Surviving Your First Year of Blogging

Back in 2007, I launched my first blog. At the time, I didn’t know anything about blogging, search engine optimization, social media, or WordPress.

As a new blogger, I made it a priority to connect with other people who were also pretty new to blogging. I would have loved to be able to network with successful, leading bloggers in my niche, but as a brand new blogger, I felt like I didn’t have much to offer them. Instead, I focused on connecting with people who were very early on in the life cycle of their blogs.

Although I got to know many different bloggers, the majority of them were gone in twelve months or less.

But while a high percentage of those new bloggers gave up, I watched other new bloggers thrive.

One of my friends had a lot of success with his first blog and went on to build a million-dollar business with his next project.

A few other friends grew their blogs beyond a million visitors per month and ultimately sold their blogs for six figures. And a couple are still successfully running the same blogs almost 13 years later.

For me, blogging transitioned from side hustle to a full-time career in 2008, about 18 months after I launched my blog. That decision to start my blog has had a huge impact on me and my family in countless ways.

As I’ve watched some of my blogging friends build highly-successful businesses after others have quit and abandoned their blogs, I’ve tried to identify what separates the successful from the unsuccessful.

Did some bloggers give up because they were unsuccessful, or were they unsuccessful because they gave up too quickly?

I’ve seen many bloggers over the past 13 years that I thought were doing a great job and headed for big things, only to watch them get discouraged and give up. I have no doubt that some of them would’ve been very successful if they had the patience to stick with it.

The first year can be extremely tough for new bloggers, and if you’re not prepared, you’ll probably share the same fate as most bloggers and give up before achieving any of your goals.

However, with the right approach, you can survive that first year, turn the corner, and experience the joy of owning a blogging business that even exceeds your expectations.

How to Survive Your First Year of Blogging

Throughout my 13 years of blogging, I’ve built blogs in a few different niches like web design, photography, and personal finance. While a lot of the details are different, I see some of the same things over and over again in each niche.

Instead of simply pointing out the reasons why most blogs fail, I want to provide some actionable tips and advice that can help you to overcome a challenging first year and make it to the other side.

Let’s take a look at some of the specific things you can do to avoid becoming a casualty in your first year of blogging.

First Birthday

1. Start with a Long-Term Focus and Realistic Expectations

In my opinion, the most important thing you can do to set yourself up for success with blogging is to have a long-term focus. Most new bloggers wind up quitting because they’re not getting results RIGHT NOW. But as a new blogger, really what you’re doing now is laying a foundation for the future.

Most people wouldn’t start a traditional brick-and-mortar business today and expect to be profitable immediately. But for some reason, a lot of people expect instant results from an online business.

A blog is a business like any other that will take time to grow. If you’re looking for something that is going to generate results immediately, you’re setting yourself up for failure.

Along with a long-term approach, I believe it’s equally important to have realistic expectations as a new blogger. How do you know whether your first 3 months or first 6 months as a blogger have been successful? It’s all a matter of perspective and comparing your actual results to what you were expecting.

Two different bloggers could have the exact same results in the first 6 months with their new blogs, and one blogger could be encouraged and excited by the results while the other blogger gets discouraged and quits. It’s all a matter of perspective.

Too many new bloggers have unrealistic expectations. Compared to those unrealistic expectations, just about anything is going to be disappointing. Even if you’re making a lot of progress, you might feel like a failure because you’re way short of your expectations.

So what expectations should a new blogger have?

My recommendation for new bloggers is to expect to put in at least 10 hours each week, and to expect to make no money for 6 months. In reality, many bloggers are able to make some money within a few months, but I think it’s best if you’re able to focus on other things aside from making money right away, and in most cases, the money that you do make in the first 6 months is usually going to be minimal.

The number of visitors that you should expect will vary depending on a lot of factors, like the niche that you’re in and how much time you’re putting into your blog. As a general rule, you should expect to be reaching a few hundred visitors per day by the end of your first year of blogging.

If your expectations are realistic, you’ll be in a much better position to keep moving forward with your blog and less likely to feel disappointed.

Action Step: Commit to blogging for one full year in order to give yourself a chance to succeed. Think about your long-term goals and why you want to have a successful blog. Write down those long-term goals and your “why” for blogging, and read them regularly to enforce it.

