So many folks that are new to blogging–or considering starting a blog have the same question.
Am I too late?
I asked myself this very thing when I started my first blog, Real Estate Witch, back in 2016.
Eventually, I ended up going the blog route (and I’m sure glad I did)–but at the time it wasn’t an obvious choice (just like today).
Blogging in 2020 is very much alive and kicking–but we’ll need to address the pros and cons of starting a new blog now–and why it can still be a good choice when compared to alternatives.
Warning: If you’re trying to make some extra money online in the next 30-90 days–blogging is a terrible choice. If that’s you, I refer you to another one of my posts on making an extra $200 per week online.
Look, blogging is still awesome but it’s hard as hell when you’re getting started.
Why blogging is hard
Blogging is hard in the same sense that dieting is hard–or saving money is hard.
The results take a long time to show up. In fact, they take longer to show up blogging than any other thing you can do online.
That’s right–if you choose blogging, you choosing the option that is guaranteed to take the longest for you to see traction.
The reason for this is, most blogs rely on Google Search as their main traffic source. There are billions of searches performed on Google every day…
That’s a massive potential windfall if you can tap into it.
The problem is the competition is fierce. There are millions of websites that are competing for this attention.
Google is search is basically a winner take all model–where the sites in the top 3 search spots get most of the clicks from the search queries.
So if you’re in 16th place–you’re not getting squat.
In order to rank well, you also have to convince other site owners that your content is good enough for them to link to you. Emailing hundreds of site owners, to only get a handful of links is a ton of work and potentially demoralizing for a lot of people just starting out.
Compare that to the speed that you can get traction on social platforms (or even just getting a regular job) and you can understand why most people think blogging is dead in 2020.
When compared to the alternatives, I still think blogging is the way to go for 2020.
Let me tell you why.
One reason some people think blogging isn’t worth it anymore is the vast amount of alternatives that exist today that weren’t around 10 years ago.
Let’s touch on on a few of them.
Blogging vs. Paid Social Media Ads
Back when I started Real Estate Witch in 2016, blogging was a fading in popularity and things like Facebook Ads and paid social media traffic was all the rage.
I remember looking around and hearing stories about how people went from 0 to 20K+ per month by just grinding it out on Facebook Ads and selling a course through a webinar (or something similar).
You’ve probably seen those spammy ads on Youtube lately promoting some kind of get rich quick scheme if you just following these “5 simple steps.”
A lot of those people actually do quite well–and in takes weeks and instead of months or years that blogging takes.
To most people, that sounds a lot better to most people than working away for months or even years doing it the old fashioned way of building up organic traffic on a blog.
I look at things a bit differently though.
Being a marketer by trade–I know that the price of digital advertising has been on the rise for years. Eventually, every channel becomes saturated, competitors bid up the prices and it’s one giant race to zero.
The other side of that coin is for every paid social media campaign that works like magic–there are 10 that completely fail and you lose every penny you spent on those ads.
Most Ad campaigns take a few weeks to collect data, and for optimization to occur. This normally means you’ll be burning a few thousand bucks to learn and optimize.
I don’t know about you–but I’ve got no interest in potentially risking that much money to “learn” what works.
Relying on paid social media is a double-edged sword and the second you turn off that ad spend, or the ad creative stops working (eventually it will), then you’re back to square one.
In essence, your efforts stop when you stop.
With blogging, it’s different.
Your efforts compound over time. Sure, in the first year or 2, you’re not making money and you’re getting a relatively small amount of traffic.
But, your efforts will compound over time–so in year 4,5,6 and beyond–you’ll have a sustainable business that grows on it’s own–whether you put in 5 hours of work or 50 hours that week.
Blogging vs. YouTube
I’m not going to lie–YouTube is an awesome platform. Many Google searches these days will actually show YouTube videos in the search results page–and Youtube itself is the 2nd largest search engine in the world.
