning.
Every blog post you create should have some form of SEO, even if it’s just keyword optimization or decent mobile speed.
If you’re entirely new to the SEO process, consider doing some research on it.
Typically, the biggest factors are things like keywords, page speed, data markup (code on your site), backlinks and traffic.
Kissmetrics has a great SEO guide for beginners.
If you put in some effort, you can really learn a lot about SEO in a short period of time.
6. Build a brand and figure out your niche
Branding is another key area that separates writers from bloggers.
Writers tend to focus on their byline (their name), whereas bloggers tend to develop their brand.
For example, Neil Patel is my name and my byline. Here it is on a post I did for Forbes:
But it’s also my brand.
That’s why my website, NeilPatel.com, has my name. But it’s more than that.
Running my website and my blog is a full-time job.
Writers focus their time on getting as many bylines as possible.
Some might have a certain wheelhouse they write about, but more often than not they’ll write what they get paid to write.
Bloggers, however, focus on building up their brand and finding a niche.
If I do a quick search for “marketing bloggers,” I’m met with these results:
These are brands.
Let’s say I click on the one that looks the most like a “writer,” which would be Brian Solis.
Here’s what I get:
He’s a writer, yes, but he’s a brand.
The man is a mogul, really.
That’s what you have to become if you want to get serious about being a blogger.
Part of that process is discovering your audience.
Who do you want to write for and what do they want to read about? What interests them?
First, figure out what motivates you.
What are you passionate about? What are you knowledgeable about? What could you write about in your sleep?
Make a list.
Then, figure out if that’s a profitable niche.
Go to Google Keyword Planner and start typing in keywords related to your niche.
Then, look for monthly search volume for those keywords (is it a popular enough niche?) as well as cost-per-click for any ads (is it profitable?).
This will give you a good idea of whether or not people are searching for the keywords you might use for your content.
It will also tell you if your niche isn’t really popular or profitable.
If you were super passionate about underwater basket weaving, for example, you might be a little disappointed by your blog traffic.
You want to find a balance between things you love to write about and things that will make you successful.
So if you loved basket weaving, why not turn that into a blog about DIY home decor, instead?
A quick search will tell you that “home decor” has a lot of potential for traffic.
It’s also okay to have more than one niche. Just remember not to spread yourself too thin.
Building a brand is about focusing on one or two things that you do really, really well.
So don’t worry so much about getting a byline as you do about finding a niche that works for you and your brand.
7. Have a plan and vision for your blog
By now you should see that being a blogger is (at the bare minimum) a part-time job.
And if you’re really putting in the work, it’s more like a full-time job.
Yes, you can be a blogger full-time.
But that means you’re running a business — a business for which you need a vision.
It requires goal setting.
Some starter goals to consider might revolve around growing your traffic, publishing at least X times a week, and increasing your email opt-in rate.
Here’s an example:
- Goal 1: Increase blog traffic 10% monthly for six months.
- Goal 2: Increase email opt-in rate by 50% in three months.
- Goal 3: Post at least three posts per week for 12 months.
- Goal 4: Connect with three influencers/bloggers over the next six months.
- Goal 5: Guest post on two blogs in the next three months.
Each of those goals can be broken down into a plan that includes a timeline.
The first goal, for example, might include using a combination of paid ads, keyword research and social traffic to grow by 10% every month.
You can monitor this using Google Analytics or a tool like Alexa.
Each goal can be broken down into actionable steps.
Those steps will allow you to create a solid plan for producing content, marketing your content and growing your business.
And yes, I will repeat that a thousand times if I have to:
Blogging is a business.
You have to treat it like one. You need a plan.
That plan should include things like:
- A keyword research strategy
- A list of websites and blogs where you want to guest post
- A list of blog posts you want to create
- A list of posts that can be promoted with affiliate links and paid ads
- A list of websites where you might include affiliate links
- Your goals for your blog over 12 months
- Your publishing schedule
- Your daily work schedule
If you need help, consider creating an actual business plan for your blog along with an editorial calendar.
Basically, take it seriously.
The difference between a good writer and a good blogger is a commitment to doing more than just writing.
Being a good writer isn’t the same as being a good blogger, though it helps to be both.
Good bloggers know how to market themselves. They can sell what they’re writing and not just write it.
If you’re a good salesperson, you’ll probably make a better blogger than a good writer.
Sad, but true.
If you’re already a good writer and you want to become a good blogger, you need to add some marketing skills to your repertoire.
Create a schedule and post consistently (yes, even if you’re not inspired).
Find out how to advertise and use things like affiliate marketing to grow your brand.
Network with other bloggers and become a guest poster.
Master the miscellaneous skills required to be a good blogger, and you can do it all.
If you’re a good writer to boot, you’ll do even better.
What “blogging” skills do you struggle with the most right now?
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