2. Put in a Consistent Effort

It’s very difficult to grow a successful blog when you’re only able to put in time sporadically. You might start to make some progress, but then you’ll go a few weeks without working on the blog and lose whatever momentum you had.

As a new blogger, you need to be working consistently in order to start and maintain growth.

Some people will have more time than others, but in general, we’re all busy and you need to make your blog a priority or else it will simply get pushed to the side.

You should plan to invest at least 10 hours per week to work on your blog. Of course, if you’re able to put in more time, that’s great, but 10 hours per week will give you enough time that you can make real progress, as long as you have that time every week.

My advice is to set a schedule with regular working hours, and pretend that your blog is a part-time job. Don’t just work on your blog whenever you get around to it, or else other things will wind up pushing it out of your schedule altogether.

Action Step: Create your own “work schedule” for your blog. Decide how many hours per week you’re going to work, and set aside specific days and times for that work.

3. Take a Focused Approach

One of the most common problems with new blogs is that their content is scattered and not focused. If you want to make money with your blog, you shouldn’t write about just any topic that comes to mind.

Your content should be focused on a particular topic or theme, which helps you to establish a following and attract repeat visitors who want to keep coming back to see what new content you’re publishing.

When you start blogging, take the time to think about the topics that you want to write about and define the categories that your content will fall into. If you have an idea for a blog post but it doesn’t fit into one of your categories, write about something else instead.

Action Step: Define the categories that you’ll write about on your blog.

4. Emphasize Personal Branding or Blog Branding

There are different approaches that you can take to blogging. Some blogs are very personal and readers connect with the person writing the content as much (or more) than they connect with the actual content.

Other blogs aren’t as personal and are more about the content than the person writing it. Neither approach is right or wrong, but they are different.

Either way, it’s important that your blog develops an identity, regardless of whether that identity is more about you personally or more about the content and the branding of the blog itself.

Branding yourself or your blog takes time and it’s not something that will happen overnight. Throughout your first year of blogging you should be deciding how you want your blog to be viewed, and working towards establishing and developing that branding.

Blogs that are personally branded will often:

  • Have most or all of the content written by the same person.
  • Feature the blogger (usually with a photo) in prominent places like the homepage and sidebar of every page/post.
  • Tell the personal story of the blogger so readers are able to feel connected.

Blogs that are not personally branded will not feature the blogger prominently.

It’s important to decide how you want to brand your blog because it will impact things like the design and layout of your blog, how you use social media, and even the content that you publish.

You may think that you would need to be some industry-leading expert in order to take a personal approach to branding your blog, but that’s really not the case. Many readers are able to connect better with everyday people, so being an expert isn’t required.

Some of the most popular personal finance blogs were started by average people who shared their stories of debt payoff or saving. The same thing can be said of health and wellness bloggers who share their own weight loss journey.

Readers often relate to people that seem to be a lot like them, so there is no reason to feel insecure because you’re not an expert. But what you need to do is think about your own personal story, what makes you unique from other bloggers, and you can help your readers to feel connected to you and your story.

Action Step: Decide if you’re going to brand your blog personally around yourself. This decision should impact things like the design and layout of your blog going forward.

5. Build Your Network

Every successful blogger I’ve ever known has been well-connected to other bloggers in his or her niche. Networking doesn’t get as much attention as a lot of other blogging topics, but building your network is critical and it’s something that you should be prioritizing.

Your network can help you in so many different ways, like:

  • Getting links from other blogs
  • Getting guest posts published at other blogs
  • Increasing traffic and exposure through more social media shares
  • Receiving more comments on your blog posts
  • Getting advice and feedback when you need it
  • Promotion for your products and services
  • And much more

But networking is a two-way street, it’s not all about what’s in it for you. Those who are most successful at networking are always looking for ways to help others and they try to give more than they receive. If that’s you, people will want to be a part of your network and they’ll be happy to help you out whenever the opportunity arises.

Blog Launch Breakthrough includes several lessons that are dedicated to the topic of networking. You’ll find plenty of suggestions for practical ways that you can network with other bloggers in your niche.

Action Step: Identify a few (start with 3-5) bloggers in your niche that you would like to get to know. Follow them on social media, subscribe to their email lists, and check their blogs at least weekly for new content. Share their content on social media (and tag them) and leave a comment on their posts.