This makes YouTube the most similar platform to running a blog. The key differences are twofold:
- You need to keep creating content to keep the engagement going
- Creating video is a much different animal than written content
Youtube is a content treadmill
You can get traction much quicker on Youtube than you can on a blog–there’s no denying that.
However, in order to maintain that movement, you’ve got to keep creating new content and a lot of it.
The most successful / high growth channels that I’ve followed have published at least 3 times per week–some of them are doing videos every single day without fail…for years.
The pressures of keeping things going can lead a bit of burnout.
Creating Video Takes a Ton of Work
Video content requires some technical skills to edit, and if you’re not publishing how quality, edited videos–you’re not going to get traction in 2020 and beyond.
Learning the ropes on editing, coming up with concepts, writing scripts, filming, then editing is a ton of work.
You’ll also need at least some equipment to get started. Recording with your phone is OK, but most of the successful channels have a pretty minimalist set up that will still run you around $1,000.
To a lot of people, $1000 is a hefty investment.
If you love making videos, obviously YouTube can be a great choice–just understand the tradeoffs you’re making in developing that platform.
Instagram vs. Blogging
There are certain niches that can do really well on Instagram (fitness, cooking, photography).
Discovery on IG can be a challenge unless you’re doing collaborations with other accounts.
My big issue with IG is, like any third party social network, the trend is going toward less organic reach of accounts, and more of a focus on paid reach.
IG is owned by Facebook, which is a publicly traded company that relies heavily on it’s monetization through it’s ad network.
Over the years, this had lead to the organic reach not being as good as it once was.
That’s the danger of building up a business on a channel that you don’t own. You ultimately lack control over your own destiny.
The compounding returns of blogging
A popular venture capitalist / blogger Tomasz Tunguz has one of the best posts on the internet about the compounding effects of content marketing.
In the post, he uses the analogy of long term investing.
In order to see the biggest benefit, you must contribute to the campaign consistently–but it’s one of the few marketing channels that has the compounding effect.
The majority of your gains will come months or years after you write the post and have the potential to persist over long periods time of time–consistently paying dividends for years.
I found this to be true on my own blog. I did a decent amount of work up front in the first 2 years.
The last 2 years, I barely touched the thing. Yet, it kept growing month after month as the website matured and Google rewarded me for from staying power.
Time is the most important factor in blogging. Not the number of posts, not how hard you worked on it…
Blogging Succes Formula
Quality Content (x) Links ^(TIME)
Time is the compounder in this equation, with links being the multiplier.
Quality content with 0 links will equal out to zero. You need links. Then you need good old fashioned patience–like your grandparents taught you about.
If I’ve convinced you that blogging is still a legit thing to do, keep reading.
How to Succeed in Blogging As a Beginner
Once you’ve wrapped your mind around blogging and have determined that it’s still worth it in 2021–you’ll want to get started on the right foot.
If you get the early parts of your blog setup or niche selection wrong–you’ll limit the amount of upside your blog can have later on.
Here is a my quick checklist for what you need to set your self up for success from the start:
- Make sure to understand SEO
- Research the hell out of your niche topic and monetization
- Understand the options for blog platforms and hosting
- Research and understand the SEO reporting and keyword tools
- Start a giant spreadsheet of topics and keyword difficulty
- Take the “Tree Rings” approach to publishing content
If you don’t understand SEO like an expert, you’re going to be completely lost and will likely have zero success as a blogger.
SEO is the guiding light to the topics that you should cover on your blog, and how you drive the needed links to your content to start to climb the search rankings.
Without understanding SEO, you’ll be one of those hobby bloggers that is writing to an audience of their mom, neighbor, and handful of Facebook friends.
I won’t cover SEO in depth here, as that deserves it’s own series of posts and courses. Just please make sure you’re an expert on SEO as you start your blogging journey.
Research Your Topic Like Crazy
If you’re trying to generate an income from your blogging efforts, you need to know how each topic (or niche) is monetized on the internet.
A food blog makes most of it’s income through ads, whereas a blog about investing might make most of it’s income through affiliates or course sales.
