Tips on How to Create a Successful Blog
Today we sat down with Tyler Tervooren, the adventurous author of self-improvement blog Riskology, and asked him to share some of his tips on how to create a successful blog with us.
What are the top 5 habits of successful bloggers?
1. Clear goals and purpose. Why does your blog exist? What do you want it to accomplish?
2. Clear strategy. Do you have a clear idea of what actions you are going to take to achieve #1?
3. Consistency. This doesn’t necessarily mean writing—though obviously, bloggers have to have content. Whatever you determine in #2 should be something you consistently do and build processes and systems around.
4. Integrity. Nothing in #1-3 above should ever put your own goals ahead of your readers.
5. Regular experimentation. Be open to trying new strategies and regularly find time to test them.
These all aren’t necessarily habits, but they are what I think makes for a blog with longevity.
How to earn credibility in the sea of other similar blogs?
The answer is in the question: earn it. First, look at the landscape and ask yourself if you have a unique perspective and if that perspective is actually useful to others. The only way to know is to try it out and market your ideas to see if they’re attractive. However, be willing to start over a few times or shift your strategy until you have something unique.
Then, never stop learning and producing. You can get a long way simply by outlasting your competition. Figure out how to run your blog in a way that will allow you to do it for the long term. If you do it long enough, you’ll eventually be the only one left!
Last but not least, make sure to build partnerships outside of your immediate “industry” wherever possible. That’s a way to both get out of the echo chamber and inherit the credibility that comes from more established players.
Do you need advanced knowledge of WordPress or any other blogging platform to independently manage a website if you’re only starting your blog?
No. Just get started on a free site to test your ideas. Do not get bogged down in the technical details. If you have good content and a good strategy to market it, no one will care where you host your site, at least to begin with. And it’s not much more work to move a blog compared to starting one. Besides, it’s actually easier to design your blog later on. This is because you will know what you need to design for and what your brand message is rather than trying to design it from the beginning when you hardly even know what you’re all about.
In short, the faster you publish your words on the internet, the better. Anything that gets in the way of that is a waste in the beginning, in my opinion.
How to choose the perfect niche for the blog?
Well, you need to know what you want to accomplish. If you know you want the blog to be a business, that’s a different process than if you want your blog to be your resume/portfolio, or just a hobby site.
If you just want to write about something you love, that’s easy. However, if you want to build credibility in an industry to boost your job prospects, that might include looking at what the new and trending topics in your field are. If you want to make a business blog, that’s a whole different ball game. It includes figuring out what knowledge you have that matches with places where people already spend money, and how long you’re willing to work to get to revenue and then profitability.
So, the perfect niche for your blog really depends on your goal, which I already talked about in the first question.
What are your biggest challenges in maintaining a professional blog?
A few things come to mind.
1. Technical debt. Over time, your blog tends to grow more complex from a technical side. It’s easy to manage 99% of the time, but when something eventually breaks, it turns into your #1 priority until it’s fixed. And if you don’t know how to fix it, then you need to hire someone to do it for you. The answer to this is to always think carefully about what technology (plugins and such) you deploy and always try to stay as lean as possible.
2. Expectations of self. I’ve been doing this a long time now, and I’m always trying to grow. It’s easy for me to build expectations for myself that result in lowered productivity (writing/publishing/editing less). The two ways I deal with this are to:
- remind me that showing up consistently is what’s most important
- build strong systems to support the blog so that the basics are mostly handled automatically and I can free my time to work on improvements.
What are the most frequent blogging mistakes even experienced bloggers make?
1. Psyching themselves out. When you pour your heart into your blog, it’s easy to start associating its success with your success. When your blog is having a great month, you’re having a great month. And when it’s having a bad month, you’re having a bad month as well.
This is a bad way to operate because, when your blog struggles, it really needs you to be level-headed and have steady emotions to make corrections and choose directions. Don’t attach your self-worth to the performance of your blog! It will cause you a lot of problems.
2. Not marketing. People stick with what they’re used to. Even the best ideas and the best content need help to get attention because there is so much mediocre stuff that people are used to. People are not looking for you. Therefore, they will not start finding you just because you wrote something. You have to put in the work to market your ideas and your content.
How did you grow your online community?
At first, I focused exclusively on creating as much content as I possibly could because I didn’t know what would or wouldn’t work. I also spent a lot of time networking—mostly online because I’m super introverted, but with other bloggers in my area as well—and marketing to get my articles reprinted or linked to in other relevant publications.
Now that the blog is well-established and I know better what works and what doesn’t for my goals, I focus primarily on growth via SEO, which is my best channel and where I still believe I have the most opportunity to scale.
What was your biggest motivation to start your own blog?
The initial motivation was just to get my ideas out of my head and written down somewhere, and I also wanted a creative outlet. I was working in a job at the time where I was kind of a cog in a system and didn’t really get to see the direct impact of my work on the people I served. I wanted to be “closer to the customer” and having a blog where I could speak directly to the people I’d be helping felt like the best way to do that.
How do you monetize your blog?
The blog is primarily a lead generation tool that educates and qualifies future customers of my professional training business. Most sales are through online courses, but I have also been experimenting with live workshops for businesses and professional organizations. I’m actually answering this interview on a plane to San Francisco where I’m presenting a workshop built from the content of one of my online courses.
I do a small amount of affiliate marketing as well, but it’s a small fraction of the site’s revenue.
About Tyler Tervooren
Tyler Tervooren is the founder of Riskology, a leadership training company for introverts. He’s run a marathon on every continent, founded multiple small businesses, and organized seven Guinness World Record attempts.