6. Find Where Your Target Audience Hangs Out, and Be Active

When you start a blog, one of the first things you should do is define your target audience. Once you know who you are trying to reach, you can find out where those people spend their time online.

Is there a particular social network that your target audience uses? If so, you should be spending time on that network. For example, if you’re a mom blogger, Pinterest could be an excellent source of traffic because your audience is already active on Pinterest. So it makes sense that you would want to be active at Pinterest and dedicate time to learn about marketing on the platform and using Pinterest to drive traffic to your blog.

Facebook groups could be another example. Maybe there are some popular Facebook groups where your audience spends a lot of time.

It won’t always be a social network. Maybe there is a forum or some other community site that’s really popular with your audience. Wherever your target audience is, you should be active there as well.

Action Step: Identify the social networks or community websites that are most popular with your target audience. Set aside time to be active at this site regularly.

7. Consider Offering a Service

There are a lot of different ways to monetize a blog including:

  • AdSense and other display ads
  • Affiliate programs
  • Sponsored content
  • Selling digital products
  • Offering a service

Offering a service is often overlooked, but is easily one of the best options for new bloggers. As a new blogger, you won’t have very much traffic coming to your site, and it’s difficult to make money with some monetization methods with a small amount of traffic. The biggest exception is offering a service. All you need to do is convert a single visitor into a client and you can start making money, and many services allow you to make a great hourly rate for your time.

Additionally, you can market your services or look for clients in other ways aside from simply mentioning them on your blog. Your blog may be one way to promote your services, but it doesn’t have to be the only way.

There are a lot of things to like about monetizing a blog with services, but one of the reasons why I think it can be great for new bloggers is because it allows you to experience some positive momentum early on. As a new blogger, making some money will feel great and will likely motivate you to keep moving forward.

Blog Launch Breakthrough covers several lessons on the topic of monetizing a blog with a service to help you find a service that you can offer, and then to help promote that service and start landing clients.

Action Step: Think about the different ways (listed above) to monetize a blog and decide which methods you want to use for your blog. Of course, you can always change your approach later, but I think it’s helpful to have a gameplan from the start. If you decide that services could be a good fit for you, create a page on your blog that clearly defines the services that you’ll offer.

8. Track Your Growth

Sometimes bloggers feel like they are not really making any progress, but if they were to step back and look at the bigger picture they could see that they were actually trending up.

It can be helpful to track your growth so that you can easily see how far you’ve come. There are a number of things that you could traffic like monthly visitors to your site, monthly pageviews, number of email subscribers, and of course, income.

The Blogging Binder that is included as a bonus for Blog Launch Breakthrough students includes a blogging income tracker, blogging stats tracker, and goals tracker. All of those are printable PDFs that you can keep in a binder and update each month. At any time, you’ll be able to look back and see your progress, which can be a great source of encouragement when you forget how much progress you’ve actually made.

Action Step: If you’re a Blog Launch Breakthrough student, use the printable trackers and update them every month. Alternatively, if you don’t have access to these printables, you can create your own spreadsheet or use pen and paper to create your own document that you’ll update each month with new numbers.

9. Celebrate Success

The last tip I’m going to mention in this article is to celebrate your successes through the first year of blogging (and beyond). Your celebrations don’t need to be big or expensive, but take some time to appreciate the things you’re accomplishing.

Celebrating your success can go a long way in helping your mindset as you face the challenges of making it through your first year of blogging, when it often seems like you’re not making progress.

What types of things should you celebrate? Here are a few ideas:

  • Your first day with 100 visitors
  • Your first month with 1,000 visitors
  • A guest post published at another blog
  • A link from another blog
  • Making your first affiliate commission
  • Landing your first client

These are just a few examples and the numbers are kind of random and you could replace them with other numbers that are more relevant to your current situation.

Action Step: Set a few specific goals that you want to celebrate once you achieve them.

Final Thoughts

Building a successful blog takes time, but most bloggers who set out to make money will give up within the first few months. You can drastically improve your chances of being in the minority of bloggers who survive the first year by following the tips covered in this article. Be sure to follow the action steps and you’ll be well on your way.