You’ll want to deeply understand the monetization strategies for any niche that you’re interested in pursuing as it will dictate the approach you’ll need to take.
Niches like food or travel will require you to target content that appeals to a broad audience as you will need a ton of page views to make any income. A niche like personal finance may not require as many page views, but might require you to create and sell courses.
If you know how you will make money from your blog from the beginning, it’s becomes much easier to follow through and pick the right content to write about and rank for.
Understanding Blog Platforms and Hosting
The days where you can get away with blogging on something like Blogspot are over.
You’ll need your own website and hosting–along with tools to help you optimize your website.
Research the different blog website hosting options available and how you will get your site online.
I happen to use WordPress as my blogging platform, but there are other options out there as well. Make sure to understand the pros and cons of each. The last thing you want is to realize you picked the wrong blogging platform 1 year in to your blogging journey.
I spent a whole month on this when I created my Real Estate Witch before I finally settled on WordPress.
Become One with SEO Software
Trust me on this one. I know you’ll try to cheap out and skip this step–but if you do you’ll fail.
The number one thing that made my first blog a success was picking really low competition keywords to focus on.
The only way I could do this was by using SEO keyword software to figure out what I had a chance in hell at ranking for.
Look, SEO has been around for almost 2 decades now. There’s a lot of competition. You need to find the little nooks and crannies where you can get a few hundreds hits per month that no one is attacking yet in your niche.
The only way to do that is using a keyword research tool.
I love Ubersuggest by Neil Patel–but there are many other options.
Figure out which one you like best, and bite the bullet and pay for it. You’ll be happy you made the investment–even if you just paid for a month or two, got a bunch of topics, then canceled it while you’re writing the content.
Creating a Blogging Dashboard Spreadsheet
I use Google sheets to manage every aspect of my blog.
This includes keyword research, potential websites to reach out to for guest blogging opportunities, ideas for new content–everything.
You’ll want to start one of these for yourself if you want to remain organized and see progress on your blog.
I’ll eventually release a free template of what I use currently in Google Sheets you get you started. For now, do what feels right and create it on Sheets.
Take the “Tree Rings” approach to content creation
The biggest mistake I see new bloggers is make is they have no idea how to focus their content in the beginning.
A topic like “travel” is too broad and you’ll have a tough time getting anywhere with that. Instead, you’ll want to be hyper-focused in the beginning, then branch out slowly to adjacent topics.
Let me give you an example.
Taking travel as the broad category, we could niche this down to Mountain Destinations in the US in the winter.
This specific niche will form the innermost ring on our “tree”.
Once we’ve gotten some solid traction focusing on that topic, we can then branch out to talking about fun summer trips in the Mountain regions of the US. That would be our second ring.
You can just keep going from there.
Eventually the tree rings will look something like this:
- Mountain destinations in the US in the winter
- Mountain destinations in the US for all seasons
- Trips for outdoors, hiking and fishing
- Nature trips with the family
- Family trips and tips for traveling with your family
See how we took what was initially the smallest niche we could think of, and over time became an authority travel site on the most popular destination in the world?
This is how you can leverage the Tree Rings approach to niche establishment and expansion over time.
If you were to start with all of those topics from the beginning–you’d fail in SEO. Instead, take apply the Tree Rings approach to niche formation and growth for your blog.
Blogging is still very much worth it for 2021 and beyond.
A big reason for this is the fickle nature of social media and the lack of control you have over those platforms.
It may take longer to get traction, but a blog provides compounding returns that social media doesn’t. You’re also creating a sell-able asset that has real value–selling a social media account is often against the platforms Terms of Service.
In order to succeed in blogging as a beginner, you’ll need to understand SEO, keyword research tools, and blogging platforms like WordPress.
Your niche, and how you approach content, will determine your levels of success as a blogger, so be sure to take the time to educate yourself on how you will monetize, and how you will grow your content topics over time using the Tree Rings approach.
Best of luck and may the force be with you!